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The Russian Basketball Federation was suspended Wednesday by FIBA, meaning it could miss the European Championship that doubles as an Olympic qualifier.

The suspension comes after two years of infighting at the federation, which culminated last month when a Russian court ordered new elections for all senior federation posts.

An earlier court ruling overturned the federation’s 2013 presidential election result, in which Yulia Anikeeva defeated former WNBA player Svetlana Abrosimova, who alleged there were many breaches of election rules.

It doesn’t impact the women, since they’d already failed to qualify for Rio, but it does put a damper on any momentum the U19 team may have generated. Wonder if Putin thinks FIBA deserves a Nobel?

Canada says, “Heck yes!” Creating buzz for FIBA Americas Women’s Basketball Championship should be a slam dunk

Katherine and Michelle Plouffe shot a little hoops in Sir Winston Churchill Square on Wednesday to help drum up interest in the FIBA Americas Women’s Basketball Championship which runs from Aug. 9-16.

It shouldn’t be difficult.

What’s not to like about Canada’s national women’s basketball team, two local stars in the mix, gunning for a 2016 Olympic berth at the Saville Centre?

San Antonio says, “Awwwwww, maaaaaan!” WNBA suspends Stars’ Adams for three games) and then cruised over the Dream.

Phoenix says, “This is a tank-free zone,” as the Sky and Merc kicked off the second half of the season with an OT doozy pitting Delle Donne against Bonner. A Griner block helped seal the win. The Guardian asks: Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne: the Magic and Bird of the WNBA?

Thirty-four years after Bird and Magic debuted in the NBA, a pair of paradigm-changing young standouts, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, joined the WNBA in 2013. Now each in their third season, the two stand poised to define their league through a rivalry that could elevate the league in much the same way Bird and Magic did for the men.

“Rivalries are good in every league,” the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings said of Griner and Delle Donne. “Something to build a story around. Something compelling. Both of them have had success, and Elena has had the best year of her WNBA career. So that’s exciting to watch and be a part of.

Indiana says, “Snap!” and “We LOVE traveling between back-to-backs” as they earned an OT victory (Thank you, Catch) in Connecticut and then returned to Indiana to defeat the Liberty, ending New York’s five-game winning streak.

Minnesota says “Welcome back! (not)” to Candace Parker as Moore and Whalen as “The Professorpowered the Lynx to a win over L.A.

Seattle says, “You have much to learn, grasshopper.” Learning curve: Storm’s rookies figuring out WNBA

Dallas-Fort Worth says, “Think of the children!” A welcome Shock: WNBA team likely to inspire Dallas-area girls

The WNBA’s arrival in Arlington next year could do more for local girls than just offer them another affordable entertainment option. Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman compared the Shock’s relocation from Tulsa to a historic moment she witnessed 40 years ago in New York City.

In 1975, the teenage Lieberman was at Madison Square Garden for the first women’s college basketball game at that legendary venue. The matchup between Queens College and Immaculata University was played just a few years after Title IX legislation targeted gender discrimination in education and as women’s sports was gaining momentum.

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from the U19 Championships? Ask Paul!

A is for All-Star Five and congratulations to A’ja WilsonNapheesa CollierAlanna SmithDaria Kolosovskaia and Maria Vadeeva. I would also throw into the mix Louise DambachEmese HofLaura QuevedoRaisa MusinaJulie Allemand and Ksenia Levchenko and Azura Stevens for my terrific 12.

B is for blowouts and regrettably there were far too many throughout the competition.

C is for competition format. Twelve teams is a maximum for women’s youth events and four spots for the Americas is at least one too many in the current mix.

D is for Dawn Staley, the winning coach from the USA who I thought did a good job considering the loss of key personnel ahead and during the tournament.

I’ll add my A for Announcers. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the team that handled the games. It was like having two Kara Lawsons working side-by-side, reminding viewers of what basketball announcing should be – player knowledge, history and game analysis.

W news…

So, have you decided who got the best of the trade?

Mike weighs in: Who won three-way trade?

WHAT ATLANTA GETS

Atlanta’s participation likely made this arrangement possible, as a direct trade between Chicago and Minnesota was difficult to fathom with their available assets. Expected to be a contender in the East early in the season, Atlanta’s campaign has been nothing short of a mess. Shoni Schimmel’s lack of conditioning and a mismanagement of resources on the floor has been a baffling endeavor for head coach Michael Cooper; in Atlanta’s last game before the All-Star break, a 97-92 road loss to Chicago, he seemed unaware of the foul tally with McCoughtry and Tiffany Hayes, costing them crucial minutes in a close game.

Schimmel’s stamina is returning to last year’s form, but the Dream no longer have a proven center. Their involvement in the trade was interpreted as a tacit admission that a rebuilding phase was more likely than a run at a championship. With a pair of 22-year-olds and five 2016 draft picks to this point, such a philosophy is believable.

Mechelle (edit: hate auto correct! you think it would know by now) weighs in: Three-team trade boosts Lynx, Sky

Minnesota really wants to win the 2015 WNBA championship. Chicago is hoping that it made the best of a very difficult situation. And Atlanta, while not giving up on making the playoffs this year, is looking more toward the future. Those are the general takeaways from the big three-team trade announced Monday.

Wonder how Marynell Meadors is doing. What, too soon?

David offers up an Eastern Conference team-by-team midseason review: A close race but blockbuster trade may shake things up

NEW YORK LIBERTY (12-5, 1st place)

If one team did not want to see the All-Star break, it was Bill Laimbeer’s Liberty. They are on a five-game winning streak, coinciding with the return of Epiphanny Prince from her obligations in Russia and insertion in the starting lineup. Prince and All-Star Tina Charles are the only Liberty players averaging double figures, but it seems to be Charles (17.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and someone else stepping up night in and night out. One night it is Sugar Rodgers hitting big shots, another it is Kiah Stokes dominating on the defensive end.

“We just have to stay disciplined in who we are,” says Charles. “It’s definitely been working for us to be number one in the East right now. We are just going to stay disciplined in who the Liberty is and just competing out there.

Keep an eye on: Four of the Liberty’s last five games are against Eastern conference playoff contenders Chicago, Connecticut, Washington, and Indiana, with the fifth game against Western leader Minnesota.

Tulsa Fire Sale! Give Tulsa fans free entry for rest of the season

Tulsa Shock minority owner, Stuart Price announced that he is calling on majority owner Bill Cameron to open seats to the remaining nine Shock home games for free. On Monday, after a few weeks of speculation, Cameron announced that he is moving the team to Arlington, Texas. The WNBA governing board approved the move in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Price has indicated that he is also filing a lawsuit against Cameron.

“Our community and fans have been here through the bad times and they deserve better than to lose the team just when it finally turns the corner,” said Price. “The players and coaches also deserve better than to have their winning season disrupted with the relocation news.”

