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, May 14, 2010

WNBA: Drexel's Marginean Opens With Minnesota

By Mel Greenberg

When the curtain goes up Saturday on the 14th WNBA season, another page in the Drexel women's basketball history books will be written by recently graduated senior Gabriela Marginean.

The native of Romania who became the all-time scorer in Philadelphia women's collegiate basketball last season with 2,581 career points will be in uniform as a member of the Minnesota Lynx, which will open Saturday night on the road visiting the local debut of the Tulsa Shock, formerly housed in Detroit.

Already the first Drexel player ever drafted by the WNBA -- Marginean went in the second round -- she'll be the first Dragon on an opening day roster.

If the WNBA was not in a bit of a down-sized situation at the moment with roster sizes holding at 11 per team wth little leeway for injury replacements, Marginean would be joining former Temple stars Candice Dupree and Kamesha Hairston as Philadeelphia Division I standouts who stuck around for a while.

Dupree was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft by the then-expansion Chicago Sky. She was recently traded to the defending champion Phoenix Mercury in the mega-three-team deal that sent former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter from the Mercury to the New York Liberty.

The Florida native has gone on to become a league all-star and is in contention for a spot on the U.S. senior national team for this fall's FIBA World Championship and the Olympics in 2012 in London that will be coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma.

Hairston was a first-round pick of the Connecticut Sun in 2007 and was on the roster for the entire season, though she is no longer with the team.

Two other prominent area former high school stars also made rosters in recent seasons with former Maryland standouts Crystal Langhorne (Willingboro, N.J.) and Laura Harper (Cheltenham) becoming first round picks respectively by the Washington Mystics and Monarchs.

Langhorne was voted the league's most improved player last season while Harper was claimed in the offseason by the San Antonio Silver Stars in the dispersal draft.

Incidentally, Drexel associate head coach Amy Mallon, a former St. Joseph's star, played on the Philadelphia Rage in the former American Basketball League.

Former St. Joseph's star Debbie Black was a WNBA All-Star after being likewise in the ABL, while all-time Hawks scorer Sue Moran was on the roster for at least one season with the New York Liberty when Richie Adubato was the coach.

Marginean's No. 44 was retired by Drexel at the Dragons' postseason dinner last month. She also finished with 947 career rebounds and 203 steals.

Minnesota's roster is currently at nine in terms of healthy and present players. Candice Wiggins and Seimone Augustus, who recently had surgeries and will be sidelined in the front end of the season, still count on the overall totall of 11.

Former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson, who was acuired in the draft dispersal of the former Sacramento Monarchs roster several months ago, is still competing in the European championships and her team is tied 2-2 with a fifth game to be played Sunday.

That allows her spot to be filled for the moment, enabling Marginean to hang around for at least two games or maybe three ot four, according to a person with the Lynx familiar with the roster which will be officially announced Friday along with those of the other 11 teams.

Marginean is currently a teammate of two other former top players in the Colonial Athletic Association -- Quanitra Hollingsworth (Virginia Commonwealth) and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba(Old Dominion).

Saturday's game in terms of Minnesota will mark the debut of coach cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle star from South Jersey, who had been an assistant coach to Rick Mahorn and was the general manager last season in Detroit with the former three-time champions.

She'll face her former team, though much of it revamped, which will be headed by former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.

"The league is funny that way," said Reeve in the irony of the scheduling.

Reeve and Marginean actually at close to each other four months ago at the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association annual awards dinner in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Marginean received the amateur athlete award after leading Drexel to its first CAA title and NCAA tournament appearance in 2009, ousting longtime champion Old Dominion in the conference semifinals before beating James Madison on the Dutchess' home court in Harrisonburg, Va. That was also a first for the Dragons.

Reeve was invited after the announcement of her hire to replace former interim coach Jennifer Gillom, who is now the new coach of the Los Angeles Sparks. She replaces Michael Cooper, who moved on after last season to begin coaching women in the college ranks at Southern Cal.

When Minnesota returns home Sunday, the spotlight will be on another Lynx acquisition -- former Connecticut Sun star Lindsay Whalen -- who returns to her native area where she starred for the University of Minnesota.

Whalen was part of another mega offseason deal in whicb she was dealt by the Sun and No. 2 overall pick in the draft to the Lynx in return for former UConn star Renee Montgomery and the overall No. 1 pick, which became another former Huskies top talent -- center Tina Charles.

The Sun opens at home Saturday against Chicago and the Guru will be on the scene.

He'll also see the Sky Sunday at New York's home opener.

Meanwhile in terms of some other local identities involving the WNBA, former Villanova star Laura Kurz, the 2009 Big Five player of the year, was cut this week by the Seattle Storm, while recent Rutgers grad Rashidat Junaid, a former Inquirer player of the year out of Camden Catholic, was trimmed by Los Angeles.

Former Immaculata star Marianne Stanley, an assistant last season in Los Angeles, is now an aid to Julie Plank with the Washington Mystics, which Stanley once ran as the head coach.

Needless to say there have been a myriad set of changes in the league since Phoenix topped the Indiana Fever in Game 7 of the most exciting WNBA playoffs ever laat fall and most of the moves have been and are being chronicled around the web.

That's it for the moment. The Guru will be tweeting and blogging out of Mohegan, as mentioned, this weekend.

-- Mel

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