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, September 28, 2011

Guru Clearing USA Basketball's Record: Breanna Stewart Not Making History

(Guru note: Coverage of the East finals by remote can be found over Full Court Press fullcourt.com.)

By Mel Greenberg

Now you know why you need the Guru still around to keep historical records in order.

When the Pan American team was announced earlier Tuesday the release and website notes at USA Basketball that the 12-member squad will include future UConn player Breanna Stewart, who will be a senior this winter at North Syracuse High.

The caption with her picture claims she will be the first U.S. girls high school basketball player to compete in the Pan American Games.

Stewart has been highly decorated for her skills, including being a member of the USA U-19 world championship team that won a gold medal this past summer and being named to the all-tounament team.

But contrary to what is being written by everyone being taken over Niagara Falls, including probably the Guru's UConn media friends up North, probably since they weren't born yet (a little levity), but a familiar name in women's basketball history made the Pan Am team back in 1975 prior to also playing on the Olympic squad in 1976 when the sport became part of the games in Montreal.

Back in those days and until recent times and the onset of the WNBA, the Pan Am games were one of the major lead-up stops for the Olympians in the year before the Games were held. Thus, most of the contenders played on that squad.

In 1975 a certain high school sensation out of Far Rockaway, N.Y., who was to later enroll at Old Dominion and lead the Lady Monarchs to two national titles, made the squad that also included as players current WNBA Phoenix Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers-Drsydale, a star at UCLA at the time; and Pat Summitt, then listed as Pat Head who was a newly-hired coach at Tennessee.

The coach of that team was Cathy Rush, the coach at Immaculata in the western Philadelphia suburbs who is about to be immortalized in a movie "The Mighty Macs" coming to theaters Oct. 21. Her assistant, then coaching Cal-State Fullerton, was Billie Moore, who several years later moved to take over the UCLA squad.

As for the high school player on that team:

Well, a note was sent late Tuesday night to double check with the individual, since the Guru was driving at the time. (He was at a loooong red light when he sent it).

"Weren't you in high school when you were on the Pan American team?" the Guru asked through the wonders of today's technology.

"Yes, I was a junior," came the response from Hawaii.

The person at the other end of the communications is Nancy Lieberman, who was to become a Hall of Famer, an ESPN broadcaster after her career, and now a best-selling author.

Incidentally, two locally-connected players were named to the squad in West Chester's Shante Evans, a star at Hofstra, and Rutgers' April Sykes.

Former Colorado coach Ceal Barry will handle the group assisted by former Los Angeles Sparks coach Jen Gillom and former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan fresh off a summer in the Northwest where she helped as a volunteer assistant with the Seattle Storm.

Speaking of Seattle, former UConn star Sue Bird had successful surgery on her right hip and is expected to be back in action overseas by mid-December after helping to keep the Storm afloat and playoff-bound while Australian star Lauren Jackson was recovering from hip surgery off an injury that occurred in early June.

Coincidentally, at the time on Tuesday the Guru thought something was in error he was actually watching Sunday's episode of the new Pan Am (as in airplanes for those of you too young to remember) through the wonders of the ABC-TV apps on his iPad.

As an aside, yes Caroline, the Guru knows you are with Geno and the old folks on the European Tour and not at the home office.

And with that said, class dismissed.

-- Mel