Who dat on the cover of the Chicago RedEye? 

In her rookie season, Elena Delle Donne led the Sky to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. A year later, the team was in the WNBA finals.

Delle Donne transformed her team—can she do the same for the WNBA? There’s reason to believe so.

Today’s NBA players are rock stars. On a first-name basis with the world, they appear in summer blockbusters and soda commercials and earn hundreds of millions of dollars on the court and even more off it.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s—30 years after the league’s inception—the league was floundering. Interest had dwindled to the point that the Finals weren’t even televised live.

That all changed when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the league in 1979.

Seems to me the W has ridden three surges in popularity/attention on women’s athletics:

  • The ’96 surge (which brought pre-and-early Title IXers in and a strong lesbian following) capped by soccer’s ’99ers.
  • The ’00 UConn surge (which brought current college fans to the W) capped by Taurusi.
  • The 2014-15 surge (which reinvigorated national attention and media coverage and activism) capped by the “Summer of Women.”

Here’s hoping the W can build on it’s young talent and successfully navigate the current upheaval in cable access and media coverage. If women’s basketball college coaches are smart, they’ll fully embrace the both the W AND the changing social perception of sexuality and use both as leverage in building their programs – starting with getting sufficient support from their Athletic Directors.

Did you catch this: BETH BROOKE-MARCINIAK

Welcome to The Drive, powered by Ford. In this series, Sage Steele goes back to campus with former college athletes to revisit the places and life-changing moments that inspired their drive to succeed. Beth Brooke-Marciniak, former Purdue women’s basketball star and global vice chair, public policy for EY, travels back to her alma mater.

A little more on the 2016 inductees: 

If the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2016 class was a player, it would be a combo guard strong enough to post up beneath the rim.

Or, perhaps a center not afraid to shoot the occasional three.

The six-person class that will be inducted in Knoxville on June 11, 2016, is being celebrated for its versatility.

From the Deseret News: Taylorsville native Natalie Williams to be inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016

Williams said she’s so focused on accomplishing new goals, she doesn’t always take the time to reflect on just what she’s achieved.

“I forget how much I’ve accomplished,” she said. “I’m always working on trying to do more.” One of the great joys of her life currently is coaching her three daughters, the oldest of which, Sydney, 15, will play at Alta High this winter.

Ayla, 8, and Nation, 5, also play, while Sydney’s twin brother Taurasi is a hip-hop dancer.

She said she’s not worried about whether her daughters will feel the pressure that may come as fans and media compare them to her, as she tries to help them focus on the same thing that helped her achieve so much success.

“All Mom cares about is hard work and effort,” she said.

Speaking of Utah:

Lynne Roberts doesn’t consider her hiring as the dawn of a new era for the University of Utah women’s basketball team. Roberts, the first head coach to come from outside the program since 1975, is just looking forward to the challenge of getting the Utesback to where she says they belong.

“I want to be national relevant,” Roberts said. “If there’s a sentence that would be it.”

After four years at the helm of Chico State and nine at Pacific, Roberts now heads a Utah program that has fallen on hard times. The Utes, who have an all-time record of 837-364, are a paltry 23-49 in Pac-12 play since joining the conference in 2011-12.

Speaking of rebuilding:

The idea of revamping a roster for the second straight year is nothing out of the ordinary for Louisiana Tech women’s basketball coach Tyler Summitt.

Summitt, the young 24-year-old coach who is constantly reminded by his mentors that implementing a culture takes two to three years, sat back and watched his predominately new team workout last week just as he did in 2014 during his inaugural season with the Lady Techsters.

That doesn’t mean Summitt and his coaching staff haven’t been hit with obstacles when dealing with a group of six newcomers.

Speaking of prepping for the NCAA season: 

The Gamecocks have been conditioning on and off the court in preparation for the season.

“Today was very important,” said USC sports performance coach Katie Fowler, who recently joined the program after serving in a similar capacity at Maryland. “We’ve been working a lot on our speed work. They’re tapering down a bit this week.”

The Gamecocks, who advanced to the Women’s Final Four last season and were ranked No. 1 in the nation for several weeks, are determined not to be one-hit wonders and are dedicated to improving.

Liz, Liz, Liz. Don’t call a lawyer. Grow up and decide if basketball is what you want.

WHEN did that happen?

When did we collectively decide to reward bad behaviour?

When did it become OK for sport stars to be petulant, cloaked from reality and allowed to bask in their own sense of entitlement unchallenged?

When did the media and the public become so fearful of upsetting the delicate young geniuses who dot our sporting landscape that we stopped calling an act of self-indulgence what it is?

I love Aussie basketballer Liz Cambage, even though what I’m about to say will cost me contact for a time.

Finally, as an educator who loves sports and respects the hell out of classroom teachers, I’ve been wanting to do something like this for YEARS! (And REALLY cranky that I can’t embed the dang video. I’ve tried and it just won’t let me.)

Key and Peele: Education Center

As an AAU coach once told me, “If parents cared as much about their child’s teachers as they do about why I put the team in a zone or man-to-man-defense, imagine what would happen to education.”

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Lombard headed to women’s basketball HOF

Lombard will start his 38th year coaching girls high school basketball this fall owning a record of 1,165-109 [Holy CARP!!! WHB]. He reached his 1,000th win before losing 100 games.

Lombard spent seven years at Nazareth and the remaining 30 years at Canyon High. He has won 17 Texas high school state girls basketball championships. The latest title was won last year.

“I’m very much looking forward to the trip to Tennessee,” Lombard said. “But no much more than looking forward to our next basketball season. The year-to-year seasons still excite me. I know it sounds crazy but I still even enjoy preparing for practice.”

Cool! Basketball star Kia Nurse to carry Canadian flag at Pan Am closing

“I’m super ecstatic, and I wish (my whole team) could be here,” Nurse said. “All 12 of us would definitely attempt to hold the flag together and wave. But I’m so pumped for this and really excited and fortunate to have the opportunity.”

Not really a surprise: Analysis finds ties between wealth, winning in NC high school sports

Okay, a little less cranky about there not being an opponent set for UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic, but I would appreciate the SEC schedulers FIXING THIS

Auriemma said UConn’s hope to play in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden is in jeopardy. An SEC scheduling modification has apparently taken Kentucky out of the mix and the Huskies may now be looking at just another nonconference game away from the Dixon format. 

As we head into the second half of the season, Michelle has a team-by-team midseason report card.

The second half of the WNBA has arrived, and while Minnesota appears to be the front-runner, the list of potential title contenders appears longer — or at least perhaps less obvious — than it has in the past few seasons.

