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.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Look at College Teams of Philly Interest

(Guru's note: Note quite like the national guard, though the Guru wouldn't know first hand, but he received a request earlier in the week from his former place of employment to offer a preview of local women's teams.

It is not known yet to what extent the encore will continue since the Guru's staff retirement from The Inquirer in April -- he was not replaced, beat wise.
But whatever appears in print -- in Thursday's editions it is a fancy graphic with some dialog -- stay right here for enhanced coverage since space is unlimited on the internet. Right here, however, also may mean a change in the home site quite soon to a more robust guru operation -- announcement to come.

So in that regard, down below is a companion piece to get you ready for Division I local action though understand the two state schools -- Penn State and Rutgers in New Jersey -- are in the mix, despite distance, because of their traditional followings out of Philadelphia.

Also, the Guru will be on the scene Thursday night at the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony in which one of the honorees will be WNBA Washington Mystics assistant coach Marianne Stanley, a former Immaculata star out of Upper Darby ib the Western suburbs.)


That said, the following was the original intended print version until the format drill got changed.

By Mel Greenberg

The Temple women’s basketball team has been getting a little more recognition in preseason conversations these days as the Owls chase after an eighth straight NCAA tournament berth.

“In the past, no one knew what to expect from us,” Tonya Cardoza, third-year coach of the Owls, said. “Now I think the third place pick in the Atlantic Ten (from the league coaches) is a sign of respect for what we have been able to achieve. We have
to live up to that and do better.”

Xavier, ranked fifth in the Associated Press preseason poll, is picked to repeat as conference champions ahead of Dayton and the Owls, who finished 25-9 overall and tied for second at 11-3 in A-10 competition.

Temple, which opens at home in the Liacouras Center Friday night at 5 p.m. against No. 7 Ohio State, returns three starters and six letter winners.

The Buckeyes, incidentally, are coached by Jim Foster, a Temple graduate who coached St. Joseph’s in the 1980s. Former Hawks star Debbie Black, who was an all-star in the WNBA, is one of his assistants.

The key Temple returnee is 6-foot junior forward Kristen McCarthy (14.8 points per game), who was recruited by Dawn Staley prior to her departure for South Carolina in May 2008.

McCarthy was Big Five player of the year and is on the Atlantic 10 preseason first team, while 5-9 senior guard Qwedia Wallace is on the third team.

“I expect from Kristen what we have had before,” Cardoza said. “But the one thing is she won’t have to feel she has to carry the team on her shoulders as much as she did last year. I’m expecting her to improve on everything she needed and have a great year.”

Temple has four transfers who will become eligible in 6-2 sophomore forward Brittany Lewis (Virginia Tech), 6-3 junior center Joelle Connelly (Hofstra), and 5-7 junior guard Shey Peddy (Wright State). Satoria Bell, a 5-8 guard and graduate of Northeast High, was a second team junior college all-American at Labette in Parsons, Kansas.

“It’s definitely a new look with six new faces (two are freshmen) but we’re excited with what we have. The good thing is three of them were able to practice with us last year and learn our system.”

Temple is the host institution at the Liacouras Center for one of four NCAA regional finals in March. However, if the Owls were to play in the tournament and advance to the Sweet 16 they would have to be in a different bracket because of an NCAA rule not allowing schools to play in regional finals on their campuses.

The good news in that is Temple would probably not be in Connecticut’s bracket and avoid a repeat of the 90-36 dispatch the Huskies gave the Owls in the second round last season on the way to a second straight unbeaten title.

Here’s a look at the rest of the area Division I schools.

ST. JOSEPH’S: The Hawks got a tough break at the start of practice last month when 6-2 forward Ashley Robinson, a three-time All-Catholic League honoree at Archbishop Wood, suffered a second straight torn Achilles tendon, this time on her right leg, to once again delay the start of her collegiate career.

“At least it happened early and we’ve been able recover from there and adjust,” said coach Cindy Griffin, whose team opens at home Friday night at 5 p.m. in Hagan Arena. After Friday, the team won't be back on Hawk Hill until December.

St. Joseph’s, which was picked seventh in the Atlantic 10, could still battle Temple for Big Five honors with a strong guard contingent.

