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.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

WNBA: Call Tina Charles A Rookie Veteran

(Note: The Guru was not live at Conn but will definitely be on hand in NY for the Sunday tilt.)

By Mel Greenberg

Like former Tennessee sensation Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks three years before her, WNBA newcomer Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 pick of April's draft out of UConn, is quickly transforming into a professional star who is playing more like a seasoned veteran than someone who has only been around the league a few months.

In the early weeks of Charles' activity with the Connecticut Sun, coach Mike Thibault kept cautioning those enthralled with her instant exploits to wait a while. "Let's see how she does night after night going against veteran All-Stars," he said.

Well, Charles is making night after night become might after might with few exceptions.

The phrase career performance after an outstanding evening or afternoon would normally cause a snicker or two because, really, how long has she been in a Sun uniform to give the attachment true significance?

But here's the thing. When Charles, who regularly has been posting double doubles, puts up a career mark, her milestone totals approach those All-Star performers who have spent more than a few years in the WNBA to reach the same numbers.

On Friday night a week after hitting a career high in Los Angeles while scoring against the Sparks, the rookie center had 19 points and a career-high 23 rebounds as the Connecticut Sun completed a season sweep of the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury with an 82-79 victory at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Charles' rebound total was just one short of the overall WNBA record of 24 set by Chamique Holdsclaw in 2003 - the fifth season, not second month, that the former Tennessee star had been in the league.

Sandrine Gruda added 17 points to the Sun total, moving Connecticut (9-4) to within a half-game of Atlanta for first in the Eastern Conference.

Connecticut can move back slightly in front of the Dream Sunday by winning at the New York Liberty if the Dream lose at home to the struggling Sparks (3-9), who moved up a spot in the bottom of the West Friday by not playing.

Meanwhile, it was UConn night all around at Mohegan with former Huskies sensation Diana Taurasi scoring 26 points and having some despearate attempts to rescue the Mercury fall short at the finish.

Phoienix (5-8), best of the mediocre others in the West, fell into a virtual second-place tie with the idle San Antonio Silver Stars (4-7), some 6 1/2 games behind the front-running Seattle(12-2). The Storm avenged last week's loss at Indiana by rallying over the defending East champion Fever, 85-81, at Key Arena in the Emerald City.

It doesn't get any easier for the Mercury, who have to visit Washington Sunday against a Mystics team looking to recover from Friday night's loss at Chicago against the Sky.

Another Milestone For Donovan

No, this is not an item about the star on the U.S. Soccer team in the World Cup in South Africa.

This Donovan happens to be Anne Donovan, who reached her 150th coaching victory in the WNBA Friday night as the New York Liberty (5-7) recovered from Tuesday's tough home loss to Minnesota and beat the Tulsa Shock 92-78 in the Midwest.

When Tulsa was known as recently as last season as the Detroit Shock with three WNBA titles, the former Eastern rivalry with New York regularly featured games that went down into the final moments including many in the conference playoffs.

Donovan, who will return to the college ranks after the summer taking over at Seton Hall, has also coached at the former Charlotte Sting and at Seattle, winning a league title in 2003.

A former collegiate star at Old Dominion and an Olympic Gold medalist who also coached the U.S. to gold in 2008 in Beijing, China, Donovan has compiled a slew of honors, most notably inductions to the Naismith and Women's Basketball Halls of Fame.

Helping Donovan reach her mark on Friday night was not one of the high-profile Liberty players, but rather Leilani Mitchell, the former Utah star who set career marks with 20 points and six three-pointers.

Jennifer Lacy had 16 points for Tulsa (3-10), which fell into sole possession of last place.

Former track star Marion Jones had her best night in the league since resuming a basketball career this season that had been dormant since she helped North Carolina to the 1994 NCAA title. Jones in 15 minutes had eight points and blocked two shots.

New York's win kept the Liberty from drifting further behind the playoff position leaders in the East and right with Chicago.

But the Liberty have a big challenge Sunday afternoon/night hosting the Connecticut Sun at 4 p.m.

Seattle Continues to Storm With Rally Over Indiana

Lauren Jackson poured down 28 points and Swin Cash, yeah another ex-UConn, had 21 points as the Seattle Storm stayed perfect at home with an 8-0 record after rallying to an 85-81 win over the defending East champion Fever.

The win avenges last week's loss to Indiana in the Mid-West and a sensational won-loss record that's best in the league would be good enough for home court advantage all the way through the playoffs for the Storm.

Seattle could move further away from the rest of the West crowd Sunday with a likely win at Tulsa, while Phoenix will be in Washington. San Antonio hosts the revived Minnesota Lynx (5-9) in the WNBA's onky game on the slate Saturday night.

Katie Douglas just miss matching her career high by a point, scoring 29 for the Fever (8-5) who fell with Washington into a third-place tie a game behind lonnecticut. Indiana will visit Chicago Sunday night against a Sky (6-8) team that has won two straight, including a rare win for eague teams in Connecticut Tuesday night.

The Chicago Sky Is Rising

OK, why not say it the other way when the Sky win in the Windy suburbs.

Chicago got 20 points from Jia Perkins and beat the Washington Mystics 79-72 for the first win three tries this season in the series and stopping visiting Washington's four-game streak.

The triumph kept Chicago just ahead of New York and moved the Sky a little closer to the playoff contending leaders, though Indiana visits Sunday in a tough challenge.

Former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne, a native of Willingboro, N.J., near Philadelphia, had another sensational night scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for the Mystics, who felll with Indiana a game behind second-place Connecticut in the East.

The Mystics have a key challenge Sunday hosting Phoenix in a kind of must win for both teams as mentioned earlier in this post.

The Guru signs off for now, having successfully written this with a wireless keyboard on the iPad but now has to open the laptop and return to the copy, saved in a draft, to add the necessary bold face and italic commands.

-- Mel


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