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, September 09, 2014

USA Basketball Training Notes: No Delle Donne, No Worries Holding Showcase Event at Delaware

By Mel Greenberg (@womhoopsguru)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. --
Even though attendance magnet Elena Delle Donne is excused from participating in the first part of the player pool training for the USA Basketball World Championship Team while she plays with her Chicago Sky squad in the best-of-five WNBA Finals, there is still eagerness here for Thursday night's inter-squad game billed as the USA Basketball Showcase at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center, where Delle Donne shined in college.

"We didn't just select Delaware for a site for competition because of Elena Delle Donne, though obviously she would have been icing on the cake," Carol Callan, Women's National Team Director for USA Basketball, said her Monday after the players on hand completed their first day of training for qualifying as well as playing at the FIBA World Championship later this month in Turkey.

"Once we knew we would train on the East Coast, we thought Delaware would be a terrific venue," Callan said. "The area has great women's basketball fans and the arena is a terrific venue for this kind of event."

If anything, Delle Donne already helped clinch the spot as a site for Thursday's event last May when her Chicago squad beat the Washington Mystics in a preseason game before a sellout at the Bob Carpenter Center.

The night went so well that Chicago has already expresed interest in returning next spring and if Thursday night's game succeeds on its own, bet the house that there will be future events on Delaware's floor with Delle Donne the next two seasons in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

"You are going to have a mini WNBA All-Star game," Callan explained. "And while the real WNBA attraction was played well this summer in Phoenix, there will be extra competitiveness in this one because there is motivation to try to make the squad."

The selection committee includes Callan, Renee Brown the No. 2 person in the WNBA behind president Laurel Richie; WNBA team executives Chris Sienko of the Connecticut Sun, Dan Hughes, also coach, of the San Antonio Silver Stars, and WNBA New York Liberty assistant coach Katie Smith, who is the athlete representative following a distinguished career from her days as an all-American at Ohio State, to All-Star status in the WNBA, and to Olympic golds with USA Basketball.

"We knew Elena might not be on the scene if her team made the WNBA finals, which took a terrific compeback effort to get there, but we went after it because this is also about helping USA Basketball and showing support for it," Matt Robinson, head of the Delaware Sports Commission said last week.

Callan also said during a recent teleconference that because the event falls on September 11, the date of the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., next to Washington, D.C., in 2001, there would be some commenoration to add to other moments of respect that day being held across the nation.

Meanwhile, adding extra juice is a clinic for youth and high school coaches at the arena 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon with USA head coach Geno Auriemma and his assistants holding a chalk talk with a reception in downtown afterwards prior to the game.

"We already have had 100 people sign up for it," Robinson said.

There has already been a jump start because as recently as early last week over 2,000 tickets had been sold to fans who went after them knowing Delle Donne might not be on the scene this time.

And the coaching staff still provides a lot of local flavor because of the Philly connections from Auriemma, the nine-time NCAA winning head coach of Connecticut and hall of famer who grew up in Norristown, assistant Dawn Staley, who has rebuilt South Carolina into a national contender after making Temple a national force after a stellar playing career that began at Dobbins Tech in high school, and Cheryl Reeve, the former La Salle star in the 1980s from South Jersey who has guided the Minnesota Lynx to three WNBA finals and two titles besides taking them to the Western final before being eliminated last week by the powerful Phoenix Mercury.

Reeve is the first person to be picked for the national staff without prior experience coaching in USA Basketball. Three of her players are here in former UConn great Maya Moore, the newly crowned MVP of the WNBA, Lindsay Whelan, and Seimone Augustus, while a fourth, Monica Wright, opted out this week because of surgery.

Former Tennessee stars Tamika Catchings of the WNBA Indiana Fever and Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks did likewise.

"Yeah, I'm just the rookie in this crowd," Reeve joked after Monday's practice.

Reeve had been considered an obvious choice once Minnesota became a force.

"Listen," one coaching-selection committee source said several years ago. "If you become a great coach in the WNBA, you can coach at the highest levels of USA Basketball, even if you haven't spent a minute on the sidelines."

The other coach on the staff is DePaul's Doug Bruno out of Chicago, who jokingly says he is an adopted Philadelphia type because of numerous trips over the years to play Villanova in Big East competition.

Bruno also served as an aide to Auriemma on the last USA squads that won the World Championship in 2010 and Olympic gold medal in 2012 in London.

Mo'ne in the Crowd?

