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Archive for June, 2013

another Write Space and Time:

At the USOTC the air is rare. And it has nothing to do with the altitude. Just walking from the car to the gym every day is sobering because excellence assaults you at every turn. Pictures capture the extraordinary. Boldly printed quotes urge greatness. And each and every facility begs to be the whetstone for the elite athlete’s blade.

I think it’s really hard to settle here. The steady drum of discipline is deafening, making this a place where good enough never is. If you train here, exceptional is expected. Honestly, I half expect Michael Phelps to peek in and glare at us when we don’t get back on defense. The presence of the elite hovers over you as you work, and while that might seem heavy to some, I think the great ones love it. The air here stretches them at every turn.

There is much to be gained from lofty expectations.

From USA Basketball: Coach’s Daughter, Theresa Plaisance’s Newfound Confidence Pays Off

After Theresa Plaisance was informed she’d earned a spot on the 2013 USA Women’s World University Games Team last month, she returned for five weeks to a place that always provides her comfort.

“I got to go home and spend some good quality time with my family,” Plaisance said. “I miss them a lot. I got to go home for Father’s Day and spend time with my grandparents and dad and my whole family. It was really nice.”

From Carl Ademac at SNY: Mosqueda-Lewis at home on Team USA

“We’re not a big team so we have to use our speed and quickness and be a fast-breaking team,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “But we’re also a versatile team so we’re doing all the things that we need to do to get ready.

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Val’s recommendations, (Work, dabnabbit!), but I appreciate some of the comments folks have sent in to me (womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com).

As I use my week away to rest, recover and SCUBA (wheeee!) I will take a gander, but I’m already biased. Or, maybe better stated, I’m already assuming that most of these recommendations are aimed at the top 25 teams, not the whole of women’s basketball.

Meanwhile, from Rick Nixon at the NCAA: Women’s Basketball Committee outlines next steps to enhance play

The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee is moving quickly to enhance championship play, based on the recommendations from Val Ackerman’s white paper presented nationally just over a week ago.

The committee will immediately allow regional host institutions to play on their home courts, and will also establish a women’s basketball stakeholders’ summit at the 2014 Women’s Final Four. Longer range enhancements the committee will immediately pursue include a review of the competitive format for all rounds of the championship beginning in 2015, including:

  • Shifting of weekend playing dates for the Women’s Final Four from Sunday-Tuesday to Friday-Sunday, with preliminary round game days aligned accordingly

  • Possible first- and second-round byes for as many as the top-32 seeds, so that lower-seeded teams play each other in the earlier rounds

  • Combining the Women’s Final Four with the Division II and Division III Women’s Basketball Championships in Indianapolis in the Summer Olympics year of 2016;

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From Louisa Thomas at Grantland: Candace Parker Knows What She Wants

Practice ended, and Candace Parker’s teammates left the floor. Parker held a ball. Sweat darkened the shoulders of her long gray shirt, roughly mapping the shape of her delts. She had a packed schedule that day: two interviews, a Twitter chat hosted by the Associated Press, a tour of her house for Time Warner Cable Sports’ Backstage: Sparks, lunch with her mother, a weightlifting session with her trainer, an appointment at the eye doctor, and her daughter’s gymnastics class, all before dinner. But no one, least of all herself, wanted her to hurry off the court.

One of the men who had scrimmaged with the Sparks that morning, Tevin Calhoun, who averaged 5.5 points a game last season as a junior at Troy University, jogged over to Parker. He had a young face, mismatched borrowed Nikes — he’d shown up without shoes — and an enviable vertical leap. He also had about three inches and 30 pounds on Parker, who is 6-foot-4, and his soft box cut gave him an inch or two more. She had big hands, though, and endless arms.

Parker turned toward Calhoun, smoothly moving her dribble behind her back. “You wanna, like, play a little bit?” she asked.