Remember the preseason picks? Ouch:

Atlanta Record: 7-10
Grade: C-minus

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W.N.B.A. Star Tamika Catchings Nears End of One Career While Preparing for Another

The list of people who can relate to what comes next for Tamika Catchings, the only player who has been a W.N.B.A. All-Star 10 times, is short.

So as Catchings prepared for a series of lasts — her final All-Star Game on Saturday, her final playoff push with the Indiana Fever this fall, her final Olympics next summer — she turned to another Indiana basketball icon.

“The only person I’ve really talked to about it is Larry Bird,” Catchings said Friday, reflecting on her career. “Because I want to be a G.M. So I wanted to talk to him about the experience, because he got there. He talked about when you’re finished playing, going directly into whatever your next venture is. He took some years off trying to figure out what he wanted to do next. But he said, ‘I wish I would’ve started sooner.’ But he also said he was glad he took some time to figure out what he wanted to do.”

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by Seimone Augustus.

I never thought I would get married.

A lot of women have that dream — wearing a white dress and walking down the aisle. I never did. I never pictured what I would wear, what colors my flowers would be or any of the ceremonial details.

The only thing I really ever wanted was to fall in love.

And I did.

My love story looks a little different from the ones you’ll see in Hollywood.

I knew I was gay by the time I reached middle school. I’ve never been attracted to guys. I can appreciate their beauty, but it comes without desire. I’ve always had a more intimate connection with women. In high school, I kissed a girl for the first time. It felt too comfortable and too right to think I was anyone but whom I was in that moment. I’ve followed that honesty my whole life.

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in this trade (The Dream’s Erika de Souza to Chicago. They get Damiris Dantas and rookie Reshanda Gray from Minnesota and Lynx’ first-round pick in 2016 WNBA Draft. Chicago sends Sylvia Fowles and the rights to its own 2016 second-round pick to Minnesota – and no, the Lynx won’t play the Sky until (if) the playoffs), take some time to watch the replay of the US-Russia U19 game. Really fun to watch.

A few ASG articles hanging about:

Schimmell Ellectric in 2nd WNBA All-Star Game. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one listening to the ASG play-by-play wondering, “but, does Shoni’s game translate to the pros? It takes flash and fitness, kiddo.

With The All-Star Game On The Line, Maya Moore Found Another Level

At the end of last year’s WNBA All-Star Game — a “shootout” in the desert that the East team won in overtime over the West at Phoenix — Maya Moore appeared a bit irritated.

Not truly mad, mind you. But it was clear that even a so-called meaningless exhibition wasn’t entirely meaningless for Moore. The Minnesota star already has two WNBA titles and a league MVP award, while just in her fifth season as a pro. Bottom line: She always plays to win. Maybe if she was playing some 5-year-old in Candy Land, she might throw the game to the kid. But … don’t necessarily count on that.

Sefko: Why WNBA has never been stronger as league enters Dallas market

Back in the spring of 1996, “We got next” became a reality.

That was the catchphrase when the NBA board of governors approved the concept of the WNBA. The league was a leap of faith that had to be nursed through some tough times, yet has emerged as a legitimate force in the sporting world in less than two decades of existence.

It has become relevant, when many thought it couldn’t.

What is next for Tamika Catchings after an amazing WNBA career?

Doug focuses on what’s next in the WNBA:

The sprint to the playoffs and the WNBA championship will most likely hinge on which team can stay the healthiest. Minnesota is leading the Western Conference right now, but the Lynx are without two of their three All-Stars as Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus are sidelined with injuries.

Whalen, who hurt her eye last week, should be back soon. Augustus is out until mid-August while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

I guess it’s just as well that Liz stayed away from Tulsa: Cambage ruled out of Australia squad after skipping camp

Liz Cambage has been ruled out Australia’s squad for games against Japan and the Oceania Olympic qualifying series against New Zealand after skipping a training camp to attend a music festival.

Cambage had been recalled to national duties last week following nine months on the sidelines after rupturing her Achilles, but Basketball Australia issued a brief statement late Sunday saying the 23-year-old center had ”made herself unavailable” for the games against Japan starting Monday and had been scrubbed from the Oceania championships as a consequence.

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Episode 1

Episode 2

BTW, considering my hobby, I’m guessing longtime readers will recognize that Sue and I are birds of a feather….

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Fun intros, leaked in (ha. ha.) to a clangy first two minutes, then the teams settled in and put on a show. Player after player making a bid for MVPdunks, sneaky passes, uncontested threes… Then Betty Lou stepped up and sealed the game and earned the trophy. But really, at the WNBA All-Star Game: Seriousness, Defense Take Backseat To Fun

More on the game:

West rides MVP Maya Moore late, takes down East in All-Star Game

Maya Moore scores 30 to lead West to WNBA All-Star Game victory

Former UConn star leads West to win in WNBA All-Star Game

Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel brings the fun in WNBA All-Star Game 

WNBA All-Star Notebook: Sun’s Alex Bentley Has Big Game

WNBA All-Star Game 2015: Complete Recap and Highlights

Power Of Sneakers Unites Elena Delle Donne And Innovative Fan

WNBA All-Star Game showcases league’s growth, future

WNBA President: League to Form Committee to Study Expansion

The league, in its 19th season, currently has 12 teams — down from the high of 16 in the early 2000s. The WNBA last added a team in 2008 when the Atlanta Dream joined.

“I always say it gets closer and closer,” Richie said. “We will be forming an expansion committee to look at it and make a concrete plan and strategy on how we think about it, approach it, the timing. I’m not saying expansion is absolutely on the horizon. There is no date.”

What I really appreciated? The extended post-game interviews. When was the last time THAT happened on national (not cable) T.V.?

Far, far away, another bunch of “maybe some of these will be WNBA all-stars” were battling a stubborn team from Spain.

“I was really proud of this team tonight,” said USA U19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who is a perfect 20-0 as a USA Basketball head coach. “We needed a game like this. It was a gut-check type of game that will prep us for what we’ll face tomorrow. I know the environment will be hostile, so we needed this kind of win. We had different players step up and we got great contributions off our bench. Our starters did a great job, and it forced us to come together as a cohesive group when we needed to.”

The US’s front court was the key to victory, but it’s likely the guards will have to step up when the battle Russia for the FIBA U19 gold Sunday, 1:15 p.m. EDT on ESPN3 or FIBA’s YouTube channel.

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The FIBA19 semi finals are up at 1:30pm EST. After making a tasty goose pate of the Canadians, the US will face Spain. Dawn and company seem to have the team cooking on all cylinders. Will they be feasting on tapas tonight?

After that game, tune in to ABC (what! rabbit ears television channel?) at 3:30EST for the All-Star Game. Nice mix of “old” and new talent this year… looking forward to some fun. And, no pressure, I hope the players put on a show that builds on the nice summer of success (and attention) female athletes have had…

Speaking of fun, Back as a WNBA All-Star, ex-UConn star lets her hair down and Former UConn star Stefanie Dolson the life of the party

Always animated and always colorful – “Look at her, her hair’s purple,” Connecticut center Kelsey Bone said with a laugh – Dolson stole the show when she won what has become tradition to end a WNBA practice: the halfcourt shooting contest.

