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.

Friday, April 14, 2017

WNBA Draft 2017: Guru Says Glitz Bumped Away Tradition in New Look

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORK – In some respects, Thursday night’s WNBA draft as the first event of Season No. 21 was a bit comparable to aspects of the new PBS-TV documentary series The Great War about World War I.

In an early setting, once war is declared, it is very celebratory stateside as enlistees join the armed forces to go to France though later on once overseas the setting is different.

As the annual influx of new talent got plucked off the college pile at least in the first round all was celebratory yet one knows in a few weeks some of the names called or even more than some will either have it all end in a small daily transaction notice or will bounce around a few teams until opening day and by then the festivities at Samsung 837 will seem so long ago.

From what the Guru could gather, this was not a draft for traditionalists among the masses.

Unlike some of the settings of the past, most recently the Mohegan Sun Arena, the scene for those covering live sprawled over several floors.

But in presenting new looks to the broadcast, the scene of each pick sitting with coaches friends and families at reserved roundtables and then walking to the president, in this instant Lisa Borders, to have a picture taken with the new team jersey was not to be.

Actually, as part of the car-wash for draftees, to use ESPN speak, it was to be, but it was to be off to the side and not frontal screen to the delight of fans of the various teams.

For those of us who have covered all of these there was some suspense as to who would do the announcing in the second round – the job handled in the past by longtime deputy Rene Brown, who left the league after last season.

As it turned out, Borders went into overtime making announcements but a new problem arose for the masses because the TV talent, not of their doing necessarily, was busy rehashing the first round while picks were going on in the second round.

More of the media were actually the blogging world as compared to a time many of the national papers used to come to the metro area, when there were many national papers.

Some of the local papers were there – the New York Times has again become a regular – but not as many as the days of yesteryear.

The scene also become more TV and less fans since the general populace was not allowed to be part of this one considering the size of the place, which as mentioned sprawled over several floors but there were limitations to navigate on each floor.

And of course adding to appearance of a mass show of coverage was the in-house WNBA media machine, social and all other things and all the staffing that entails.

And no one has noticed close up but while Mississippi State was the team that bounced UConn from its long-running win streak, South Carolina has for the moment removed the Huskies from existence after replacing them as NCAA champs.

Dawn Staley has become a cottage industry though as she responded last week at the Union League in Philly for the presentation of her Dawn Staley guard award when asked if she had gotten worn out – you don’t feel worn out after you win a national title.

It was a nice touch to have Borders bring up Staley as the former WNBA great, the coach of the NCAA champions, the USA Women’s Olympic coach and then let her announce to the surprise of absolutely no one Washington’s Kelsey Plum as the overall No. 1 pick of the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Don’t know how costly it would be but remotes from several team watch parties might have solved the no-fans-in-the-house complaints and also show more of a universal enthusiasm for the 21st season.

Of course, as the Guru bad luck for instant research would have it, an oversight managed to have Temple’s Feyonda Fitzgerald, his one local in the mix, not listed among the draft prospects in the guide.

But she was not a surprise pick because the Guru knew several days ago Indiana had her on their lists the same way Washington had gotten very high on Saint Joseph’s Natasha Cloud several years ago.

Once the draft got under way, Staley again was master of the news with three of her players taken in the first round.

But how quickly it seems people forgot that a year ago UConn actually went 1-2-3 with Breanna Stewart, Moriah Washington, and Morgan Tuck being the first three picks.

Former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes announcing a pick was also a nice touch as the league tied its past its future.

And there were names not announced here who will sign training camp contracts with possibly three or four making opening day rosters. Remember one of the most famous or the most famous walk-ons was Becky Hammon.

That said, perhaps more in the next 24 hours, since this is the top story on the draft coverage on our package, the Guru recommends below Lamar Carter’s breakdown team-by-team of the picks, the Guru’s own local feature on Temple’s Feyonda Fitzgerald taken and the fact that two of the three Owls all-time scorers are now Indiana teammates, and Mike Siroky’s SEC accent story.

For the moment, this is a wrap. -- Mel


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Former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes announcing a pick was also a nice touch as the league tied its past its future.

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