Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Guru's WNBA Weekend Musings; Other Items

By Mel Greenberg

As the WNBA got off to the start of its second decade this past weekend, there were few veterans from the original season in 1997 and even fewer who have or will have potentially played wire to wire all in the league from the beginning through September.

The 10-year veterans heading into season No. 11, according to the rosters after the final cuts were made, are the Houston Comets' Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, the Los Angeles Sparks' Lisa Leslie and Mwadi Mabika, the San Antonio Silver Stars' Vickie Johnson, and the Seattle Storm's Wendy Palmer.

That adds to a total of six founders.

However, Swoopes missed a season due to a knee injury and a large part of her initial season, which is still on the books, due to pregnancy.

Leslie might also not end up with 11 appearances in 11 seasons, also because of pregnancy, but she recently noted she is thinking about a return to action in August.

Of the six founders, only the Houston and Los Angeles duos have been on the same roster.

Wendy Palmer was drafted by the former Utah Starzz, and later moved to the Detroit Shock, on to the Orlando Miracle, which became the Connecticut Sun; and then back to San Antonio, which had been Utah before signing this past offseason with the Seattle Storm.

Vickie Johnson played her first nine seasons with the New York Liberty until she signed as a free agent with San Antonio.

Meanwhile, there are some other 10-year pros, who were founding players in the former American Basketball League.

In fact, a tangible piece of the two-time ABL champion Columbus Quest exists on Detroit, where a reunion of sorts has occured with the free-agent signing of Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson, who is now with her former teammate Katie Smith.

Sheri Sam was an original ABL star out of Vanderbilt with San Jose Lasers and is now with Houston.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin began with the Richmond Rage, which became the Philadelphia Rage in the second ABL season. She then was picked by the former Orlando team and moved with the franchise to Connecticut, where she starred until being traded to the Sparks in the offseason.

Crystal Robinson was with Colorado for two ABL seasons, then landed with New York until signing last season as a free agent with Washington.

Dreams of Youth

New York Liberty rookie Shay Doron has been a 10-year veteran observer of the WNBA from her seat in Madison Square Garden while growing up playing for Christ the King before becoming a prominent member of Maryland, especially the 2006 NCAA championship Terrapins squad.

On Sunday, Doron had the best seat in the house for a regular season game -- directly on the bench in New York's season-opening win over the Chicago Sky.

However, she didn't get much farther, seeing no action in her regular season roster debut, but Doron did make history of sorts.

By making the roster, Doron becomes the first Israeli native to make a WNBA team. Limor Mizrachi, also a former Maryland star in the early 1990s, was on a training camp roster in the past, but got injured and never lasted into the regular season.

Mercurial Start

Now if the Phoenix Mercury had only done the same thing last year.

Second-year coach Paul Westhead, who now has a squad that starts from the get-to with knowledge of his fast-paced offensive schemes, saw Phoenix grab an opening night win over San Antonio.

The Mercury picked up off their hot finish of a year ago when they lost a playoff spot on the final day of the season off a tie-breaker. However, had Phoenix won last year's opener, the Mercury would have been playoff bound.

Meanwhile, the Guru was not at any opening weekend games, having worked the desk her Sunday night and also having attended a reunion-of-sorts in town involving his high school class that existed at a time most of the Guru's readers had yet to be born.

However, we'll be on the scene in Washington Tuesday night when the Mystics host the Sacramento Monarchs, who now have former Rutgers star Chelsea Newton back in the fold after a trade with Chicago.

Newton is also coach C. Vivian Stringer's director of player development.

Rutgers prominent alum Cappie Pondexter, in her second season, will be making her East Coast swing with Phoenix, visiting Connecticut on Saturday, June 2, at 3:30 p.m before traveling to New York the next day at 4 p.m. The Washington visit will be on Wednesday, June 13, at 7 p.m.

Internationally Scarlet?

Speaking of Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights made a strong presence at last weekend's three-team basketball trials at Colorado Springs, Colo., for finalist spots on either the Pan American, Under 19, or Under 21 squads.

Junior Essence Carson and sophomore Kia Vaughn were among the 14 finalists named to the U21 National Team, while junior Matee Ajavon was one of 14 finalists named to the Pan American squad, which will be coached by Temple's Dawn Staley, who retired from the WNBA at the end of last season.

In her first time away from WNBA action, which was spent watching the selections, Staley missed becoming part of the 22-point, second-half meltdown to Seattle Saturday by her former Houston Comets squad. She didn't miss a thing, however, from her former Charlotte Sting squad, because the franchise was folded during the winter, leaving the league, for now, with 13 teams.

Meanwhile, Rutgers incoming freshman Khadijah Rushdan was one of 12 finalists named to the U19 National Team.

Rushdan was joined on the finalists by another Wilmington, Del., product -- that would be
Elena Delle Donne, considered the top high school senior prospect, as well as overall prospect, next season.

Two senior Maryland stars with Philadelphia-area connections were also named to the U21 finalists in Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro High and Laura Harper of Cheltenham High.

-- Mel


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