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, July 30, 2020

Guru’s WNBA Report: Washington Whips Seattle to Hit 3-0



By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)


Playing its third game in five days of this abbreviated WNBA season, the Washington Mystics used a fast start and some ridiculously torrid shooting to cruise to an easy 89-71victory over the Seattle Storm in a highly anticipated showdown of unbeaten squads at IMG Academy Thursday night.


While it’s too early for statement performances, what with this being the third contest of a 22-game season, the reigning WNBA champions’ dazzling display through three games has snapped everybody to attention inside and outside of the wubble thanks to an ocean of offensive options, crisp ball movement, and rock-solid defense.

  Seattle is one of the preseason favorites to win the 2020 WNBA title.


“This is a new squad,” said Washington guard Ariel Atkins, who celebrated her 24th birthday with a game-high 22 points. “We have the same coach with a few pieces that are still here (from last year). We did a good job of listening to the game plan and find ways to make it harder for them offensively.”  


The key ingredient in the Mystics’ early season success has been a sacred sisterhood that’s fueled a winning chemistry. 


Players are close on and off the court. They have each other’s backs, have fun during video game tournaments in their hotel rooms, enjoy playing and lock in on details during games. 


More importantly, they don’t care who scores or gets the most shots during games.


The Mystics, like many in the league this season, are motivated because they are honoring the memory of Breonna Taylor each time they take the floor. 


Competing without the usual throng of cheering fans in attendance hasn’t bothered Atkins and the Mystics, who are 3-0 for the second time in three years.


“It forces us to bring our own energy,” Atkins said. “We already have the all energy and motivation we need to put our best foot forward every game we play.


“This year is all about the #SayHerName campaign. I feel obligated because I have a platform. A lot of people may not think it’s that big, but people do watch us play. 


“There’s a lot of young kids who watch us play, and I feel like it’s my job to show them a way to use their platform. 


“I’m not a very vocal person all the time, but when I do have the chance to speak, I like to make sure that what comes out of my mouth does good to the world; It gives

justice to those who deserve justice.”


In finishing with a season-best 15 3-pointers, Mystic missiles rained down from all angles with astonishing fury and relentless accuracy. 


Essence Carson from the corner. 


Leilani Mitchell from downtown. 


Emma Meesseman from uptown. 


Shay Peddy from here. 


Kiara Leslie from there. 


Atkins was the chief sniper for the Mystics as she tied a career-high with five 3-pointers. She scored 11 points in the first quarter and finished with her seventh career game with at least 20 points.


She became the latest Washington player to hit for at least 20 points, joining Hines-Allen and Aerial Powers, who had 27 points each in games against Indiana and Connecticut, respectively to begin the season.


Atkins is the Mystics third different leading scorer in as many games. Through three games, Washington has scored 284 points, the third highest total through three games in the 24-year history of the WNBA.


“She’s healthy this year,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said of Atkins, who leads the WNBA with 11 3-pointers. “Last year was a struggle for her. She had a leg issue that we really didn’t talk about. During the offseason, she played in Australia and got finished early which allowed her to come to D.C. early in the pandemic and then go to Texas to get her body together. When your body is good, everything else starts to click.”


Roaring to a 15-4 lead, the Mystics were a picture of clean health, enabling them to ignore the temporary inconvenience of a 2-0 deficit – Seattle’s only lead of the game. 


In leading by double figures for the final 29 minutes of the contest, Washington treated those watching to an incendiary shooting show.  One that left fans breathless, the Storm startled, and the rest of the league slightly frightened. 


Washington has won two of their first three games by at least 15 points, marking the third time in franchise history that the Mystics have won at least two of their first three games by 15 or more points (2019, 2016).


Hines-Allen continued her strong start to the season with 17 points and a team-high seven rebounds. She has hit for double figures in all three games. Mitchell added 12 points and six assists. Meesseman scored 10 points while Powers finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Powers scored her 1,000th career WNBA point during the game.


Breanna Stewart had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) to lead the Storm. Sami Whitcomb added 11 points. 


