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, June 30, 2011

Guru's WNBA Musings: Injury Outbreak Impacting East and West Races

By Mel Greenberg

On a day in which professional women’s basketball in the United States was celebrated at the White House with President Obama and the WNBA defending champion Seattle Storm, the special guests added a bit of not so good news that was later followed Wednesday from the Midwest by more not so good news that is beyond any of the marketing skills new WNBA president Laurel Ritchie can bring to the table to enhance attendance.

On the other hand, maybe there will be plenty to market in terms of the race to this season’s title because with three major injuries within a week to teams expected to contend, the hunt for now is wide open.

Soon after the White House formal festivities were concluded Storm coach Brian Agler revealed that reigning league MVP Lauren Jackson, who suffered a torn labrum in her left hip a week ago Tuesday in the win at Tulsa, is going to have surgery Thursday in Vail, Colo., and is expected to be out of action for eight to 12 weeks.

On Friday Seattle had announced that the Australian sensation would undergo three weeks of rest and physical therapy and then perhaps resorting to surgery if no progress was being made.

But after a visit to the Steadman Clinic and having discussions with doctors and Jackson’s family the decision was made that the best course would be to have surgery now.

A year ago Seattle lived up to its nickname with one of the best regular season records in storming their way through the league and then blitzing the playoffs with a 7-0 run that included three narrow wins over the Atlanta Dream in the championship best-of-five series.

Soon after Jackson’s situation was reported the Indiana Fever announced that starting point guard Briann January’s injury,
suffered in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s home win over the Phoenix Mercury, was indeed a torn ACL in her right knee and the third-year pro out of Arizona State was done for the season.

Fever coach Lin Dunn, while expressing regret and sympathy for January, said for now Indiana would be run in the backcourt by a committee effort at January’s position.

The mishap occurred as the Fever were about to win their fourth straight in moving to the top of the Eastern Conference.

The run began at Washington and then included a home win Friday over the Connecticut Sun followed by Sunday’s win at the Minnesota Lynx and then the home win in Indianapolis over Phoenix.

January leaves active status with an 8.6 scoring average along with an average of five assists a game.

Indiana’s schedule does not get any easier in the next several weeks, but then other than road games vs. home games, it doesn’t do likewise for anyone else in the 12-team WNBA.

On Sunday, what had originally looked like a revitalized Los Angeles Sparks return to powerhouse status became much less so when fourth-year pro Candace Parker, the former Tennessee all-American, suffered a torn meniscus in her right knee in Sunday’s loss at the New York Liberty and would be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Parker had 16 points and 11 rebounds in the game before she got hurt.

The Sparks have yet to win on the road this season. Following a win over Minnesota in Los Angeles to launch the 15th anniversary WNBA season they fell to the same Lynx two days later in Minneapolis.

They began a seven-game road trip Friday night losing to the Western leading San Antonio Silver Stars, dropped the game at New York, and then without Parker fell way behind Connecticut Tuesday night before rallying to lose by three points at the finish.

Added to the injury mix have been the Washington Mystics' ills that began in the offseason with a leg injury to former Duke star Monique Currie that has her sidelined for the entire summer.

Then another former Blue Devils great, Alana Beard, who missed all last season following foot surgery, sprained her ankle on the same foot days before the opener at Connecticut and has yet to play.

Despite Beard’s absence Washington was able to mount its best record in 2010 and tie New York for the regular season title and earn the top East seed in the playoffs before losing to Atlanta, which has also had injury problems at the outset.

In the West, the best hope for Los Angeles and Seattle is for not many teams to stay hot so either will still be in close pursuit of a playoff berth and then go from there if Jackson and Parker are back for the postseason, though Parker is expected back sooner.

In the East, Indiana likewise will have to find a way to tread water though if Washington and Atlanta continue to struggle the Fever just need to worry about getting to the playoffs even if they don’t win the conference race for home court advantage in the first two rounds.

Besides, in a tight race last season that went to the wire, Atlanta tripped down the stretch and fell to the fourth seed in the East and then swept both Washington and New York 2-0 in best-of-three series.

Back in the West, provided they stay healthy, some pressure is now on San Antonio, Minnesota and Phoenix to take advantage before the threats from Seattle and Los Angeles return.

Indiana has enough depth and experience to stay afloat so the opportunity among the others seem best with Connecticut to take advantage in the conference while New York and Chicago, which has yet to make the playoffs in the Sky’s previous five seasons, need to start winning now.

That is not to preclude the Mystics and Dream, whose woeful starts already have them in urgency mode, though it would be helpful to Indiana if Atlanta and Washington could pick off a few Eastern rivals.

Seattle gets a test Friday night at Connecticut, always a main event because of the annual homecoming return of former UConn star Sue Bird.

The Storm will also be in Washington on Sunday afternoon.

So out of all this if nothing else a tight race may do much of WNBA president Ritchie’s marketing for her in terms of drawing interest from the populace.

-- Mel

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Silver Stars Light Up Sky

(Guru’s Note: Tuesday night’s Philly Summer League post is in a blog below this one in blogspot. If you are reading this in melgreenberg.com, click on the mel’s blog tab on the left column and you will get there where the entire archive is housed. This post compiled off wire and team reports with quotes. The Guru next goes life up to Mohegan Friday for the Seattle game.)

By Mel Greenberg

When it comes to the looking at surprises in the early going of the respective conference races a new saying in San Antonio might be Forget The Alamo but Remember The Silver Stars.

That’s whose holding a two-game lead atop the Western Conference with a WNBA-best 7-1 record after an 84-74 win over the Chicago Sky Tuesday night in suburban Rosemont, Ill.

In the other two games on the slate, the Indiana Fever (7-3) continues to live up to its nickname in throwing some heat, specifically by cooling down the Phoenix Mercury 91-86 in Indianapolis at Conseco Fieldhouse to win their fourth straight over some impressive opponents.

The triumph enabled Indiana to hold a one-game lead in the East ahead of the Connecticut Sun (5-3), who came home from a two-game losing road trip and reversed directions by holding off the Los Angeles Sparks 79-76 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.

It was the first game for Los Angeles (4-4) without superstar Candace Parker, who suffered an injured knee in Sunday’s loss to the New York Liberty that is expected to keep her sidelined six weeks.

After a quick exit in last season’s playoffs San Antonio dismissed coach Sandy Brondello, who is now an assistant with Los Angeles.

Needing a replacement to get the Silver Stars back on the winning track general manager Dan Hughes looked in the mirror and found the right guy in himself who already had a successful stint on the sidelines in Texas
San Antonio’s record at the moment resembles last season’s start by the eventual champion Seattle Storm.

But though the numbers look gaudy, it was still a struggle not far from Lake Michigan where the Silver Stars tread water most of the night until former Notre Dame all-American Ruth Riley nailed a three-pointer with 3 minutes, 29 seconds left in the game for a 71-68 lead. Then in a little over the final minute off the game Hughes' team hit 10 straight foul shots to hold the Sky (4-5) off.

The Silver Stars outscored the Sky 31-18 in the fourth quarter.

“You have to build your play with streaks and we got some stops,” Hughes said of the San Antonio performance. “We had some timely shots. Our execution just got better at the right time of the game.”

The Sky found a way to hold their former player Jia Perkins off limiting her to six points after she had averaged 23.7 points in the previous three games.

Perkins was dealt in the offseason for former Tennessee post player Michelle Snow who became the 12th player in WNBA history to reach 2,000 rebounds and become the seventh player to also have 2,800 points and block 300 shots.

But while Perkins was being handcuffed, five other Silver Stars hit double figures led by former Baylor star Sophia Young, who had 19 points. Rookie Danielle Adams, the MVP for the NCAA-winning Texas A&M Aggies in April, scored 16 points, perennial All-Star Becky Hammon scored 14 and Danielle Robinson and Riley each scored 10 points.

“Defensively, our team got better as the game went on, especially in the second half,” Hammon said. “It was just a grind tonight. It wasn’t a pretty game but we found a way to win. I thought our post players did an exceptional job hitting big shots for us and just playing really good defense.”

The stand was effective in limiting Chicago All-Star Sylvia Fowles to 16 points, the first time since the season opener she scored below 20. She also grabbed 12 rebounds.

Second-year pro Epiphanny Prince out of Rutgers, looking like an early contender for most improved player in the WNBA, had 19 points for the Sky. Erin Thorn scored 14 and Cathrine Kraayveld had 10.

“We aren’t buckling down the way we need to,” Kraayveld said of the Sky, who have lost four of five games after briefly being tied for first with the Connecticut Sun at 3-3. “I don’t know if we need to get mad, but we need to do something. We’ve got to just stick together. We have a good team here, so we’ve just got to come together and learn from this one and move on.”

Meanwhile Indiana’s last loss came at Phoenix in overtime and coach Lin Dunn bemoaned the setback as a missed opportunity.

The Mercury (4-4) moved ahead after that game with a four-game win streak until arriving Tuesday night in the Midwest.

Indiana’s one redeeming note in that loss in the desert was the career-high 20 points by former Ohio State star Jessica Davenport. She was even better Tuesday night setting a new standard for herself with 25 points.

“I think every person has a team they play well against, and maybe Phoenix is just mine,” she said.

All-Star Katie Douglas had 26 points to lead the Fever, including six 3-pointers while all-star Tamika Catchings had another all-around game with 14 points, seven assists, four steals, and three blocks as the Indiana win streak has been extended to four straight.

A road win at Washington, one at home against Connecticut and then another at Minnesota Sunday preceded Tuesday’s win over the Mercury.

The only downer is another WNBA talent could be sidelined – this time Fever point guard Briann January who hurt her right knee in the fourth quarter.

“We won’t know anything until tomorrow when she has an MRI,” Dunn said. “We’re hoping for the best.

“It’ll be point guard by committee, but I don’t really want to talk about that until I know that for sure,” Dunn added. “Right now, Briann January is our point guard, and she will continue to be our point guard until we know more information.”

Catchings lauded her teammates for persevering after January went down.

“It was a great team win,” she said. “Down the stretch, one man down, we have players coming off the bench who played well.”

DeWanna Bonner, a former Auburn star, and all-everything Diana Taurasi each scored 15 points for the Mercury, though Taurasi, who scored 32 against the Fever in Phoenix, was 5-for-14 from the field and committed five turnovers.

“We played well in stretches but not enough to beat them at home.” Taurasi observed afterwards.

