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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

USA Basketball Training: Playing On 9-11 Brings Emotions Beyond Competing For Roster Picks

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

NEWARK, Del. –
Representing their country on a significant day in American history was an emotional experience for the 17 members and coaches of the USA Women’s Basketball national team pool Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Center on the University of Delaware campus.

“This being 9/11 the anniversary, what we're trying to do is make a commitment that our players made to play for USA Basketball and show there's a commitment that these men and women in front of you here, they make every day,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “They make a commitment for our country. They are the greatest team in the world and we aspire to be just like them.”

While they were competing for roster spots and entertaining the crowd as part of a nationally-televised USA Basketball inter-squad showcase event, the Red Team’s 95-87 victory over the White Team became an afterthought following a very special halftime ceremony that touched everybody inside of the arena.

During that time, members of the different branches of the Armed Forces presented each player on the USA women’s basketball team with personalized silver dog tags.

The players and Armed Forces members lined up across from each other and following the exchange, there was only one thing to be said.

“Thank you,” Sue Bird said. “It was really cool to be part of that halftime ceremony. I am sure that the first words out of everybody’s mouth were ‘thank you’ when they met the person standing across from them.

"I don’t know what else to say to be honest. When this day comes, it takes you back really to where you were. That’s one of those moments in time that you’ll never forget. It’s sad but also special.”

Each Team USA participant was sincerely humbled by that extraordinary gesture. It was an unexpected treat and something that will remain with them forever.

Each player sported the symbolic dog tag that featured an American flag on one tag and each player’s name and hometown on the other following the game.

Bird and Maya Moore had their dog tags on during the postgame press conference.

“The moment at halftime brings everything together especially on this day,” Skylar Diggins said. “To be able to share this experience with all the members of the military and for them to give us something is a blessing.

" I feel like we should be giving them something for all that they do for us. This is something I will never forget and something we talked about the other day of embracing the entire experience.

"To be able to have a moment with our Armed Forces is something we won’t forget. We wear these (dogtags) with a sense of pride.”

Wearing the red-white-and-blue uniform of Team USA on 9/11, the ladies understood they were representing an entire country, a distinction that made them proud. Prior to the start of the game there was a moment of silence.

“It was unbelievable especially the ceremony at halftime,” Kayla McBride said. “It’s kind of surreal because you know you’re playing on a special day in this country. It’s bigger than us. To have the opportunity to be part of them presenting us with dog tags is something that will always remain with each one of us here.”

For each player taking the floor for the showcase event, it was also their first time playing in the state of Delaware.

They enjoyed the experience of being able to accomplish all of their goals while playing with heavy hearts. Fans were entertained by the high-flying acrobatics of Angel McCoughtry and the deft passing of Lindsay Whalen. Bird and Maya Moore had nothing but outstanding comments about Delaware.

“The University of Delaware has been great,” Bird said. “I’ve never been here before, but the crowd was into the game and that was good to see.

"I am sure the crowd would have loved to see a certain someone (referring to former University of Delaware standout Elena Delle Donne), but hopefully we were able to put on a good show.”

Delle Donne is excused from the first part of preparations with six other players on either the Phoenix Mercury or Chicago Sky, which is her team, competing for the WNBA championship.

The Mercury leads the best-of-five series and can complete a 3-0 sweep in Game 3 Friday night in Chicago.

Back here the teams were tied at 74 with five minutes remaining in the game before the Red, fueled by six points from Whalen, went on an 11-2 run to subdue the White squad.

The Red team trailed, 65-62, entering the final quarter before finding a way to prevail after yielding a double digit lead it held in the first quarter.

Officials of USA Basketball were pleased with the enthusiastic crowd turnout despite not having Delle Donne’s drawing power.

"The assessment is thumbs up," USA women's head Carol Callan told the Guru early in the night in answering how the brief visit went.

Translate that to probable future return visits the next two years when training for the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016 occurs.

Players also expressed their approval of the site at the postgame media availability.

“We were very impressed with the welcome we received here at the University of Delaware,” Moore said. “Everything was very smooth. I thought the crowd was into it.

Overall, it was a great day for basketball, but that was just a small part of our experience. On a day like today, remembering is so important because this puts into perspective how precious life is and what’s really significant.”

Added Tina Charles: “I am always going to keep this dog tag. What the Armed Forces do for our country, any little thing, whether it’s in the office or physically in the field, means something to us and our freedom.”

NOTES: The USA Team will move their training operations up north to Connecticut where they will practice at ESPN Friday afternoon before enjoying an off-day on Saturday.

They will take the 4.5 hour bus ride from Newark to Bristol, Connecticut in the morning to start a four-day segment during which they will conclude their domestic training on Monday with an exhibition against Canada at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

The team will leave the country on Tuesday, Sept. 16 for training in Paris ahead of the World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

There were many great individual performances Thursday night highlighted by Nneka Ogwumike, who scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a losing effort.

Charles (18 points), McCoughtry (16), Whalen (15), Jantel Lavender (14) and McBride (14) also had strong games.

“I think in the first half, there were a lot of jitters,” McBride said. “We were missing shots we normally make. We still hadn’t played with each other too much. We calmed down in the second half and started to learn each other. Lindsey Whalen carried the Red team in the second half and gave us that push we needed to win. I feel like the game got better as it went on.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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