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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Guru's WNBA Roundup: Chasity Melvin Cut By Mystics Was Golden Oldie

(Guru's note: Game quotes from team sources)

By Mel Greenberg

Unless another team is out there to grab hold either now or sometime during the season, a near-original American pro women’s basketball player could be making a career adjustment – possibly doing TV commentary work.

The Washington Mystics late last week released 12-year pro Chasity Melvin, the former North Carolina State all-American, who was expected to be one of the team leaders and was questioned recently at Mystics media day about filling that role.

Considering that both Washington coach Trudi Lacey and Melvin, a 6-foot-3 forward-center, have Wolfpack DNA out of the Atlantic Coast Conference member out of Raleigh, it had to be a tough decision for Lacey.

Quotes were not listed in the Mystics announcement, which also included the jettison of Angel Robinson, a former Georgia star picked last year in the draft.

Melvin was the second overall pick of the Philadelphia Rage in the 1998 draft of the former American Basketball League and she averaged 12.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in the shortened third season before the ABL collapsed under bankruptcy.

She then was taken by the former Cleveland Rockers in the 1999 WNBA draft that was packed with former ABL stars making the migration to the rival WNBA.

Katie Smith, now with the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm, was with the ABL at the outset in the 1996-97 season on what became the two-time champion Columbus Quest then coached by Seattle’s Brian Agler.

The former Ohio State star recently reunited in Seattle with Agler and his assistant Nancy Darsch who coached her with the Buckeyes in college. The move came as part of a three-team trade involving the Indiana Fever and the Mystics, whom Smith signed with last season as a free agent and helped lead them to their best performance ever in terms of record and as co-champions with the New York Liberty of the Eastern Conference along with earning the No. 1 seed in the conference section of the playoffs.

Melvin averaged 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in 393 WNBA games through 2010.

After Cleveland folded, Melvin was picked up by Washington in the dispersal draft of the Rockers and then was dealt in 2007 to the Chicago Sky for former North Carolina star Monique Currie but then returned to Washington for the final three games.

It was back to Chicago in 2008 and then back to the Mystics for the last two seasons.

Cambage Debut More Like McNabb

Speaking of reunions and Seattle, two Australian sensations got a chance to go at it stateside in the Emerald City and in the case of Tulsa Shock second overall pick Elizabeth Cambage, the youthful post player in her unofficial American pro debut performed like she was filming the WNBA version of the 1999 Oliver Stone movie Any Given Sunday in the preseason contest – the first for the Shock.

In that film Jamie Foxx plays third-string quarterback Willie Beaman, who is suddenly thrust to the action and in the process tosses more than footballs on the playing field while experience a bit of the butterflies, one might say.

Years later NFL all-pro Donovan McNabb gave a real-life performance in the Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles akin to the Foxx character.

Sunday’s 76-70 loss to Seattle, which is headlined by Aussie Lauren Jackson, among several others on the Storm, was the first action for Cambage, who wowed the draft day crowd in April at ESPN headquarters more with her outgoing personality.

However, on Sunday apparently she had a few more things outgoing besides scoring 10 points – eight off of foul shots – and eight rebounds after her arrival to Tulsa had been held up a few days due to visa problems. She was 1-for-7 from the field.

"I was so nervous. The first quarter, I was so sick and had to run back and get it all out of my system," Cambage said. "But even getting off the plane yesterday, I was just so nervous going into training. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me, but all of the girls are supporting me so much and all I can do is improve and get meaner on the court."

Tulsa’s Nolan Richardson, the former Arkansas men’s coach who became the Shock coach prior to the franchise’s move from Detroit last season, observed, "This was her (Cambage's) first pro game in the United States and she was going against one of her fellow Australians in (Lauren) Jackson, the MVP," Richardson said. "I thought she did settle down and became a force around the basket. They weren’t getting anything easy anymore and she was able to control the boards when she was in that area.”

Cambage said of her defending a familiar rival from Down Under, “”The last time I was guarding Laura she had 40 points on me, so this was a better day I guess.”

Jackson scored 15 for the Storm who got 20 from former UConn star Swin Cash.

Amber Holt scored 25 points as the Shock rallied from halftime to make the game more competitive.

Dream Gives England A Reality Check

The WNBA runner up Atlanta Dream played the league’s first competition overseas in Europe in an exhibition Sunday and beat Great Britain 82-51 in Manchester, England as former Georgia star Coco Miller scored 21 points. She was reunited with her twin sister Kelly on the Dream last season but Kelly was dealt last month to Washington, whom Coco once played for out of college after graduation.

Making The Cut

Whether the Minnesota Lynx win this season’s title with overall No. 1 draft pick and former UConn sensation Maya Moore remains to be seen, but the Lynx are quick to get down to business with Minnesota becoming the first of the 12 WNBA teams to reach the roster limit of 11 players after dealing former Virginia Commonwealth star Quanitra Hollingsworth to New York.

Final cuts are not due until later this week prior to Minnesota’s curtain raiser Friday night when the Lynx play the Los Angeles Sparks in Southern California.

The two then play again Sunday in Minneapolis so two of the five games on the season will be out of the way between the two Western Conference contenders.

A year ago, the two fought down the stretch to get to the last playoff spot and the Sparks’ veteran Tina Thompson, the last of the original WNBA players, hit a shot before the buzzer in the last week of the season that could be considered the key play that put Los Angeles into the postseason.

But Minnesota got the last laugh because the Lynx were thrust into the draft lottery and then topped Tulsa, which had the WNBA’s worst record, for the overall No. 1 pick which was used to select Moore.

Based on a look at every team’s website roster on Sunday night, and it is not known if all of them were updated, but making do, after Minnesota, Seattle and the Connecticut Sun need to slice one player each off their training camp rosters.

Next with 13 players listed and needing two cuts each are Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington.

Indiana and Chicago are three over while the Phoenix Mercury and Tulsa are four over the limit. New York has 16 players listed and San Antonio, which lost to Connecticut in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Friday night at the other Mohegan Sun operation outside New London, actually nearby Uncasville, has 19 players and needs to knock off eight.

-- Mel

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