Connecticut (5-3) stayed within a game of Indiana and one ahead of third-place New York (4-4) in a wild one against Los Angeles (4-4), which is now mired in a fourth-place tie with Phoenix, three games behind San Antonio.

The Sparks have yet to win on the road in all four games and are 0-3 at the front end of a seven-game swing that will now veer back through the West against everyone but Minnesota.

Tina Charles, the former UConn star and last season’s rookie of the year, had 22 points and matched her career-high with 23 rebounds in a game in which Los Angeles rallied in its first outing without Parker but missed several opportunities with attempted 3-pointers at the finish that could have sent the game into overtime.

Charles joined former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw, currently not in the league, as the only two to have had multiple games of 20 points and 20 rebounds.

Renee Montgomery, another former UConn star in her third season as a pro, scored 17 points for the Sun and Kara Lawson and former UConn star Asjha Jones each scored 16 points.

Connecticut jumped to a 12-point lead at the outset before the Sparks rallied, primarily on the play of former Maryland star Kristi Toliver, who had 19 points. DeLisha Milton-Jones added 13 and rookie laToya Pringle out of North Carolina scored 11.

Parker is expected to be sidelined for six weeks and on Friday night Connecticut will host defending champion Seattle, whose Lauren Jackson is sidelined for at least three weeks with a hip injury.

The Storm, incidentally, are headed for the White House Wednesday to meet with President Obama to mark their title.

Los Angeles coach Jennifer Gillom had her ideas how the game might go at the outset and her fears were realized.

“I knew that at the beginning, we would either come out and play really well or there would be a lack of chemistry on both ends of the floor because of Candace’s absence,” Gillom said. “This is our first game without her and true enough, we had a hard time finding that chemistry early on.”

Connecticut coach Mike Thibault was just pleased to have the Sun back on the winning side of the ledger.

“This was a playoff atmosphere,” he said. “Given everything that went on throughout the game, that’s a hell of a win. (Los Angeles) is really talented. Just a great basketball game.

Toliver had 14 of her points off the bench during the comeback for a one-point halftime lead in which other substitutes also made contributions.

“That second unit that went in there in the second quarter, they are used to playing together in practice and I decided to go with that group. They did a great job of coming in, giving us that energy and getting us back in the ballgame.”

The league is idle again Wednesday night with two on Thursday’s slate.

New York will try to follow Sunday’s win when the Liberty travel to the Atlanta Dream, where they won the season opener in overtime.

The Dream currently sit in the Eastern basement at 2-7 after advancing to the WNBA championship series last season when they were swept 3-0 by Seattle in close contests.

Minnesota (5-3) in a virtual tie for second with Seattle (4-2) heads to the woeful Tulsa Shock (1-8), who have won just one game.

-- Mel

Guru's Summer League Report: Columbia Blue A.K.A. West Chester Still Perfect

(Guru’s note: The WNBA roundup post is just above this one.)

By Mel Greenberg

HATBORO, Pa. – In its rules covering NCAA sanctioning of summer basketball leagues, the national organization governing collegiate sports places no limit on how many players from the same Division II and Division III schools can be on the same team.

So far togetherness is proving to be a helpful commodity for Division II West Chester University competing as Columbia Blue in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer Basketball League here at the Kelly Bolish Gym, which is also the home of the AAU Renegades near Willow Grove.

Columbia Blue (3-0) on the fourth night of play became the only unbeaten left in the 11-team standings after emerging Tuesday with a narrow 51-49 victory over Lime Green (1-3), a team dominated by Division II Philadelphia University players.

The two schools in the winter compete in separate conferences with West Chester playing in the Eastern Division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference while Philadelphia University is in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.

Columbia Blue now holds a narrow half-game lead over three other teams who are at 3-1.

Most of the games Tuesday were competitive to the finish causing many of the spectators who tore themselves away from viewing the Phillies-Boston Red Sox baseball matchup to remark how enjoyable it is to watch the teams in the league battle.

For those who haven’t yet it made it here, there are five games each Tuesday and Thursday nights with doubleheaders beginning at 7 p.m. before the nightcaps start at 8:15 p.m. along with a third single game.

There won’t be any games next Tuesday, however, because it immediately follows the July 4th Holiday.

Incidentally, each night one of the 11 teams gets a bye and Columbia Blue has already had its time off, which is why it has one less number of games in its won-loss record than most of the other teams.

The game with Lime Green went to the final seconds and Columbia Blue finally got the win when the opposition missed a chance to force overtime as the clock ticked down to zero.

Gold (3-1), which has several Division II Kutztown players, also started the night unbeaten but dropped a 49-41 setback to Royal Blue (3-1), a team dominated by Division II Holy Family players, who were able to stay right behind the frontrunner.

A year ago a Holy Family-dominated squad reached the best-of-three finals for the first time but lost 2-0, though the games were close.

Columbia Blue got 22 points from West Chester senior Allison Hostetter, the high individual scoring total of the night that was matched in another game by Purple’s Erin Shields, a sophomore next season at Division I St. Joseph’s.

Steph Keys, an incoming freshman on the Golden Rams, and junior Carly Strickland each scored 11 points.

Stephanie Agger, a sophomore next season at Philadelphia University, scored 14 points, while sophomore Samantha Morris scored 13.

All class designations in these posts for active collegiate players reflect their status when classes resume in the fall.

In Royal Blue’s win over Gold, Division III Delaware Valley incoming freshman Grace Mirack scored nine points, while Holy Family sophomore Mary Ellen McCollum scored eight points and her incoming junior Tigers teammate Ana Cruz scored eight points.

Cruz played at Harcum College on the Maine Line last season and scored a career 1,000 points in her two-year stint.

Hilary Weaver, a sophomore at Division I Lehigh, scored eight points for Gold, while her Mountain Hawks junior teammate Becky Guman scored 6 points as did Kutztown junior Stephanie Zewe.

In a game between two winless teams, Purple (1-3) got off the goose egg on the left side of the won-loss column in the standings by edging White 76-75 on the strength of Shields’ 22 points besides 15 from recent La Salle grad Ashley Gale, who was voted the Big Five’s most improved playerafter last season, and 14 points from St. Joseph’s sophomore Shelby Smith.

Incidentally Purple’s Launa Hochstetler is a 2009 graduate of Valparaiso, who actually lives in Berlin, Ohio, near Akron, but is spending the summer in the Philadelphia area.

Hochstetler has played internationally overseas in Holland and the point guard is fourth in career assists at Valparaiso with 369.

As for the White team (0-3) in the loss to Purple, Villanova senior Laura Sweeney scored 21 points, while her Wildcats teammate junior Jesse Carey scored 15 points and Division II University of Sciences Brianne Taub scored 14 points.

Taub is listed as a projected 2017 graduate because of the nature of the academic program at USP, which dominates the White roster.

Orange (3-1) had the one lopsided win of the night to stay in range of the leaders after beating Team Black 50-38 as Villanova sophomore Emily Leer had 16 points and Lehigh sophomore Marisa Repasch scored 11.

Emily Gratch, a Lehigh senior, had 10 points for Team Black (2-2) as did recent Division III Swarthmore graduate Kathryn Stockbower, who holds the Division III record for double doubles.

In the other game of the night Teal (2-2), dominated by former Temple stars, many of whom played with WNBA All-Star Candice Dupree, won a narrow 57-53 victory over Cardinal Red (0-3), the only other winless team besides White in the standings.

Former Temple star Khadijah Bowens scored 12 points; while another former Owls star Ashley Morris scored 11 as did former Drexel scoring sensation Michelle Maslowski.

Alex Smith, a sophomore out of Division I Holy Cross, had 12 points for Cardinal Red, Division III Chestnut Hill grad Chant’al Hardy (2010) had 11 points, incoming Colgate freshman Stephanie Schultz scored scored 11 and Lafayette junior Alicia Manning scored 10 points.

Kelly Green (2-1) had the bye. The squad includes St. Joseph’s senior Katie Kuester and Villanova juniors Devon Kane and Megan Person along with Lafayette senior Sarah McGorry and Leopards incoming freshman Kelly Loughney.

On Thursday night when Kelly Green returns to action it will meet the Columbia Blue (3-0) frontrunners at 8:15 p.m. on Court 2. In the other games beginning with the 7 p.m. doubleheader starts, Black (2-2) meets White (0-3) on Court 1, while Lime Green (1-3) meets Purple (1-3) on Court 2 before the Columbia Blue-Kelly Green game.

The 8:15 p.m. game on Court 1 has Cardinal Red (0-3) against Gold (3-1) while the solo game played 8:15 p.m. on Court 3 has Orange (3-1) against Royal Blue (3-1).

Teal (2-2) has the bye.

Here are the updated standings by the Guru’s calculations:

Team ………………..W-L…….PF…….PA…….Pct.
Columbia Blue……..3-0…….179……149…...1.000
Royal Blue………… 3-1……..246…….212…..0.750
Kelly Green………. 2-1……..216…….198…..0.667
Lime Green………...1-3……..209……..234….0.250
Cardinal Red……....0-3……..186……..220….0.000

-- Mel

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guru's Collegiate Report: Former La Salle Coach Tom Lochner Heading To Delaware

(Guru’s report: This are two posts below this -- one immediately below on the WNBA and Candace Parker's injury and other items, and one below that previewing Tuesday night's summer league action in Hatboro. If you are reading this in melgreenberg.com, you should know the drill by now -- click on Mel's blog on the left side and you will be taken to blogspot to access the other posts and the rest of the archives.)

By Mel Greenberg

When you can’t beat a team containing acclaimed basketball talent Elena Delle Donne, then you might as well join it.

That is the situation with former La Salle coach Tom Lochner, who will soon be officially announced as a new assistant on Delaware coach Tina Martin’s staff.

Neither Martin nor Lochner were available for comment but a source familiar with the negotiations confirmed that he would join the Blue Hens for next season.

Lochner was a longtime assistant to former La Salle coach John Miller and then was promoted to head coach succeeding Miller in August 2004 and continuing to guide the Explorers until the end of the 2010 season when his contract was not renewed.

His six-year record with the Explorers was 72-102.

However, he was retained by the university and given a new job as director of adult education last winter. He also served as an assistant to former Penn star Diana Caramanico, the all-time Big Five women's scorer and Quaker leading rebounder, coaching the Penn Charter girls team.

“Tom Lochner knows more about basketball in his little finger than I do in my entire being,” Caramanico said last winter in a conversation with the Guru when she mentioned he had joined her staff.