Katie Kuester, a 5-10 junior guard whose father is NBA Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester, was the top player in the Philadelphia Dept. of Recreation NCAA Women’s Summer League.

The graduate of Academy of Notre Dame De Namur is a prolific three-point shooter.whose scoring average should improve upon her 4.2 ppg average last season.

Michelle Baker, a 5-9 junior, is another veteran in the backcourt.A newcomer of note is Erin Shields, a 5-6 freshman guard from Archbishop Carroll. Her mother Renie Shields starred for the Hawks and is the compliance director at the university.

The Hawks (17-15 overall, 9-5 A-10) lost in the first round of the WNIT and are still looking for their first NCAA bid since Griffin was hired at her alma mater in the spring of 2001. Despite the Robinson injury this could be the time.

VILLANOVA: The Wildcats (14-16 overall, 3-13 Big East) swept to a Big Five title but injuries reduced their effectiveness in the rugged Big East and its slew of ranked teams headed by the University of Connecticut.

Expectations aren’t high this time around but a preseason pick of 14th by the Big East coaches in the 16-team conference does not seem to bother the squad, whose coach Harry Perretta enters his 33rd season.

“Harry likes to compare us to that team that won only eight games several seasons ago,” Heather Scanlon, a 6-3, senior center from Cardinal O’Hara said recently at the Big East media day in New York. “It’s not that we’re bad. It’s just that we’re young.”

She and Amanda Swiezynski(CQ) are the only two seniors on the squad. Laura Sweeney, a 6-2 sophomore forward from Cherokee High in Marlton, N.J., was a force off the bench last season with a 10.00 ppg average that was second highest on the Wildcats.

A newcomer of note is 6-0 junior guard-forward Lindsay Kimmel, a three-point shooting ace who transferred from Temple.

Villanova opens at home against La Salle at 4 p.m. Friday at the Pavilion before heading to Delaware on Tuesday night. Blue Hens star Elena Delle Donne had made the Wildcats one of her final collegiate choices back in 2007 when she was in high school at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington.

PENN: Coach Mike McLaughlin’s past life as a member of the Washington Generals fall guys against the Harlem Globetrotters was a useful experience in his rookie season with the Quakers. His patience was rewarded near the end with a 44-31 Ivy upset at Dartmouth on the way to a final record of 2-26 overall and 1-13 in the league.

It was definitely different from all those years in Northeast Philadelphia guiding Holy Family as a national powerhouse in NCAA Division II.

Though picked last behind overwhelming frontrunner Princeton by media covering the Ivy League, Penn should improve this season. Three key veterans are 5-11 junior forward Jess Knapp (6.7 ppg., 6.8 rebounds), 5-10 senior forward Jerin Smith (6.4 ppg.), and 6-2 senior center Caroline Nicholson, who will serve as tri-captains.

McLaughlin’s first recruiting class consists of six freshmen, including 5-6 guard Meghan McCullough, a native of Havertown who was a second team all-state player at the Academy of Notre Dame.

Penn hosts Bryant in the season opener Friday night in the Palestra at 7 p.m. Besides gameds against the Big Five and Drexel, the nonleague schedule is highlighted by a trip to Virginia on Jan. 16.

La SALLE: Jeff Williams will be getting his first Big Five experience along with his head coaching debut when the Explorers travel to Villanova Friday at 4 p.m. for the season opener at the Pavillion.

The former assistant at Pittsburgh took advantage of the new NCAA rule in the women’s game allowing earlier starts for preseason practice but injuries have hampered his effort.

“We started on (October) on the fourth – you know, new coach, new system, but injuries hit us hard, including two of our newcomers,” Williams said of the Explorers, who were picked last in the 14-team Atlantic 10.

“We’d like to be more uptempo, but its hard at the moment to getting the system in place because of the limited number of healthy bodies.”

The Explorers finished 7-22 overall and 2-12 in the conference, losing a coin-flip that once again eliminated La Salle from the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Soon afterwards, former coach Tom Lochner was let go, though he was given employment elsewhere in the university.

“It’s been a few tough years here and we’d like to get our players used to winning in everything we do – on the court, in the classroom and in life and then let the chips fall where they may.” Williams said.

“I like kids who can make plays. That’s been the biggest transition. We want to push the ball. It’s like a football team going from smash-mouth football to going West Coast style and being able to pass the ball more.

