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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rob Knox's WNBA Notebook: Kelsey Plum's Swagger Returns; All-Star Subs and 3-Point Shooters Named

Kelsey Plum is beginning to play with her trademark swagger that she exhibited during her marvelous career at the University of Washington.
The San Antonio Silver Stars rookie guard and No. 1 overall pick from this year’s draft saw her career got off to rocky start because of a severely sprained ankle during practice before the season started.

 Instead of showcasing her talent, Plum was rehabbing, forcing her professional debut to occur a lot later than she expected. 
It took some time for Plum to make an impact and find her groove. The all-time leading women’s scorer in NCAA history has scored in double figures in three of the Stars last five games including a career high 12 points in a win at Indiana last Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 
“I feel better physically out there,” said Plum in the visiting locker room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last week. “My ankle’s getting healthier. I feel a little better everyday. I am continuing to get stronger and more comfortable. My ankle swelling is continuing to go down. I am more confident in my body and the way it’s moving. I just think I am being more aggressive.” 
She knocked down her first three shots against the Fever in transition and helped the Silver Stars win their second game of the season. Also, Plum pulled down a career best six rebounds in 35 minutes in the win over Indiana. She scored 11 points in 13 minutes in a loss at Connecticut on Sunday. 
She has played non-stop hoops since the calendar flipped to 2017. Plum helped the Huskies advance to the Sweet 16 and went straight to training camp after the WNBA Draft. 
 The latest in a distinguished group of former Pac-12 collegiate stars who are in the WNBA, she is averaging 9.4 points per game in her last five outings, which seems to suggest that better days are ahead. 

For the season, Plum is averaging 5.3 points, 2.2 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game.   
“When you change levels, cities, coaches and teammates, it’s a shift,” Plum said. “Then you get injured and try to come back. I am just trying to feel comfortable out there. I have to stay aggressive because that’s what I am known for and that’s what I bring to the table so I can’t go into a basketball game and not being aggressive. Now that I am feeling more comfortable, obviously I’ll play better.”
Even though San Antonio is 2-16 overall, the team is beginning to show some flashes of brilliance. The Silver Stars, under first year coach Vicki Johnson, have a nice nucleus that includes Moriah Jefferson, Kayla McBride, and Isabelle Harrison, who had a monster performance of 22 points and nine rebounds in Tuesday’s 88-75 loss at Atlanta.
All-Star Reserves Selected

Reigning regular-season MVP Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks, reigning Rookie of the Year Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm and WNBA scoring leader Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury were selected by the league’s head coaches as reserves for Verizon WNBA All-Star 2017, the WNBA announced during Tuesday night’s Seattle-Chicago game on ESPN2.
Stewart is one of six reserves named as an All-Star for the first time.  With three starters also earning their first selection, a total of nine players – seven from the Eastern Conference and two from the Western Conference – have been picked to make their All-Star debut at Verizon WNBA All-Star 2017 on Saturday at KeyArena in Seattle (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). 
Ogwumike and Griner, both four-time All-Star selections, were voted to the West frontcourt with Stewart.  The West reserves also feature guards Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx, Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings and Chelsea Gray of the Sparks.  Augustus and Diggins-Smith are All-Star veterans with seven and three selections, respectively, while Gray is a first-time pick.
The East reserves are highlighted by Indiana Fever forward Candice Dupree, the all-time Temple great, who joins former Rutgers standout Cappie Pondexter and Tina Thompson as the only players in league history to be selected as an All-Star with three different teams.  

Dupree represented the East in 2006 as a rookie and playing against her former Temple coach Dawn Staley, 2007 and 2009 as a member of the Chicago Sky and was on the West in 2014 and 2015 with the Mercury. 
Two-time All-Star Stefanie Dolson of Chicago joins Dupree as a reserve in the East frontcourt.  The conference’s four other reserves are all first-time All-Stars: Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun and Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream in the frontcourt, along with guards Layshia Clarendon of the Dream and Allie Quigley of the Sky.  The East also has three first-time All-Stars in the starting lineup with Atlanta’s Tiffany Hayes and Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas. 
Verizon WNBA All-Star 2017 will feature nine former No. 1 overall picks.  Eight of those players will suit up for the West: Bird (the top pick in 2002), Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi (2004), Augustus (2006), Los Angeles’ Candace Parker (2008), Minnesota’s Maya Moore (2011), Ogwumike (2012), Griner (2013) and Stewart (2016).  Tina Charles (2010) of the New York Liberty will represent the East.

The UConn powerhouse has seven alums on the rosters: Bird, Taurasi, Stewart, Dolson, Hayes, Charles, Moore, while three Connecticut Sun players join them in Jasmine Thomas, Jonquel Jones, and Alyssa Thomas.  
Griner, along with East starter Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics, will miss Verizon WNBA All-Star 2017 due to injury.  On July 14, Griner suffered knee and ankle injuries and Delle Donne sustained a sprained ankle.  WNBA President Lisa Borders will select the replacements for Griner and Delle Donne with the announcement coming Wednesday.
In selecting the reserves, the 12 WNBA head coaches voted for six players in their own conference: two guards, three frontcourt players and a player at either position.  Coaches were not permitted to vote for players on their own team. 
There weren’t any All-Star snubs that I could find, which is remarkable considering the growing talent league-wide.
Three-Point Shootout Participants Revealed

Bird and Moore lead the list of participants who will showcase their range in the 2017 WNBA Three-Point Contest on Saturday.  The contest marks the league’s first long-distance competition at WNBA All-Star in eight years. This is awesome and long overdue. This should be a fun event.
The field also features Jasmine Thomas, Quigley and Sugar Rodgers of the New York Liberty.  
The WNBA Three-Point Contest will be televised live during halftime of the game. In the past it was held along with other skills competition on the day before as part of the practice sessions.

  Each participant ranks in the league’s top eight in three-pointers made and three-pointers made per game this season through July 17. 
The WNBA, in partnership with the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), will add a new element to reflect the players’ contributions off the court as leaders on social issues and their active engagement with philanthropic efforts.  For the first time, $10,000 will be donated to a charity of the winner’s choice in support of her work in the community.
The charities that participants will represent and compete for are The Moyer Foundation (Bird); Win With Justice, a program of the Social Impact Fund (Moore); The Patrick Quigley Memorial Scholarship (Quigley); Hopey’s Heart Foundation (Rodgers); and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (Thomas).
My pick to win will be Rodgers.
Griner Dunks

We’re getting to the point where when Britney Griner dunks it’s not major news. She dunked last week in a win against Atlanta.  
The slam was Griner's second of the season (other was at Seattle on June 23, 2017), 10th regular-season dunk of her career and 13th dunk while in the WNBA (dunked in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals at Los Angeles on August 24, 2014, at the WNBA All-Star Game on July 19, 2014 in Phoenix and at the WNBA All-Star Game on July 25, 2015 in Connecticut). 

Griner now owns 10 of the 16 regular-season dunks in WNBA history, while no other WNBA player has recorded more than two dunks. 
Bria Leads The Way

Bria Hartley led the Liberty in scoring for the first time this season, posting 15 points in a balanced offensive effort that came in an 85-55 victory over the Washington Mystics. She shot 6-of-10 from the field, while also leading New York with 23 minutes played, and drilled a season-best three 3-pointers. 

It was her eighth start of the year, and 1st since June 23 at Connecticut. She is averaging 5.4 ppg this season with five games scoring in double figures.


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