“The team is winning without Emma having her best game yet so that’s probably a good sign in some ways,” Thibault said. “They know one person doesn’t have to carry the load. It helps that they are willing to share. This team truly loves each other. It helps when you have good people to start with and that’s the biggest thing.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Guru’s WNBA Report: Washington Rides Powers to Win Over Connecticut in Championship Rematch

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)


Aerial Powers wasn’t pleased with the Washington Mystics four-point halftime deficit or her energy level.


Knowing more was needed, Powers quickly rectified that issue in the final 20 minutes. 


Playing with renewed vigor, determination, and enthusiasm, Powers transformed into a swirling mass of menace and muscle that attacked with merciless fury to fuel a massive Mystics surge early in the third quarter. 


It was the difference in the Mystics’ 94-89 victory over the Connecticut Sun at IMG Academy Tuesday night


In a rematch of last year’s memorable WNBA Finals series, Powers powered the shorthanded Mystics to their second consecutive victory of the 2020 season by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting. 


“I talked to the girls at halftime and in my opinion, I felt like we weren’t matching their intensity,” Powers said.

 “That made me mad. I was like let’s match their intensity. Dive on the floor for loose balls. We don’t let anyone outwork us. That’s one reason why I came out with a grin on my face to start the third quarter. My team count on me to bring energy every single day.”


While many faces of last year’s Finals competitors were different, the intensity wasn’t. Teams got floor burns from diving across the honey-colored hardwood. There were 53 fouls called and 51 free throws attempted.


A huge difference was that Powers got plenty of help from a committee of contributors. 

Helping the Mystics enjoy their second straight balanced scoring performance were Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins, who had 16 points each. Emma Meesseman added 12 points and tied a career-high with eight assists.


Competing with a blast furnace-like intensity, Powers was the fulcrum of Washington’s 17-2 run in the third quarter that transformed a 54-48 deficit into a 65-56 edge with 5 minutes, 41 seconds remaining. The centerpiece of the run was a burst of 13 consecutive points. 


She provided the spark with seven points during the run, which was punctuated in a 62-second eruption with a layup in traffic, an assist that led to an open 3-pointer, a rebound and a deep 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down. 


“We are a team that feeds off of each other’s energy, right and there’s nobody in the crowd,” said a laughing Powers. “So, we have to do that. I am thankful that they look to me for energy.”


With last year’s emotional leader Natasha Cloud focusing on social justice and choosing not to play this season, the Mystics needed somebody to fill that void. 


Being herself, Powers has happily stepped up for Washington. 


Her fiery demeanor is a sight to behold as she exhorts her teammates by clapping her, sharing words of encouragement and never displaying fear on the floor. 


“I told her at halftime, we feed off of your energy,” Myisha Hines-Allen said. “We know she can take it to the next level and it’s nothing for her to take over a game.” 


While emotion is great, Powers knows more is needed if the Mystics plan to order a matching championship banner in early October. She is also an offensive force with an improving jump shot leading to increased confidence. 


She scored 13 first-half points and 14 after intermission. It was the second consecutive game she has scored 10 or more points in the first half.

 Last season, Powers scored 10 or more points in a half 12 times. Known for battling for tough rebounds and using her elegant frame to score in traffic, Powers made four 3-pointers. She’s put the work in during practice to develop into a dependable scorer.


“It’s a carry over from last year,” Powers said. “Continuing to work on keeping a balanced shot, my feet square and hands ready to shoot at all times. I think I showed that a little bit tonight. 

“We had some times when the shot clock was winding down and I was the last option. I was ready to shoot. I’ve been working on that and consistently getting up shots when we can get into the gym.”


Powers delivered what many believed was a dagger when she nailed a 26-footer from the top of the key as the shot clock was running down to expand the Mystics lead to 91-80 with 3 minutes, 14 seconds remaining.


The Sun never got that memo.


Riding the brilliance of DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas, the Sun kept charging and playing. The Sun sliced the Mystics lead to 91-89 with less than 90 seconds remaining. Bonner had two chances to tie the game. 


Of course, the two possessions concluded with a Powers blocked shot and a rebound.