From the Windy City Times: Lesbian Chicago Sky player set to attend her first Pride Parade

Although Sharnee Zoll-Norman has mentioned her wife in past interviews, specifically about her absence from the WNBA following the 2008 season until she joined the Chicago Sky this year, it has not been publicized. “It’s never been printed,” she said. And she intentionally never had a formal coming-out.

“I never felt whether I’m gay, straight, bi, [or] whatever that my sexuality had anything to do with me as a basketball player, and I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with me as a person,” she said. “If I was straight, I wouldn’t have to come out and say that I was straight. So I’ve never had an official coming-out, or something where I felt I had to announce that I was gay. But everyone knows. I wear my wedding ring proudly; I have matching tattoos with my wife, and also have her name tattooed on me. We go a lot of places [together] and I surely don’t hide it [that she’s my wife.]”

In this exclusive coming-out interview with Ross Forman, Zoll-Norman of the Chicago Sky tells of life as a lesbian, including her first appearance in a Pride Parade, when she rides on a bus in the annual Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday alongside her wife, Serita Norman.

(Looking forward to reading about the 300+ NCAA Division 1 Basketball Coaches marching is solidarity. And the Division II Coaches. And DIII. And NAIA. And WNBA…)

Speaking of coaches: someone’s cranky: Minnesota Lynx coach unhappy with her ‘big three’ star players

“My big three? If I’m using the last two seasons as a measuring stick, I don’t think they’ve come close to what they’ve been for us the last two years,” Reeve said.

About one of that trio: Dishin & Swishin 6/27/13 Podcast: Seimone Augustus embraces her role in Minnesota on and off the court

Off the court, Augustus has publicly embraced her position as a role model in the lesbian and gay community, talking openly about wanting to get married in Minnesota to her fiancée, and passionately discussing her happiness when Minnesota approved same-sex marriage.

On today’s podcast, Augustus talks about the 2013 Lynx, including candid comments about the lessons learned from their two road losses, at Minnesota and a disappointing performance in Los Angeles last weekend.

A story posted in the future notes: More ouches for Katie Douglas

Indiana Fever guard Katie Douglas will miss several more weeks of action due to a bulging disc in her lower back. Initially diagnosed after missing Indiana’s game at New York on June 5, she missed subsequent games against Phoenix, Connecticut and Washington. Additional testing this week revealed the need for continued therapy and rest.

Speaking of ouches, what are the current odds on Penny getting back on the court this season? Michelle says Penny Taylor sees silver lining

But Taylor knows, as difficult as it has been to be turned into an unwilling observer of a game she loves to play, that there was at least one silver lining.

She went home to Melbourne, Australia, for her rehab, allowing her to spend time with family, specifically her mother, Denna Noble, who was battling cancer. 

“In a way, this worked out that I was home for a really important phase in my life,” Taylor said. “Because if I was playing, there is no way I would have been there for this time. I would have been overseas, and that would have been really difficult.”

About the W’s Generation Next: From Nate: Alex Bentley off to a surprising start as Skylar Diggins and Brittney Griner start to find their rhythm

We’ll take stock of the top ten first (which is essentially the eight at or above average players and two others), but I think it’s fair to say that the Rookie of the Year race is already down to a predictable two players barring a dramatic improvement for a predictable third player.

From the WaPo: Can Brittney Griner pull the WNBA out of its doldrums?

After taking the women’s college basketball world by storm over the course of four dominant years at Baylor, Brittney Griner has tried to embrace her status as the new face of the WNBA, a league beginning its 17th season on the heels of a 2012 campaign that saw attendance hit record lows. She just never expected it to be such a grind.

Not only must Griner suit up for the Phoenix Mercury, but she also is carrying the league mantle off the court, with interviews and promotional appearances across the country. No matter the venue, she is supposed to deliver.

So far: Griner’s popularity reels in fans

Inside the arena, workers have the power tools out as players begin pregame warm-ups, installing another row of courtside seats to meet ticket demand. Meanwhile, Griner is taking pictures with more than half a dozen groups that bought blocks of tickets for the season opener against the Chicago Sky.

