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.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

WNBA: Yesterday Once More

By Mel Greenberg

The WNBA's midsummer classic was a virtual Halloween party Saturday at the All-Star game in which UConn nostalgia was eclipsed by present and future tense.

The UConn album of longtime success and seven NCAA titles was dressed as a group of athletes and their coach aspiring for Olympic gold.

After all, what the sellout crowd in the Mohegan Sun Arena saw was no different then what is usually on display 30 minutes north at the University of Connecticut: Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma working the sidelines and guiding his team to an array of blowout victories.

Many years ago, fans in Norfolk, Va., and around the country bemoaned the fact that the Old Dominion powerhouse of the day (Nancy Lieberman, Anne Donovan) could not compete on its own in 1980 on behalf of the United States.

That was before events led to the boycott mandated by former President Jimmy Carter.

This time, UConn may succeed where ODU was ignored.

On Saturday here, fans ad a chance to recall the past exploits of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Renee Montgomery, and Tina Charles who, along with Huskies superstar senior Maya Moore, helped lead the USA squad to a 99-72 victory over the WNBA squad.

Additionally the past several days, Asjha Jones was also at the USA training camp.

Technically, it was a WNBA intersquad game since all but Moore are in the pro league but there was a purpose -- to help get ready for the FIBA World Championships this fall.

Unlike a year ago when Cash claimed the MVP award, this time the honor went beyond the Blue and White to the Chicago Sky's Sylvia Fowles. The former LSU sensation had 23 points and eight rebounds while helping the USA Team to a victory.

One could say that Saturday's contest was the one place where lots of Fowles delighted the fans who saw her performance compared to the "other" fouls -- the ones that slow down the action and result in times when star players get tossed out of the game when the contact appears to be getting out of hand.

Although the play of ex-Huskies might recall the unbeaten effort turned in by the 2002, 2009 and 2010 squads, it is noteworthy that all of them are anything but yesterday's news.

Most are still expected to be on the USA roster, barring injury, when the London Olympics get under way in 2012.

Among the non-UConn players on the USA roster, former Temple star Candice Dupree came off the bench to score 13 points. Moore, who received one of the louder ovations, was the last to get in the game and she finished with 12 points.

Willingboro (N.J.) resident Crystal Langhorne, the former Maryland star with the WNBA Washington team, started on the WNBA squad with Mystics teammates Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding.

Former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter now with the New York Liberty also played on the USA team and had seven points and six assists.

Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler guided the WNBA group and the result gave him an experience he had not had to deal with all season -- what it's like to have your head handed to you, especially by a group of players who perform like they are out of this world.

Agler, to date, has guided Seattle to a 16-2 record and a runaway nine-game lead in the Western Conference.

There was even suggestion of the big brother NBA helpers slipping thoughts of this week's LeBron James antics announcing where he would sign as a free agent.

The Guru's conspiracy theory went like this.

The introductory pre-game events began with background music of the British Rock Group The Who's You Won't Get Fooled Again, which happens to be the opening theme of CSI-Miami.

That creates thoughts of the NBA Miami Heat, which is the team James chose to create a three-way mega star contingent in the Sunshine State with the retention of Miami's Dwyane Wade and the addition of Chris Bosh, formerly with the Toronto Raptors.

Additionally, in the local WNBA market here, ex-Connecticut Sun Katie Douglas, the former Purdue star with the defending Eastern champion Indiana Fever, won the three-point shooting contest, while ex-Huskie Renee Montgomery, who plays for the Sun, won the skills competition. Former Sun Lindsay Whalen, involved in the deal with the Minnesota Lynx that brought Montgomery and the rights to first-round No. 1 pick Tina Charles to play near their alma matter, was a late fill-in on the WNBA squad for San Antonio's Becky Hammon, who hurt a quad muscle Thursday night.

On Sunday the regular season resumes with one game, the fifth-place Chicago Sky visits the sixth-place New York Liberty with both teams virtually tied at the bottom of the East.

A win in Madison Square Garden gets a team closer to the East playoff hunt, while a loss moves a team closer to the draft lottery.

And in this particularly year, less could mean more as in Maya Moore, expected to be the overall No. 1 pick and who showed her college coach and potential Olympic coach Auriemma how well along she already is in terms of playing with the pros.

-- Mel


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