Bonner finished with 29 points and nine rebounds. The Sun’s new acquisition also had two steals to become one of six active players with at least 400 career steals (401). Thomas added 28 points and 11 rebounds. 


For the second consecutive game, the Mystics left the court before the playing of the national anthem.


“With everything going on in the world, we feel like there is still social injustice going on,” Powers said. “Breonna Taylor’s killers have not been arrested. 

“So, we decided as a team, and as a unit, that is what we are going to do. We are going to stand up for what is right. We wear these shirts for her [Black Lives Matter t-shirts]. So, that’s why we walked off, and we’ll continue to do that until things have changed.”


Notes: In scoring over 20 points for the seventh time in her career, Powers joined Atlanta’s Monique Billings as the only players this season to score at least 25+ points on 70 percent shooting in a single game … The Mystics had 35 rebounds … They are 16-1 over the last two seasons when they have finished with at least that many rebounds.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

GURU’s WNBA Musings: And From Florida We Have Liftoff

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru


With opening weekend under way in the WNBA, here’s Lots of Guru random thoughts — some even applicable back in the collegiate world.


As events so transpired from the time Florida looked like the deal until by the time for arrival for training camps at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, near Tampa/St. Petersburg, the WNBA, which had been following the science promoting health and safety, ended up sending the entire store, save opt-outs, into one of the hottest centers of the United States, and perhaps, the world, where COVID-19 was working its evil ways.


There are analogies to be had for sure, take your pick, as far as this juxtaposition is concerned. And the WNBA probably has rip-chord standby procedures in existence if conditions inside the Wubble suddenly take an alarming turn in a negative result off a spike in positive testing.


On the other hand, near a place where many of the elder supporters of the league thrilled decades ago in TV viewing of manned rockets carrying America’s early astronauts from the Atlantic shores to eventually the moon, Saturday’s delayed date to this unique 24th and game-scheduled shortened season and its openers, was the perfect setting to write and utter the word, “liftoff.”


It might be a shorter span than the previously expanded by two to 36 might have been, but a myriad of potential events could occur between now and October when a champion off the playoffs is crowned.


 But all-in-all business as unusual was still business in the three games played Saturday.


If we temporarily go back into mid-May when word came that access in the arena would be on an absolute need-to-be there basis, no fans, no media (minute exceptions), wonderment occurred as to how the actual presentation would appear.


And in terms of media, and even those at communications team level, a mystery existed on how to operate from afar in replicating a game-day coverage experience.


By then, most of us had become used to operating in a zoom environment off announcement pressers in the collegiate world involving coaching changes, besides ongoing interviews.


But eventually the league trotted out a plan that looked quite organized, the 12 teams have their act together, whether the key liaisons are actually in Florida or operating out of their home offices, and so far access had been fine.


The one thing is if one is working more on eyeing the league overall, the flood of email alerts and participations can be overwhelming, though the Guru has a few of his regulars participating in coverage, with maybe more to add on as we go.


And while there is no Philly team here, the Guru is maintaining prism focus through the three “adopted local” teams of the New York Liberty, Washington Mystics, and Connecticut Sun.


Sadly, the excitement over the New York Liberty’s return to civilization from the from two summers in the frontier town of White Plains to the new home in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center will be on hold.


That also goes to aspects, but not all,  of the ongoing trips to the Mohegan Sun for Connecticut and to Washington.


As to how to Saturday’s games looked on TV, those of us who go way back to the early growth of women’s basketball to reaching small arenas becoming jammed, to larger arenas being less so until powerhouses began filling them, the sights and sounds, hearing players yell out, the voice of the public address announcer in a slight echo intonation, it’s not anything many of us have experienced manny times in the past.


The announcers at ESPN and CBS Sports were on point, and from here, with the new state-of-the-art 4th generation iPad Pro now operational, at least it is known that everything at this end works to provide viewing.


And of course, the conversation is now enhanced with all the social media initiatives being undertaken by the league and its players, as well as the fan base and various dedicated web operations.


Furthermore, it’s been so long now since the early weekend of conference tournaments in March before the sports world shut down, that the electric atmosphere of shouting crowds for their favorite teams has temporarily faded to mental cloud storage in the memory banks.