Let’s just call it the “Griner Effect.”

“She smiled, she talked to people, and it was a lot, much more than we usually ask the players to do,” Mercury public relations director Rebecca Clark said. “And she was happy to do it. There are times I feel bad asking her to do one more thing, and she just rolls with it.

Her ROY competition made sure her team rolled: Delle Donne, Fowles lead Sky past Liberty

It has been only nine games, but Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles are turning into a formidable offensive tandem.

Delle Donne scored a season-high 26 points — her ninth straight double-digit performance — as the Sky rallied from an early deficit on the way to an 87-74 victory over the visiting New York Liberty on Wednesday.

About that game, from L’Alien:

It wasn’t a coincidence that Pondexter and Mitchell were grabbing a quick breather when the Sky pulled out that lead – the Liberty desperately lack direction with those two off the floor – but a lot of New York’s problems this season can also be tracked back toPondexter. It feels like she’s jacking up far too many long jumpers, curling off screens and just firing away, and the numbers back that up. She’s always taken plenty of long two-point shots – the least efficient shot in basketball – even when she was a legitimate MVP candidate back in 2010. That’s acceptable when you can hit them at a half-decent rate. But so far this season she’s taken the barrage of long-twos to another level. Before this game against Chicago, she was 11-46 from 16-to-21 feet (in seven games). That puts her on pace to take 223 shots from that distance over the entire regular season. She took 152, 125 and 124 shots from the near-equivalent range over the last three seasons respectively (it’s not an exact parallel because the three-point line’s moved out this year, so it was 16-to-20 feet in the past). Her attempts near the rim are actually pretty similar to past years, but some of her mid-range twos have moved back, and some of her three-point attempts have stepped inside the arc. It’s not working. She’s shooting a poor percentage, and her turnovers are through the roof as well. It’s hard to tell how much of it is Cappie settling for the wrong kind of shots, and how much is Laimbeer’s offense setting her up to take too many in the wrong areas. It’s probably a little of both. But it’s something that needs fixing if the Liberty are going to win a decent number of games this year.

It’s an interesting observation, because I have heard Bill say the words (similar to) “Our offense is better when she’s working within it, not just jacking up shots. It may be that injuries are pushing Pondexter back to her old “me rescue you even if it kills us” mentality, or it may be there’s a battle going on between the two personalities. Keep an eye on this, y’all….

Gabe Salgado has A Locker Room Exclusive: My One-On-One Interview With Elena Delle Donne

In the case of Elena Delle Donne, she gives new hope to the third-largest franchise in the WNBA. Attendance at the Allstate Arena has increased, the fan base has grown and Delle Donne has given sports fans something to talk about.

Making things even better, the Sky are on pace to have their best season in team history. Currently they are 5-3 and in second place in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference, just two games behind Atlanta.

From Andrew Hartsock: Ex-KU star Angel Goodrich finding way in WNBA

It didn’t take Angel Goodrich long to learn the WNBA was a bit more rough-and-tumble than the brand of ball she played at Kansas University.

Just a few weeks into her pro career, Goodrich already has sat out one game nursing a sore knee, then most of a week — of practice, but no games — after suffering a concussion.

“It’s a lot faster, and the physicality … it’s a lot more aggressive,” Goodrich said, comparing the pro to amateur game. “Everything’s bigger and faster and stronger. But these are the top players in the country, and it’s great to be one of them, great to be a part of it.”

That was no sure thing.

An unheralded member of the WNBA team: Adelanto resident now the voice of WNBA’s Sparks

“I’ve been trained to commute,” said Bush, who has announced basketball games at Duarte High School and Pasadena City College for the last 15 years. “I’ve done about 50 or 60 games a year. Commuting isn’t an issue for your dream job.”

Bush said that announcing at Staples Center for the Sparks, not the Lakers, is in fact his dream job. He admitted that the WNBA might not be the premiere basketball league, but as a fan of the game and a longtime follower of women’s basketball, there’s nowhere he would rather be.

