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, December 23, 2010

Guru Report: Delaware's Delle Donne Sits As St. Joseph's Wins

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, Del. –
A year ago in a closed private scrimmage Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne reportedly put up 50 points at St. Joseph’s against the Hawks on the way to the one-year delayed start of her collegiate career.

If the 2008 high school athlete of the year out of Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy surprised that afternoon by not showing any rust, the Hawks were in for another shocker on Wednesday night when Delle Donne did not warm up prior to the non-conference game at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center.

“She called me a half hour before shoot around. And I had no idea,” Blue Hens coach Tina Martin related after St. Joseph’s held off Delaware 50-45 to continue dominating the series between the two schools 11-1.

“She just said, “I don’t feel well today, `Coach, I don’t think I can go.’ And that was that. We had it 1-2 and she called me at 12:30. She came to the shoot around and said, `I feel awful again. I don’t feel strong. I feel really weak and I just don’t feel like I could play tonight.”

Hawks coach Cindy Griffin is not the first coach since Delle Donne returned to basketball to go against the Blue Hens (6-3) and find out shortly before tipoff that the scouting reports and practices for the game had become virtually worthless.

“We did prepare for Elena to play, of course, and you have to make an adjustment, obviously,” Griffin said. “For us it was not a bad adjustment, right? But I think our kids really battled and we find ways to win.

“It’s not always pretty but gut and determination of this team is remarkable.”

Freshman Erin Shields, a 5-foot-6 guard and an Archbishop Carroll graduate, had a career high 15 points and connected on 3-of-5 three-pointers for the Hawks (8-3). Katie Kuester scored 13 and hit on 3-of-6 attempts from beyond the arc.”

Jaquetta May scored 14 for the Blue Hens who, without Delle Donne, missed the nation’s leading scorer averaging 26 points a game.

Delle Donne was both the rookie and player of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association last season despite missing several games because of various injuries.

The latest health situation, which has been characterized as a fatigue syndrome stemming from a viral illness, became public almost a month ago in Philadelphia when Delle Donne, six minutes into a win at La Salle, removed herself from the game and Martin said Delle Donne had not been feeling well as early as the previous game – a win at home over St. Francis, Pa.

Delle Donne did not play the next game in a home loss to defending Ivy champion Princeton but returned several days later at Navy scoring 20 points and pronouncing herself on the mend.

The Blue Hens had a long layoff before losing Sunday at Penn State in a game in which Delle Donne scored 25 points. She practiced with the team Tuesday but sat out Wednesday, wearing her warm up suit.

The game had another element involving the two schools with Delaware using 6-3 junior center Sarah Acker, a former Hawk who was Big Five freshman of the year in 2008.

Acker suffered a hip injury and did not play in 2009 before transferring out to a junior college. She then enrolled with the Blue Hens for this season and satisfied NCAA eligibility issues involving the transfer and became activated for the Navy game.

But she was a non-factor against her former team, shooting 1-for-4 for two points and grabbing five rebounds in 29 minutes of action.

Griffin said it was the first time she ever had to coach against someone she had coached at St. Joseph’s and previously at Loyola of Maryland.

“It’s definitely a weird thing, “ Griffin said. “But you prepare the same way you do for any team.”

Acker said she had memories of her Hawks experience on the court.

“They were calling plays and I knew them – even though we went over them on walkthroughs and stuff like that,” Acker said. “I still remembered them.”

Martin, though upset with the overall team effort, especially the sophomores, downplayed Acker’s performance because of the circumstances involved.

“When you go against your former school, there’s a lot of emotions involved,” Martin said. “You can either play outstanding or you can struggle because you want to play so well.

“Tonight she missed some shots she normally makes and I thought she tried to battle on the boards, but we have to have those shots. You have to make layups, you can’t rush and be too much in a hurry and tonight a lot of us were in a hurry.”

St. Joseph’s, which next hosts New Hampshire Tuesday to start its annual tournament at Hagan Arena, is becoming the best Big
Five team following Temple’s stumble at Eastern Michigan. However, ,Drexel at the moment has been the most consistently successful among the six Division I schools in the city.