And actually what many months ago was perceived would be a moot point by now, even as the WNBA begins, there is an overlap of concern as to what the winter collegiate season will look like as the collegiate level is already promulgating fall sports competition over to the spring of 2021, if at all.


Salute to the Commissioner(s)


Way back in early May when the future of what a season in the WNBA would be, if at all, let alone those involving the rest of the sports world, a high ESPN operative the Guru was dealing with involving his role running the women’s side of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), noted, she’s (Cathy Engelbert) very bullish in full steam ahead.


“‘We think it can happen. We’re looking at a million scenarios. We have time on our side.’”


“What if there’s no (resumption of) NBA.”


“‘We’re not the NBA. We’re smaller. We have a lot more options. It can still happen.’”


So, in large part, besides the work from the side of the players association, kudos to Engelbert, just in her second season, as well as the others high in the league office, who worked it night and day between then and now to reach Saturday’s launch.


And speaking of commissioners, word came during the afternoon competition, that the late NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was in retirement when he passed away last January and who pushed the onset of the WNBA, would be added to the previously announced Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class, whose inductions in Knoxville, Tenn., would have been last month, but because of the virus was going to be moved to next June.”


Ironically, though this was likely already in the works, you’re Guru had noted to a WBHOF board member several weeks ago that with only six inductees, it would be good to have an addition or two to refresh the previously announced group.


The Naismith Class in Springfield, Mass., is being moved to next spring, and officials announced in 2021 there would be two classes — the one announced for this year, and the new one to be ddetermined.


 “David Stern's deeply held convictions a quarter century ago gave birth to the WNBA and paved the way for a new era in women's professional team sports in our country.


 “He brilliantly married women's basketball with NBA capabilities, a sound business plan and a marketer's touch, and his vision produced a league that remains a beacon for women in the sports world,” stated Val Ackerman, BIG EAST Commissioner and Founding President of the WNBA.


 “Legions of players, coaches, executives, referees and fans owe David an enormous debt of gratitude for his relentless determination to elevate women's basketball to the major league status it deserves. His induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame could not be more richly deserved."


Opening Day


The second weekend cancellation of tournaments aside last March in the conference world, Saturday’s three results, Seattle Storm 87, New York Liberty 71; Los Angeles Sparks 99, Phoenix Mercury 76; Washington Mystics 101, Indiana Fever 76, seemed like resumption of a next-to-step in time which would have included a lot of similar lopsided results in the first weekend of NCAA tournament play.


Rob Knox is in midseason form below this post writing of former Louisville star Myisha Hines-Allen’s sizzling performance in Washington’s opening win over the Indiana Fever as if he had been on press row in the Entertainment and Events Center across the Potomac River.


And actually the past president of the College Sports Information Directors’ Association (CoSIDA), whose term on the board ended last month, was going to be in remote mode for us, having moved from his past job at Towson University in suburban Baltimore to the University of North Carolina – Greensboro.


Seattle looked in championship form of two seasons ago with the return of former UConn sensation Breanna Stewart, MVP of the 2018 playoffs, and former UConn star Sue Bird, who were both out off injuries last season.


Sad News/Good News For Rider Fans


The Sad: Had she not been cut just before the deadline, recently graduated Rider superstar Stella Johnson, who led the Broncs to the top seed of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) as the nation’s leading scorer, would have been become the first Bronc to be on a WNBA opening day roster with the Phoenix Mercury, who drafted her last April.


The Good: Johnson will have that thrill one day later as part of the Chicago Sky lineup when they play Sunday’s second game, meeting the Las Vegas Aces at 3 p.m. That game will air on ABC-TV (Ch. 6 locally).


She was signed by the Sky went into hardship mode off the CoVID-19 positive test registered by Sydney Colson.


That game comes Sunday before what many of us here are calling the Ivy League/Princeton/Courtney Banghart Bowl when the Atlanta Dream meet the Dallas Wings at 5 p.m. on CBSSN.


Two Princeton players recruited in the different Tigers eras under Banghart, whose first year at North  Carolina was completed in March, will be on opposing sides.