Lots of other stories floating around the game:

From the – Elkhart Truth: Tamika Catchings ready for WNBA All-Star Game finale 

The .com has tons of backstage stuff. Check out an appearance by Betty Lou in the middle of Nneka and Maya’s interview.

About the crew covering the game: Entering third straight WNBA All-Star assignment, ESPN’s trio appreciates chemistry

Saturday, Ryan RuoccoRebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe will call their third straight WNBA All-Star game together (ABC, 3:30 p.m.ET). The 2015 edition will feature some of the biggest stars in the league including Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne and Shoni Schimmel. Ruocco and Rowe chatted with Front Row about working together and their thoughts on the midseason showcase.

How has it been working together over the last three seasons?
RR: I absolutely love working with Rebecca and Holly. It’s one of my favorite activities in life, never mind work. They’re both terrific at what they do and so much fun. The great part about an All-Star Game is it lends itself to a fun atmosphere, which plays right into our wheelhouse. Holly really bounces all over the place in All-Star Games, bringing the fans truly unique access, and Rebecca and I love teeing her up for those opportunities.

HR: We have so much fun together it hardly feels like working. Rebecca and Ryan are so supportive and include me in the broadcast so much. It is a joy to work with them!

Mechelle writes about one of the bestest we’ve had the pleasure of watching: All-Star Tamika Catchings preparing for life after hoops

A little girl is battling her jump rope — she accidentally hit herself with it — and appears close to meltdown mode. Uh oh, her shoulders are slumping, her eyes are watering, her face is scrunching up …

Time for Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, the WNBA standout so famed for her scoring, defense and rebounding, to come in with the assist.

So does Doug: Tamika Catchings ready for WNBA All-Star Game finale

Tamika Catchings didn’t want to get sentimental thinking about her final All-Star Game.

Catchings, who announced last fall that 2016 would be her final season, will be playing in a record 10th game Saturday. The WNBA usually skips the All-Star Game during Olympic years.

“I’m excited,” Catchings said. “I think everybody thought I’d be sad about this coming to the end, the last this, the last that. I’m really not. It’s time. The young players are playing so well.”

NY Times: Elena Delle Donne Emerges as Face of the WNBA

With the league’s best players gathered at Mohegan Sun Arena for Saturday’s W.N.B.A. All-Star Game, Delle Donne’s colleagues, including Brittney Griner — the player selected No. 1 in 2013 — and the league president are acknowledging that she has arrived at that moment.

“She’s doing what everybody expected,” Griner said. “Elena, she’s a dominant player. It’s good for the league, how everybody always is talking about Delle Donne.”

Chicago Daily Herald: Elena Delle Donne top hit for Sky

School’s out, but there are progress reports to write up.

It’s mid-term time for the WNBA, which plays its All-Star Game in Connecticut today (2:30 p.m., ABC 7). The Chicago Sky has logged 17 of its 34 games and is one game out of first place in the Eastern Conference with an 11-6 record.

Not a bad showing so far. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the first-half hits and misses for the Sky:

Hit: Elena Delle Donne. Duh.

Swish Appeal: Delle Donne happy, healthy and confident

USAToday: Behind Elena Delle Donne’s touching gesture at the WNBA All-Star game

When Elena Delle Donne heard about Nike’s new shoes designed for people with disabilities and the college student behind them, she thought immediately about her sister, Lizzie.

Hartford Courant: Griner Puts Past Behind, Focuses On Mercury’s WNBA Title Hopes

The past few months have been anything but simple for Brittney Griner.

A household name for any follower of women’s basketball, Griner’s WNBA career — which includes the league record for most dunks in a game with two — has been eclipsed by events in her personal life.

USAToday: Brittney Griner faces promising future as she moves on from off-court issues

Late Friday afternoon, the WNBA fans assembled for All-Star Weekend gathered in the Mohegan Sun Arena to watch the East and West teams conduct an open practice.

The star power is immense for both teams. Transcendent Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, legendary Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever and the East will be remarkable to watch together when the teams take the floor at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC. The West features defending league MVP Maya Moore and future Hall of Famer Sue Bird.

And yet, there is something magnetic about the combination of Brittney Griner and a basketball court that kept all eyes on her from the moment she stepped out of the Mohegan Sun Arena tunnel Friday, and every time she goes anywhere, on and off the court.

Hartford Courant: Changing Of Guard: New Faces Join Stalwarts At WNBA All-Star Game

Before the season, the conversation about the WNBA mostly centered on what the league wouldn’t have. You likely heard that Diana Taurasi wouldn’t play at all, Candace Parker wouldn’t play for a while, Sylvia Fowles wanted a new contract to play and Brittney Griner couldn’t play for the first seven games. Four stars, four voids to fill, four issues.

But as always, time and progress never stand still. The WNBA has managed to plow through the cloud of uncertainty and adopt a new identity based on a number of fresh-faced stars. On Saturday, it will play its All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena with its familiar core surrounded by many first-time participants.

New Haven Register: New wave of young stars taking over WNBA All-Star Game

“I think for a while you saw the same people, and that speaks to those players’ consistency and their ability to get into the all-star games, but now there is definitely a fresh crop,” said former UConn star and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, who will start for the Western Conference. “There are some people who aren’t playing in the WNBA this year, there are others who came late and some pretty talented players. But everybody in this game deserves to be here.”

USAToday: WNBA President Laurel Richie aims to take league to new heights

Newly-minted all star Alex Bentley of the Connecticut Sun made a beeline for WNBA President Laurel Richie as she sat for an interview Thursday afternoon in the lobby of the Mohegan Sun, days before the league’s All-Star Game there on Saturday, and gave Richie a warm embrace.

It’s the kind of reception Richie receives virtually everywhere she goes lately. Two off-court challenges this past offseason — Isiah Thomas’ bid to become part-owner of the Liberty and a domestic violence incident between two WNBA players — are thought to be handled in a way that upheld the values of the league and drew near-universal acclaim.

Sporting News: WNBA All-Star Game shows league’s best — and players’ difficult reality

Shanxi is on a plateau surrounded by North China’s mountains, a province smaller in area than Wisconsin with more people than Canada. It served as a major economic center thousands of years ago and is bound by its rich culture and history. And by Maya Moore.

SlamOnline: NBA and WNBA Photos Of The Week

Not at the game, but an All-Star in her own right: Dishin & Swishin 7/24/15 Podcast: Perseverance rewarded, Jacki Gemelos joins the Chicago Sky

Mechelle writes about the fabulous WBHOF class:

UCLA‘s Natalie Williams played at a superstar level in basketball and volleyball and is one of the most accomplished athletes in Pac-12 history.

