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, October 29, 2010

Guru's Notebook: Childhood Dreams Become Reality for Rutgers Walk-on

By Mel Greenberg

PISCATAWAY, N.J. --
On a crisp Autumn morning inside the Rutgers Athletic Center, sophomore Brittany Lapidus sat observing her teammates being approached Thursday from those making the rounds at the Scarlet Knights' annual media day.

Though Lapidus may not have been high on the interview list for those seeking to hear pearls of wisdom from those expected to do the heavy lifting this season for Hall of Fame coach C.Vivian Stringer, the 5-foot-7 guard from Marlboro, N.J., was just thrilled to be part of the contingent in a new role.

For one thing, though Lapidus' mind still wants her to dash for the container at practice inside the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center when a teammate yells out for water, it is not a duty that remains in her job description.

"It's been my dream," she smiled about becoming the 10th player on a somewhat depleted roster. "I started out in second grade going to games and being a ball girl. I was here when coach `P' (Tasha Pointer) and coach (Chelsea) Newton were playing.

"I had pictures of coach Stringer on my wall. It's just a dream come true and I'm just ready."

Lapidus had the inside track when auditions were recently held for walk-ons.

"It was kind of a unique experience. Coach Stringer pretty much knew she needed another body. I was a manager last year. I've been around the program. She's seen me shoot around a little. Pretty much she just asked me if I would be willing to work hard and be part of the team.

"One of the points coach Stringer said when she introduced me as a player. `We didn't want to bring in anyone new because we're all familiar with you.' My teammates have been great and supportive."

Stringer smiled over Lapidus' comments.

"That's good that she said that," Stringer said following her annual state of the team address.

"There was a comfort level. She knows her place and she is working hard. She's a former basketball player. It was an easy decision and she works out with the team, so I gave her a scholarship."

At Thursday's session, Lapidus was also watching the media members pursue their craft considering that she is a communication and sports management major in the classroom.

Lapidus noted how she pretty much has been around for all the lows and highs over the years at Rutgers since Stringer took over the program in the summer of 1995.

"I wish I could give you some good stories," Lapidus said with a sheepish
expression.

She does hsve nice memories.

"I remember sitting behind the bench when we beat Notre Dame when they were No. 1 in the country (2001)," Lapidus related. "It was incredible when Tammy Sutton-Brown blocked a shot at the end to win it."

"I was here when UConn ended a winning streak. I remember (former Missouri State star) Jackie Stiles beat us (in the NCAA tournament). But watching her play was just incredible."

Stiles was an all-time NCAA scorer whose team built on that upset all the way to the Final Four in nearby St. Louis that season.

Lapidua talked about being on what is basically the scout team when Rutgers prepares for the Scarlet Knights' annual challenge on a grueling schedule both out of league and in the rugged Big East conference.

Asked who she might portray this time for Rutgers' annual tilt against two-time and twice unbeaten defending NCAA champion Connecticut, Lapidus gave a little giggle and said softly, "Maybe Maya Moore? I pretty much wait until the coaches tell me what they need.

"Actually, I'll play the role of pretty much any point guard or two-guard on the other team," Lapidus said.

In an irony, the event was held during the same moment that former team spokeswoman Stacey Brann had loaded her car and headed West to the University of Pittsburgh for a similar position.

Though an ongoing romance factored into Brann's decision and associate head coach Carlene Mitchell has been bemoaning the loss of a shopping buddy on road trips, Stringer last week at Big East day said in terms of losing her chief organizer, "When an affair of the heart is involved, there's no discussion needed."

Hasim Phillips, who will fill the job this winter, did seem to get off the good start -- Stringer's outlook, which can stray at times, was concise and to the point.

"This time, our players know what they don't know," Stringer said of practice, which for those who have covered the team meant Rutgers could be several weeks ahead of schedule.

Usually by Game 3, she has come into the postgame press conference claiming of her squad. "They don't know what they don't know."