Both have Ivy player of the year honors in their resumes.


Atlanta’s Blake Dietrick was part of Princeton’s group that became the first Ivy squad to get ranked and also have an overall unbeaten regular season.


 Similar status in AP history was accorded last season in Bella Alarie’s senior year under first year coach Carla Berube, a former UConn star.


Alarie went in the first round last April to Dallas as the No. 5 overall pick.


The first of Sunday’s triple header tips at noon with Connecticut and the Minnesota Lynx on ESPN.


No Rust for the Actives


In recent years, when the subject of fans and media coverage of the WNBA, especially, local, occurred, your Guru noted that the schedule was part of the problem.


While it was understandable to cram games around weekend dates, the downside was there were huge gaps between games the rest of the time as other factors got in the mix.


In the collegiate world, involving those publications regularly engaged, there’s a rhythmic flow in which the game gets reported and maybe a day later a feature off a game, and then in the next two, a look ahead to the next contest.


Of course, other items get added per news or should controversy rear its head.


Not so the WNBA.


Washington, for example, which has an active media crowd in terms of numbers, as does Connecticut, could go over a week between games whether home or away, which kills the momentum. 


And then in Washington’s case you get caught behind competition from baseball, etc., in the sports news-hole.


This year, however, there will be few days apart in the sprint to playoffs mode in September off the 22-per-team games scheduled.


Each team will mostly have one day off between games, several with two, and some with three.


Park of the gap gets impacted between weekend encounters and the next outing since all but one Monday will be dark as it has always been.


Here’s the count we did for our three “locals” of Connecticut, Washington, and New York.


1 Off day between games — Connecticut, 18, Washington 15, New York 15.

2 Off days between games — Connecticut 1, Washington 4, New York 5

3 Off days between games — Connecticut 2, Washington 2, New York 1


Asked how New York got the five two-days, the Guru quipped, the extras are for the team and league to do extra promotional marketing with Sabrina Ionescu, the overall No. 1 pick out of Oregon.


WNBA-NBA Synergy Curiosity


As the unknown was still being pursued, the Guru talking to a TV type noted that despite the original spoken date at that time for the WNBA launch, once it was known what baseball’s date was, he mused it might be wise to wait a few days to get out of baseball’s startup shadow.


Normally, the conflict of baseball openers and the NCAA Women’s Final Four weekend has not caused much TV viewing problems on the women’s side.


“Let’s face it, when the NBA restarts, that’s where a lot of the focus will be,” came the reply.


So given the profession competitive relationship between male and female notables from both sides — the late Kobe Bryant was a huge WBB fan, in part having daughters, and it was going to be exciting to see his impact on the women’s game prior to last winter’s tragic plane crash — so when the NBA restarts next weekend beyond the instagrams, facebook, etc., it will be interesting to see how much cross promotion occurs especially from the NBA side.


Collegiate Futurist Note


A release from the NCAA this week noted that accepted bids for future regionals involving the new format several years from now when instead of four regional sites with four teams each for the Sweet 16, there will be two eight-team locations, will be revealed in October.


As expected, a source plugged into the process confided that a Las Vegas group has made a bid. The All-Star game last year was successful at the home of the Las Vegas Aces and also the last several PAC-12 men’s and women’s tourneys. 


Several other conferences have also held tourneys there and the recent judicial rulings on gambling sites erased the long-running ban on actual parts, let alone the championship, of the NCAA tourneys to be held out in the desert and other venues with gambling.


Phoenix has a bid for the Women’s Final Four so in that regard the weekend-to-weekend swing from a Vegas site to stay out West could be cost effective and especially ease travel time zone details that would exist moving to the East.


Another source informs that there are lot of bids that have come in from across the country, including a bunch from East coast sites.


That begs the question, whither the Mohegan Sun might be among them. To be pursued. 


At one time there was thought the WNBA regular season might be split between Vegas and Mohegan.


And with things still out of control concerning COVID-19, that format can’t yet be swiped off the table as an emergency contingency.


Likewise, anything you just read involving the months ahead starting now is also subject to the impact of the current national condition.