An avalanche of injuries took Missouri State‘s Jackie Stiles away from playing basketball long before she was ready. But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who could have packed in more points scored in a relatively short college and pro career than Stiles did.

Both former players lead the way for the 2016 class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee. The class — which includes coaches Sherri Coale and Joe Lombard, referee June Courteau and administrator Bill Tipps — will be formally announced at Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, a source confirmed to espnW.

Speaking of history: Thank you: Bishop Grimes girls basketball coach leaves lasting legacy, retires after 46 years

Pfefferle started coaching at Bishop Grimes in 1969, three years before Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The girls basketball program had no uniforms, outdated equipment and unusual practice times due of lack of access to the gymnasium.

“It was a different time,” Pfefferle said. “We pushed to get everything we needed.”

Pfefferle’s coaching style was also different from how the girls were used to being instructed. She yelled, she made them run, she yelled some more and she made them run a lot more.

“I didn’t treat them like girls,” she said. “I treated them like athletes.

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OT: If you’re from Philly…

I thought you might be intrigued by the following (and there’s a family connection for me – my dad wrote the preface):

This I Believe: Philadelphia

DRAFT Preface:

My Dad and This I Believe

This I Believe is a Philadelphia story. That is where my father, Ward Wheelock, took a powerful idea and, based in Philadelphia, brought This I Believe to countless millions throughout America and globally.

Dad lived in the Philadelphia area his entire life, except for his time at Cornell and serving in World Wars I & II. The seed of This I Believe was planted at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr. My mother cut out a Joseph Fort Newton article from the 1949 Easter Sunday church program. Five days later my mother died.

I was amazed by the impact that this Newton article had on Dad. He had it inscribed on plaques that he gave to me, my sister, and my brother. That was just the start of how Dad transformed Newton’s words into a memorial to my mother by creating This I Believe:

We must take time, take pains, have a plan, form spiritual habits, if we are to keep our souls alive; and now is the time to begin….The same hard knocks come to him as to others, but he reacts to them by the central law of his life. He suffers deeply, but he does not sour. He knows frustration, but he goes right on in his kindness and faith. He sees his own shortcomings, but he does not give up, because a power rises up from his spiritual center and urges him to the best. Joseph Fort Newton

Dad, a dynamic Philadelphia advertising executive, lived his personal credo: “Don’t ask why, ask why not?” He also profoundly believed in the power of an idea. (In 1953, his idea about international fellowships led to the creation of Eisenhower Fellowships, which, headquartered in Philadelphia, is still flourishing more than six decades later.)

Dad often spoke with me about how everyone has beliefs that affect his or her lives. He was convinced that there was a vast audience that would be eager to hear and be affected by the personal beliefs of others. He was clear that this would not be a religious program, though individuals could express their religious beliefs. At the outset, Dad assumed that people would express a belief in a Supreme Being. His only absolute guideline was that beliefs must reflect what a person believed in, not what he/she was against.

In 1949 Dad began exploring his idea of a radio program about beliefs with dozens of his Philadelphia friends and colleagues. They provided a sounding board that more sharply honed what swiftly began to emerge as This I Believe. A critical catalyst was Donald Thornburgh, general manager of WCAU, then Philadelphia’s CBS TV and radio station. Thornburgh volunteered to pioneer This I Believe on WCAU.

Dad had met Edward R. Murrow in London during World War II. Subsequently, when Murrow returned to the United States, Dad hired Murrow to air his first nightly CBS news program. (Murrow, a person of strong convictions, only permitted Campbell Soup—my Dad’s principal advertising account– ads at the start and conclusion of his evening broadcasts.) Murrow was captivated by the This I Believe concept. He volunteered to be the host of a daily This I Believe radio program, each episode of which would focus on a person reading his or her essay about their core beliefs. A major obstacle was to persuade CBS to broadcast these commercial-free, five-minute programs on its national radio network.

Dad, Murrow, and Thornburgh met with William Paley, the head of CBS, who was, himself, a native Philadelphian (indeed, CBS had been based in Philadelphia in its early years before moving to New York). Dad told me that, initially, Paley was a hard sell. Ultimately, Paley agreed that Thornburgh could test the Murrow-introduced programs on his Philadelphia CBS radio station.

The initial public response was stunning. Soon This I Believe was a regular feature on the entire CBS radio network, reaching 39 million listeners weekly. Dad ran the This I Believe operation from his Ward Wheelock Company office in the Lincoln-Liberty Building, adjacent to what once was the Philadelphia National Bank Building. A small editorial staff in New York oversaw the editing and recording of the actual programs.

Philadelphians provided a number of the initial essays that were broadcast. Some were included in the first This I Believe book, which was published by Simon and Schuster in 1952 and became, excluding the Bible, the best-selling nonfiction book of the year. This I Believe, while national, was also local. One of the young staffers in Dad’s office suggested his dentist as a likely essayist. Thus a Philadelphia dentist joined hundreds of distinguished national individuals as a This I Believe contributor.

I was away at school, and then college, while Dad expanded the power of his Idea nationally and internationally. I experienced some of Dad’s enthusiastic conviction when I accompanied him on a visit with Louis Selzer (editor of The Cleveland Press) in Cleveland and then, in 1953, to have tea with Professor Gilbert Murray in Oxford. Selzer’s essay was included in the first book. Professor Murray, in addition to writing his personal essay, wrote an essay on Socrates, as part of the “immortal” series on historical figures ranging from Socrates to Franklin Roosevelt, which were included in a book and a CBS record.

Dad was convinced that This I Believe had a universal message. Both British and Arabic This I Believe books were published, intended as forerunners of a book in Urdu. This I Believe segments were translated into six languages and broadcast around the world on The Voice of America. There was also a regular Armed Forces Radio Service feature. In early 1954 Dad took a world trip to expand This I Believe’s reach (and to introduce the Eisenhower Fellowships).

In 1954 I wrote my own This I Believe that was broadcast and published in papers throughout the U. S. That same year This I Believe, after a meteoric rise, was abruptly terminated. Dad and other family members disappeared on a yacht in the Bermuda Triangle in January, 1955.

I never lost faith in the power of Dad’s idea. In 1992, when I commenced a 22-year career as a college history professor, I taught a segment on the similarities and differences between early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. With some trepidation, I had my students explore This I Believe and then write their own essays. I was astonished by the result. Over the years, more than 600 students wrote This I Believe essays. A number of students, whose writing skills seemed otherwise mediocre, wrote brilliant essays. Many said that it was their most meaningful college experience.