Speaking of the Sparks: WNBA star Lisa Leslie surprises campers, speaks about being better role models

From the College ranks:

*cue music* Under Pressure: Sydney Moss gets her release

A different kind of pressure: Former player says ousted OU women’s basketball coach pressured her over religion

A former Oakland University women’s basketball player who played for recently fired coach Beckie Francis has come forward to say she was the victim of religious intimidation and emotional abuse by Francis.

The former player, who grew up in a mixed-faith home, has practiced Islam her entire life, and she says Francis attempted to convert her to Christianity and obsessed over the player’s weight while she was playing at Oakland University.

The University Star has a Q&A With Zenarae Antoine, Women’s Basketball Coach

SR: Is good coaching when you have players buy into your personal system or base your system off their strengths?

ZA: That is a very good question. To me good coaching comes from a number of different things, it is the X’s and O’s, which is a big part of it. In addition to that, I think that you need to have the ability to relate to the current student athlete and enhance their skill sets. There’s a lot of different ways for coaches to figure out how to win. It’s the coach’s ability to be great a communicator. For things to move forward, coaches need to be able to recruit to a system that they like and they run and that works well for them. You look at some great BCS (Bowl Championship Series) schools and they just sign great players regardless of the system, those kids just make plays, and they’re freer in their system. My personal philosophy is that I like to recruit players to a system, but it’s important that I understand their limitations as well as their ability to blend together as a person, not just a basketball player.  

Nine for IX: ESPN Films’ screening of ‘Pat XO’

The roped-off area for the media and the orange carpet were clear signs that the midweek screening at a local theater wasn’t showing standard moviegoer fare. The film “Pat XO” debuted in an exclusive showing a short distance from where Pat Summitt cemented her career at the University of Tennessee.

The movie will debut across the country on July 9 at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN as part of the Nine for IX series – movies directed by women that focus on women’s athletics.

From M Robinson: FGCU coach Karl Smesko on the “Ackerman White Paper”, Part I: Rule changes

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the maximum: 25 years.

You took away something that wasn’t yours to take,” the mother, Tephanie Holston, said to the man convicted of killing her daughter. “You robbed the world. You robbed the family. And you didn’t have the right to do that.”

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As the No Longer Big East Commissioner.

A little flashback from Jayda: WNBA Talk: Ron Rothstein

Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week it is Miami Heat assistant coach Ron Rothstein, who won his second NBA championship in 2013. He was the inaugural coach of the WNBA Miami Sol until the WNBA team disbanded in 2002. He had a 48-48 record from 2000-02.

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WNBA season so far?

I think we kinda knew that the aging Fever would struggle. And injuries certainly have not helped a bit. But losing six in a row?

Yes, I did identify that Ms. Prince was a tad important to Chicago (her first game back notwithstanding.) . She couldn’t help the Russians, though. Not sure the rumors of the team doing a happy dance in reaction is accurate.

Wait. They DIDN’T go in to overtime… and the DID win? At HOME? TWICE! What is going on in Tulsa!?!

On the flip side, New York stumbled into overtime and then bumbled into a loss against the Silver Stars and Dan’s really impressive tie. (Shout out to the Liberty staff who wore Pride Ties.)

Both Tina and Angel shot poorly, but a (still) depleted Sun lost to what may be a one-man band Dream team. (Did the WHB Curse strike Henry?)

Yah, they’ve won since, but what was up with the Missing Lynx against Los Angeles?

And obviously, you do not want to play the Sparks at home (5-0).

Tina going of for 30 and 21 has nothing to do with hearing Katie’s footsteps, I’m sure.

Pssst. Did you know Katie was retiring?

So, where are we? Atlanta/Chicago v. LA/Minn. (Oh, and Corey’s butt may not be so toasty — but I still am unclear if he knows what to do with a real center.)

