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.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

UConn Alums To Dominate WNBA All-Star Weekend

Guru's Note: Updating late Wednesday to reflect on a few new items and the WNBA games played Wed and to be played Thurs. Also to make some corrections noticed by Boneyard fact and copy checkers, which the Guru is devoid of since he is no longer working for a publisher at this point in time. Guru still trying to get handle on iPad screen and remote keyboards.

By Mel Greenberg

A year after players and events tied to the University of Connecticut's powerful collegiate women's basketball program stole the show at the WNBA's annual All-Star game, those inidivudals with Huskies DNA will return to the scene of their domination on Saturday at this year's extravaganza appropriately at the Mohegan Sun Arena again in Uncasville, Conn.

The field was completed on Tuesday with the selection by WNBA coaches of the six players not chosen in the fan vote for the game which will air at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN-TV.

Philadelphia will be represented with the coaches' pick of former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro, N.J., the reigning Most Improved Player who has set her own pro career records in recent weeks leading the Washington Mystics on a tear toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Langhorne's efforts also earned her the Eastern player of the month award in the WNBA. The third year pro was a sophomore in 2006 when she helped lead the Terrapins to the NCAA tite in Boston.

Former Temple star Candice Dupree and former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, perennial picks since their rookie season in 2006, will also play and be on the USA squad Saturday guided by UConn coach Geno Auiremma, a Naismith and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer who grew up in Norristown.

Ironically, Pondexter and Dupree were part of a blockbuster offseason three-team deal that saw Pondexter move from the defending champion Phoenix Mercury to the New York Liberty and Dupree head to the Mercury from the Chicago Sky.

Incidentally, Ervin Monier, a former Temple assistant who is credited with finding Dupree, then a hidden treasure in Florida, was recently hired to the staff of new La Salle coach Jeff Williams after spending last season under first-year Southern Cal coach Michael Cooper.

Additionally on Saturday a person with ties from the past to the Big Five in Philadelphia is expected to be named Saturday as part of the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class with ceremonies set for next June in knoxville, Tenn.

Auriemma, the coach of the USA Olympic squad that will compete at the FIBA World Championship this fall and London Games in 2012, has guided the Huskies to seven NCAA titles, one less than Tennessee, with the last two being won with unbeaten records.

Those last two UConn squads will be represented on the USA roster Saturday by the host Connecticut Sun's Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 pick in last April's draft, and Renee Montgomery, the No. 4 pick of a year ago.

Charles this week earned her second straight rookie of the month honor from the league.

Other former Huskies who will reunite with their collegiate coach are the Seattle Storm's Sue Bird and Swin Cash, the MVP of last season's All-Star game, and Diana Taurasi, the reigning WNBA MVP of the Phoneix Mercury. The sole collegian on the USA roster is Huskies senior Maya Moore, expected to be next season's No. 1 draftee.

The format for Saturday is different this season. With little opportunity to get together before the FIBA event, since the USA is dominated by WNBA players, the teams will bre organized differently than the normal Eastern vs. Western Conferences competition.

The other three USA players are the Indiana Fever's Tamika Catchings, one of !0 players named in the fans vote but moved to the USA squad, the Chicago Sky's Sylvia Fowles, and the Atlanta Dream's Angel McCoughtry, last season's rookie of the year out of Louisville,

Seatlle cosch Brian Agler, whose Storm is running away with the West at 16-2, will head the WNBA squad highlighted by his own Lauren Jackson, a choice by the fans.

Their voting contributed to four San Antonio Silver Stars players on the WNBA squad -- Becky Hammon, Michelle Snow, Sophia ¥oung, and Jayne Appel, the rookie out of Stanford's NCAA runnersup.

The fans chose Bird as the top vote getter, and she was moved to the USA squad under the arrangrement, along with Catchings of the defending Eastern Conference champions, Taurasi and Cash, who are all part of the USA pool.

The Los Angeles Sparks' Candace Parker was also chosen by the fans and is in the USA pool, but the former Tennessee sensation was recently sidelined fcr the season with a separated shoulder injury dating back to her collegiste career.

The other WNBA squad players are Indiana's Katie Douglas, a former Connecticut Sun player, Atlanta's Sancho Lyttle and Iziane Castro Marques, Minnesota's Rebekkah Brunson, and Phoenix's Penny Taylor.

In another note, the game will have Pondexter and Taylor on opposite sides only a week after Pondexter was tossed out in the third quarter for punching Taylor in last Saturday's New York-Phoenix game in the desert. There were no penalties assessed by the league for the altercation.

The USA group will practice Thursday and both teams will practice publicly Friday. On Saturday there will be pre-game skills competition.

Meanwhile thw Sun fell a little further into fourth place in the tight East race Wednesday night in Atlanta when the Dream outlasted Connecticut 108-103 in overtime for the Sun's third straight loss.

The win enabled Atlanta (14-5) to reach the break a game ahead of Washington after All-Stars Iziane Castro Marques and Angel McCoughtry each scored 32 points.

Charles had another monster game for the Sun, connecting for her 14th double double with a career-high 27 points and 20 rebounds.

Sancho Lyttle did not play for Atlanta because of a concussion suffered in Saturday's game against Chicago. Her status is listed day-to-day, meaning she may have to be replaced for the All-Star game Saturday.

The league finishes up with two games Thursday before the brief break. Indiana (10-6), looking to get a little closer to Washington (12-5), will host the last place Tulsa Shock (3-13) from the West, which will try to stay in playoff contention.

San Antonio (6-9), holding second in the West, will try to get within eight games of Seattle when the Silver Stars visits the Minnesota Lynx (5-11), who are holding the fourth playoff spot at the moment in the West 1.5 games ahead of the fifth-place Los Angeles Sparks (4-13).

--Mel

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One team USA-UCONN pick jumps out as very questionable. How does RMontgomery get spot over TJohnson, LWhalen, or LHarding?? Take away the UConn coach-player connection and it doesn't happen. Sorry Geno, your girl doesn't belong.

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