Meanwhile after a whirlwind week, there's an outside chance famed Little League pitcher Mo'ne Davis of the Taney Dragons from nearby Philadelphia could show up with some of her teammates, as well as the local Newark team the Dragons beat for the Middle Atlantic title to advance to the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

No one has officially made invites on the Dragons side to Davis, things becoming a little touchy since Auriemma's good will phone call to her during the World Series caused a flap and secondary violation charge from the NCAA last week following a complaint from another member school saying his action was a rules violation.

But considering Davis' desires to one day play basketball for UConn as well as in the WNBA, the proximity of the Delaware game to her hometown affords Davis the opportunity to show up on her own if she desires.

Davis told the Guru at last Friday's WNBA awards luncheon in New York at which she was a special guest that she was aware of the game but that she did not know yet, with her return to school occuring, whether she might make the short trip to Newark.

Staley's Shoe is on the Other Foot as a USA Coach

This is the 25th anniversary of Dawn Staley's longtime storied association with USA Basketball, highlighted near the end of her playing career carrying the USA flag to lead the American Olympic delegation into the stadium at the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.

She became a USA assistant to current WNBA Connecticut coach Anne Donovan, a former playing legend herself, in 2006 and was with Donovan on the gold medalist squad at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.

In recent years away from the Red, White and Blue, Staley followed her eight-year run of success as coach of Temple through 2008 to rebuilding South Carolina into a national force that saw the Gamecocks get a No. 1 seed in last season's NCAA tournament.

This summer she also coached the USA U-18 group to a gold medal.

This time around, the calendar dynamic is a little different for Staley with being away from her collegiate squad at a time workouts are beginning across the nation with the return to campuses for the Fall semester.

"Everyone knows what's expected from the player standpoint," Staley said Monday after practice here at Halsey Gym. "Our staff has been together for a long time, six years, so it feels a little bit better leaving the team for a month knowing that we won't skip a beat."

As for her experience coaching the youngest collection of players ever this past summer, Staley noted, "Usually, your college team you get one or two, maybe three, but a team full of them, it was fun, it actually was fun just kind of teaching them how to mentally prepare for practices, not just the games, but practices when they are exhausted."

So are today's youngsters different from a time Staley was likewise starting out competition for her country?

"Back then, when I was young, you know, anytime I was able to play it wasn't a big play on my mentals as much as I saw it play on these youngsters.

"They have so much stuff pulling at them, when for us it was just basketball.

"We had no cell phones, we had no (electronic) games, no twitter, nothing that would pull on us from a mental standpoint -- we just wanted to play and we just wanted to compete."

Benefits Exist in Auriemma Redux in His Second Time Around

After Monday's session, Auriemma talked about familarity in returning as coach on the women's side to guide the national squad after gold medal success in the World Championship and Olympics in the previous cycle.

Three others repeated their role with the World Championship squad, though Tennessee legend Pat Summitt was the first to do it twice in the so-called modern era.

Auriemma, if things go as expected, would be the first to do a double coaching the USA women's Olympians.

"There's a real comfort level that I have," Auriemma said. "Certainly with the returning players.

"The fact that I've coached against every one of these players at some point in their careers in college, I feel like I know, I don't think there's one player who's here that at some point, we didn't have to play against them in the NCAA Tournament or some big game, somewhere, multiple times.

"For me, it's kind of fun to see them from a different perspective and for them to see me from a different perspective."

This Irish and the Cardinal Together Again as Teammates

This summer two sets of former college teammates, one even a sister act, were playing on opposite sides in the WNBA.

Now they are here for the same cause, though they are fighting each other to make the 12-team roster.

Two of the best from any Notre Dame era are here in second-year pro Skylar Diggins of the Tulsa Shock and rookie Kayla McBride of the San Antonio Silver Stars.

The former Stanford sister act of Los Angeles Sparks third-year pro Nneka Ogwumike and her sister Chiney, the newly crowned rookie of the year out of the Connecticut Sun, are in a similar experience after going against each other twice this season in the WNBA and also in the WNBA All-Star game in Phoenix.

In the same spirit that produced the Chicago experience in Delaware, there is a possibility that Diggins and McBridge could go against each other next May at Notre Dame with their respective WNBA teams in a preseason contest.

When the concept was noted to Dan Hughes, the general manager/coach of San Antonio who is a member of the USA selection committee, he quickly responded, "Hey, I like it. That would be one. Talk to the other parties."

The Guru is waiting for a return call or communication from Tulsa and then if interest is on that side, the next step is to tell Notre Dame to start looking at arena dates if officials so desire to host the game.

Ok, that's it for now.

-- Mel










- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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