I thought that this might provide an opportunity to rekindle Dad’s idea. I sent selections of my students’ This I Believe essays to Janet Murrow. Mrs. Murrow suggested that I contact Joe Wershba, her husband’s long-time colleague. After Wershba’s enthusiastic response, I submitted my idea to Simon and Schuster. The response was that, without a Murrow-type personality, a new This I Believe book was a no go.

Five years later Dan Gediman called me, asking if I was the son of Ward Wheelock. Dan told me that he had read one of the This I Believe books and thought it was a natural for National Public Radio. I was thrilled by his passion for the power of Dad’s idea. Dan and Jay Allison made it happen. I vividly remember a dinner with NPR’s senior executives at which Ed Murrow’s son Casey and I were asked to speak.

The new This I Believe was an NPR feature for years. The This I Believe website (thisibelieve.org) and a series of books spread the This I Believe message widely. Tens of thousands of personal essays poured in from across the country. Dan introduced This I Believe in many schools and colleges. I chose to introduce This I Believe to a senior citizen audience. I first led a four-week This I Believe program for residents in New Jersey’s Somerset and Hunterdon counties. The wait list was large, as we limited the program size to 35 participants. I used a series of This I Believe broadcasts prepared by Dan’s Louisville office, which also provided a history of This I Believe CD. The enthusiastic response was such that I was obliged to extend the program another two weeks.

Subsequently I have conducted nine additional This I Believe programs for ‘mature participants’ in both New Jersey and on Long Island. For me, this has demonstrated that This I Believe resonates with both young and old. Several of my more outspoken participants were in their nineties.

I am heartened that the power of Dad’s idea is as vital today as it was over six decades ago. I applaud Dan and Mary Jo Gediman for making this happen. I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute to what Dad initiated than to celebrate This I Believe in Philadelphia, where it all began.

Keith Wheelock

This I Believe: Philadelphia

by Massimo Catarinella via wikimedia.org

In 2013, This I Believe launched a new venture, producing anthologies of 60 essays from a particular state or metropolitan area. Each book will include a combination of the best local essays submitted to us over the past decade and selected essays from that area that were featured in Edward R. Murrow’s original 1950s This I Believe radio series. These anthologies are patterned after our series of eight previous This I Believe books, including the New York Times bestseller This I Believe and our latest book, the 2013 locally-themed collection, This I Believe: Kentucky, now in its second printing and a best-seller throughout the state of Kentucky. Our publishing partner for this venture is The History Press, the largest publisher of locally-oriented books in the United States.

The next book in the series will be This I Believe: Philadelphia, which will contain 30 essays from our contemporary This I Believe series, and 30 from Edward R. Murrow’s original radio series, which began as a local Philadelphia series on then-CBS affiliate WCAU.

Among these contemporary essays in the book are those from Liz Dow, President and CEO of Leadership Philadelphia; Helen Cunningham, Executive Director of the Fels Fund; Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Frank Fitzpatrick; James Harris, president of Widener University; U Penn Chaplain Dr. Charles Howard; Mayor Michael Nutter; and attorney and human rights activist Sozi Tulante.

From Murrow’s 1950s radio series, we will include essays from prominent Philadelphians such as Walter Annenberg, Editor and Publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer; Cyril Fox, President of Fels & Co.; Paul Comly French, Executive Director of CARE; author Edith Hamilton; Lewis Hoskins, Executive Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee; Olympic Gold Medalist John B. Kelly, Sr.; Anthropologist Margaret Mead; Author James Michener; John Nason, President of Swarthmore College; stockbroker Theodore Roosevelt III; Sculptor Eliza Thayer; and Gilbert White, President of Haverford College.

How You Can Help

Our non-profit organization is seeking donations of any amount to help cover the costs of producing the book ($10,000), which is scheduled to be published in October 2015. So far, we have already received a pledge of $2,000 from an anonymous Philadelphia native, so we only have $8,000 to go! To inspire your support of this project, we have created a series of giving levels which will entitle you to certain benefits:

  • For a $15 donation, we will send you a copy of the This I Believe: Philadelphia eBook
  • Early Bird Special: For the first 50 donors that make a $20 donation, we will send you an autographed copy of the This I Believe: Philadelphia book
  • For a $25 donation, we will send you an autographed copy of the This I Believe: Philadelphia book
  • For a $50 donation, we will send you an autographed copy of the This I Believe: Philadelphia book, the eBook, and a thank you on the This I Believe website
  • For a $100 donation, we will send you a copy of the autographed book, the eBook, and a thank you on both the website and in the book itself
  • For a $250 donation, you will get all the above plus a USB drive filled with mp3 files of seventy-five 1950s This I Believe essays from Philadelphians
  • For a $500 donation, you will get all the above and be our podcast sponsor of the week
  • For a $1000 donation, you will get all the above and join book editor Dan Gediman for dinner prior to the Oct. 2015 book launch event in Philadelphia

[Please note that we will not be able to ship out books or email eBook files until we receive them from the publisher in mid-October]

To make a donation, you can either click here, which will take you to an online donation form, or you can mail your donation to:

This I Believe: Philadelphia
This I Believe, Inc.
323 West Broadway
Suite 503
Louisville, KY 40202

Your donations are tax-deductible to the extent the law allows. Thank you for your support!

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(Just a little shout out to my co-workers and some of the fabulous teachers I’ve worked with this year.)

That groan of relief is every single team enjoying the approach of All Star Weekend (though the All Stars themselves will not be gettin’ a ton of rest.). LA is looking forward to the return of Parker, Minny is looking forward to…no more injuries. Tulsa is (not so much) looking forward to packing their bags for Texas. Unfortunately for my friends in Arkansas, I have to agree with Mechelle: Hard To Argue With Relocating Shock From Tulsa To Dallas.

The Liberty ended on a high note, finishing their west coast trip on a win streak. While a 12-5 record is lovely to look at, I’m not quite ready to drink the koolaid (and this headline makes my stomach turn). “Why so cynical, Helen?”

Well, yes, they’ve won five in a row for the first time since 2010, and they have a bench, and there’s excitement in the Garden, and winning means coverage – a rarity here in the Big Apple. But.. yes, they beat the “surprising” Mercury, but they barely beat the undermanned Storm and Sparks. That being said, this is a season where everyone is down a player (or two. or three) and so everything is up for grabs. I’m really looking forward to the Libs’ two games against Chicago (Away August 7, Home August 11th), ’cause yeah, Elena Delle Donne takes game to even higher level. USA takes notice, too! (though I’m having some issues with the headline (Maybe I’m just feelin’ cranky? See below). Gives me an opportunity to post this:

College: 

Idiots: Multiple IPFW women’s basketball players cited for alcohol possession.

At least they weren’t driving. This past season, Eastern Michigan’s incredible resiliency after the death of teammate Shannise Heady in a car crash earned national attention. What seems to have stayed local was the reason for the crash: Heady was speeding. And drunk. Drunk after celebrating a victory with her teammates.

