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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Los Angeles' Candace Parker Sidelined Six Weeks

(Guru’s note: There is a post below this advancing Tuesday night’s Summer League competition and one above this with basically collegiate news).

By Mel Greenberg

A disturbing trend is rearing its unsightly trend in the WNBA and if continues by the time the All-Star game arrives late next month in San Antonio there may as many notables receiving votes who can’t play as well as those who can.

A second major star has now gone down with the news that Los Angeles Sparks sensation Candace Parker will be out at least six weeks with a torn meniscus in her right knee.

The defending champion Seattle Storm announced on Friday that Australian star Lauren Jackson, a three time league MVP, will miss at least three weeks after suffering a hip injury in last week’s win at Tulsa.

Former Duke all-American Alana Beard on the Washington Mystics has yet to play after suffering a foot sprain a few days before the June 4 opener at Connecticut.

Beard missed all of last season after surgery on the same foot and was being counted upon to shore up a lineup that has only former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne as a returning starter from last year’s Mystics edition that set a franchise record for wins, tied the New York Liberty at the top of the Eastern Conference and took the No. 1 conference seed into the playoffs before being swept 2-0 by the Atlanta Dream.

Parker was hurt during Sunday’s loss to the Liberty in Newark, N.J., and this will be the third straight season she has missed significant time since her 2008 debut out of Tennessee when as the overall No. 1 draft pick she went on to win rookie and player of the year honors.

The native of Naperville, Ill., near Chicago, then missed 2009 after giving birth to her first child, and then 10 games into last season Parker underwent shoulder surgery for a nagging injury dating back to college and she was sidelined the rest of the way.

Los Angeles (4-3) struggled with a losing record but edged out the Minnesota Lynx for the fourth playoff spot, though Minnesota thrown into the draft lottery drew the No. 1 overall pick and was able to grab UConn sensation Maya Moore.

Parker returned for 2011 fully recovered and the Sparks seemed ready to return to their traditional role as a leading power in the Western Conference especially with her averaging 17.7 points per game and 9.9 rebounds, including 16 points and 11 rebounds in Sunday's game before limping off the court late in the third quarter with the injury.

However, the Sparks have stumbled on the road; losing the first two of a current seven-game trip heading into Tuesday night’s game at the Connecticut Sun (4-3), which is back in the hunt for Eastern honors at the moment after missing the playoffs the last two seasons.

Los Angeles then will go through the middle of July meeting the rest of the West except Minnesota, which they beat in the league opener but then lost to the Lynx two days later in Minneapolis.

If Parker returns and is quickly back in form her absence could have been worse. Though the Sparks may suffer with her on the sidelines at least USA Basketball might breathe sighs of relief in that she is being counted upon as a force for the Americans in next summer’s Olympic games in London on a team that will be guided by UConn’s Geno Auriemma.

In two other games Tuesday night, the Phoenix Mercury (4-3) tied with Los Angeles but on a four-game win streak, head to the Indiana Fever (6-3), which has a three-game win streak and is holding first in the East by a game over Connecticut.

The San Antonio Silver Stars (6-1) in a major surprise is atop the West by a game and a half over Seattle and go into suburban Chicago (4-4) in Rosemont to play a Sky team looking for its first playoff appearance after five previous seasons of existence.

Honda Heroines

Two WNBA rookies have made their mark in winning women’s collegiate honors for their work prior to entering the pro league this season.

Maya Moore, as mentioned above as the top overall draft pick in April by Minnesota out of UConn, won a second-straight Honda-Broderick Cup joining swimmer Tracy Caulkins (1982 and ’84) in becoming the only two-time winners as the top female collegiate athlete.

Moore, a native of suburban Atlanta, is the first to win in successive years after being announced Monday as the 2011 winner at a press conference and presentation at Columbia University in New York.

Winners are named in 12 sports and then the top three finalists compete for the overall trophy.

Runners-up were Villanova distance runner Sheila Reid and Penn State volleyball player Blair Brown.

Candace Parker won in 2008 after her junior season before heading to the WNBA in 2008. Some other winners were former UConn stars Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti, former Virginia star Dawn Staley from Philadelphia, volleyball star Misty May, soccer’s Mia Hamm and track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

On Sunday night a few hours after her New York Liberty beat Los Angeles, former North Carolina star Jessica Breland was back in New York to receive the Honda Inspiration Award for battling Hodgkins Lymphoma.

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell was in Newark Sunday to watch Breland play on the Liberty and then made the quick trip across the Hudson River to cheer for her at the Inspiration Award dinner.

Former Drexel star Nicole Hester won the honor in 2009 for similarly combating the disease.

-- Mel

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