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, September 04, 2018

WNBA Playoffs: Natasha Cloud Also Influenced By Geno’s High School Coach Buddy Gardler




WASHINGTON – Natasha Cloud didn’t have to hear it.


The Washington Mystic veteran guard already knew. 


While Cloud’s 13 points, five assists and four steals were critical components of the Mystics 97-76 WNBA semifinal victory over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday Sept. 2, she also turned the ball over six times. 


“If he was here today, he would be like six turnovers for real?,” said Cloud, smiling and shaking her head imagining another lecture from one of her basketball mentors. “Tasha, are you kidding me, get your stuff together. 


“I would’ve probably responded with, ‘I got you B.G.”


She’ll never hear that deep-bass voice again of legendary Cardinal O’Hara boys basketball coach Buddy Gardler, who died last month after a lengthy illness and was a considerable influence on Cloud’s basketball maturity at  the school in the Philly suburbs. 


“He would always get on me in class and say you’re an athlete but that doesn’t mean nothing if you can’t read a book or pass a class,” said Cloud, who had Gardler for English class at O’Hara. “So you have to buckle down when it comes to school work because your talent is going to shine for itself. This one hit hard for me.”


Cloud was close with Gardler’s family because she was a high school teammate with his daughter, Megan, who went on to play at UConn. They are best friends. She spent lots of time at the Gardler house eating, laughing and absorbing information like a sponge from Gardler. 


Meghan was at George Washington’s Smith Center watching the Mystics extend their season with the victory in game four.


“To get a text from (Buddy’s son) Chris Gardler after I texted them and sent my condolences and have him say to me how proud his dad was of me was special,” Cloud said. “It made me realize how important I am to people back home but also how important people back home were important to my career, and my development as a player and a person.”


The 26-year-old Cloud, who finished second in the Most Improved Player of the Year voting, has enjoyed a breakout season for the Mystics, who are one win away from advancing to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. 


The Mystics and Dream meet Tuesday in Atlanta in the decisive fifth game of an intense series. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. 

The winner advances to the WNBA Finals against the survivor of the Phoenix-Seattle series. The fifth game in that series is in Seattle beginning at 10 p.m. (ESPN News and NBA-TV).


Cloud enjoyed her share of highlights this season, which included a dramatic buzzer beater to beat the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday, Aug. 17. She hit a fadeaway jumper over WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Alana Beard. The shot came two days after Gardler’s passing.


In the two Mystic wins in this series, Cloud scored a playoff career high 13 points in each contest. Including the playoffs, Cloud has scored in double figures 13 times. Her importance is illustrated in that the Mystics were 2-4 when she missed games this season in which Washington tied a franchise record with 22 victories.


Coming into the season, Cloud knew this would be a big year for her. Thanks to confidence from the coaching staff, Cloud has delivered, matured and blossomed into one of the league’s most popular players. 


Cloud has matured and a symbol of her growth is tatted on her right arm in the form of colorful roses that she will eventually develop into an arm-length sleeve. 


“I have three roses and they all represent different distinctions,” Cloud said. “When you’re younger, you make mistakes. You’re figuring out who you are and blossoming into who you want to be. My third one is dark and it’s a mature stage where I feel I am at now and being myself and finding out exactly who I am and being comfortable in my own skin.”


Cloud loves having fun. Before a regular season home game against Dallas on Sunday, Aug. 12, a young fan presented Cloud with a drawing of her. Cloud was speechless and just wanted to take a picture with the young artist.


Beneath her angelic smile, defense, passion and energy, Cloud has been playing with a heavy heart for quite some time during her four-year WNBA career. 


While Gardler’s death hit Cloud hard, she also honors her late grandfather before every game. He died in 2016. 


“Before every game during the national anthem, I say my prayers and put everything up to my grandfather,” Cloud said. “Family is a huge part of what I do and why I play.

“I am always conscience and aware of them when I am on the court. Whether it’s my Saint Joseph’s roots, Cardinal O’Hara roots, Delaware County roots, I am embedded in that family. I always put family first. It’s a huge part of who I am. It is who I am.”





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