Nice news for Brian: Storm coach Brian Agler to be inducted into Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame

From Mel: Some Guru’s Musings on Val Ackerman’s NCAA White Paper

Dan Fleser checks in, too: New report assesses the state of women’s college basketball

What I say: Any change that encourages a faster pace and more scoring is worthwhile. Adopting a 10-second backcourt rule is long overdue. A 24-second shot clock might be too fast. I’d be willing to try, provided it’s combined with a wider foul lane and more stringent officiating of perimeter play. Hands off the guards. They’re the engine that will drive any scoring upgrade.

The scholarship reduction is as overdue as the 10-second rule. Too many schools don’t use their full allotment. Those that don’t use 13 should be penalized by losing another scholarship. These grants-in-aid are the hard-earned treasure of Title IX. They’re a terrible thing to waste.

As does John Altavilla: Ackerman Report Takes Hard Look At NCAA Women’s Basketball

Speaking of college, some low points:

From the AP: Oakland head coach fired due to misconduct that led to internal review

From Swish Appeal: Commentary: Amanda Butler has dropped the “ball” when it comes to Sydney Moss transfer request

After reading about the recent debacle that has become the Sydney Moss transfer situation, it’s obvious that this has become increasingly unfair for the person being hurt the most: the student-athlete who just wants to transfer to move closer to home. 

To refresh you on what’s been transpiring, The Alligator’s Phil Heilman — who by the way has done a superb job covering this ever-evolving state of affairs — reported earlier this week that Moss plans to leave Florida.

The story should have remained relatively uneventful at this point, but unfortunately it isn’t. What happened next was truly flabbergasting for those that follow player transfers closely.

Speaking transfers, the exodus of Baylor assistants has not gone unnoticed. They did snag a good one as a replacement: Prairie View’s Toyelle Wilson. (By paying her what Kim thought she deserved?)

Speaking of coaches: Thank you: Woodlan girls basketball coach stepping back

Burns-Cohrs ranks ninth all-time on the Northeast Indiana list for career girls basketball coaching wins with 219. She coached North Side for 13 seasons before moving to Woodlan in 2000.

“I don’t look at it as retirement,” Burns-Cohrs said. “I feel like God is leading me in another direction. I am stepping back and I’m ready to explore some other opportunities that are out there. I’ve coached basketball for more than half my life, and I think I still have plenty of gifts to give other people.”

And a different kind of “thank you:” Twinsburg girls basketball coach Julie Solis wants to leave on her terms: Tim Warsinskey’s Take

Julie Solis has every reason in the world to leave Twinsburg. Her husband, football coach Mark Solis, took a job near Columbus this month, and her powerful girls basketball team is back to square one.

The basketball talent that has walked through Twinsburg’s last two graduation ceremonies has been an exodus of near biblical proportions.

Few coaches in any sport can match the success Julie Solis has had in four years there: 104-6 record, two Division I state championships, three straight state finals and a 43-game winning streak that ended in this year’s state final.

Solis admits next season’s team could “easily win five games.”

So, why stick around for that?

Solis says she will return to coach and teach at Twinsburg for one more year.

Again, why?

Speaking of youngsters, consider the U16 results and realize why the women’s basketball might be the next target for elimination:

USA Women’s U16 National Team Cruises Past Costa Rica 106-19, Into FIBA Americas U16 Championship Semifinals

USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team Downs Host Mexico 101-29 To Advance To Gold Medal Game

Gold Medal Game: USA U16 Women 82, Canada 48

So, the final was USA 289, the rest 96.

Ouch.

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Ackerman’s white paper outlines recommendations to spark growth

Val Ackerman, the founding president of the WNBA and past president of USA Basketball, says a prevailing sentiment among stakeholders throughout intercollegiate women’s basketball is that the sport needs a jolt in order to spark growth.

While no one she spoke with thought the game was “broken,” the underlying theme throughout her many interviews was that women’s basketball has plateaued in recent years and that there is “a tremendous appetite for change” in the way the sport is played, marketed and managed.

More thoughts later, post digestion.

What do you think? Drop me your thoughts at womenshoopsblog@ gmail.com

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