Delle Donne, the 2008 national high school player of the year out of Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Del., was a freshman who helped lead the Blue Hens to a win over La Salle early in Lochner’s final season in November, 2009.

In a few weeks she will return to Colorado Springs, Colo., when USA Basketball finishes naming the participating 12 players for the World University Games competition in China.

Delle Donne is among the 14 finalists and is expected to survive the final two cuts and make the roster, which would lead to her first international competition in five seasons.

She missed 12 games last season battling what eventually was determined to be Lime Disease but returned near the end to lead Delaware on a run to the Colonial Athletic Association title game before losing to James Madison.

Along the way the Blue Hens upset longtime CAA power Old Dominion in the quarterfinals and N.C. Wilmington in the semifinals.

The Blue Hens finished 20-14 after losing the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament at Toledo, the eventual winner of the 64-team field.

Next season Delaware is expected to be a favorite to win the CAA title, as is Drexel, which lost only Belgian Jasmine Rosseel and will be adding some talented newcomers.

It is not known what vacancy Lochner is filling on Martin’s staff. Associate head coach Jeanine Radice has been with Martin 15 seasons while assistant Tiara Malcom, a former Blue Hens all-timer, has been at her alma mater on the staff for five seasons beginning a year after her graduation.

Mark McCaleb, who had been head coach of Division II Bridgeport, joined the staff last season.

Martin, whose teams have regularly played La Salle over the years, has always had deep respect for Lochner as a coach and individual.

St. Joseph’s Ellen Ryan Heading For Retirement

Longtime Hawks associate athletic director Ellen Ryan, the first in a long list of successful women’s basketball coaches at St. Joseph’s University of the Atlantic 10 conference, is heading for retirement next month.

A celebration to mark her career on Hawk Hill will be held in the fall.

Ryan recently began spreading the word in emails to colleagues throughout the Big Five.

The school is expected to make the official announcement momentarily and the Guru will repost it here as well as begin to offering reaction after the announcement is made.

Those who want to weigh in feel free to email the Guru with comments.

Among the coaches Ryan was instrumental in hiring after her departure were Theresa Grentz, Rene Portland, Jim Foster, Stephanie Gaitley, and former Hawks player Cindy Griffin, who currently has the reigns on the program.

One of Ryan’s players was Muffet McGraw, the longtime coach at Notre Dame who was recently inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville.

It is not known who will replace Ryan, but speculation is centered on former Hawks star Renie Shields, currently the school’s director of compliance and who does color commentary on Hawks women’s broadcasts.

One daughter Erin was a star freshman at St. Joseph’s last season, while another Kerri is at Boston College.

If Shields is named, she would join Lynn Tighe (Villanova) and Kristin Foley (Temple), who are senior women’s administrators at Big Five schools and former basketball stars.

Penn’s associate athletic director Mary DiStanislao is a former Immaculata assistant and former head coach at Northwestern and Notre Dame.

Doty Set To Return to Full Time Competition

Germantown Academy graduate Carolina Doty of Doylestown, who missed another season at power Connecticut with a second ACL injury since joining the Huskies and third overall, will be cleared July 1 for full competition, according to John Atavilla’s blog at the Hartford Courant website.

Doty said from her point of view she would play a fifth redshirt season with the Huskies and not take off early for the WNBA which others have done when their class has graduated though they still have remaining collegiate eligibility.

Ironically, Doty would then land in the same WNBA draft class as her former AAU teammate Elena Delle Donne of Delaware, assuming the Blue Hens star does not head to the WNBA after next season.

They both played for Fencor.

Delle Donne missed her natural freshman season when she enrolled at Delaware in 2008-09 but to play volleyball after returning a basketball scholarship to UConn.

Incidentally in an interview with Connecticut media by Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, he mentioned that the Big East tournament had a chance of not returning to the XL Center in Hartford, where it has been held in recent seasons.

However, several knowledgeable sources with Big East connections told the Guru during the recent Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction weekend in Knoxville, Tenn., the tournament was heading back to Hartford.

But the Guru cautions the comments were made in a social setting and considering the hour they were made it does not mean the site was set in stone.

Coaches vs. Cancer Women’s Basketball Clinic Set For Fall

The date for the annual clinic featuring the entire coaching staffs and rosters of Big Five schools and Drexel has been set for Sunday, October 16, at Villanova, a change of venue from its traditional site in the past at St. Joseph’s.

A registration form can be found on the Hawks women’s basketball website at St. Joseph’s.

The Guru will repeat this near the end of the summer and in early fall but since the date is known, there’s nothing like an early heads up.

The clinic, which will run from 10 a.m. until noon, is open to 300 girls from first to eighth grade. Student-athletes and coaches from Saint Joseph's, La Salle, Penn, Temple, Villanova and Drexel will be on hand to provide helpful tips and drills, as well as provide insight in how to balance academics and athletics.

A coaches clinic is also available for AAU, grade school, and high school coaches.

The cost for the clinic is $25, with the proceeds going to benefit Coaches vs. Cancer. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and runs until 9:45 a.m.

For more information, contact Briana Weiss at 610-519-3527 / briana.weiss@villanova.edu; or Mary Anne Gabuzda at 610-519-3535 / mary.anne.gabuzda@villanova.edu.

The clinic is sponsored by Sports Specialties.

Inside Women’s Basketball Wins Grant

Congratulations to Kelly Kline, who has just been announced one of four recipients to win a special grant from the McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative, which is in its fourth year.

Kelly, who runs the overall site of which your Guru is allied under melgreenberg.com, is one of four award winners selected from 378 proposals.

She is has been doing photograph work for the WBCA and on several Nike projects.

The grant will enable her to jump-start and move ahead on an ultimate goal of building out the website and in the process your Guru’s blog will feature a whole new and more robust look.

There are other potential future events to be announced down the road off of quiet discussions about rolling out the best WBB coverage possible on the Internet, which is not to preclude existing efforts that continue elsewhere.

Stay tuned but here is the release, hopefully, and link on the announcement and if you get there, click the sub-link to learn more about the organization that awarded the grant.

The Guru had to call off a Tuesday trip to Mohegan for the WNBA game and thus will be at the summer league both Tuesday night and Thursday this week.

-- Mel

Guru's WNBA Report: Los Angeles' Candace Parker Sidelined Six Weeks

(Guru’s note: There is a post below this advancing Tuesday night’s Summer League competition and one above this with basically collegiate news).

By Mel Greenberg

A disturbing trend is rearing its unsightly trend in the WNBA and if continues by the time the All-Star game arrives late next month in San Antonio there may as many notables receiving votes who can’t play as well as those who can.

A second major star has now gone down with the news that Los Angeles Sparks sensation Candace Parker will be out at least six weeks with a torn meniscus in her right knee.

The defending champion Seattle Storm announced on Friday that Australian star Lauren Jackson, a three time league MVP, will miss at least three weeks after suffering a hip injury in last week’s win at Tulsa.

Former Duke all-American Alana Beard on the Washington Mystics has yet to play after suffering a foot sprain a few days before the June 4 opener at Connecticut.

Beard missed all of last season after surgery on the same foot and was being counted upon to shore up a lineup that has only former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne as a returning starter from last year’s Mystics edition that set a franchise record for wins, tied the New York Liberty at the top of the Eastern Conference and took the No. 1 conference seed into the playoffs before being swept 2-0 by the Atlanta Dream.

Parker was hurt during Sunday’s loss to the Liberty in Newark, N.J., and this will be the third straight season she has missed significant time since her 2008 debut out of Tennessee when as the overall No. 1 draft pick she went on to win rookie and player of the year honors.

The native of Naperville, Ill., near Chicago, then missed 2009 after giving birth to her first child, and then 10 games into last season Parker underwent shoulder surgery for a nagging injury dating back to college and she was sidelined the rest of the way.

Los Angeles (4-3) struggled with a losing record but edged out the Minnesota Lynx for the fourth playoff spot, though Minnesota thrown into the draft lottery drew the No. 1 overall pick and was able to grab UConn sensation Maya Moore.

Parker returned for 2011 fully recovered and the Sparks seemed ready to return to their traditional role as a leading power in the Western Conference especially with her averaging 17.7 points per game and 9.9 rebounds, including 16 points and 11 rebounds in Sunday's game before limping off the court late in the third quarter with the injury.

However, the Sparks have stumbled on the road; losing the first two of a current seven-game trip heading into Tuesday night’s game at the Connecticut Sun (4-3), which is back in the hunt for Eastern honors at the moment after missing the playoffs the last two seasons.

Los Angeles then will go through the middle of July meeting the rest of the West except Minnesota, which they beat in the league opener but then lost to the Lynx two days later in Minneapolis.

If Parker returns and is quickly back in form her absence could have been worse. Though the Sparks may suffer with her on the sidelines at least USA Basketball might breathe sighs of relief in that she is being counted upon as a force for the Americans in next summer’s Olympic games in London on a team that will be guided by UConn’s Geno Auriemma.

In two other games Tuesday night, the Phoenix Mercury (4-3) tied with Los Angeles but on a four-game win streak, head to the Indiana Fever (6-3), which has a three-game win streak and is holding first in the East by a game over Connecticut.

The San Antonio Silver Stars (6-1) in a major surprise is atop the West by a game and a half over Seattle and go into suburban Chicago (4-4) in Rosemont to play a Sky team looking for its first playoff appearance after five previous seasons of existence.

Honda Heroines

Two WNBA rookies have made their mark in winning women’s collegiate honors for their work prior to entering the pro league this season.

Maya Moore, as mentioned above as the top overall draft pick in April by Minnesota out of UConn, won a second-straight Honda-Broderick Cup joining swimmer Tracy Caulkins (1982 and ’84) in becoming the only two-time winners as the top female collegiate athlete.

Moore, a native of suburban Atlanta, is the first to win in successive years after being announced Monday as the 2011 winner at a press conference and presentation at Columbia University in New York.

Winners are named in 12 sports and then the top three finalists compete for the overall trophy.

Runners-up were Villanova distance runner Sheila Reid and Penn State volleyball player Blair Brown.

Candace Parker won in 2008 after her junior season before heading to the WNBA in 2008. Some other winners were former UConn stars Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti, former Virginia star Dawn Staley from Philadelphia, volleyball star Misty May, soccer’s Mia Hamm and track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

On Sunday night a few hours after her New York Liberty beat Los Angeles, former North Carolina star Jessica Breland was back in New York to receive the Honda Inspiration Award for battling Hodgkins Lymphoma.