Kentucky’s Epps was in a car.

I’m waiting for colleges to really take underage drinking seriously and driving-while-drunk doubly serious. Yah, yah, yah, everyone does it. So what?

So people get killed. A scholarship, whatever the form, is a privilege. You damage your university, your team, yourself or, worse, someone else….you make the call.

International/USA Basketball: The U-19 Quarters are on tap Friday via Youtube

Spain vs Belgium
Russia vs France
China vs Australia
USA vs Canada

BTW, congrats to Kia Nurse (and Canada) who beat Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart (and the US) for PanAm Gold.

“She was unbelievable,” Stewart said of Nurse. “That’s what she does, she attacks. And whether it was the 3-point shots or driving for the basket, that’s what she does, and that’s what she does at UConn. She put Canada on her back tonight and led them to this win.

“From start to finish, she was scoring, and we didn’t have an answer for her.”

The Canadian women’s basketball program has made HUGE strides these past few years. And I imagine UConn’s early practices will be full of trash talking, eh?

Speaking of trash talk: Interesting… 

Even though North Carolina likely won’t respond to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations for another few weeks, one of the school’s former women’s basketball players fears she knows what’s coming.

 Meghan Austin expects the Tar Heels athletic department to sacrifice its tradition-rich women’s basketball program in hopes of avoiding serious punishment for its two biggest revenue producers, football and men’s basketball. 

Austin, a 2008 North Carolina graduate currently coaching at Montreat College, penned an editorial for the Raleigh News & Observer on Monday accusing the Tar Heels athletic department of already showing signs of making its women’s basketball program “the scapegoat.” Austin noted that men’s coach Roy Williams got a contract extension earlier this summer but women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell has thus far not received the same show of support.

Speaking of another program that’s got worries: Experts: UI women’s basketball allegations unusual in scope

Two leading sports diversity experts say racism can be found across women’s college basketball, but not to the extent alleged in a federal lawsuitfiled earlier this month by seven former Illini.

“It’s something I haven’t seen before,” Richard Lapchick told The News-Gazette. “It’s pretty stunning.”

And a little post kerfuffle fallout: South High’s Ericka Mattingly withdraws women’s basketball commitment from Wichita State

On the flip side, here’s some leadership by Khadija J Head: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND COLLEGE COACHING

MY EXPERIENCE

I remember when I was hired at Pittsburgh. Coach Berenato asked me if I was coming by myself or was my partner coming with me.

I was floored.

But because I hadn’t told Coach Berenato that I was gay. It was the first time a Coach cared about me as a person and my happiness. It was an amazing feeling…one I hope everyone gets a chance to experience.

You know what I always hated. Using the phrase…oh, that’s “my FRIEND”. Really what in the hell is that?

We have all used that verbiage to describe our partners in order to avoid awkward conversations. That’s borderline disrespectful and grounds for breaking up lol.
Yet, they stay by our sides and endure “the FRIEND” zone because you are a college coach. It’s unspoken law (career suicide) that you do not openly admit that you are in fact NOT just “FRIENDS”.

Well, the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, says Love is Love.

So I say again, now this is interesting or should I say this will be interesting. How many college coaches’ bios will change in August now that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States.

Oooooo, this ought to be a fun weekend! AP Source: Sherri Coale to Enter Women’s Basketball Hall. Great crew joining her (Missouri State guard Jackie Stiles, Olympic gold medalist Natalie Williams, longtime official June Courteau, Texas girls high school coach Joe Lombard and the late AAU girls basketball official Bill Tipps. The 1996 U.S. women’s basketball Olympic team will receive the Hall’s trailblazer award.) but I would walk to Knoxville just for the opportunity to hear what Sherri writes.

Thank you (N.J.): Attridge retired having played a large role in girls athletics

Kevin Attridge, who this school year ended 43 yeas of coaching four different girls sports at Mater Dei Prep when he retired as outdoor track and field coach, remembers his early years of coaching when gender equity and Title IX first came into practice in the early 1970s.

“It was seeing the kids adapt to change. That was the cool part of coaching,” Attridge, 68, said.

Attridge said he decided to retire from outdoor track and field in December, the last of the four sports where he built his coaching legacy. A year earlier, he decided to stop coaching indoor track and field after reviving the program in 2000. He stopped coaching cross-country three years ago and also ended a 27-year run of success in girls basketball in 1999 with a 485-187 record.

WATN? Los Gatos, Saratoga: Former WNBA All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist Bolton visits Golden State Warriors camp

Speaking of where are they now, did you catch John Altavilla’s tweet: Geno also says participation in this year’s Maggie Dixon Classic looking doubtful because no opponent has been found.

*Cue sound of chickens clucking* Hey, coaches, this is the MAGGIE DIXON Classic. It honors an amazing woman had has become a huge event at Madison Square Garden, ushering in the return of college women’s basketball. Who’s going to show some spine and step up?

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in case you missed the Block Party:

No disrespect intended to Seattle, but what on earth is up with Atlanta?

Kara says, “I’ve still got it!”

Injuries stink, but Tulsa Shock players have maintained bond despite adversity – Relocation rumor is the latest distraction for a team fighting for playoffs

As Maya and Elena go toe-to-toe in the race for MVP, Patricia Babcock McGraw offers up this: Maya Moore’s grandparents back her every step of the way

Having just walked through the door for his long-awaited visit, Grandpa Bob from Chicago could barely get his coat off before he was being pulled back outside.

A young Maya Moore, a grade schooler living with her mother in Missouri at the time, had her basketball ready.

“She’d say, ‘Let’s go play some ball, Grandpa,'” recounted Grandma Petrina Moore.

“And she didn’t like to lose,” Bob Moore added with a laugh.

About the game cancelled by flight trauma. Some folks are getting all up in arms about it. Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Until they and their arms are emptying their pockets of money and enthusiastically supporting the league (be it it in person by proxy) the business model doesn’t support charters. I am intrigued that John Altavilla is suggesting the league look in to the Fever’s travel….intrigue anyone?

USA basketball was involved in some stomp and squeak. I’m sure the Pan-Am kids are wondering who the heck came up with this schedule. They go for gold at 8:45 p.m. EDT tomorrow (live on ESPNU) against Canada.

A little historical shout out: Where are they now? Suzie Snider Eppers redefined basketball at Baylor

Nearly 40 years after she wrapped up her run as a prolific scorer for the Baylor Bearettes women’s basketball team, Suzie Snider Eppers is still scoring points.

Now they’re brownie points. For when Grandma does something sweet to spoil her grandchildren, she scores big-time.

Retirement is suiting Eppers just fine, thank you very much. Arguably Baylor’s most gifted women’s athlete in school history, Eppers is enjoying downshifting life’s gearstick to the slow lane.

