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, August 13, 2014

WNBA Feature: Bias View of Phoenix is Educational

By Rob Knox (@KNOXROB1)

Rookie point guard Tiffany Bias enjoys a front-row seat to the greatest show in the WNBA every time the Phoenix Mercury takes the court to entertain crowds and devour another opponent.

Bias, a former Oklahoma State standout who was a second round draft pick of the Mercury in April’s draft, is enjoying the best education any basketball player could ever imagine receiving during the Mercury’s enchanted season.

On a team full of some of the WNBA’s most iconic names and top players, Bias is learning the point guard position from legends Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor, two of the top 20 scorers all-time in league history. Taurasi is second all-time with 6,716 points and Taylor is 19th with 4,279 points.

For Bias, it’s like chilling in the studio with Jay-Z during the recording of his “Reasonable Doubt” album or being taught how to paint by Michelangelo and dance by Michael Jackson.

“It’s a big change from college,” Bias said Tuesday morning following the Mercury’s shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot from all these great players. Who wouldn’t want to play for the Phoenix Mercury and learn from the best? I am enjoying the ride and taking everything in now.”

With three games remaining including Wednesday night’s clash with the Atlanta Dream at the Phillips Arena in Georgia, Bias and the Mercury (27-4 overall) have already checked one goal off of their to-do list: The best record in the league and homecourt advantage throughout the entire playoffs thanks to their 76-64 victory over the New York Liberty Tuesday night.

However, the Mercury also have an opportunity to make history by becoming the first WNBA team to win 30 games in a regular season during the 18-year history of the league.

With one more win, the Mercury will tie the Los Angeles Sparks’ single-season record for regular season victories set in 2001 during a 32-game schedule.

Despite averaging 3.2 minutes and 0.8 points in 14 games, Bias is having a blast being a member of what could go down as one of the best teams in the WNBA history when the playoffs conclude next month

For 45 days (June 15-July 29), the Mercury enthralled and captivated the entire league with their 16-game winning streak, the second longest in WNBA history.

The Mercury are having their best year in franchise history, easily surpassing the previous record of 23 victories achieved in their 2007 and 2009 title seasons.

“It was a great streak,” Bias said. “We played hard and its one of those things that you made history with the second longest streak and it’s great to be a part of something like that.

"We learned a lot from the long streak. We knew we had to be mentally focused every night because we had a big target on our backs.”

Aside from the physicality of the game, living on her own and dealing with the dry heat of the desert, Bias’ biggest adjustment has been getting used to reduced playing time.

In a society marked by instant gratification and wanting to play every possible minute, Bias’ approach is refreshing.

She knows, understands, accepts and cherishes her role as a valuable contributor to the Mercury’s success this season.

Bias pushes players during practices and is lightning fast. In addition, she has a magnetic and vibrant personality that lights up a room.

As a rookie on a veteran team, Bias has the luxury of not being rushed into critical game action although she’s more than capable of performing if she had to. With home court advantage wrapped up, She could see more time over Phoenix’s final three games as it rests some players in preparation for the playoffs.

“We’ve always liked Tiffany,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “She’s on a team that’s quite stacked and her opportunities have been quite limited, but when she goes and plays over in Europe after this season, she’ll gain more experience, which will help her.

"What we like about her is her athleticism and her defensive ability in which she can push people down the floor. She just hasn’t had an opportunity yet, but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in her.”

No matter how big or small her role, Bias is blessed to live her hoop dreams on women’s basketball’s biggest stage. She even saw 80 seconds of action on the sacred Madison Sqaure Garden court late in the Mercury’s win.

Bias was the centerpiece of many memorable Oklahoma State moments during an exceptional career in the orange-and-black.

She helped the Cowgirls win a WNIT title as a sophomore and helped them make consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, including the programs’ third trip to the Sweet 16 in history.

Bias departed Stillwater as one of the greatest players in Oklahoma State history.

She amassed a school-record 791 assists, which stands as the third-best total in Big 12 history. Bias also set school standards for games played (133), games started (132) and minutes played (4,670).

Her 295 career steals rank second in OSU history and ninth on the Big 12 charts. Her 1,623 points rank eighth all time in Cowgirl history as well.

“Some of the things I have learned here from the older players is having good poise and learning this league,” Bias said. “Also, how the offenses are run and different little things that go together.

"I think its learning more of the player you’re supposed to be on this level. In college you see glimpses of the player you want to be but here you have to be more consistent when you get to this level and bring what you can bring every night to the table is really what you have to do for the team.”

Bias stays sharp by picking Taurasi’s brain and staying after practice to launch as many shots as possible. Even though she knows she may not get in the game, Bias continues to stay ready by focusing on every detail while cheering on her teammates.

When asked what it was like to compete against Bias in practice, Taurasi was candid in her response.

“It’s hell,” Taurasi said. “She’s one of the quickest players I’ve ever played against. She has that on me one hundred times over. She’s made me better over the year, which is hard to do. Tiff has great potential with her speed and ball-handling. On a team like ours, she doesn’t really get the opportunity to show it. She’s going to be a great pro in this league for a long, long time.”

Bias adds energy to practice sessions and plays with the confidence that belies her petite 5 foot, 6 inch frame.

“Tiff is tough, quick and can guard a lot of people,” Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner said. “She’s learning a lot this year and I think that’s important because a lot of point guards come into the league and don’t have an opportunity to learn from experienced players.

"She listens and is a good fit for our team. I am sure it’s tough for her as a star coming from college where you play all the time and now you don’t play a lot.”

Bias has found a big sister in nine-year veteran Candice Dupree, who has helped her navigate the WNBA life on and off the court.

“She took me under her wing especially when I got here,” Bias said. “Now, if I don’t know something, I’ll ask her. She’s a leader.

" The good thing about her is she can catch any ball you throw to her so you can’t really throw a bad ball to her. She’s taught me a lot.

"Candice is very poised and stays under control. She leads by example so for me, it’s good to have somebody like her to watch and follow in their footsteps.

"Being able to be around these great players on a daily basis has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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