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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

USA Training: Despite Roster Spots Up for Grabs, Players Looking to Have Fun in Intra-Squad Matchup at Delaware

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Odyssey Sims promises one thing when Team USA takes the court Thursday night at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center in Newark for a nationally-televised basketball showcase starting at 7:00 p.m.

“We’re going to play hard and give ESPN a little show,” Sims said following Team USA’s final practice at the United States Naval Academy Wednesday morning. “I think there will be a lot of ohhs and ahhhs.

"We are just going to have fun and we are not going to take anything personally. I mean, we are going to play on TV, you’re always excited to play on TV, especially on national TV so we are going to just have fun.”

If the game is anything like the intense 10-minute scrimmage that occurred toward the end of practice in Halsey Gym, then fans will be in for a nice treat.

It was also the first day that Team USA scrimmaged five-on-five as the coaching staff led by Geno Auriemma spent the first two days working on various concepts.

The players, obviously split into different squads, battled each other with Game 7-like intensity.

One of the best plays was UConn incoming junior Breanna Stewart stuffing an Angel McCoughtry shot attempt in the lane.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike was a beast on the boards. There was even a hard-fought scramble for a loose ball that ended with about six players on the floor trying to control it.

“I felt like the first game we played was a little rough,” said Stewart, who is the only collegian in the 24-woman pool, of which 17 are here while the other seven are either with the Phoenix Mercury or Chicago Sky in the best-of-five WNBA finals.

“I think we were a little all too excited, I mean, that was the first time we have really scrimmaged this whole time," Stewart said.

"Once we settle in and especially the second game, we cut it a lot closer we had the lead for the majority of the game.

"So that makes us feel better going into the game tomorrow. Just to be able to get some kind of chemistry with your team obviously that makes you feel more comfortable and confident when you go out there tomorrow.”

So while there are bound to be special plays, just don’t expect the explosion of points that occurred during the entertaining WNBA All-Star Game in July.

In that overtime classic, All-Star records fell quickly. With players battling for one of the 12 roster spots, there won’t be many missed defensive assignments.

“It’s different from an All-Star Game because you’re playing with a purpose,” Ogwumike said. “All-Star Games are fun and give the fans something good to see.

"Here, we’re all playing with a purpose, trying to make a team. It’s a tryout. It’s not about you being the best on the team and it’s about making the best team.

“It’s a blessing to be here and seize the moment. There are key returnees and key players missing so it’s an opportunity for us to show what we got and learn from the best.”

One person missing from the action Thursday night will be Delaware favorite Elena Delle Donne, who is with the Chicago, which is down 2-0 to Phoenix in the best-of-five series going into Game 3 Friday night in the Windy City.

The Bob Carpenter Center was a sellout of just under 5,000 fans in May when Delle Donne and the rest of the Sky beat the Washington Mystics in a preseason game.

That number may not be equalled, but still, the Guru talked to Matt Robinson, chairman of the Delaware Sports Commission, who told him that 2,500 seats have already been sold and over 100 youth and high school coaches are coming in the afternoon to the pre-game shoot-around and clinic prior to the Showcase itself.

Meanwhile, back here following practice, Sims and Ogwumike were snapchatting photos.

Sims also hopped onto Ogwumike’s back at one point as a selfie was taken.

Skylar Diggins had a blast photo-bombing her teammates.

She also found time to treat herself to a pedicure and manicure. Of course, other players like Seimone Augustus continued to make funny faces at her teammates while they were being interviewed.

“It’s been an amazing overall experience here,” Diggins said. “I got a chance to meet a lot of new people.

"Being here really helps you understand the whole USA experience even more.

It’s so much more than basketball or just one player. We are looking forward to playing Thursday so I definitely hope the fans come out.”

Nobody knows when the first round of cuts will occur.

The only guarantee is that by September 26, the 12-man roster for the World Championships will be set.

Team USA will be spending plenty of time on buses over the next two days.

They will drive from Annapolis to Newark Thursday morning and then from Newark to Bristol, Ct on Friday morning where they will practice at ESPN that afternoon.

The final part of the USA training domestically will occur in Bridgeport (Ct.) on Sunday and Monday.

The experience has further bonded many of these competitors.

“It’s been fun here this week,” Sims said. “I am a little sore, but I haven’t been working out because my knee has been bothering me the last part of the season.

"You are surrounded by so many great players. Just being here means a lot."

Sims also is like many former collegians who had to battle UConn nationally but now get the chance work under Huskies Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma and become satisfied customers.

"Geno is one of the best coaches ever," the former Baylor star said. "Some of the things I learned that will help my game going forward are different defensive concepts, learning to move without the ball and how important to get other teammates open.”

During one part of the scrimmage, Auriemma stopped the action after a turnover that was caused by poor spacing and a lack of court awareness since it occurred near the sideline.

Auriemma calmly explained and then demonstrated to his team why making a pass that close to the sidelines would never be a good decision. He ended the mini-teaching moment by telling his team, “don’t let them push you to the sideline.”

“I think everybody got a glimpse of how we’re going to play Thursday night. “That’s the biggest thing is to have fun no matter what happens. We have cuts coming up.

"I don’t think anybody is worried about that. All of us are great here so regardless of what happens after this weekend, you can’t take anything from it but just this being a great experience.”

NOTES: The rosters for Thursday’s showcase are set.

Representing the Red Team will be Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore of Minnesota, Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles), Kayla McBride and Danielle Robinson of San Antonio, Odyssey Sims (Tulsa), Chiney Ogwumike (Connecticut) and Stefanie Dolson (Washington). They will be coached by DePaul's Doug Bruno and South Carolina's Dawn Staley.

Competing on the white team will be Seimone Augustus (Minnesota), Sue Bird (Seattle), Tina Charles (New York), Skylar Diggins (Tulsa), Bria Hartley (Washington), Briann January (Indiana), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles) and UConn’s Breanna Stewart.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and special scout coach Jennifer Rizzotti of Hartford and a former UConn star will coach that team.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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