That said, enjoy the rest of the weekend. 

















Guru’s WNBA Report: Hines-Allen Has Washington Living Up To Defending Champs Identity in Season Opener



By B 

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

A slight smile creased Myisha Hines-Allen’s perspiration-covered face after delivering an exquisite one-handed touch pass to Emma Meesseman on a fast break that resulted in a basket for the reigning WNBA champion Washington Mystics during the third quarter. 


It was one of many brilliant moments for Hines-Allen. 


She had a blast in unfurling an incandescent 27-point and 10-rebound highlight reel during the Mystics 101-76 victory over the Indiana Fever Saturday afternoon in their season-opener at IMG Academy in Bradenton (Fla.).


In making 11 of 17 shots from the field, her sensational scoring spree made the “wubble” go wacky and allowed Washington to beat the Fever for the 11th consecutive time. 


“I am super happy with myself and how I played today,” said Hines-Allen wearing a white long sleeve shirt with the words “We Are Breonna Taylor” during her postgame Zoom interview. “It’s a great feeling to have a game like this.”


The 2020 WNBA season is being played in honor of Taylor, who was a Black emergency medical technician shot dead in her apartment by Louisville Metro Police officers. This performance would’ve made her proud. 


Before the game, both teams – like the Seattle Storm, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks in earlier contests – had a 26 second moment of silence before the start of the contest.


“We’re playing for something bigger than ourselves,” Washington guard Ariel Atkins said. “We want justice for Breonna Taylor. We want her killers to be arrested. We stand united as a league, and we back that. We will continue to back that until her and all the other Black women who have been treated without justice get their due justice. It’s a tough situation, but I appreciate, and I’m very thankful, to be part of a league that’s handling the tough stuff.”


Combining quickness and strength, Hines-Allen was focused and motivated from the beginning. 


In addition to Hines-Allen’s career-high scoring total, Aerial Powers hustled and bustled her way to 16 points, Meesseman, the Belgian native who was the first ever bench player to earn the MVP playoffs award last October, bullied her way to 14 points while Atkins and Temple product Shay Peddy added 10 points each. 

Washington made 35 of its first 50 shot attempts.


“The coaching staff and my teammates gave me confidence,” Hines-Allen said. “They told me don’t hesitate to shoot and I got text messages from my teammates. I had so much support today and with that, you can’t go wrong. I am always going to play hard and be aggressive. I had open shots and I was able to run the floor too. I just basically took what the defense gave me.”


Showcasing a panoply of scoring weapons, the third-year guard from Louisville also took what she wanted like a thief. 


Her dynamite performance was proof that great things happen for those who display a positive attitude while demonstrating patience and perseverance. She confidently believed her time would come. 

 During last season’s title run, Hines-Allen was enthusiastic and engaged as she supported her teammates by smiling, high-fiving, fist-bumping, and encouraging them despite the limited minutes she played down the stretch.  


“She’s worked hard and it paid off for her today,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “I am expecting her to play well. She knew that when Tina or Elena wasn’t going to play, this would be a good opportunity for her. She just got stuck in a tough position last year with so many great post players.” 


Hines-Allen enjoyed flashes of brilliance during her fledgling career. However, after her 13-point outing in a win over Minnesota on Aug. 11, 2019, she combined to score 18 points in her final eight regular-season games. 


Helped by a 14-point first-quarter effort, Hines-Allen surpassed that total by intermission. 


She scored 22 points in the opening 20 minutes to help the Mystics sprint to an unfathomable 62-35 halftime bulge over the startled Fever, which got a team-best 25 points from Kelsey Mitchell. 


The game featured the subplot of Thibault facing off against former assistant coach and longtime friend Marianne Stanley, who was coaching her first game in charge of the Indiana Fever. Stanley received her championship ring before the start of the game from the Mystics organization.


“It was emotional,” Thibault said. “She meant a lot to the Mystics organization. She’ll be missed here, but I am happy she got the head coaching job (at Indiana). It was a special moment to give her a ring.”


