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, May 28, 2015

WNBA Rookie and Saint Joseph's Grad Natasha Cloud Focuses on the Process

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Natasha Cloud has always been about the process.

It’s a strategy that the dynamic six-foot guard with the million-dollar smile has used to make her hoop dreams of playing in the WNBA as a member of the Washington Mystics a reality.

The versatile Cloud used that approach to become one of the best ballers in Cardinal O’Hara’s storied history.

It helped her evolve into an elite-guard at Saint Joseph’s University.

Now, that same focus on the next step is what Cloud believes will continue to yield positive results.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far being here,” Cloud said while resting comfortably in a black leather chair courtside before the Mystics preseason home opener against the Minnesota Lynx Wednesday morning at the Verizon Center.

“Getting to live out my dreams is surreal. Sometimes when you come from a mid-major school, people don’t really give you the benefit of the doubt that you can make it here. (Mystics head coach Mike) Thibault took a chance on me and I am taking advantage of it.”

While Cloud was wrapping up an impressive career at Saint Joseph’s, she had a huge fan club that consisted of Thibault and assistant coach Marianne Stanley, an Archbishop Prendergast legend.

They attended a majority of her games at Saint Joseph’s last season. When Cloud was still available in the second round (15th overall), the Mystics immediately made her their choice.

“When I played at O’Hara, my only goal at the time was to get to the next level, compete collegiately and make an impact there,” Cloud said.

“The WNBA was in my thoughts, but I always focused on trying to contribute every step of the way. Now that I am here, I want to make the final roster and find a way to contribute.

I am all for the ultimate goals, but I like setting realistic ones for myself, something that I can strive for in the moment.”

The last Saint Joe's player to make a WNBA roster was current associate head coach Sue Moran, the all-time scorer for men and women on Hawk Hill and one of the all-time scorers in the Big 5 for women who was picked by the New York Liberty, though it didn't hurt to have a former Hawks assistant in Pat Coyle then on the New York staff.

Even though the Mystics have a talented roster with several key pieces returning from last season’s playoff appearance, Cloud has a strong chance of surviving the final cut. She’s living in the moment and taking nothing for granted. Thibault couldn’t stop smiling when discussing Cloud.

“I’ve been thrilled,” Thibault said of Cloud’s effort during training camp and preseason. “She’s as ready for the pro game as a rookie that I’ve coached in a long time.

"First of all, she’s got the size to play three perimeter positions and has great common sense of intellect about the game. Defensively, for a rookie, she’s at an elite level because she understands all of our concepts. She has fit right in.”

In two preseason games against the Dream and Lynx along with a unique analytical scrimmage, also against the Lynx, Cloud has impressed averaging 8.5 points, six assists against only two turnovers and is shooting 46.1 percent.

The high-flying Mystics have averaged 84 points in their preseason outings.

Cloud started and played 21 minutes against a Lynx squad featuring three Olympians.

She was the catalyst during an impressive 23-1 run to close the third period that gave Washington a 20-point bulge.

Cloud scored six of her 10 points against Lynx during the surge. She nailed a deep jumper, sank a pull-up from the wing and dropped in a beautiful reverse layup.

It was a performance that also caught the eye of Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle standout. Impressive considering that Reeve has a front row seat coaching three of the world’s greatest women’s basketball players every day.

“I saw her yesterday and today and I thought she played great,” Reeve, also an Olympic assistant to Geno Auriemma, said. “She has a really good command of the game and all of her movements are with great purpose.

"She looks really confident and you love it when a rookie isn’t afraid. She looks and plays like she belongs here.

"I think Mike is a tremendous evaluator of talent. I think it surprised a lot of people when he selected her. Obviously, she’s going to prove him very right.”

Cloud has looked comfortable during the 10 days of training camp thus far for the Mystics, who conclude the preseason with a road game against the Indiana Fever Friday morning.

“Everyone has asked me have I gotten used to being in the WNBA yet,” Cloud said. “I don’t think about it yet until I officially make the roster.

"The realization of me possibly being here happened toward the end of my junior year at Saint Joseph’s. I love this team. D.C. is the best fit for me. I am excited to be here and represent Broomall, Cardinal O’Hara, Saint Joseph’s and Delaware County.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


Blogger medicareblogger said...

Happy to find your blog. What do you think about Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis being last off the bench in Seattle and playing only four minutes? I watched the LA-Seattle game on NBA TV and KML hardly touched the ball. She was never able to get any distance from her defender and never got the ball in a position to shoot. Seattle already has plenty of good outside shooters, so I wonder how the coach will develop KML.

Four minutes playing time and few touches just doesn't seem right for the #3 draft pick. Jewel Loyd started and played lots of minutes. She is pro-ready as she handles the ball, is quick, and can create her own shot.

I am worried for KML and agree with what Geno said about a player's fate depending on where she ends up and how the coaches develop her (or not).

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