“We’re right about where I thought we’d be,” Griffin said, “though we haven’t gotten there exactly the way I thought.”

Shields was looking forward to playing against Delle Donne but said that the Hawks didn’t have make many adjustments.

“Of course our defensive strategy changes because she’s not out there but they still have a very good team,” Shields said. “It was more us wanting to keep our energy – we emphasized that in the huddle.”

Delaware was 0-for-9 on three-point attempts.

Shields’ trey with 9 minutes, 55 seconds left in the game gave the Hawks a 16-point lead at 43-27 before the Blue Hens rallied to draw closer.

“They were scrappy but we were scrappy, too, but it was too late,” Martin said.

“Too many times we wait to take the other team’s first punch and you can’t play the game of basketball like that.”

Shields has a sister Kerri, who stars at Boston College. Their mother Renie was a freshman at St. Joseph’s when Ohio State coach Jim Foster first guided the Hawks in 1978-79 and brought along UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who had been his assistant coaching the Bishop McDevitt Girls in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Renie is also the compliance director at her alma mater and also does the color commentary on Hawks radio broadcasts.

Erin said she has no problem knowing her mother is right there near the sidelines.

“I’m so used to it,” she said. “I’ve been coming to the games since I was born so I’m used to her being on the radio and being at all my games.”

In the other game involving a Division I local school, La Salle’s Ashley Gale scored17 points and grabbed 11 points but the Explorers (4-6) fell at Seton Hall 65-62 in a nonconference game in South Orange, N.J.

That made Hall of Famer Anne Donovan, first-year coach of the Pirates, 2-1 against Philadelphia teams having also beaten Temple at home and losing at Drexel. Seton Hall (6-7) will also play Villanova as part of the Big East slate.

Donovan, a former Olympic gold medalist and star at Old Dominion, guided the WNBA New York Liberty last summer.

UConn Factor Dominates WNBA’s Summer Start

The WNBA announced next summer’s schedule and while the press release doesn’t exactly read it this way, do the revenue math.

For example, the 15th season launches with a yet-to-be-named new commissioner at the helm in the wake of Donna Orender’s departure effective at the conclusion of New Year’s Eve a week from Friday.

On Friday, June 3 the Minnesota Lynx will visit the Los Angeles Sparks, featuring the return of former Tennessee superstar Candace Parker, who missed most of last season with the team from Tinsel town due to shoulder surgery.

Now, give the authors a pass because one can’t officially anticipate, but Minnesota is more than likely to be going with the No. 1 overall pick out of April’s draft who most probably will be the University of Connecticut’s star Maya Moore.

On Saturday, June 4, the reigning WNBA champion Seattle Storm will host the Phoenix Mercury in a nationally televised game on ABC-TV.

Though not phrased this way in the release, members of the UConn alumnae will be going against each other in Seattle’s Sue Bird and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, who most definitely will also be teammates on the U.S. Olympic team guided by UConn coach Geno Auriemma in the London Games of 2012.

Those looking for a weekend jaunt will like the Connecticut Sun schedule which shows 11 of the 17 home games on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, meaning one can head for some side entertainment at the Mohegan Sun Casino-Entertainment complex.

On Saturday, June 11, the Indiana Fever will visit the New York Liberty at 7 p.m. in the first home game at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., off a three-year summer hiatus from Madison Square Garden, which will be undergoing renovations.

The Liberty, which tied the Washington Mystics for first in the regular season in the East, will also be under new coach-general manager John Whisenant following the jettison of longtime general manager Carol Blazejowski and former coach Anne Donovan’s departure for Seton Hall.

Incidentally, there will be one more women’s basketball event in the Garden this winter when UConn visits St. John’s in a 9 p.m. Big East contest in January.

An All-Star game, if it is to be held, hasn’t been announced, but the date looks like Saturday July 22 or Sunday July 23 because no games are listed on either of those dates.

That’s it until the next post 24 hours or less from now.

-- Mel


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