NOTES: Hines-Allen’s 22 first-half points are the most by a Mystics player since Elena Delle Donne scored 25 first-half points against the Liberty (9/3/2019) … Last season, three Mystics players (Delle Donne, Meesseman, Toliver) scored 20+ points in a half … Washington 101 points are the most scored in a season-opener in franchise history … The previous high was 95 points (5/27/13 at Tulsa, 5/23/06 vs. New York) … The Mystics 25-point win over the Fever marks the first time Washington has won by 25+ points in a season-opener since May 23, 2006 (WAS 95, NYL 60) … The Mystics outscored the Fever, 43-16, over the final 13 minutes of the first half, including 26-9 in the second quarter.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Guru’s WNBA Report: A Philly Accent Still Prevalent At Saturday’s Liftoff For WNBA’s Unique Season No. 24

Guru’s note: Though there’s no Philly WBB Summer League this time around due to the coronavirus.

However, as the WNBA is set to launch its re-configured, delayed and downsized season, Bob Heller, who has helped the cause with those six-games, two-nights per week reports from Hatboro, is made for this setup.


And he’s around to add to the contributions from Rob Knox and whoever else wants in. As the 22-games per teams, plus playoffs, begins, just contact your Guru.


The attempt here will be to supplement and enhance, not necessarily duplicate, except when topics are obvious, as we go.


In fact, those of you running your own operations who follow the Guru and even those who don’t, if you want to send a list of what you want to reveal as planned coverage, the Guru would be happy to list ala TV Guide concept a what’s coming from whom once a week or more.


If enough of you want in, we’ll have to do a little organizing, you can also list specific game coverage, and this is open to regular beat writers for news organizations.


Maybe we’ll wait a bit to see who’s interested.


That said, here’s Bob with, as Rob says, some added Guru knowledge to the mix, and off we go.


By Bob Heller


The 2020 WNBA season is set to begin on Saturday with six of the league’s 12 teams in action at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which is near Tampa/St. Petersburg.

A 100 miles away at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, the NBA setup and operation in avoiding the virus is called the bubble, but while the WNBA has a similar setup, the players nicknamed their home the Wubble, which has been taken up in official terms by league operatives.


Since there’s been no Philly team per se, over the league history, though former 76ers honcho Pat Croce made an attempt during the early expansion years, the Guru adopted a trio of reachable franchises by beginning with the New York Liberty, then soon added the Washington Mystics, and then later the Connecticut Sun, as the adopted local teams, though this summer with the entire league in Florida, travel will be to the opposite side of tablet, laptop, at times cell phone, and TV screen monitors serving as press row.


While the Philadelphia area may not be represented with its own team, the league boasts several players who have had stellar collegiate careers in and around the Philly region along with several coaches with Philadelphia ties.


And actually, right at the very top, second-year commissioner Cathy Engelbert, who has had to steer through a myriad of situations, including getting this season launched, is from Haddonfield, N.J., which is right across the Delaware River, a few miles inland in what we call South Jersey.


She played her collegiate basketball at Lehigh, then under future Hall of Fame, now newly retired, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, who has several former star players in the league. McGraw earned Big Five Hall of Fame stature as a star with Saint Joseph’s. 

And at league headquarters in the communications department, Ron Howard has a past position as the chief PR person for the NFL Philadelphia Eagles, while longtime staffer Samatha Tager played collegiate ball at Muhlenberg, which is up by Allentown, Pa.  

The Connecticut Sun PR contact, Annette Hogan, is a recent Villanova intern in the Wildcats athletic department.


 Meanwhile, as far as those on the court with Philly DNA, the two most well-known area players will not be playing this season. 


St. Joseph’s University’s Natasha Cloud will sit out the season to concentrate on social justice issues while teammate Elena Delle Donne,  a graduate from the University of Delaware will be sitting out due to medical reasons.  


Both players are members of the Washington Mystics, the 2019 WNBA Champions.


Longtime Mystics assistant coach, Marianne Stanley, was named Head Coach of the Indiana Fever last November. She counted the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University (an assistant to Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer)  among her collegiate coaching stints while playing on three AIAW National Championships teams at Immaculata in the early 1970’s.


Stanley’s team has two veterans on her squad with area ties.  