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell was in Newark Sunday to watch Breland play on the Liberty and then made the quick trip across the Hudson River to cheer for her at the Inspiration Award dinner.

Former Drexel star Nicole Hester won the honor in 2009 for similarly combating the disease.

-- Mel

Guru Summer League Report: Tuesday Preview

(Guru's Note: There are two posts above this one -- one directly above on WNBA news and the other on collegiate stuff.)

By Mel Greenberg

Columbia Blue (2-0) meets Lime Green (1-2) while in the perhaps the key game of the night Gold (3-0) meets Royal Blue (2-1) as the two remaining unbeaten teams try to stay perfect on the five-game slate Tuesday in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer Basketball League at Kelly Bolish Gymnasium -- home of the AAU Renegades -- in Hatboro, Pa., near Willow Grove.

Kelly Green (2-1), featuring St. Joseph's Katie Kuester and Villanova's Devon Kane and Megan Pearson, has the night's bye in the 11-team league.

The Gold game will be on Court 3 at 8:15 p.m., while the two other courts at that time will have nightcaps of doubleheaders that begin at 7 p.m.

Gold has been a surprise in the early season action heading into the fourth night of league competition that began with openers on June 16. However, the squad does have Addie Micir, a recent graduate of two-time defending Ivy champion Princeton, and Tigers teammate Megan Bowen, who is a junior. There are also three Division II Kutztown players: Brittany Greaves, Ashley Wood, and Stephanie Zewe. Bethune-Cookman senior Jasmine Elum has been one of the early season high scorers overall in league play.

Royal Blue, which will try to bring Gold back to the pack, is dominated by Division II local power Holy Family players such as Mary Ellen McCollum, Erin Mann, Meghan Gibson, Maggie Serratelli, and Carolyne Heston, as well as newcomer Ana Cruz from Harcum College.

Columbia Blue (2-0), which has already served its bye, is entirely composed of Division II West Chester players, and will play on Court 1 at 7 p.m. against Lime Green (1-2), which is one short of unanimous representation from Philadelphia University. The one is Kyra Holiday, a sophomore from Central Michigan who is believed wanting to transfer to college coach Tom Shirley's squad.

In the other 7 p.m. game, which will be on Court 2, Cardinal Red (0-2), will be looking for its first win when it meets Teal (1-2), a squad featuring such former Temple players as Ari Moore, Ashley Morris, Stacey Smalls, and former Drexel scoring sensation Michelle Maslowski.

Cardinal Red has three Lehigh players in Maryjo Horgan, Lindsay Hoskins, and Alexa Williams, while Alicia Manning is from Patriot League rival Lafayette.

In one of the other two 8:15 p.m. games completing doubleheaders, Team Black (2-1) will meet Orange (2-1) on Court 2 with the winner staying closer to the top of the pack.

Several Division III Swarthmore players are on Team Black, including recent graduate Kathryn Stockbower, who has the Division III career record for double doubles. Lehigh senior Emily Gratch is also on the squad.

Orange (2-1) has two Villanovans in Emily Leer and Rachel Roberts along with two Lehigh players in Aly Borick and Marisa Repasch.

When White (0-2) meets Purple (0-3) on Court 1 in the other remaining game of the night, both teams are looking for their first win of the season.

The White squad is dominated by University of Science p[ayers out of Division II but also has Villanova's Jesse Carey and Laura Sweeney. Purple features recent La Salle grad Ashley Gale along with St. Joseph's sophomore Erin Shields and Hawks junior Shelby Smith.

Here are the standings off commissioner David Kessler's newsletter, which he distributes as the games. Warning: The cut-and-paste in this platform plays havoc with the alignment.

Standings (through Monday June 27)
Gold 3-0 197 154 1.000
Columbia 2-0 128 100 1.000
Black 2-1 178 182 .667
Kelly 2-1 216 198 .667
Royal 2-1 197 171 .667
Orange 2-1 196 192 .667
Teal 1-2 191 199 .333
Lime 1-2 160 183 .333
Cardinal 0-2 133 163 .000
White 0-2 104 124 .000
Purple 0-3 163 209 .000

-- Mel

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: New York Stops L.A. Whose Parker Gets Injured

(Guru’s note: Information beyond the Liberty game site gathered from team and wire service reports).

By Mel Greenberg

The WNBA’s New York Liberty here in the Prudential Center and the Washington Mystics to the South in the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon finally gave their fans wins at home to cheer about for the first time in the early season.

The Washington triumph meant the Eastern Conference continued to beat up on the Western Conference as long as it was the Tulsa Shock on the losing end of the final score.

The New York win over the Los Angeles Sparks, avenging last week’s loss at the Staples Center in California, meant the Eastern Conference finally beat a Western foe not named the Tulsa Shock.

The departure of young superstar Candace Parker late in the third quarter here with what appears to be an injury in her right knee has L.A. fans suddenly hoping this doesn’t mean it’s déjà vu all summer again.

San Antonio seems heading for an All-Star season while also being a first time host of the All-Star game.

And an important two-game spurt on the weekend has the Indiana Fever playing like the good old days of 2009 when they advanced all the way to the WNBA finals before the Phoenix Mercury rallied from a 2-1 deficit to narrowly take Game 5 and the championship.

That’s some of the storylines that came out of the four games played on the league schedule and the Guru pretends to still be here at this late of night hour to tell the tale of the New York 77-67 win over Los Angeles when he is actually further south in New Jersey at his adopted headquarters on the other side of the Delaware River across from Northeast Philadelphia to produce this blog.

New coach-general manager John Whisenant pulled out all the stops and inserted a different start for the Liberty to win in its third try at home and tie the Chicago Sky with a 4-4 record just 1.5 games behind front-running Indiana.

The new start was making sure most of the Liberty players were given rides from their homes near the training center in Westchester County, N.Y., after a series of separate accidents on the way to the last game here – a loss to the Atlanta Dream – played fits with the team’s psyche though none of those involved suffered physical injuries.

“We controlled the tempo a little better,” he said of the difference from the last meeting with the Sparks (4-3), who fell to a fourth-place tie with the Phoenix Mercury two games behind Western leader San Antonio.

“We were able to make them get in a half court set which allows our defense to be more efficient,” Whisenant said. “It was much more up tempo and we stayed with them and had a chance to win.

He praised Los Angeles, with whom Whisenant had many battles in the West when he was general manager-coach of the former Sacramento Monarchs, which won the 2005 WNBA title but disbanded prior to last season.

“This isa great team, a talented team; it has three or four Olympians on it. We are pleased with the victory.”

Former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter scored 22 points for the Liberty and in the closing seconds of the first half she exploded with eight off a pair of three-pointers and a quick steal for a layup and a 41-33 lead.

New York had trailed by nine points in the first quarter.

The Liberty are here for the next three summers or maybe less depending when their real Manhattan home at Madison Square Garden is finished being renovated.

“It’s home as we’re going to get,” Pondexter said of the temporary setup, though some of it is enhanced. “They’re doing renovations. We got this summer and next two summers to kind of get cozy here. We just have to make the most of it.”

The Liberty also dropped their home opener and it was to Indiana the following day after beating the Fever the previous night in Indianapoilis.

Because the trip to most of their homes would cut the turnaround time even shorter after arriving back East, the Liberty grabbed hotel rooms near the arena to get extra rest for that game.

“We need to establish that this is our home court and we need to get a good feel about it,” Whisenant said. “We need to establish we can win here. We need to win at home and make people afraid to come into Prudential to play the Liberty.”

They also need to make people less afraid to make the trip to Newark but the crowd of 7,625 – roughly the size of several full Jersey Transit trains – included former WNBA president Val Ackerman, her mom, and new president Laurel Ritchie who’s second trip here was just as a fan of the league she now directs.

A true home girl was part of the Liberty win in former Rutgers star Essence Carson, who grew up near here and scored 18 points, while Plenette Pierson had 16 points. Former Rutgers star Kia Vaughn grabbed eight rebounds.

“She’s just tremendous,” Whisenant said of Carson. “When Blaze (former general manager Carol Blazejowski) first drafted her out of Rutgers three or four years ago I tried every season as the general manager in Sacramento to trade for her because I think she’s a tremendous athlete with a great upside. And I think she’s improving and I told her that. I told her to be aggressive to score more and still be a great defensive player, which, initially, I liked so much about her.”

He had the same thinking earlier in the last decade when he picked former Scarlet Knight Chelsea Newton, now an assistant coach at Rutgers, who helped lead the Monarchs to the 2005 title.

“She told us, `You’ll love him, he’s a great coach,’” Carson said about Newtown discussing Whisenant’s hire to Liberty players. “He’s definitely defensive oriented. He doesn’t make you feel timid or out there just playing scared.”

The West had been 10-3 against the East after the San Antonio win earlier in the day with the overall losses all attributed to Tulsa. Then New York broke through against Los Angeles, Washington avenged a loss at Tulsa, and Indiana won at Minnesota.

Pondexter, who played with the Phoenix Mercury for four seasons and won two titles before her trade to New York last season, talked about the two conferences.

“The West is competitive but to me I think the East is very competitive,” she said. “You don’t see one team that sticks out. It’s all going like this. So it’s a good thing we were able to get the win against a good Los Angeles team.”

When Pondexter played for Phoenix, she had to run former Mercury coach Paul Westhead’s high-octane offense. Now she has had to learn an equally defensive style in Whisenant’s “White Line” stand.

“You have to have this energy and effort to play defense because if you don’t, you’re exposed as a player and so is the whole team. One person breaks down and his whole defense breaks down.”

The Liberty nearly broke down again after holding a double digit lead by as much as 17 points with 7 minutes, 9 seconds left in the fourth quarter and in the game and then allowing the Sparks to within eight with two minutes left before shutting the door.

“I tried to do a more efficient job of spacing their minutes,” Whisenant said of trying to avoid a loss to the Sparks again. “So I didn’t let Cappie or any of the players play until they were so exhausted that they gave up easy baskets.

“That causes momentum switches. I have had to learn this team and read their faces and body language when they are fatigued because all players want to play every minute when it comes down to it,” he continued.

“We did a better job of that. Our defense gives us a lot of our early offense with quick shots that we like to use with this team,” Whisenant said.

“They’re maturing but the reality is we’re a young team. Plenette is our oldest player at 29. Not only am I new with them but there’s a lot of inexperienced players here but also with some experienced ones.”

Speaking of experience, Los Angeles was hopeful of not repeating the experience of last season when the Sparks barely made the playoffs with a losing record having to go all but the first ten games without Parker, the former Tennessee superstar, who had shoulder surgery in her third season as a pro.

