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, November 03, 2010

Freshman Cloud Brings Sunshine to Maryland Preseason Win

(Guru's note: There is another post above this one regarding the WNBA draft lottery results).

By Mel Greenberg

Natasha Cloud had been waiting for Tuesday night here at the University of Maryland for a little over a year after the Cardinal O'Hara graduate out of Broomall, Pa., in the suburbs west of Philadelphia, had committed to play for the Terrapins' nationally prominent program ranked 21st in the Associated Press preseason women's poll.

Technically, the 90-37 exhibition victory over nearby Gallaudet in the Comcast Center was just the first of two dress rehearsals in advance of the regular season opener here on Nov. 13 against Monmouth University,

But it didn't stop Cloud from making the most of her 20 plus minutes off the bench in a game the taller and more athletic Terrapins quickly got under control over the Bisons.

Cloud's line was 1-for-4 for three points, six rebounds, four assists, a blocked shot, and two steals with just two turnovers in her 26 minutes of action.

Freshman Alyssa Thomas had 11 points, while veterans Lynetta Kizer and Laurin Mincy each scored 10 points for Maryland, whose roster is devoid of seniors.

The Bisons out of the nation's capital and coached by former WNBA Houston Comets assistant Kevin Cook got 13 points from Britny Latham.

"It feels great playing at a school like Maryland," said Cloud whose play brought a request to attend the postgame press conference with coach Brenda Frese and Kizer, the link between the recent past glory days in the program and the next to follow. "I really can't wish for anything more. I'm very happy that I have this opportunity and that coach Frese and the rest of the staff are giving me this opportunity."

Frese had praise for her newcomer in which the Terrapins coach wanted to give the vast array of youth on the squad considerable minutes, especially with another preseason game to come Sunday in the Comcast Center against the University of District of Columbia.

"There are so many different areas in which Natasha impacts our team," Frese said. "The most visible was near the end of the game when she was excited about Whitney Bays and the play she made and was really fired up for her. And then you saw her through example crashing on the floor for loose balls and then Natasha is all over the stat sheet in every statistical category out there. I'm really impressed with her poise and leadership as a freshman."

Maryland was an easy choice for Cloud who selected the 2006 NCAA champions quickly over St. Joseph's and Villanova in Philadelphia's Big Five.

"I knew when I stepped on the campus on my first visit here that this is where I wanted to be," said Cloud, who helped lead O'Hara to the 2009 state finals. "I definitely wanted to play close to home."

Maryland is about a little over a two-hour drive from Cloud's home.

Cook goes way back against Frese and helped open the Comcast Center several years ago when he used to lead a makeshift squad that included some WNBA players that toured schools around the country in advance of the collegiate season openers. He also has been an assistant at Kansas to former Jayhawks coach Marian Washington, a women's basketball hall of famer who played on the West Chester squad in suburban Philadelphia that won the first national title in a tournament for collegiate women only in 1969.

"Maryland definitely belongs in the Top 25," Cook said. "I'm going to make a prediction that you are going to see them in the Sweet 16. And I think they're going to battle for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship because they look a lot better than their preseason pick of fourth (by the media) in the conference. The future is very bright for them. They're long, tall and they are talented."

Asked about Cloud's play, Cook said, "I thought she was an excellent ball handler and very quick."

The game was a welcome tonic to many Terrapins fans who also follow the nearby WNBA Washington Mystics and continue to express their aggrevation over the team's parting of ways with former general manager Angela Taylor and former coach Julie Plank in what president and managing partner Sheila Johnson caegorized as business decisions and cost cutting moves.

The duo helped the Mystics to their two best-ever WNBA seasons, including this past summer when a franchise record was set at 22-12 and Washington won the top seed out of the East before losing to the Atlanta Dream in the first round of the playoffs.

Marissa Coleman, a former Terrapins all-star who plays for Washington and attended the game with former teammate and Cheltenham High graduate Laura Harper from Philadelphia, said she had no idea what to make of the front office changes. She agreed though that when the ball goes up again next season it is the players who will have the opportunity to keep the team in forward progress.

On Monday Johnson announced the promotion of basketball operations head Trudi Lacey, a former North Carolina State star, to a dual general manager-coaching job similar to five other franchises in the 12-team WNBA. Lacey held both jobs wiith the former Charlotte Sting.

Meanwhile, the Bisons, who play at a nationally-regarded school for the deaf, made their first visit to the Comcast Center and afterwards were invited to a reception the Maryland delegation hosted for them in the Comcast Center club suite.

"This orange ball unites us all," Frese said in brief remarks by herself and Cook in what was an hour-long love fest between the two squads who chomped down slices of pizza and quickly got to know each other.

Several Maryland players are taking signage in the classroom and Cook called on them as future assistants for his program. The Bisons also gave out jewelery that said "love" to the Terrapins.

The socialization was ended with the reminder that both squads had to awaken early the next morning to attend class.

One veteran observer of the Maryland program attended the reception and at the end with an eye to the rugged ACC wars that begin in January quipped, "I don't know that all this would be done for Duke."

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you mean school of the deaf, not death.

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Anonymous The One and Only Ridor said...

I have a lingering question -- how in the world can anyone mistype "deaf" with "death"?

I can understand if it was "dead" but ... death?


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