La Salle will host Delaware, travel to No. 21 Maryland for the Terrapins’ tournament, and travel to Ivy favorite Princeton on the nonconference schedule.

Ashley Gale, a 6-1 senior guard who was third in scoring (7.5 ppg.) returns as does 5-8 junior guard Nadia Duncan and 6-3 senior forward Chelsea Connor.

A newcomer of note is 5-11 freshman forward Jess Koci from Archbishop Ryan while another one is Alexis Scott, a transfer from Monmouth where two seasons ago she made the all-rookie team in the Northeast Conference.
Williams has a familiar face on his staff in associate head coach Ervin Monier, who was at Temple with Dawn Staley her first several seasons.

DREXEL: For the first time in five seasons, the Dragons will start without Gabriela Marginean, who graduated as the all-time scoring champion for the entire women’s collegiate community in the Philadelphia area. She averaged 23.5 ppg. last season.

Following its championship season in 2008-09 in the Colonial Athletic Association, Drexel finished 17-14 overall and 11-7 in the CAA. The Dragons lost their last six games in the closing minutes and three in overtime. The season ended at home with a 78-76 overtime loss to East Carolina in the WNIT.

“We’re still going to run the same stuff,”said coach Denise Dillon, whose team has four starters back and was picked sixth in the CAA by the conference coaches. “It’s just that `Gabby’ was so consistent. But now other people will have to step up.”

Some key veterans are three-point shooter Jasmina Roosseel (10.3 ppg.), a 5-8 senior guard; junior 6-0 forward Tyler Hale, 5-5 junior guard Marisa Crane, and 5-11 junior guard Kamile Nacickaite (11.6 ppg.).

One newcomer of note is 6-1 freshman forward Jackie Schluth out of Bishop Eustace, who was a second team all-state honoree last season in New Jersey. Another one is Tory Thierolf, a 6-0 freshman forward from Germantown Academy.

The Dragons, who have trips to Princeton, Virginia and Penn State on the nonconference schedule, open at La Salle Tuesday and then Penn, St. Joseph’s, and Villanova in succession.

DELAWARE: Longtime Drexel rival Delaware, in Elena Delle Donne’s second season, was picked third in the CAA behind James Madison and Old Dominion.

The Blue Hens have upgraded their nonconference schedule and will meet La Salle, Penn State, Villanova and St. Joseph’s in area games.

If she clears eligibility a month from now, a newcomer of note is Sarah Acker, a post player transfer who was Big Five rookie of the year several seasons ago at St. Joseph’s.

The Blue Hens suffered a recent setback with point guard Kayla Miller sidelined indefinitely following back surgery for a herniated disk.

OPENING WEEK

FRIDAY:

La Salle at Villanova (Big Five opener, also), 4 p.m. at the Pavillion.
No. 7 Ohio State at Temple, 5 p.m., Liacouras Center (doubleheader with men).
Providence at St. Joseph’s, 5 p.m., at Hagan Arena. Hwaks then away from home until December though some games will be in the area.
Bryant at Penn, 7 p.m., at The Palestra.
UMBC at Delaware, 7 p.m., at Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.
Penn State at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Rutgers at California, 10 p.m.

SATURDAY:

No D-1 locals in action.

SUNDAY:

Rider at Penn State, 2 p.m.
Rutgers at No. 3 Stanford, 5 p.m.
La Salle at Loyola of Maryland, 5 p.m.

MONDAY:

Bentley at Division II Holy Family, 7 p.m. at Campus Center. Host Tigers ranked fifth in preseason coaches poll.

TUESDAY:

Drexel at La Salle, 7 p.m. – first of four straight against city schools for visiting Dragons.
Villanova at Delawware, 7 p.m.
Temple at Seton Hall, 7 p.m. – Host Pirates now coached by Hall of Famer Anne Donovan, who coached the WNBA New York Liberty last summer.
St. Joseph’s at Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.
NATIONAL GAME OF NOTE: No. 2 Baylor at No. 1 Connecticut, 6 p.m. in Hartford (ESPN2-TV).

WEDNESDAY

No locals

THURSDAY

Princeton at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m. at Louis a. Brown Athletic Center. Visiting Tigers picked to repeat as Ivy champs.

To be continued.

-- Mel.

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