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.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

WNBA: Natasha Cloud's Home Folks From Saint Joseph's Descend on Her Home Opener

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Waving giant colorful images of Natasha Cloud’s smiling face, taking selfies and cheering her every move, current members of the Saint Joseph’s women’s basketball team and coaching staff transformed the Verizon Center into Hawk Hill South Saturday night.

They all made the leisurely drive down Interstate 95 to support Cloud, a former Hawk and rookie guard for the Washington Mystics.

Making her home regular season debut as a professional, Cloud had a memorable evening by scoring seven points and handing out three assists in 15 entertaining minutes to help the Mystics defeat the New York Liberty, 67-62.

The only thing missing was the actual Hawk flapping its wings.

“It’s cool to see all the hard work that ‘Tasha has put in at every level come to fruition,” Saint Joseph’s head coach Cindy Griffin said. “She’s never a kid who looks too far ahead, but she takes and appreciates every day.

"She has a tremendous work ethic and makes everybody around her better. Tasha’s the perfect pro: She’s versatile, plays defense, and is coachable. (Mystics head coach) Mike Thibault got a steal here.”

Cloud’s former teammates had a blast watching her fulfill a lifelong dream.

When Cloud checked into the game for the first time with 2 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the opening period, her fan club roared its approval with a thunderous ovation.

In addition to the giant fathead, they also had big sticks featuring Cloud’s picture. They also got an opportunity to chill with Cloud following the game, meet her new teammates and enjoy a big slumber party at her apartment.

“We’re so used to playing with her and now she’s on the court,” Saint Joseph’s personable senior guard Ciara Andrews said. “A WNBA player. It’s just amazing, I can’t even imagine what she feels like. It’s great. When she made the team, it felt like we all made it. We’re so proud of her.”

Also in the house from the SJU women’s squad supporting Cloud were Jordan Strode, Avery Marz, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Adashia Franklyn, Amanda Fiorvanti and Sarah Fairbanks.

Cloud, who has played a key role in helping Washington to its first 2-0 start since 2010, noticed the photos of her in the stands.

“They could have had a better picture of me especially if you’re going to do a fathead,” Cloud said while laughing. “I love those guys and we support each other through thick and thin. We’re still teammates and family. It’s a surreal feeling, but a calming presence to see my family, coaches and former teammates up in the stands. I am appreciative and grateful for their support.”

Selected by Washington with the third pick of the second round (15th overall) in the 2015 WNBA Draft, Cloud made an immediate impact for her new team during the preseason.

Appearing in all three games for the Mystics, which included two starts, she averaged 10.7 points, 3.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds per contest, while shooting 53.8 percent from the field.

Cloud is the first Hawk to make a regular season lineup for a WNBA team since Susan Moran in 2002. Seeing Cloud in her pristine white uniform is an inspiration for Andrews and many of her teammates especially considering that Dayton standouts Ally Malott (Washington) and Hoover (Los Angeles) are also in the WNBA.

The Hawks and Flyers compete against each other in the Atlantic 10.

“For all of us its motivation because we had three girls from the Atlantic-10 make the WNBA,” Andrews said. “So we see that it’s possible to make this level especially if we continue working hard.”

The Hawks’ coaching staff, which also included assistant coach Jada Pierce and Ops Director Katie Gardler, smiled like proud parents when Cloud converted a four-point play in the second half that gave the Mystics a 43-41 lead.

It actually started a 12-4 Mystic burst to close the third quarter. Sporting a gray Saint Joseph’s women’s basketball pullover, Griffin received the celebrity treatment by doing a television interview at halftime.

The Hawks coach spoke with Cloud before her pro debut against Connecticut on Friday night, a 73-68 Mystics victory on the road.

Through two games, Cloud is averaging 16.5 minutes, four rebounds, three assists and three points. The beauty of playing in Washington is that Griffin and the Hawks can watch Cloud whenever they want.

“I told her to keep doing what you’re doing, stay the course and be that locker room kid that everybody needs in the beginning of the season,” Griffin said. “Play like a veteran because you certainly you know how to play like one. I am glad she took four shots in the first half and I want her to keep shooting.”

Among the top players in Hawk history, Cloud, a Cardinal O'Hara grad out of Broomall, capped her three-year career having led SJU to two NCAA Tournament Appearances (2013, 2014), a pair of Philadelphia Big 5 titles (2014, 2015) and the 2013 Atlantic 10 Championship.

Coming to Hawk Hill after playing at Maryland as a rookie, the 6-foot-guard etched her name in Saint Joseph's record books numerous times as she finished third all-time in assists (582), ninth in steals (174), 16th in rebounds (535) and 20th in points (1,049).

One of only eight players in A-10 history to be named to its All-Defensive Team three times, Cloud was selected to the A-10 All-Conference First Team this past year after finishing among the national leaders in assists per game (6.6) and averaging a career-best 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Named a Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List Finalist and selected to the Naismith Trophy Watch List, she led her team in assists, steals (53) and minutes played (1,126), while finishing as the team's top scorer in 11 games and the top rebounder in six contests.

While the accolades tell one story, Andrews painted a perfect portrait of Cloud that not many people know outside of Hawk Hill.

“She’s the biggest little kid that you’ll ever meet,” Andrews said. “It’s crazy. She’s a kid at heart. She loves candy and playing little games, but on the court, it’s all business. She loves to play. It’s exciting to see her out there playing in the WNBA. She deserves all of this.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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