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 10, 2014

USA Basketball Training: Navy Collegiate Women Get to Work With The Pros

By Mel Greenberg

If you're a young, aspiring vocalist, perhaps a big moment in your career might come if a headlining musician comes to town on a shakedown tour and invites you to perform together on stage.

In sports, at times, the experience can be similar.

That's the way it was Tuesday afternoon for the Navy squad wth the rock stars of women's basketball in town for a few days at the Naval Academy training for selection and preparation for the the USA Basketball women's participation in the FIBA World Championship, which begins later this month in Turkey.

All but one of the players on the USA training roster are among the best of the best in the WNBA. The exception happens to be the reigning women's collegiate player of the year in Connecticut junior Breanna Stewart.

Besides another session of workouts by the USA players, the group along with the Navy women's squad, which have won Patriot League titles in recent seasons prior to last winter, split into two contingents to give clinics in the afternoon.

One group for the greater Annapolis community led a session across town.

A smaller one, for the benefit of families housed either at the academy or nearby Naval base, was held here in Halsey Gym, where the USA women have been doing their workouts.

So for a brief time, the national hopefuls and Midshipwomen were one unit, leading drills at various workstations to the youngsters who came.

"It's just been a phenomenal experience seeing them all here," said Navy junior Rebecca Richmond, who is in the same collegiate classnationally as Stewart.

"We're with people we've watched on TV, read about," said Richmond, who is from Superior, Colorado, which is near Boulder, but not far from the USA Basketball headquarters to the South in Colorado Springs.

"Today, I ran a session with Sue Bird," she said of the WNBA All-Star Seattle Storm point guard and former UConn all-American. "I was, like, starstruck.

"It was awesome to do something so simple, something that I did when I was a little kid, that I saw her do and now I'm doing it with her. It's just a phenomenal experience."

Incidentally, Rchmond's coach Stefanie Pemper was a court coach earlier this summer in Colorado during the tryouts for what became the USA gold-medal winning U-18 squad guided by South Carolina's Dawn Staley, who is here as an assistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma with the national team.

"All the support from the people at the academy today has been phenomenal. Everyone has been so excited to see the women here. It's just so awesome for women's basketball," Richmond said.

She also noted that the experience is giving her own team extra juice to prepare for the season ahead, which, for you people in the Guru's local Philadelphia area group, includes a visit from reigning Ivy champion Penn on Nov. 22.

In the past Navy has tangled with former four-time Ivy winners Princeton, even upsetting the Tigers during one of those matchups, so maybe there's some arrangement for Pemper's group to go at it with whomever is the reigning champs at the moment from the ancient eight.

Pemper was once in that world as an assistant at Harvard, another of the traiditional Ivy power houses.

"It's just awesome seeing (USA) doing the same drills we do," Richmond said. "It gives us motivation but at the same time in working with these players makes our little dreams come true.

The USA contingent has one more session here Wednesday morning and then moves on to Newark, Del., to play an intrasquad game 7 p.m. Thursday night, inherently a mini-WNBA All-Star game, at the University of Delaware, the collegiate home of Elena Delle Donne of the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Sky, currently meeting the Phoenix Mercury in the best-of-five WNBA finals.

Phoenix went up 2-0 with amother home win Tuesday night and could wrap up the overall third title and first sinced 2009 when the series moves to Chicago for Game 3 Thursday night.

However, the USA staff here had to be cheered by seeing Delle Donne play much better after being bothered in recent games and limited in time because of a sore back.

Delle Donne is a candidate for the USA team, one of seven in the pool excused for the finals, along with Phoenix's Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner, Brittney Griner, former Temple star Candice Dupree, and Chicago's Sylvia Fowles and Courtney Vanderrsloot.

With post players Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker out of the mix because of surgery, as is Minnesota guard Monica Wright, Delle Donne has an enhanced chance to make the squad, if she's healthy, as does Brenna Stewart.

Following Thursday, which earlier in the day the USA staff and players will hold a clinic for youth and high school coaches at Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center, the group will move up to Bridgeport, Conn., for a Sunday session and then a friendly Monday night against the Canadian National Team.

Both games will be on ESPN2.

Then it's on to overseas for a lead-up tournament in Paris, France, before opening the World Championship against China on Sept. 27 in Istanbul.

USA then meets Serbia the next day and Angola Sept. 30 before likely moving into the next rounds Oct. 1-5.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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