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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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

WNBA Feature: Natasha Cloud in Contract Year Plans to be What Washington Needs

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1


NEWARK, Del. – Standing outside of the locker room and leaning against the wall in the hallway of the Bob Carpenter Center following the Washington Mystics’ easy 91-56 preseason win over the Indiana Fever last Saturday at the University of Delaware Natasha Cloud had her arms crossed.

 

She spoke to everyone who walked past. She jokingly threatened to call security on teammate Tayler Hill, who playfully disturbed her interview by transitioning into a reporter and recording Cloud’s words. Even though Cloud laughed at Hill a few times, she never broke from providing answers. 

 

Entering the 2018 season, Cloud is confident, focused, happy, healthy and a critical component of the Mystics attack.

 

However, beneath her sparkling smile lies a furious ferocity and insatiable hunger to make this season for the Mystics memorable. The Saint Joseph’s product and Broomall, Delaware County native has extra motivation too. 

 

“It’s a big year for me,” Cloud said. “Year Four. Contract year. I am getting old. Washington is the team I love and it’s where I want to be. I prepared hard for this season so I can be exactly what I need for this team.”

 

Cloud provides Philly toughness and savvy to a veteran Mystic team that have plenty of pieces to make a deep run in the playoffs this season. 

 

Eventual WNBA champion Minnesota ended Washington’s season in the semifinals. Even though the Mystics lost three straight games, they learned plenty from the Lynx, who will visit Capital One Arena twice this season on Sunday, May 27 & Thursday, June 7.

 

“They are the elite team that we’re trying to mirror,” Cloud said. “They’re the elite team that we’re trying to be. For us, we play very similar but they’re that next step of greatness that we need to get to. 


“To be able to play them and start off with the reigning champions is huge for us because it tests us. It also lets us know how our training camp has been going, our pace and how we are as a team-chemistry wise especially and it puts us in check in defensive-wise. Minnesota has Olympians across the floor.”

 

Cloud wasn’t 100 percent in the final two games of the series. Despite injuring her wrist in the opening game against the Lynx, she scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds in 24 gutty minutes in the second game. It was the second significant injury for Cloud since entering the league. She tore her hip labrum during her rookie year. That injury still nags her, but she’s feeling significantly better.

 

“I tore some ligaments in my wrist against Minnesota last year in the first game of the playoff series,” Cloud said. “It was hard, but I knew my team needed me so I did what I needed to do. I stayed home this offseason. I was in D.C. until Christmas rehabbing and then the second half of the offseason, I decided to go home and focus on more physical therapy.” 


Many a postgame during the collegiate season she could be seen on Hawk Hill at her alma  mater putting up shots  in Hagan Arena.

 

Cloud’s intense work has been noticed as she’s entered camp in great shape.

 

“She’s been great in preseason,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “She got a chance to run the point guard most of the preseason because Kristi Toliver just got here (from her overseas team commitment).


“ We’ll play Tasha at the one and the three. She’s going to play starters minutes whether she starts or not. Our tempo was good with her in the game. 


“She’s one of our better defensive players. I’ve seen growth in her over the last year. Last year was a good experience for her. I thought she was good in the playoffs despite being injured. I just see her this year more mature and dialed in the right way.” 

 

Washington will have a formidable five on the floor at all times no matter the lineup with Cloud, Elena Delle Donne, Krystal Thomas, Toliver, Monique Currie, Hill, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Tianna Hawkins, Allison Hightower and LaToya Sanders. 

 

According to Thibault, Hill is expected back in “late June.” Her recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament is coming well and she’s ahead of schedule.

 

“We have all the pieces,” Cloud said. “It’s just a matter of fine tuning everything, pushing forward, plugging everything together and moving forward. Whatever my team needs and wherever they need me to play each and every day, that’s the role I am going to take.


“ We have players like E and Kristi who need to get up a certain number of shots. I know that when my number is called, I need to be able to knock down some open shots.”

 

Cloud knows she’ll be counted on to bring energy off of the bench. She scored five points, grabbed five rebounds and had four steals in 18 electric minutes against the Fever. 

 

While the game was billed as Delle Donne’s homecoming, Cloud also enjoyed playing close to Delaware County. 

 

“I was able to go home Friday night and sleep in my bed,” Cloud said. “I met the team here in Delaware which was nice. This was an easy and phenomenal trip back home. We all knew that this game was huge for E. She did a lot of special things here and we all knew that this was huge for her. I am a Philly girl through and through and she’s a Delaware girl through and through.”

 

Together, they are ready to help lift the Mystics to the WNBA summit. 

 

 

 

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