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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

WNBA Feature: Iron Issues Resolved, Latoya Sanders Now Helping Washington Mystics Conquer Foes

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON – Normally a patient person, Latoya Sanders was slightly irritated.

“I think anybody would get annoyed going to the hospital multiple times,” Sanders said “Getting needles, getting poked and getting IVs wasn’t a great experience but it was something that needed to be done so I had to do it. Nobody wants to go to the hospital.”

Fresh off of a strong overseas season, the veteran Washington Mystic forward didn’t feel like herself during preseason workouts. She was sluggish. Basic drills such as defensive slides, running the floor and rebounding became challenging chores. 

“The doctors were trying to figure out why my heart rate was so high and why I always exhausted off of simple drills we were doing,” Sanders said. “They called the doctor to look at my blood work and saw I had a little iron issue. Until my levels got up, I wasn’t able to practice or play.”

That was frustrating for Sanders, who missed both of Washington’s preseason tilts and the first five games of the season, making her 2018 debut in a road win at Phoenix on May 30.

“It was a shock because I was just playing basketball in Russia and then all of a sudden I came here and I felt depleted and exhausted and stuff like that,” Sanders said. “It was a shock and it was unfortunate, but we worked through it.”

Sanders’ journey back to the court and into the Mystics starting lineup was arduous. She had to patiently endure treatments, listen to her body, and remain in shape while she was recovering.

“It took two hours to get the (iron) infusions at Georgetown hospital,” Sanders said. “It was a little annoying but I had to do it at 7:30 in the morning. Then once the treatments were done, I went straight to practice. 

“The treatments made me nauseous at times. Fortunately, I had a good hematologist, which helped me get back to 100 percent. I understand that it’s still going to be a long process but I am feeling better.”
Sanders has a clean bill of health. Now, it’s the Mystic opponents who are on the critical list. 

Sanders has been rolling lately for Washington, which split a pair of games during an abbreviated west coast trip to Los Angeles and Seattle. The Mystics are home this week for two games against Atlanta (Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.) and Chicago (Friday at 7 p.m.).

She has scored in double figures in three straight games. Sanders collected 14 points in wins over New York and Los Angeles. She had 10 in Sunday’s setback at Seattle. Sanders previously burned Connecticut for a season best 18 points.

While the additional scoring punch has been clutch for the Mystics, Sanders knows her bread-and-butter is on defense and on the boards. She is averaging 5.8 rebounds per game.

“Coach (Mike Thibault) brought me here for a reason,” Sanders said. “I am just trying to do what I can to help us get wins and contribute to the team. I always been known as a defensive player and I take pride in that. I have been known as the blue collar person who does the dirty work. I embrace that. It’s not something that everybody can do.”

Like all great rebounders, Sanders has an innate understanding of the nuance of rebounding.

“Because I am a skinnier post player, I have to do my work early to get a rebound,” Sanders said. “I know there’s certain people you’re not going to outjump or outmuscle, so I have to get position early. When I feel like a shot is going up, I just try to wedge my body between my opponent so that I can get in positon a rebound.” 

The Mystics have the third best record in the WNBA at 12-7. They trail the Mercury by 1.5 games in the race to secure a double-bye in the upcoming playoffs. 

Los Angeles and Minnesota are within a game of the Mystics in a congested race for the top four spots in the eight-team playoff that begins late next month.

After Friday’s home game against Chicago, the Mystics hit the road for five straight games. They don’t return to Capital One Arena until August 3 against Las Vegas.

“(The recent homestand) was an opportunity for us to get back to the basics and work on the small things that make a difference in games,” Sanders said. “We focused on being fluid more on offense, rebounding and our defensive schemes. I am happy to be playing again.” 


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