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.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Trenton in WNBA's Future?

(Guru's Notes: - Per the Guru's recent Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Induction: If you haven't been to the special site, here's your link. The official WBHOF-taken still shots have arrived, many of which are different perspectives of existing work done live in Knoxville, but if you've been to the site, don't visit until Jonathan posts them and you get the word here.

Secondly, for those of you coming to the Inquirer-hosted reception event on Friday, July 27th at the paper (4:30-7:30 p.m., front of the building off Broad St.), there will be another event elsewhere afterwards to keep the night going - party animals as such some Guru friends are. We'll have word in a few days.

Also, there have been some technical flaws in the email-invitation process, so those still interested in attending, email me quickly to pass the numbers count on to the Inquirer party administrator for the head count.

And now that the Guru sufficiently teased you by taking advantage of the new Inquirer/Philly.com request to keep headline counts short (attn. blogging team: count of about 27), we return you to coverage here. The request was made, incidentally, so philly.com can list more of its overall bloggers by holding headlines to one line.

Actually, this paragraph is being edited into this 24 hours later to correct the induction link and also to note to the blogging team per the previous paragraph, your leader just counted some characters as much as 40 in some of the other Inquirer blogger headlines.

A short print story in Philly.com off Friday's sports section covers specifics of the USA Basketball senior national team's game against Australia in Trenton.).

By Mel Greenberg

TRENTON, N.J. - USA Basketball president Val Ackerman was here at the Sovereign Bank Arena on Thursday afternoon to join Mercer County officials in announcing an exhibition game on Sept. 16, a Sunday at 1 p.m., between the USA senior national women's team and the Australian national team.

This is basically the Ali-Frazier heavyweight matchup of the international women's game (The U.S. is currently ranked No. 1 just ahead of the Australians). The Americans beat the Australians in the Olympic gold medal title contest in Athens, Greece, in 2004. A year ago, Australia took the FIBA world championship, thus joining host Beijing for next year's games in China.

All the details of Olympic qualification are at the USA Basketball site. This game is being played, in part, to help the U.S. prepare for the FIBA Americas championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in late September. The winner gains an automatic berth.

The USA squad will also train at Temple's Liacouras Center September 13-15 in Philadelphia after prior preparations for a few days in New York City.

That will give Temple coach Dawn Staley, a former three-time Olympic gold medalists, time to actually handle some of her collegiate back-to-school details while also serving as an assistant to Olympic coach Anne Donovan of the WNBA's Seattle Storm.

Obviously, the USA squad is loaded with such WNBA stars as Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird, and Tennessee junior Candace Parker. Former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter of the Phoenix Mercury is also vying for a spot on the roster for September's competition. Her alma mater is a little over a half-hour in travel time to the north of the arena.

Australia is highlighted by Lauren Jackson of the Seattle Storm and Penny Taylor of Phoenix.

The USA squad will play one more time shortly after the Trenton game, and while we can't reveal the site or date, we can say that another assistant on the squad is Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault.

The Sovereign Bank was also the site of the 2006 NCAA women's basketball tournament first and second-round games and will also host a women's regional in 2009 and another set of first-second round games in 2010.

OK, so now that the Guru repeated the specifics, above, we can offer some morsels from a little chit-chat with Ackerman, who was the head of the WNBA for its first eight seasons.

The question, basically, was that with no real known interest in Philadelphia, per se, for a WNBA squad at this time, might an arena located 30 miles away serve as a potential home to a regional-style franchise in the future?

"Well, Trenton, itself, is such a small market,'' said Ackerman, who was born in nearby Pennington, N.J. ``And there's the owner-interest requirements that would have to be satisfied.

"However, if you end up getting a sellout for this game, that would attract some attention," she added. "So, in that case, I would say, it wouldn't be out of the question."

Ackerman also noted the event, itself, is at a good time because schools will be back in session, vacations will be over, and the normal Sunday competition in the NFL will be non-existent because the Eagles play Monday night that weekend.

"It's different audiences, as far as the football factor is concerned, but it's still helpful in terms of extra media coverage and other particulars,'' Ackerman said.

Having just returned from overseas with the USA Basketball Under-21 women's squad which won the gold medal, Ackerman said she was not familiar yet with the specifics of the recently-announced ESPN eight-year extention of its TV deal with the WNBA.

However, one league GM, while not giving details, told us that it was a good deal and that all the teams would benefit from it.

One hurdle still lies in front of smooth sailing ahead once the playoffs conclude: Negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement with the players association.

-- Mel

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