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, April 16, 2013

Select Seven: SEC Does Well in WNBA Draft

By Mike Siroky

The toughest women’s basketball conference in the land had seven elite seniors go in the three rounds of the WNBA draft as the Southeastern Conference was well-represented.

Kelsey Bone, perhaps the conference’s most complete player this past season, had declared her intentions to skip a final season at Texas A&M and go pro. The WNBA is the first step, though the real money will be made in either the European or Asian leagues.

She was the fifth overall selection and the first SEC players taken, headed towards New York and the Liberty.

Seven SEC women’s basketball players were taken in the three rounds of 12 picks each. The SEC has had at least one player taken in the first round of the WNBA Draft since its inception in 1997.

Bone, who played a freshman season at South Carolina, then sat out the transfer year for two seasons of play at A&M, was among the league leaders all season in both points (16.6) and rebounds (9.3). She was a junior in eligibility this year and is the only underclassman selected.

She is the daughter of parents who both were college athletes. The family knows the time limit on all players in all sports.

She continues an Aggie tradition of now six straight seasons of producing a WNBA draftee. but she is the first selected in the first round and therefore obviously the highest Aggie ever taken. She was the only conference player on the United States Basketball Writers of America All-American team.

Her college coach, Gary Blair, knew this was a pick of destiny and even Bone said she wanted all along to play in New York for famed WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer, a former WNBA championship coach while at Detroit. The fact he played at center while in the NBA was another lure for Bone.

“Kelsey knew that she had an opportunity to be selected by one of the best coaches in the league,”” Blair said. “I think this is a win-win for Kelsey to be able to use her experience working with the Liberty staff that will help her grow even more this year as a player.

“Kelsey has done a great job over the last year improving her game, I do not think anyone can find a player in the country that has improved more than Kelsey Bone. I think she will have to go learn in New York and will fit into the scene in the Big Apple which will translate to an opportunity to play overseas and become a force on the national scene.

“I entered the WNBA draft to become a member of the New York Liberty,” Bone said.

“This was what I wanted to do, it was a chance that I wanted to take and once the opportunity presented itself, I took it. Just understanding that in this league it is easy to come in and blend in and take a back seat to veterans, but going to New York I have the opportunity to play with some great players that play in the post and play for a staff full of post players.

“This is a great fit and I am so excited to go in and learn this game even more from some great people and great players.”

The Los Angeles Sparks also took Kentucky’s A’dia Mathies in the first round, as the 10th pick. She was a co-player of the year in conference

Mathies, a native of Louisville, Ky., is UK’s highest draft pick
in school history. She is the third player in school history to be chosen in the draft and the second Wildcat in the past three seasons to be selected in the first round.
She finished with an average of 16 points and a .417 field goal and .an 817 free-throw percentage this past season. She hit .447 from the 3-point range.

“All of us are thrilled for A’dia,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “She did so much for the Kentucky program while she as here and we had no doubt she was one of the top players in the country.”

The Liberty also took Tennessee’s Kamiko Williams in the second round as the 15th overall selection. Kelly Cain of UT is already with the Liberty. Williams would be the sixth Lady Vol to play in that franchise. Williams is the 35th UT player to be drafted into the league.

“I am so proud of Kamiko and just excited about this opportunity for her,” UT coach Holly Warlick – the national rookie Coach of the Year -- said. “She worked extremely hard and showed great maturity as a senior, and that effort helped lead to our team being successful and to her enjoying the best season of her career.”

Williams, a 5-11 guard from Clarksville, Tenn., averaged a career-best 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game in her final season in orange. She hit 50.5 percent from the field, including 32.6 percent on 3s and 70 percent from the free-throw line. With 88 assists compared to only 44 turnovers as a senior, UT’s most-secure ball-handler posted an impressive 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.

While Williams scored in double figures a career-best 10 times in 2012-13, recording points-rebounds double-doubles on two occasions, she also enhanced her reputation as one of Tennessee’s best defenders in her final season at Rocky Top.
“I am excited, but I have to stay focused and do what I do,” Williams said. “I’m excited because the coaching staff seems awesome from the short phone conversation we’ve had, and I get to play with Kelley Cain again!”

Then came three from Georgia’s senior class, two of them the state of Tennessee, their arch-rivals.

Jasmine Hassell was the 21st pick by the defending champ Indiana Fever.
In the third round, the other Georgian Jasmine, Jasmine James, went to the Seattle Storm as the 30th selection and teammate Anne Marie Armstrong followed immediately, the 31st pick by the Atlanta Dream.

“As a coach, it always makes you feel to good to see players grow and mature,” coach Andy Landers said. “It makes you feel even better when you see them reach their goals and objectives. J.J., Anne Marie and ‘Jas’ all aspired to play at the next level and now they’ll have that opportunity.”