With Parker healed, Los Angeles had recently seemed the Sparks of old until what is now a third straight overall road loss and second straight on the front end of a seven-game journey that continues into Connecticut Tuesday night.

Then the start of July will include a swing through all the West opponents escept Minnesota, which is already 1-1 with the Sparks.

As for the game particulars Sunday Parker had 16 points and 11 rebounds while veteran Tina Thompson scored 14 for Los Angeles.

It was Parker’s limp to the sidelines with six minutes to go in the third quarter that became enough of a cause of concern that she was sent back to the West Coast for an MRI Monday to determine how serious the injury might be.

The Sparks website said an update will be provided when more details are known,

Without Parker, it could be another struggle the rest of the way considering how much improved the overall West is this season.

And there are also implications involving next summer’s USA Olympic squad but that topic should be put aside until more is known of Parker’s situation.

Ironically, Los Angeles was able to make Parker the overall No. 1 pick in 2008 – she had a year of eligibility left at Tennessee but she had been a redshirt as a freshman – due to the pregnancy of former Sparks all-timer Lisa Leslie whose absence in 2007 doomed the Sparks from their normal lofty heights in the West.

Parker then won both the rookie and most valuable player titles awarded by the WNBA but missed 2009 due to her own pregnancy.

Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom spoke after the game about Parker with not much knowledge at that time of the injury and also spoke of the overall problems handling the Liberty.

“Right now we don’t know, we’re going to get her an MRI and we’re just hoping for the best. It’s tough but we’re hoping everything is alright,” said Gillom, who was an assistant to UConn’s Geno Auriemma on last September’s USA gold-medal winning squad in the FIBA world championships in the Czech Republic.

“We’ve played without her before so we just have to focus on getting to the next game and playing hard and having people step up. She just said, ‘keep me in your prayers,’ and that’s’ all we can do for her right now and just hope for the best. She’s in good spirits, which is a good thing.”

As for the game itself, Gillom, whose team had suffered an overtime loss Friday night at Phoenix, said, "We’ll get it together at some point. We definitely have to eliminate our turnovers.

“We gave them 27 points by not taking care of the ball. The transition defense wasn’t very well tonight. They pushed the ball against us a lot and we didn’t play very well defensively; but we can’t dwell on this loss or the San Antonio loss. We have to think about Connecticut and just try to go into practice tomorrow and work on the things that we didn’t do well with tonight.”

If Parker misses extended time, she would be the second major WNBA star to do so in the last week. Seattle’s Lauren Jackson, who suffered a hip injury last Tuesday in the in in Tulsa is out at least three weeks and maybe more if therapy and rest are not helpful to her recovery.

Silver Stars Shine In Atlanta

Not much was expected of San Antonio during preseason outlook discussions about the WNBA conference chases while much was hoped from the Dream following Atlanta’s run to the league championship series and narrow setbacks in the 3-0 sweep by the Seattle Storm.

But it’s gone exactly the opposite way for both squads as proven by San Antonio Sunday in a 92-86 win over the Dream, which is in its fourth season as a franchise.

San Antonio remained best in the West at 6-1 for a 1.5 lead over Seattle and Minnesota. The start is the best in franchise history – a 15-year run that began with a previous existence as the Utah Starzz.

Atlanta fell to 2-7 in the Eastern basement a game behind the Washington Mystics.

Newcomer Jia Perkins, who came in an offseason deal from the Chicago Sky, had another big night, this time scoring 25 points. Rookie Danielle Adams, who slipped through the first round after being the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Women’s Final Four helping Texas A&M to the Aggies’ first title, scored 19 points.

Atlanta’s Coco Miller had 19 points, and Angel McCoughtry scored 15.

Dream coach Marynell Meadors was not dismayed afterwards.

“I thought our effort was absolutely perfect,” Meadors said. “In the last two minutes we had a chance to win the game, but we just didn’t win the game.”

Becky Hammon, the veteran All-Star cited a key to San Antonio’s improvement: “We’re not going to overwhelm people with out talent and athleticism, or whatever, but we have a lot of people that play well together, so that’s our key.”

Teams stayed away from Adams despite her play in the NCAA finals because they feared a lack of speed.

But Meadors saw enough to be impressed on the opposing side.

“When she puts the ball on the floor, it’s hard to guard her since she’s such a big player,” Meadors said.

San Antonio is at the Chicago Sky Tuesday night.

Fever Stymies Lynx

Indiana completed an impressive two-day sweep by topping the host Minnesota Lynx 78-75 in Minneapolis after stopping Connecticut on Saturday night.

“Minnesota’s got a really, really good team and for us to come in here – after a game last night and flying in this morning – and to play with as much intensity as we did is a real plus,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said.

The Fever (6-3), who host Phoenix Tuesday, moved to a game ahead of idle Connecticut and 1.5 games ahead of Chicago and New York.

Katie Douglas paced the visitors with 22 points and hit the tie-breaking shot with just over a minute left in the game.

Minnesota (5-3), which fell to third place 1.5 games behind the Silver Stars, overcame an 11-point deficit in the first half and went ahead by as point at the break.

But the Fever took over in the second half and All-Star Tamika Catchings finished with 17 points for Indiana.

Still, the Lynx had a chance to tie when Seimone Augustus had been fouled by Douglas while attempting a trey with eight seconds left.

Augustus missed the first shot, made the second, then tried to miss the third to give Lynx players a chance to tie the game with a shot, but her attempt rattled into the net.

“That’s just how the game goes sometimes,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “You’re trying to miss and you make it. You ‘re trying to make it and you miss. That’s how it goes.”

Rookie Maya Moore, the overall No. 1 draft pick out of UConn who had her worst effort as a pro in her previous game with just four points against Seattle, bounced back with 21 points for Minnesota.

Moore, however, after scoring 17 points in the first half, got caught in foul trouble and missed half of the third period. She then made 2-of-6 shots in the fourth and had three turnovers.

“We all took turns at the end not making plays,” Reeve said of the nuances around the Lynx. “Maya had a couple of turnovers in there, but there’s nobody that’s harder on Maya than herself.”

Candice Wiggins, the former Stanford star who missed most of the last WNBA season because of an injury, shrugged off the Lynx two-game losing streak after winning five straight.

“Our (swagger) hasn’t been shot down -- just weakened,” Wiggins said. “

In fact, I think teams should fear that because – we have so many weapons and so much confidence.”

Washington Rules Tulsa

In a game between the two worst WNBA teams in terms of wins, Washington (2-5) stayed within three games of Indiana in the East by beating the Tulsa Shock 83-63 for the Mystics’ second game of the season.

The Mystics, missing former Duke stars Monique Currie with an offseason knee injury and Alana Beard, who is day-to-day with a foot sprain, have returned to struggle in the division after ttying New York for the regular season title with a best-ever 22 wins and then won the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed.

Washington’s four-game losing streak ended as former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne scored 23 points, newcomer and former Tennessee star Nicky Anosike scored 13 points with 10 rebounds, former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon scored 21, and former Maryland star Marissa Coleman scored 13 and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.

“When you have four losses in a row, that can easily turn into five, six, seven,” said Anosike, who was with Minnesota last season. “I think we were just desperate and played desperate tonight.”

The Shock, who had the worst record a year ago, fell to 1-8.

Australian Liz Cambage, the second overall pick in the draft, had scored 15 points and veteran Sheryl Swoopes had 11 for Tulsa, loser of 14 straight road games dating back to last season.

Washington is missing four starters from last season and Beard, who did not play in 2010, has yet to dress this time around.
“We’ve been growing up a little day by day,” said Washington coach Trudi Lacey, who was promoted in the offseason. “I’m not a mother, but it is like raising children, so it was good to get a win.”

-- Mel

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Fever Melts Sun

(Guru’s note: Sources for quotes and information on Saturday’s two games come from wire and team reports.)

By Mel Greenberg

It was the Eastern Conference’s turn in the WNBA to flip positions at the top Saturday night while the overall West got a bit tighter off the other of two games on a limited league schedule.

The Indiana Fever (5-3) exchanged first and second place with the Connecticut Sun off a 75-70 victory in Indianapolis at Conseco Fieldhouse that left the visitors (4-3) close but 0-2 in their brief road trip to the Midwest.

However, whether the Fever stays alone at the top after Sunday night will be determined by their quick turnaround visit to the Minnesota Lynx (5-2), which will be looking to regain the top in the West after losing at Seattle on Friday night.

In the other game played, the Phoenix Mercury (4-3) won their fourth straight after an 0-3 start by winning at Chicago 86-78 in suburban Rosemont, Ill., as the Sky (4-4) lost their third game out of their last four.

While recent Rutgers graduates in the WNBA have been making key contributions to their respective teams this week, a golden oldie had a hand in Indiana’s win.

Veteran Tammy Sutton-Brown, who helped lead the Scarlet Knights to the 2000 Women’s Final Four in Philadelphia, had a season-high 12 points off the bench for the Fever – a performance that obviously did not bring any joy to Sun coach Mike Thibault.

Sutton-Brown has primarily been a starter.

“It was very frustrating that Tammy Sutton-Brown got her season high,” Thibault said afterwards. “Very frustrating when we do deserve to win. We were outrebounded. The only place we were better were free throws at 100 percent.

“It was ridiculous … Tammy Sutton-Brown, 19 minutes … she hadn’t been in double figures all season. We were outscored 31-6 in bench points.”

Fever coach Lin Dunn, on the other hand, praised her post player.

“I give Tammy Sutton-Brown a lot of credit coming off the bench,” Dunn said. “Each team knows each other very well and it’s a struggle when we play each other.”

Sutton-Brown ticked off several reasons to be motivated, which were already addressed in this post.

“One, Connecticut is a very good team and this was a very important game for holding home court. Two, they were at the top of the East. Three, knowing we’re on a back-to-back and Minnesota is playing really well. So it definitely was a very important game, all aspects of it.”

Katie Douglas, a former Sun All-Star who was rested in Indiana’s win at Washington Tuesday night after suffering a lower back injury in her previous game, returned and scored nine points.

“This team is really starting to come together, accepting our roles and thriving in them,” Douglas said. “And I think that is what being a great team is all about.

“Depth is so key and pivotal in this league because it’s a taxing, compact season.”

Two elements that factored into Connecticut’s just missing the playoffs a second straight time in 2010 showed itself in this game – The Sun committed 17 turnovers, which Indiana cashed in for 20 points, and suffered a narrow road loss.

