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, July 20, 2017

WNBA Feature: Atlanta's Threesome Headed For All-Star Weekend Represent Part of the League's Future

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON –Atlanta’s tremendous triumvirate of Tiffany Hayes, Laysia Clarendon, and Elizabeth Williams are literally living the ultimate dream. 
 
Selected to compete in Saturday’s Verizon WNBA All-Star 2017 in Seattle, they will be among several players making their debut on the league’s brightest stage, which is awesome. Hayes, who led all Eastern Conference guards in voting, will start while Claredon and Williams were chosen as reserves. 
 
“I think its dope (awesome) to just be a part of (the all-star festivities),” Hayes said as dimples creased her cheek from her sparkling smile before the Dream’s 100-96 overtime loss to Washington Wednesday morning at the Verizon Center. 

“It just means a lot to me that everybody thought I deserved to be a starter. I appreciate it. It’s also cool that my starting guard and starting center will be there with me. It’s great and we’re rolling deep. We’re definitely representing for Atlanta.”
 
The Dream and Connecticut Sun lead the way with three all-stars each for the Eastern Conference, which has eight first time All-Stars, including New York’s Sugar Rodgers, who was added Wednesday morning by WNBA president Lisa Borders as an injury replacement for Washington’s Elena Delle Donne. Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson was also added to replace Britney Griner.
 
“It’s nice for the fans to be able to see some new faces and get to know some of the players who will be the future of the league,” Williams said. “I’m so, so excited to be part of the All-Star team this year. It’s even more exciting that I get to share this time with two of my teammates, Tip (Tiffany Hayes) and Lay (Layshia Clarendon). Seattle is an awesome basketball city so I’m looking forward to a great weekend.”
 
Williams and Clarendon traveled to Seattle Wednesday from Washington while Hayes flied out Thursday. This is the second time in franchise history that three Atlanta Dream players will represent the organization at the WNBA All-Star game. In 2014, Angel McCoughtry, Shoni Schimmel and Erika de Souza all started the game. Schimmel was the MVP of that game.
 
It’ll be like the rookies against the living legends Saturday afternoon since the Western Conference squad features eight No. 1 draft picks: Seattle’s Sue Bird (the top pick in 2002), Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi (2004), Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus (2006), Los Angeles’ Candace Parker (2008), Minnesota’s Maya Moore (2011), Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike (2012), Griner (2013) and Seattle’s Breanna Stewart (2016). 
 
This game will be a pleasant mixture of the past, present and future of a league that features lots of wonder women.
 
“It’s going to be really cool,” Clarendon said. “It shows how much growth and talent this league has. The league is in really good hands seeing how many first time all-stars there are. It’s great to know that we are ones that will help carry the league forward.”
 
Strangely, the ruthlessly efficient Hayes has always been overlooked which explains why she always competes with a chip on her shoulder the size of the new BMW Stadium being constructed in downtown Atlanta. Many believed, including this author, that Hayes should’ve already appeared in multiple All-Star games before this year. 
 
Hayes has always been an all-star with a gold-medal personality. She’s been consistent since she entered the league and the lethal lefthander has been affectionately referred to as the “Silent Assassin.” Not that she needed it, but it’s nice that Hayes finally has the validation of being one of the best players in the world.
 
Hayes was the second selection in the second round in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Now, in her sixth year, Hayes is a perfect storm of toughness, elegance and explosiveness, She is the Dream’s leading scorer, averaging 17.3 points, which is ninth in the league. She has scored in double figures 19 times this season.
 
“I’ve just been putting in the hard work all the time and taking what comes to me,” Hayes said. “I’ve gotten better each year. It’s finally good to get to be an All-Star. I just remember getting all types of text messages after the selections were announced. I ended up opening Instagram and Twitter and the league posted the starters and I saw that I made it.”
 
Hayes enters the all-star break on a roll having scored 20 points in consecutive games. She finished with 24 points against the Mystics.

 Williams, who’s ninth in the WNBA in rebounding at 7.6 boards per game, has 30 blocked shots over her last seven games. Clarendon leads the league in assists at 7.0 per game.

“A lot of hard work is paying off for me,” Clarendon said. “I am having a really good year. I am proud of my two teammates being there with me. I was super excited when I found out that my girl Elizabeth made the team. We play really well in the pick and roll together. She’s my closest person on the team. Tiff and I started to get a lot closer as well. It’s just going to be awesome to see the three of us there and all of us being first time all stars is kind of cool.”
 
The trio has helped the Dream entertain playoff thoughts, something few people outside of Atlanta expected at the start of the season after McCoughtry, who had been the face of the franchise, decided to take some time away. 
 
The Dream have thrived, its 9-11 record notwithstanding. Atlanta is 3-8 on the road, which is why it’s under .500. Its last two road games were close setbacks to Seattle and Washington.
 
Having three all-stars is a testament to the sterling years that Hayes, Clarendon, and Williams have enjoyed. Rookie Brittany Sykes and dependable veteran Sancho Lyttle make the Dream a formidable threat to do some damage in the second half of the season.
 
“It shows how balanced of a team that we are and how well the coaching staff built this team,” Clarendon said. “This shows our chemistry, balance and our leadership even though we’re a young team. We work together. I am going to enjoy Seattle. What got me here was taking every moment and being present in it and focused.” 
 
 
 

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