Temple’s Candice Dupree, whose Owls number is now retired, begins her 15th season in the league while Erica Wheeler out of Rutgers enters her sixth season.


  Dupree has scored more two-point field goals (2,626) than any other player in WNBA history and ranks fifth on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list (6,452 points) and 8th in rebounds (2,946).  


 Wheeler, an all-Big East Player out of Rutgers was the WNBA All-Star Game MVP in 2019 and is the sixth undrafted free agent in league history to reach 1,000 points and 400 assists.


Five additional players from Rutgers also populate the WNBA rosters.  


Washington Mystics guard Essence Carson has scored over 2500 points in her 12 seasons in the WNBA while Epiphanny Prince has scored over 3,000 points in ten WNBA seasons. 


 Prince played in just three games last season for the Las Vegas Aces and signed with the Seattle Storm as a free agent in the off-season.


Carson was a long-time member of the New York Liberty early in her career.


Also from Rutgers is veteran Kia Vaughn, a member of the Phoenix Mercury who has played ten seasons in the league; Betnijah Laney, whose mom Yolanda was an all-American at Cheyney for Stringer, is a four-year veteran guard on the Atlanta Dream and Kahleah Copper, who grew up in Philly,  a four-year guard on the Chicago Sky.


The Sky also has one of two area rookies in the WNBA this season, Stella Johnson, a recent graduate from Rider University. 


 Johnson scored over 2000 points in her four seasons at Rider and was the MAAC Player of the Year and honorable mention WBCA all-American last season, leading the Broncs to the top seed of the MAAC tourney.


She was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury before signing with the Sky.


Princeton’s Bella Alarie will play her first WNBA season for the Dallas Wings.  


Alarie, a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year, scored over 1,700 points in her four seasons as a member of the Tigers.  Alarie is also the first player in Ivy League history to be named an AP all-American twice.


The Tigers are also represented by Blake Dietrick on the Atlanta Dream. Dietrick has played three seasons in the league. 


In fact, the two will be on opposite sides Sunday when Dallas and Atlanta meet in their season openers.


Temple’s Shey Peddy rounds out the Philadelphia Big 5 players on this year’s WNBA rosters. 


 Peddy is the fourth area player on the Mystics roster.  She appeared in 15 games last season, her first in the league, after just missing roster status in several past efforts.


One more player was on the list until earlier this week when veteran Alex Bentley, part of the famed Penn State backcourt with Maggie Lucas, was let go by the Las Vegas Aces.


And in terms of those who have come through here as visiting teams from conferences that are also inclusive of local affiliates, as well as those beyond, most notably the domination of former Connecticut players, one of those has a Philly claim as one of several who played for the powerful Philadelphia Belles AAU organization, specifically, Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, the MVP of championship Storm in the 2018 playoffs.


In the coaching ranks, former La Salle University great Cheryl Reeve begins her 11th season as the Head coach of the Minnesota Lynx.  


Reeve has won 231 games over the past ten seasons and led the Lynx to four WNBA titles in the past seven seasons.  The South Jersey native is also the general manager of the team.  


And by virtual of a stint here in their shortened second season, former North Carolina State, then a rookie on the ABL Philadelphia Rage, is now a newly hired assistant in Phoenix.


She had been on Joe Logan’s staff at Loyola, Md., and he is a former assistant here to Cindy Griffin at Saint Joseph’s.

And back at the executive level, Dan Padover, general manger of basketball operations at MGM Resorts International, home of the Las Vegas Aces, was born and raised in South Jersey, in Northfield. His family was Sixers nosebleed season tix holders and he started his career with the NBA 76ers as assistant video co-ordinator. 

He in the past had a long stint with the New York Liberty and was a video coordinator for Rutgers women’s basketball under C. Vivian Stringer, and, get this, was a student assistant on the second of the two back-to-back UConn unbeaten teams In 2010 under Philly-bred Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma.

Also Greg Bibb, president, chief executive officer, and partner of the Dallas Wings once referenced the Guru while Bibb was with the Washington Mystics of spending previous time in Philly. 


The Guru Contributed to this Report