One of the miscues came at the end when Connecticut, trailing 73-70, had a chance to tie.

All-Star Tamika Catchings, the former Tennessee all-American who had her 70th career double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds to lead Indiana in both categories, stole a ball from former UConn star Renee Montgomery in a crowd under the basket and launched a fast-break that led to former Tennessee post player Shyra Ely scoring for the final points.

Somewhere in Knoxville, there were probably a lot of smiles among Lady Vols fans over that finish.

Briann January also scored in double figures for Indiana with 10 points.

“We needed to step up,” Catchings said afterwards. “Everybody needed to do the little things.”

Montgomery had 19 points for the Sun while Tina Charles grabbed 11 rebounds, but she was held to 12 points after recently averaging 26 the last three games.

Asjha Jones, another former UConn star, had 18 for the Sun, and former Tennessee star Kara Lawson scored 10 points.

“We fought down the stretch,” Jones said. “It’s a game we should have won. Turnovers down the stretch took their toll on us. We have to work on that kind of stuff and offensive rebounds and we will be pretty good.”

Indiana hosts Phoenix on Tuesday while Connecticut will host the Los Angeles Sparks.

Last year the Eastern Conference finally got the better of the West but the trend has shifted back so far with the West holding a 9-3 record in the inter-conference games with lowly Tulsa accountable for all three losses.

Mercury Lights Up Sky

Though Phoenix stumbled out of the gate with three straight losses, the Mercury continued to stay hot through their current road trip with an 86-78 win at Chicago as former UConn all-timer Diana Taurasi scored 23 points and Aussie Penny Taylor had 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Taylor was two assists short of getting a triple double in the Mercury’s win at Atlanta on Friday night.

Former Temple star Candice Dupree scored all 13 of her points in the second half for Phoenix.

Former LSU star Sylvia Fowles had 28 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago while teammate and former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince had 16 points.

Phoenix owned the boards with a 40-29 rebounding advantage.

Chicago hosts San Antonio on Tuesday.

On Sunday, besides the Indiana game at Minnesota, three others are on tap.

The San Antonio Silver Stars, which just took a narrow first-place lead in the West on Friday night, will try to hold it when they visit the Atlanta Dream (2-6), the defending Eastern Conference playoff champion, which has struggled since the start of the season.

The New York Liberty (3-4), which lost at Los Angeles on Tuesday and then snapped a four-game losing streak winning at Tulsa Thursday, hosts the Sparks (4-3) in Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center in the afternoon.

Tulsa (1-7) is at Washington (1-5) to return an East-West matchup the Shock have already won over the Mystics in Oklahoma.

-- Mel


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Every Night Is Marquee Night

(Guru’s note: This report is a rewrite off of team and wire reports including quotes. The Guru’s next live appearance is Sunday in Newark, N.J., when Los Angeles visits the Liberty, a choice made over Tulsa at Washington on options of the day).

By Mel Greenberg

It looks like every night is going to be marquee night in the WNBA the rest of the way except on a few occasions. The, ahem, guilty names involved with those exceptions shall remain anonymous though obvious for now.

Friday night’s trifecta on the WNBA schedule had mixtures of resolve, resilience and revenge across the board.

Five of the six Western Conference teams were in action and it’s beginning to look like old times on the other side of the Mississippi River. A year ago, except for the eventual WNBA champion Seattle Storm, the rest of the crowd were in a tight race for playoffs spots, but one in which they spent time losing to each other, based on all those mediocre records.

This season the race seems much tighter from top to five but one in which the teams will be more seemingly in modes to beat each other.

Any of the three games Friday could be called the big story.

Seattle (4-2), which earlier in the day learned its three time league MVP Lauren Jackson would be sidelined up to three weeks with a labral tear in her left hip, unseated the Minnesota Lynx (5-2) from their fragile hold on first by shaking off adversity and grabbing a 65-55 victory at KeyArena in the Northwest.

Seattle coach Brian Agler gained his 200th victory as a pro coach including two seasons in the former American Basketball League when he guided the Columbus Quest to the championship both times.

“That will be nice 20 years from now,” Agler said of his milestone. “I’m more interested in how we played tonight. I thought we played really well and I’m proud of our team.”

Van Chancellor, formerly with the former Houston Comets, is the only other pro coach with more than 200 wins at 211 all gained in the WNBA.

The surprising San Antonio Silver Stars (5-1) took over the top spot after beating the Los Angeles Sparks 90-80 in overtime, knocking the Sparks (4-2) back into a third place tie with Seattle.

The Phoenix Mercury (3-3) made it three straight after losing the first three games of the season by going on the road and in a cross-conference matchup defeated the defending Easter Conference playoff champion Atlanta Dream 92-83.

Two weeks ago Minnesota ended a six-season drought in Seattle and rode to a big early lead to win and end the Storm’s 22-game home court win streak that included a 4-0 run in the playoffs.

On Friday night, Seattle lived up to its name and stormed ahead early and after Minnesota came back to tie in the third quarter, Agler’s group shut the door on the Lynx in the fourth quarter.

Little meant a lot in Jackson’s absence caused by the injury that occurred in Tuesday’s win at the Tulsa Shock. In this case it was Camille Little, the former North Carolina star, who led a balanced attack with 16 points.

Former UConn star Swin Cash scored 13 points, former Penn State star Tanisha Wright and former Auburn star Le’coe Willingham each scored 11 in Seattle’s attack.

“It’s something that unfortunately we’ve done before,” Little referenced previous seasons in which Jackson has been sidelined with injuries. “We just wanted to make sure we played well. She’s a great player and no one can take her place so we try to make sure we play well collectively.”

Former UConn star Sue Bird, who had seven points and eight assists, looked ahead to the minimum expected time without Jackson, saying, “It’s going to be a team effort from now on and it always is really. The more players that we’ve got going the better off our team is going to be because you can’t hone in on one. A lot of people can do different things and that’s a good thing.”

Seimone Augustus had 17 points for the Lynx, which ended a five-game win streak, one short of its franchise record for a season.

Rookie Amber Harris, the fourth overall pick in April’s draft out of Xavier, had 11 points and veteran all-star Lindsay Whalen scored 10.

However, former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson, who had tied former Sparks all-timer Lisa Leslie and current Los Angeles superstar Candace Parker for most consecutive double double efforts at the start of the season at six games was held to two points and seven rebounds.

Jackson has the overall double double streak record at seven.

“I think our team just made a better effort of boxing out the entire team,” Little said of shutting down Brunson, who had previously played for the former Sacramento Monarchs and was picked up by Minnesota before last season in the dispersal draft.

“They are a great rebounding team and she is a main reason for that,” Little added. “A lot of times it wasn’t just the post players boxing her out. It was one of us and a guard and two guards. That’s something we really tried to focus on and make sure she didn’t get too many (offensive boards)."

The Storm also made it the worst night in the short-lived career of former UConn sensation Maya Moore, the number one overall pick in the draft who fouled out and scored just four points, her lowest total of the season.

“We let everybody on their team get involved, and they were determined not to let the same outcome happen when we came in last time,” Moore said.

Minnesota shot 30.9 percent from the field.

“The ball wasn’t going in,” Moore said of the overall inept shooting by the Lynx. A little bit out of rhythm, offensively at a time. Some of them were good looks, in and out – didn’t fall.

“We needed to, like Coach (Cheryl) Reeve said, we needed to play well and to get a win in this environment, and we didn’t.”

Earlier in the night Agler gave the public the word on Jackson’s situation prior to tipoff.

He said initially the plan is for the Australian to have rest and undergo physical therapy. If Jackson fails to make progress with that treatment in the three-week period than “surgery will be considered.”

Seattle will be off until Friday night’s visit to the Connecticut Sun, though Wednesday the team will visit President Obama in the White House to celebrate last season’s championship a little more.

Minnesota heads back home for Sunday’s game with the Indiana Fever, which first will host Connecticut Saturday night.

Silver Stars Douse Sparks In Overtime

San Antonio can drive teams batty at times but Friday night a bat drove the Silver Stars and Los Angeles Sparks off the floor in the fourth quarter.

The incident, according to the Associated Press report, ignited the crowd to chant “Manu” in reference to NBA brother Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who caught a bat during a 2009 game at the AT&T Center.

A referee, who also has been known to drive fans batty with calls during the season, achieved the heroics this time. The official carried the creature off, covered with two towels.

As for the real entertainment, all-star Becky Hammon forced the extra period for San Antonio by nailing a three-point shot with 33.4 seconds left in regulation and then scored six of her 22 points – she also dealt nine assists – in the extra period as the Silver Stars moved into first in the West by a half-game with the 90-80 victory.

“We’ve been in those situations before,” Hammon said of her game-saving shot. “You just want to stay calm. You don’t really think about it. You’re just so concentrated on what you’re doing, it doesn’t go through your mind, `Oh, if I miss this shot, we’re probably going to lose the game.’”

Newcomer Jia Perkins, acquired in an offseason deal with the Chicago Sky, came off the bench to score 31 points for San Antonio.

“I just came into the game with the mindset that I wanted to attack,” she said. “I just wanted to get my shot off or find my teammates. Whatever it was, I just wanted to be aggressive. Early on, the shots started falling so it makes it more comfortable for you to keep shooting.”

“Jia Perkins had a marvelous game,” said coach Dan Hughes, who as general manager hired himself to return to the bench this season. “We rode her through most of the game.”

Sophia Young, the former Baylor star who missed a game with an illness, returned and scored 12 points for San Antonio, while former Notre Dame all-American Ruth Riley scored 11 points.

Los Angeles, which began a seven-game road trip, got 25 points and 13 rebounds from Candace Parker while DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 15 points.

“We had the game,” said Parker, the former Tennesseee star, of the Sparks, who committed 17 turnovers. “I think we just didn’t execute defensively or offensively down the stretch. Coming off them tying in regulation, I think we were still hung up on that. We weren’t focused as much.”

Los Angeles, which beat New York at home Tuesday night in the WNBA 15th anniversary signature game, heads to Newark, N.J. for Sunday’s return game against the Liberty.

San Antonio will travel to Atlanta.

Phoenix Continues To Rise

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi says there is a reason her Mercury are now 3-3 after being the last WNBA team to get a win off an 0-3 start.

“We had a lot of people play well and that’s what we need to win games,” Taurasi said after the Mercury topped the host Dream 92-83 as Atlanta fell to 2-6. “A lot of people participating, and if you go up and down (the stat sheet), I think we did that.”