Stringer also said there was value in a tough start on the road when Rutgers will visit California and then NCAA runnersup Stanford.

She noted that it is better to get the right guage early than "getting a bunch of easy wins and then what does that tell when you have to start play in the Big East?"

Fun and Work at ACC Media Day

The Guru found a cheap airfare enabling him to drop by the annual media day for the women of the Atlantio Coast Conference, who are expecting big things this season.

Held at the Greensboro Coliseum, the site of the annual conference women's tournament, the ACC used a bit of a different approach than in past seasons.

Rather than offer lofty presentations and expectations from the podium before the entire throng, the coaches and player representatives from each of the teams arrived at staggered times for two sessions (morning and afternoon) in which they sat at round tables for one-on-one and quasi group interviews.

"Having a taste of it, they want more," second-year coach Kellie Harper said of her Wolfpack which made a surprise run to the ACC title game and into the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

North Carolina, besides veteran coach Sylvia Hatchell, brought Jessica Breland, the feel-good story about her battle against Hodgkins Lymphoma, which caused her to miss last season.

"If we had Jessica, we would have won 25-30 games," Hatchell said about a slide that took the Tar Heels out of the rankings after a long stay, though they still made the NCAA field.

"I did feel we were playing our best basketball at the end, though, but all that is over," Hatchell said of last season's difficulties.

Duke, with a young squad, was picked first in the conference by the ongoing ACC blue ribbon panel causing coach Joanne P. McCallie to observe, "It's a beauty contest. It is what people's opinion are of you from their perspective.

"Now, we'll still embrace it but in terms of the top of the mountain, there is a bigger picture, one which our men have gotten pretty good at and we are trying to learn from them," McCallie said of the goal to win a national title.

Wake Forest coach Mike Petersen had some interesting comments about the Deacons' forecast of ninth after finishing fifth in league play last season.

"There's a difference between perception and reality," Petersen said. "We have 90 percent (or returning rebounding and scoring) so it is my job to (make people more aware of the program's progress).

Some Philadelphia-area players were in the room in North Carolina State 5-6 redshirt-senior guard Amber White from Coatesville High and 6-2 Virginia forward Chelsea Shine from Wayne and Conestoga High.

Maryland coach Brenda Frese talked about the influx of talent expected to bring the Terrapins back near the top of the glory days of several years ago when they won the national title.

"It's interesting because we have a lot of moving parts we are trying to fit together," said Frese.

Georgia Tech, which is hosting UConn early, is looking for the Yellowjackets' best season, while new Clemson coach Itoro Coleman, a former Penn State assistant who played for the Tigers, also drew attention in terms of soon adding a member to her personal family.

Florida State coach Sue Semrau on the potential that if Connecticut's win streak stays alive, the Seminole's would be record-breaking game No. 89 on the Huskies' path when Florida State visits Hartford in December: "Yeah, I noticed that when they made the switch (puting two Big East games into the December part of conference teams' schedules)."

It wasn't all work, however. The ACC also featured a celebrating shooting contest between the two sessions in which media members were paired with players who attended the event.

No, the Guru did not participate but there was a surprise media winner with some hefty three-point shooting. Prior to the shootout, the Guru was not authorized to praise the winner's attempt on the winner's behalf but one can find the individual mentioned in another new blog posted under this one.

X Marks the Musketeers Again In the Atlantic 10

The Atlantic 10 conference conducted its previews via media teleconference call Wednesday morning.

Xavier, which suffered a closing minute loss to Stanford in the NCAA regional finals, was picked again to win the conference ahead of Dayton and Temple, which means third-year coach Tonya Cardoza will need another motivational devices for her squad.

Picked fifth last season, Temple advanced to the conference title game, losing to Xavier at the finish.

St. Joseph's, whose Ashley Robinson's start to her collegiate career has been delayed again by a second straight knee injury, was picked seventh.

La Salle, under new coach Jeff Williams, a former Pittsburgh assistant, was picked last.

-- Mel

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