Sixteen Georgia players have been taken in the WNBA Draft over the past 13 years. That includes eight first-round selections.

Hassell, a 6-2, forward from Lebanon, Tenn., was named first-team All-SEC by league coaches. She averaged a team-best 12.7 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game. Hassell also ranked No. 14 in the nation in field goal percentage, connecting on 53.1 percent of her shots from the floor.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid and now my dream has come true,” Hassell said. “I’ve dreamed about it, but I didn’t know if in a million years if it would come true.

“It’s just a blessing from God. You’re just sitting there waiting and then all of a sudden your name pops up and you think ‘Is that really my name that just came up?’

"I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of the coaching staff here at Georgia and so many people who have helped me since I was a little kid. So many people helped develop and motivate me, and I’m just so very, very thankful for all of them.”

James, a 5-9, guard from Memphis, Tenn., averaged 11.0 ppg as a senior and led the Lady Bulldogs in assists for the third consecutive season. She finished her career ranked among the ‘Dawgs’ career leaders in five different categories – No. 18 in points (1,434), No. 7 in assists (433), No. 7 in games started (123), No. 8 in steals (260) and No. 8 in attempts from the field (1,428).

“It’s a dream I’ve had ever since I was a little kid,” James said. “You think about it and dream about it when you’re little and now 14-15 years later, you hear your named called. I’m excited about the opportunity to go to training camp. Just to be a part of the WNBA is a great accomplishment and is really special to me.”

Armstrong, a 6-3, guard/forward from Norcross, Ga., was a consensus first-team All-SEC performer as a junior who was slowed for much of her senior year by a high ankle sprain. In stats for SEC games during her junior season, Armstrong ranked among the league’s top-10 leaders in nine of 13 categories kept.

“Growing up, I think it’s anyone’s dream who plays basketball to be able to play in college,” Armstrong said. “At the top of those dreams would be the opportunity to play professionally. To be drafted by my hometown team is something I don’t think I could have fathomed. My dreams really are coming true. Just to have a chance to try out and make the team in Atlanta, where I’ve grown up my entire life and most of my family lives, is very exciting.”

James, Hassell and Armstrong became the Lady Bulldogs’ 32nd, 33rd and 34th 1,000-point career scorers. They also became only the second trio of classmates to reach the millennium mark in the history of Georgia Basketball.

Florida’s Jennifer George – the Gators’ lone senior -- was taken by the Fever as the 33rd pick.

“I’m so excited,” George said. “(UF coach Amanda Butler) got a text from someone in the organization saying they were going to draft me so I got a moment to soak everything in but I don’t think it has.

“I just can’t believe it. It is really a dream come true. I know I have a lot of work in front of me to make the team, but this moment is one that I’m going to enjoy for a very long time. It’s a dream. Being drafted in the WNBA is a dream.”

George was a member of the All-SEC Conference Defensive Team, as well as to the All-SEC Second team by the league coaches

She ran into a bit of bad luck during her senior year, when she dislocated her right shoulder during the Jan. 6 game against LSU and reinjured it on January 13 against Tennessee. The injury hampered her but didn’t prevent the forward from being Florida’s leader in rebounding (6.8), blocks (56) and steals (66), while ranking second for field goal percentage (.447) and third in scoring (11.0). Among all SEC athletes (all games), George ranked No. 9 for rebounding, No. 3 for blocked shots, No. 13 for steals and No. 5 for defensive rebounds.

George capped her four-year Florida career in the record
book ranked No. 1 with 135 games played, No. 17 with 1,257 points, No. 7 with 915 rebounds, No. 4 with 191 blocked shots, tied for No. 8 with 28 double-doubles, No. 10 with 3,181 minutes played, No. 10 with 418 free throws attempted, No. 13 with 171 steals, No. 13 with a .514 field goal percentage and No. 16 with 511 made field goals.

“I think everybody who has ever seen her play can appreciate Jennifer’s ability on the court, not just this January and February when she was banged up, but her entire career and what she can add to an organization,” Butler said. “She worked hard her entire career for this opportunity and we’re happy for her.”

The best returning players – now that Bone is out – will be UT’s top scorer Meighan Simmons (19.3); best rebounder and shot-blocker Martha Alwal of Mississippi (10 and 2.7); best shooter Bashara Graves of UT (.552 from the field); and assists leader Cali Berna of Arkansas (6.2). Graves was a rookie, Simmons, the co-league MVP, a junior and the rest were sophomores.

The WNBA preseason begins on May 15. The regular season runs from May 24 to Sept. 15.

Then all of the above players will disperse to the highest bidders in the overseas pro leagues, where real money will be made.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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