Taurasi had 20 points, and former Temple star Candice Dupree continued her hot hand for the Mercury, scoring 19 points.

Penny Taylor aided Phoenix’s cause with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists – two short of a triple double, which she said she was unaware of during the game.

“Doesn’t mean much,” Taylor said of the statistical near-miss. “We won. That’s what matters.”

Angel McCoughtry had 24 points for the Dream, who are in a virtual tie for last place in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Mystics, although Atlanta holds the upper hand in won-loss percentage.

“We do well in the first half, but during the second half, I don’t know if we are just tired, but we slack off,” McCoughtry said. “We just have to keep our focus going through the entire game.”

The Dream have struggled in the opening weeks because of injuries. Furthermore, former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris was recently signed while Sancho Lyttle, on a temporary suspension, is play in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Spain and expected to miss a total of six games before it ends.

Kara Braxton scored 17 points for Phoenix, which heads to Chicago for a Saturday night game with the Sky. Iziane Castro-Marques had 12 points for Atlanta.

In the only other game left on the weekend slate not mentioned above Washington (1-5) will host the Tulsa Shock.

The Mystics are missing former Duke star Monique Currie because of an offseason knee injury that will cause her not to play this summer, while former Blue Devil all-American Alana Beard has been sidelined since the start of the season with a sprained left foot.

As a result Washington has been given a medical hardship ruling by the WNBA and on Friday added Joy Cheek to the roster.

Cheek is yet another former Duke player to go through Washington after she played last season as a draft pick by Indiana.

-- Mel

Friday, June 24, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Rutgers Grads Have Their Way

(Guru’s note: This is his own spin off a rewrite of team and wire reports and quotes. A post below this recaps Thursday’s action in the Philly summer league in which the Guru did finally attend since all his immediate accessible WNBA teams were idle or on the road. If you are in melgreenberg.com, click mel's blog on the left panel and you will be taken to blogspot for the complete archival listings,)

By Mel Greenberg

It might have been a light schedule in the WNBA Thursday with only two games on the slate but it was one loaded with former Rutgers stars playing heroines in snapping losing streaks by both the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky.

Back home in Piscataway, N.J., Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer added to the Scarlet Knights news of the day by announcing the assistant coach hiring of a former star player she guided at Iowa: Tia Jackson, who resigned in March as head coach of the University of Washington.

Jackson replaces Carlene Mitchell in vacancy but not in exact title after the former associate head coach headed West to become head coach of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

There will be more about the hire at the bottom of this post.

But back in the Rutgers festival in Thursday’s WNBA action, New York three-year pro Kia Vaughn scored 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds while former Rutgers all-American Cappie Pondexter scored 23 points and dealt 10 assists as the Liberty (3-4) snapped a four-game losing streak with a 94-82 win at Tulsa against the Shock (1-7).

Meanwhile, two-year pro Epiphanny Prince, who skipped her senior season with the Scarlet Knights to go overseas and be better prepared for the WNBA, scored 10 of her 25 points in the second overtime and the Chicago Sky beat the Eastern front-running Connecticut Sun 107-101 in suburban Rosemont, Ill.

The win stopped Chicago’s three-game losing streak, including a game at Connecticut on Sunday when former UConn star Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft and rookie of the year, scored a career-high 31 points.

On Thursday night third-year pro Renee Montgomery, another former Huskies star, matched a career-high and forced the first overtime with a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in regulation and scored 33 points but the Sun (4-2) were separated from a three-game win streak.

Charles continued her duel with the Sky’s Sylvia Fowles, a former LSU All-American, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Fowles countered with 24 points and 12 rebounds while former Tennessee star Michelle Snow had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and rookie Courtney Vandersloot, the number three overall pick of April’s draft out of Gonzaga, had 14 points and10 assists. Former James Madison star Tamera Young helped Chicago with 20 points.

The Sky also beat Connecticut two weeks ago in a narrow outcome in Illinois when Montgomery missed a long trey at the buzzer that would have sent that game into overtime. On Thursday she was loaded from long range, shooting 6-for-8 in thee-point attempts.

Former Alabama star Dominique Canty did not play for the Sky after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee Thursday and is expected to be sidelined three weeks

Fowles hit a shot with 3.9 seconds left in the first overtime to keep the Sky’s hopes alive.

The win tied Chicago with the Indiana Fever for second in the Eastern Conference a half-game behind the Sun, which travels to Indiana Saturday night.

Chicago will host Phoenix (2-3) Saturday night in a game in which the visiting Mercury will be traveling on a back-to-back after visiting the Atlanta Dream (2-5) Friday night.

Back in Tulsa, the visiting Liberty continued to be a work in progress but at least one with a more successful result against the Shock.

Vaughn is seeing more time in the post because of Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s free-agent departure to the Minnesota Lynx and former University of Minnesota star Janelle McCarvelle’s decision not to play this season, citing a need for rest after overseas competition last winter.

Pondexter in the third period was moved to point guard because New York’s Leilani Mitchell was in foul trouble and rookie Sydney Colson out of NCAA champion Texas A&M did not play because of a knee injury.

First-year Liberty coach-general manager John Whisenant, who had similar duties with the former Sacramento Monarchs, praised Vaughn’s contribution.

“She had a good day,” he said. “(The low post) is where the game is won. We lost our post players from a year ago and this is was a great opportunity for Kia.”

Plenette Pierson, who starred in Detroit but was acquired by New York after the franchise move to Tulsa before the 2010 season, had 14 points before fouling out.

Essence Carson, who played at Rutgers with Pondexter, a 2006 graduate, Vaughn and Prince, scored 12 points for the Liberty while former Stanford star Nicole Powell scored 10. She came to New York last season in the dispersal draft of the disbanded Sacramento roster and had played for Whisenant on that team.

Australian teenage sensation Elizabeth Cambage, the number two overall pick in the April draft behind UConn’s Maya Moore, scored 22 points shooting 8-for-9 from the field for Tulsa.

Rookie Kayla Pedersen out of Stanford scored 18 points and former North Carolina star Ivory Latta scored 13 for the Shock, which is now mired in last place in the Western Conference 2.5 games behind Phoenix and 3.5 behind Seattle for fourth and what would be the last playoff spot in the conference.

New York next hosts Los Angeles on Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., after having lost to the Sparks Tuesday night in the 15th anniversary game celebration of the launching of the WNBA.

Tulsa on Sunday visits the Washington Mystics (1-5), who are in last in the East after tying New York for first in the regular season in 2010 and earning the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs.

In other games on Friday’s slate, revitalized Los Angeles (4-1) visits the San Antonio Silver Stars (4-1) with both teams a half-game behind first place Minnesota (5-1).

The Lynx will be back in Seattle (3-2) Friday night where two weeks ago Minnesota snapped the Storm’s 22-game home win streak that included a 4-0 run through the playoffs to a second WNBA title.

The visitors had not won at KeyArena since 2005.

Seattle will be without three-time MVP Lauren Jackson, who is listed, day-to-day with a strained left hip suffered in the first half of the team’s win at Tulsa on Tuesday.

Ironically, the franchise had already scheduled a promotional giveaway of Jackson bobblehead dolls.

In other Sunday games Indiana off a back-to-back but will visit Minnesota while San Antonio will visit Atlanta.

The Other Rutgers News

Having referenced Rutgers’ hiring of Tia Jackson as an assistant coach to C. Vivian Stringer near the top of the previous section, the Guru continues that coverage here.

The hire brings to four the number of persons on Stringer’s staff who played for her: Jackson and operations director Michelle Edwards at Iowa, while assistants Tasha Pointer and Chelsea Newton played at Rutgers.

Stringer, in a statement, cited Jackson as a former player (she was also a team captain), and noted, “Tia was an exceptional student-athlete. … She has a unique ability to communicate to our players what it takes to be successful.”

With a high-powered recruiting class arriving in the fall, expectations are high for Rutgers to return to national prominence, although a late charge down the stretch last season still enabled the Scarlet Knights to return to the NCAA tournament and continue its string.

Jackson, who had one year remaining on her contract and was succeeded in April at Washington by former Xavier coach Kevin McGuff, was 45-75 in four seasons with the Huskies of Seattle.

At the time of her departure after she did not post a winning record in any of the four seasons featuring competition in the Pac-10 conference, Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement, “I could not ask for a coach who committed more, worked harder, and cared more for her players. I wish Tia nothing but the best of luck in her future endeavors.”

Jackson previously had been an assistant at Duke, heading up recruiting, and while with the Blue Devils Stringer had commented to the Guru on a Rutgers trip to Durham, N.C., to play the Atlantic Coast Conference national power at Cameron Indoor Stadium that she had hoped several persons such as Jackson might soon get a head coaching opportunity.

Jackson, who will be on a media teleconference Friday morning hosted by Rutgers, played in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury when Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller was the coach. She also was an assistant at Stanford, UCLA and Virginia Commonwealth.

-- Mel

Guru Summer League Report: Gold Good For First

(Guru's note: There is a WNBA roundup post above this on Thursday's two games and a look ahead to the rest of the weekend).

By Mel Greenberg

Gold lived up to its color designation Thursday night at the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer League with a decisive 73-57 win over Teal (1-2) to take over sole possession of first place a half-game ahead of idle Columbia (2-0) at the Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renengades.

Bethune-Cookman senior Jasmine Elum scored 20 points for Gold (3-0) while Addie Micir, a recent graduate of two-time defending Ivy champion Princeton, scored 13 points.

Former Temple star Ashley Morris had 18 points for Teal, while former Drexel star Michelle Maslowski, one of Drexel;’s all-time scorers, had 13 points.

Natalie Isaac, a former Temple star now involved as an agent for pro players among other activities, made a trip from Washington to view the action. She also served a brief stint as the basketball operations director of the WNBA Washington Mystics.

Incidentally, class designations in these posts for active collegians reflect their status for next seasons.

While Gold was staying perfect, Black (2-1) suffered its first loss – a narrow 58-54 setback to Royal Blue (2-1), a team dominated by Division II local power Holy Family and one of several teams who stayed just behind the early frontrunners in the standings.

Ana Cruz, an incoming junior for the Tigers from Harcum College in suburban Bryn Mawr, had 22 points for Royal Blue. The native of Lancaster became the first to score 1,000 points in a career at Harcum, a two-year school.

Holy Family junior Erin Mann had 10 points as did recent Tigers graduate Meghan Gibson.