Speaking of which, I guess I can (almost) stop wishing the Bears lose every game now: Did Southern Baptist Baylor University Just Sign Off On Gay Sex Among Students?

Gay sex may no longer be explicitly prohibited at Baylor University, as long as the two people are married.

The Southern Baptist school in Waco, Texas, has removed “homosexual acts” from its misconduct policy. However, the policy still states that “physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”

It’s unclear whether the change comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. From The Waco Herald-Tribune:

“These changes were made because we didn’t believe the language reflected the university’s caring community,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman wrote in an email. “The university has a responsibility to articulate clearly and consistently Baylor’s commitment to its values as a Christian university.”

Congrats! 

Stephanie Smiley only had one option to play college basketball.

She made sure to make the most of that lone opportunity.

Smiley went from under the radar following a strong prep career at Holt to one of the best women’s basketball players in program history at Eastern Michigan. And Smiley will be honored for her athletic accomplishments July 30 when she is one of nine individuals and three teams inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame.

The induction will be part of a banner year for Smiley, who is also part of the 2015 class heading into the Eastern Michigan Athletic Hall of Fame this fall.

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Aaaaaaaand…I’m back!

..following vacation, work closeout and some minor computer repairs. And just in time, if I do say so myself. With the ASG looming, (My, My, My, MY Delle Donne!) things are getting mighty interesting.

Candace Parker has decided to grace the struggling Sparks with her presence.

Don’t know if it will be too little too late, but the West may have gotten a little tighter (or maybe not) with the icky news out of Minnesota: Seimone Augustus has surgery on knee, out indefinitely (maybe a month?) and Lynx guard Monica Wright out indefinitely after knee surgery. Anyone got Big Syl on speed-dial?

I got to catch the Lib v. Connecticut game last night. In the first half, the Sun looked a half a step faster and Alex Bentley couldn’t miss. Then Lib tightened up their defense, Tina Charles went into beast mode, Kiah Stokes went all Whack-a-Basketball, and suddenly the crowd was buzzing (am wondering how many giveaways there were – but really, who cares. Get folks into the Garden! Hi, Val!).

If one ignores the last four minutes of the game when NY tried to hand the game back to Connecticut on a platter… and Connecticut just dropped it over and over…even after the officials erased a couple minutes from the game because they missed awarding foul shots (oops!)…there are reasons to be encouraged in the land of the Big Apple. Sugar seems to have rediscovered her groove, but my interest is piqued by the return of Prince (and how that will impact Boyd’s confidence and sense of place). The NY Times’ Seth takes notice of EP in a nice long piece: Epiphanny Prince’s Arrival Raises Liberty’s Hopes of Returning to W.N.B.A. Playoffs

In February, Prince became the second local high school star to be acquired by the Liberty over the last two years. During the 2014 draft, they obtained Tina Charles, the 2012 W.N.B.A. most valuable player, who graduated from Christ the King in Queens.

The Liberty are relying on the two homegrown stars to form a potent inside-out scoring attack and lead them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The AP gives Thomas “credit” for work that is happening on and off the court: With Isiah Thomas, Liberty Set a Foundation for a Turnaround

The biggest difference that Laimbeer has noticed with Thomas in the fold is that Dolan shows up to games and is involved.

“I didn’t see him for two years, he never came to a game. He pays attention and is involved now,” Laimbeer said. “He comes to games, but also it is internally in staff, ticket sales. They are very aware that he is paying attention to the Liberty. Everyone else knows we have to pay attention to the Liberty also, that’s a huge positive.”

“That may not have happened without Isiah being here.”

That “attention” and marketing focus is what folks said might be the benefits of hiring a sexual harasser. I say 1) Garden management has a history of “recommitting” to the Lib. Remembering Thomas’ complete incompetence as an executive and a coach, I’m reminded of chickens, eggs and hatching. 2) The man is in denial about his inappropriate behavior with professional women. Whatever success the Liberty may have, he has no business being associated with the team. That being said, I will continue to support my team, while asking that Thomas pulls an Elvis ASAP.

Dishin’ and Swishin’ has Chicago on the podcast.

In college news: San Francisco wisely says, “Coach Azzi, you. stay. put.

Speaking of the future: (Yay, Jim!) With replenished roster, Buckeyes prepare for summer trip to Brazil and Minnesota’s Rachel Banham planning record-breaking return

Did you catch this? A lifelong basketball dream changes in a flash

For most of the Phoenix Mercury, the game didn’t matter much.

It was the unofficial start to a season, a preseason matinee. A practice match, really, for the defending WNBA championship team. They lost to Seattle, but the loss didn’t mean anything. The score didn’t mean anything.

For Becca Tobin, though, the game meant everything.

Tobin had been toiling for years to get her shot at the WNBA. She worked hard on the court at Glendale Cactus High School, even when things were tough, even when she lost her father in her senior year.

She worked harder at ASU, when they went to the Elite Eight. And harder still when she went to play in the European leagues, even when it was lonely, and cold, and she couldn’t understand anyone around her.

Because basketball could take her places.

There’s plenty of international basketball going on, eh?. Perhaps the most stunning development was Russia failing to qualify for the Olympics. Some point to ’08 as the start of trouble, but it was clear in ’04 that new Svetlanas or Stepanovas coming up through the ranks. Russian head coach Anatoly Myshkin blames Sue, Diana, Becky, Epiphanny… but Love and Basketball ain’t buyin’ it.

USA Basketball, the program that never sleeps, has two crews working:

The Pan Am games are cooking, where a passel of US college kids are taking on some seasoned vets. You can watch on ESPN3. If you’re wondering what Breanna Stewart learned from her FIBA-Worlds experience, or how her game might translate to the pros, check out her work against Brazil.

Saturday starts bid for FIBA U19 gold. You catch live at:

Now, about that conference I’m presenting at tomorrow….

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Home again Finnegan…

tomorrow AM. But not before I grabbed two last fabulous dives today….

Coral at 70'

Coral at 70′

Unpuffed Pufferfish

Unpuffed Pufferfish

Drumfish

Drumfish

Coral at 40'

Coral at 40′

Fish-to-be-named-at-a-later-date

Fish-to-be-named-at-a-later-date

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I proudly claim the title… until I fly home Thursday… Meanwhile, gifts from beneath the seas (and the Blue Island Divers crew)

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Slipper Lobster

Slipper Lobster

Beautiful coral

Beautiful coral

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

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So, where’s Helen???

Doin’ the Eat, SCUBA, Sleep vacation in St. Thomas with the fabulous Blue Island Divers crew. Making some new friends, too!

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Well, CRAP

I was looking forward to catching up on wbball news (post and end-of-the-school-year-close-out and pre-SCUBA diving vacation) and then I see this: Diggins….ACL

Crap!

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