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, August 17, 2017

WNBA Feature: A Career Demanding Perseverance Has Become Rewarding To L.A.'s Candace Parker

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)
WASHINGTON – Candace Parker has a purpose in every move she makes.
Whether it’s going through her smooth pre-game routine of jumpers, one-handed push shots in the lane, dribbling exhibitions, casually chatting with women’s basketball hall of famer Rebecca Lobo before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Mystics; or posing for selfies, signing shirts, slips of paper and hats for fans and completing the tedious task of removing athletic tape from her ankles, Parker is a sponge absorbing every moment. 
She also knows there’s a special set of eyes on her at all times. 
“My daughter,” Parker said. “She really pushes me everyday and motivates me to want play as hard as I can. I know at some point when she plays basketball, she’s going to look back at these tapes and realize ‘you didn’t play hard on this possession, mom.’ I don’t want that so I have to represent.”
Little Lailaa would have been proud of her mom’s performance against the Mystics in her only visit to the newly renamed Capital One Arena. In leading the Sparks to a 95-62 victory, Parker was special as usual. 
Her transcendent talents of soaring and scoring, passing, rebounding, blocking and stealing were on complete display, finishing with 21 points and seven rebounds. She punctuated her performance with a no-look pass from the top of the foul line to the post that resulted in a Sparks’ basket. 
At 20-8 overall, the Sparks are in perfect position to earn one of the double byes to the semifinals in next month’s playoffs. With the Minnesota Lynx experiencing some rare regular season turbulence in the form of a current two-game losing streak, the Sparks have an outside shot of earning the No. 1 overall seed. 
Seeding doesn’t matter as the Sparks won the WNBA championship last year on the road in Minnesota. During its five-game road trip that concludes Friday in Chicago, the Sparks beat the Lynx to even the season series at 1-1. The two rivals finish their season series Sunday, Aug. 27 in Los Angeles.
“We want to win the championship again this year,” Parker said. “It’s very hard. It was hard last year. I’ve always said that the mark of a great team is when you do things multiple times. If we win another championship that can’t be disputed. That’s our attitude. Last year was great to get a championship, but this a new year.”
While she never needed a championship to validate her brilliant career, it was great to see her finally experience the ultimate triumph and earn her ring. A role model and hard-worker, Parker is a treasure of excellence who has helped the WNBA grow. 
“I hope that I inspire in terms of individuals that careers, opportunities or things that they want don’t necessarily go the way they planned,” Parker said. “I hope that my career is a testament to keep persevering and that things will work out eventually. I went through injuries early on in my career, had a child, a few obstacles and setbacks, almost wins in the playoffs, heartbreaks and stuff like that, but you have to keep persevering.”
Despite those early detours, Parker continued displaying the championship hallmarks of great character and resilience in how she’s picked herself up and continued persevering until she finally reached the champagne-soaked promised-land last season. 
She also understands that the only thing last year’s memories are good for is when Parker is giving her induction speech in Springfield, Mass., and sharing stories with her friends and family in the next decade. She can watch the replays later, but she has more to offer. 
At 31 years old, she’s is in the prime of her career and enjoying life. 
“My main thing is taking one step at a time,” Parker said. “I am not going to try and plan anything out or figure out when I am done playing. 

“I figure I’ll go by how I feel and if I can still contribute. I don’t want to be that player out there looking crazy. I think legacy is something you finish and look back at.

“I didn’t really have any perspective on college until I was finished with college. I kind of leave that for everybody else. I am just really enjoying basketball, just playing and excited that we’re still continuing to play at a high level.”