Kathryn Stockbower, a recent Swarthmore graduate who set the Division III record for career double doubles, had 14 points for Black while Lehigh senior Emily Gratch scored 12 points.

In another close game Orange (2-1) topped Cardinal Red 80-77 as Villanova sophomore Emily Leer scored 27 points. Marisa Repasch, a Lehigh sophomore, had 19 points and her senior Mountain Hawks teammate scored 13 points.

Cardinal Red (0-2), which was still looking for its first win in Night 3 of the season, got 13 points from Chant’al Hardy, a Chestnut Hill graduate a year ago, 12 points from Holy Cross sophomore Alex Smith, and 10 points each from coach Kisha Thompson, a 1998 Philadelphia U. graduate, and Stephanie Schultz, a recent addition who will be attending Colgate.

Lime Green (1-2), composed primarily of Philadelphia U. players, got its first win of the season, beating White 56-50 as Rams sophomore Stephanie Agger scored 14 points and her college teammate junior Christine Wooding scored 13.

White (0-2), which is dominated by Division II University of the Sciences from Southwest Philadelphia, got 13 points from junior Rebecca Ruggear, and nine each from Devils junior Sarah Hickman and her college teammate Carolyn Edwards.

In the other of the five games recent La Salle graduate Ashley Gale had a league season-high 34 points but Purple (0-3) stayed winless losing to Kelly Green 81-68.

St. Joseph’s sophomore Erin Shields made her debut on the Purple team and scored 12 points as did 2009 Valparaiso graduate Launa Hochstetler.

Lehigh junior Kelly Peterson led Kelly Green (2-1), scoring 13 points, while Villanova junior Megan Pearson scored 12 points. St. Joseph’s junior Katie Kuester, the daughter of former NBA Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester, had nine points, as did Lehigh freshman Katie O’Reilly and Lafayette senior Sarah McGorry.

The Guru expects to return next Thursday but might also be on hand Tuesday if he doesn’t head to Connecticut for the WNBA Sun game against the Los Angeles Sparks.

On Tuesday night in the 7 p.m. games: Columbia Blue (2-0) meets Lime Green (1-2) on Court 1 while Cardinal Red (0-2) meets Teal (1-2) on Court 2.

In the three later games at 8:15 p.m., White (0-2) meets Purple (0-3) on Court 1 in a game that one team will gets its first win, Black (2-1) will meet Orange (2-1) on Court 2, and Gold (3-0) will try to maintain its lead wen it plays Royal Blue (2-1) on Court 3. Kelly Green (2-1) has a bye.

Here are the updated standings:

Gold 3-0 197 154 1.000
Columbia Blue 2-0 128 100 1.000
Kelly Green 2-1 216 198 0 667
Royal Blue 2-1 193 171 0.667
Orange 2-1 196 192 0.667
Black 2-1 176 168 0.667
Teal 1-2 191 199 0.333
Lime 1-2 160 183 0.333
Cardinal Red 0-2 133 163 0.000
White 0-2 104 124 0.000
Purple 0-3 123 209 0.000

Until next time

-- Mel

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guru's WNBA Musings: Memories of Opening Weekend And Year One

By Mel Greenberg

Since the Guru left The Inquirer a little more than a year ago many of his colleagues and associates have deplored him to write some kind of book considering his longtime experiences on the women's basketball beat.

In fact at the moment, believe it or not, he has been aiding one Valerie Walker, one of Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer's first superstars when Stringer coached Cheyney and guided the Wolves to the first NCAA Women's Final Four in 1982.

Walker is working on an academic study at Drexel producing a video presentation on how the media has impacted the growth of women's basketball through the last several decades. And so the interviewer has become the interviewee.

Anyhow, whether to do a book or not is a thought to put aside for now.

But since everyone is weighing in on the WNBA's 15th birthday, highlighted by the anniversary game between Los Angeles and New York in California on Tuesday, the Guru thought that since Wednesday was a quiet night on the league schedule, he would give you what could be a book chapter of recollections of his experiences that weekend.

The basketball itself has been well covered but this is one look at what the weekend was behind the scenes in the Guru's world.

The paper was formally sending one of the other writers to officially cover the game at the Great Western Forum in Englwood near the L.A. Airport, which the Guru had no problem with considering who was being sent and the Guru was going to be there in any event.

But early that week he received a phone call from Steve Lopez, who had been one of the paper's top columnists in the newsroom but had moved on to Time Inc., writing for Time, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly. He is now a columnist at the Los Angeles Times and has written several well-received books.

Anyhow, Lopez had recently done a piece for Sports Illustrated on the American Basketball League, focusing on the champion Columbus Quest, and had solicited the Guru for background information. Understand as a backdrop, this was when an organization such as Time had money to burn and burned it well.

But on that call to the Guru Lopez had related that his Sports Illustrated editors wanted him to go West to cover three games that weekend to get a flavor of the WNBA's launch. He said he told them, "I don't know that stuff."

They immediately responded, "Well, call that guy Greenberg and take him with you."

And so he related the schedule -- he was still living in Philadelphia -- Fly out Thursday -- as it turned out we were going to be at the same hotel in Marina Del Rey as the New York Liberty.

On Friday we had invitations to the opening party in Niketown in West L.A. and then we would do the game Saturday afternoon. Then we would quickly rush to the airport, fly to Utah where the Starzz later that night in Salt Lake City were going to play the Sacramento Monarchs, and then hop a flight to Phoenix, which on Sunday was going to play the Charlotte Sting, then coached by the Atlanta Dream's Marynell Meadors, incidentally.

Although Lopez was leaving messages at all three cities for credentials, he asked the Guru to also leave requests as a backup.

You should know that back then for all the prowess of the mighty NBA marketing machine, in many of the cities, dealing with team PR people, many of whom were spinoffs from the NBA parent teams, was an adventure. You would leave a message, never get a call back and then arrived at the willcall window not knowing whether or not a credential was there to pick up.

In fact, the PR person for Los Angeles, who actually was aware of the Guru, had been communicating prior to the opening but she got fired the night before the game.

That is the shortest known job stint in WNBA history, though the Guru's good friend Jason Southard at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, is a close runnerup. When the Connecticut Sun was transformed from the Orlando Miracle, Southard became the PR person but then had second thoughts and returned to his previous job, although he has been one of the game day aides over the years at Mohegan in Bill Tavares' well-oiled operation.

Anyhow, we arrived in L.A., immediately ran into former Rutgers star Sue Wicks in the lobby -- she was one of the Liberty's first stars -- as well as then-general manager Carol Blazejowski and then-coach Nancy Darsch, who is now an assistant with the Seattle Storm.

The Guru introduced Lopez so he could ask a few questions. By the way, the reason for the extended junket was to assess the scene in the different arenas beyond the glitz associated with the Los Angeles opener. The idea also was for the Guru to offer comparisons to what he had seen in the ABL cities.

That night Lopez knew some Spanish sports bar nearby where we went and ordered Mexican food while the Dodgers game aired on the TV in Spanish.

Friday we attended the party. Then Saturday we headed to the game. New York won, as is known, and then we darted to Lax to catch the flight to Utah. Lopez had set the trip so we could eliminate having to be in three different cities in three nights, the reason for the quick stop in Utah.

There was a flight delay, however, but we landed when it was almost halftime. A limousine awaited us, whisked us to the arena, and we took in about 15 minutes. One of the Starzz players was former St. Joseph's Hawk Megan Compain, a native of New Zealand.

Upon entering the arena the Guru was immediately recognized by Megan's boyfriend, who wondered what the Guru was doing there, to which the Guru responded, "I've done the WNBA jet set."

Anyhow after taking in about 15 minutes of action, we shot out to the limousine and headed back to the airport for the short flight to Phoenix, where it was about 150 degrees.

After landing, we had to wait forever in the desert heat for the shuttle to take us to the car rental -- a situation that made the Guru comment, "You know, Steve, we might become the first two people to die of moonburn."

But we eventually got there and since a Ruth Crist Steakhouse was on the premises, we dined well.

The next day we headed to the game and The Inquirer said it would take a story from the Guru on the Mercury vs. the Sting because one Nancy Lieberman, who had been retired and in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, unretired and was on the Phoenix roster. Also, one Cheryl Miller was the Phoenix coach.

We headed to the game, not knowing if we had credentials. Lopez in ensuing years would tell the tale upon talking to the security guard when we drove to the arena parking area:

"Steve Lopez?" he said.

"Not on the list," the guard responded.

"Sports Illustrated?" Lopez next offered.

"Nope!" was the response.

At which point the Guru leaned across from the passenger side to try his name.

"Oh yeah. Right here. Drive right in fellas."

The game had one memorable moment for the Guru. One of Charlotte's players was Tora Suber, a former Virginia star from Downingtown High in suburban Philadelphia. Phoenix had already moved well in control but near the end, Lieberman, who had broadcast some of Suber's collegiate games and had compared her to former Cavaliers star Dawn Staley, caught Suber with some vicious elbows away from the ball.

You Old Dominion fans from way back know what move the Guru is referring to from Lieberman's collegiate days.

Afterwards, Suber said to the Guru, `She said she was making a statement. I don't know what I ever did to her.'"

Anyhow, the Guru filed his story but since Lopez had to be somewhere else the next day we went our separate ways in the morning.

There was another story involving Suber. Later in the season Cleveland, which had former Penn State star Tina Nicholson, who also played at Downingtown, was going to be at Charlotte. Since flights were cheap to North Carolina on the weekends back then, the sports editor thought it would be neat to do the Saturday afternoon game since the two were likely to play against each other.

But when the Guru arrived it turned out that one of them had been slightly injured in practice and the other hardly got into the game so the only time Suber and Nicholson actually interacted with each other was when they shook hands after the game was over.

Oh well, The Carolina barbecue was tasty.

In the early years the Guru, obviously, covered the Liberty a lot in Madison Square Garden and the game would lead the WNBA roundup. Yeah, those things existed before papers began downsizing. Anyhow, the Guru always included what he coined the obligatory celebrity paragraphs.

In the early days the Garden was quite full and usually right across press row, since it was New York, the stands had TV, Broadway and move stars who regularly attended the game as well as an array of sports celebrities.

In fact at one game, Denzel Washington was in the process of making a movie about a New York high school basketball team, so at half the producers took advantage of the Garden crowd and filmed a celebration scene as if the team had just won a local title.

Well, the Guru has entertained you enough. Thursday night he will make his debut at the summer league but will file separate posts on the roundup as well as the two games on the WNBA slate.

He will return here at the next sunrise.

-- Mel