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So, THAT’s not how the Sparks and Lynx wanted to get out of the post-Olympics gate….

LA went up to Seattle and got squeezed by the Storm, 79-72. Stewie struggled, but Bird picked up the slack, hitting 5-7 from behind the arc.

“It’s surprising because we didn’t have the best offensive night. It was all about defense for us,” said guard Jewell Loyd, who finished with 15 points, seven assists and five steals with just one turnover.

Nneka continued her hot play, but it wasn’t enough.

“I think we sat around for six weeks and everybody told us how good we were and I think we softened up,” said Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler.

Maybe Excelle should play the lotto (Connecticut Sun: a team on the rise, playoffs in sight) ’cause the Lynx got stymied by the Sun (and Moore’s foul trouble)  in Connecticut, 84-80.

“We have to grind,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We don’t out talent anyone. There’s a reason that four of those players (on the Lynx) are on the Olympic team. We aren’t going to out-talent anyone in this league, but we have to out work and out tough.”

No one on the Lynx is pointing to the Olympics as an excuse:

“In the end, it’s probably a wash,” said Reeve, when asked before the Lynx’s 84-80 loss to the Sun if fatigue or lack of sharpness would prevail. “Any advantage they may have from being off, full-rested, maybe honing some skills, the group that was over in Rio is in game shape and has that rhythm of playing a game. That’s something you can’t simulate when you’re off.

In San Antonio, the Liberty kept their focus and dispatched the Stars, 84-77, thanks to the sweetness that is (MIP) Sugar. Hello, playoffs!

Elena Delle Donne brought the 34-point boom to Chicago as the Sky took down Atlanta, 90-82.

“We took care of the basketball, and I think the key was we married that to good offensive execution and attacked and got to the free throw line,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “I think that comfort allowed us to weather the storm when we were down by seven and then up by eight. 

“It was nice to see that, and we’ll need it as we head on to Dallas.”

Speaking of Dallas, the eternal Pierson’s 23 (and 4000th) couldn’t help the Wings against Penny “sore throat” Taylor and the rest of the Merc.

Phoenix Mercury players won a combined four medals at the Rio Olympics, and more importantly, may have found the defense and chemistry that was missing before the Olympic break.

Despite falling behind by 11 early against Dallas on Friday night, the Mercury hammered the Wings 98-72 before 11,396 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix’s most one-sided win of the season came against a team it went 0-3 against pre-Rio, including a triple overtime loss June 18 after leading 75-59 going into the fourth quarter.

Washington Post: Mystics and WNBA are back from Olympic break, but LaToya Sanders got no rest

Aussie, Aussie, ello! Mystics Sign Leilani Mitchell as Bria Hartley starts planning for a munchkin.

Slam Online: WATCH: WNBA Super20

The historic 20th WNBA season has been one for the record books. The Lynx and Sparks got off to a blazing hot start, the W has faced controversy for trying to police its players and the basketball has never been better.

With all the talent and storylines around the League, the final part of the regular season and the playoffs provide a guaranteed storybook ending.

Get hype for the rest of the 2016 campaign, picking up again tonight, with the video above, featuring highlights from the first part of the summer.

Also: Nike & WNBA Star Elena Delle Donne Donate Sneakers To Delaware Newborns

Meanwhile:

Doug Bruno savors experience with USA women’s basketball team

Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey donates to Louisiana hometown in wake of flooding

Vermont women’s basketball cancels game at UNC over transgender bathroom law

“The decision to cancel to our Dec. 28 women’s basketball game at North Carolina was made as a result of concerns over the HB2 law, which prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms based on their gender identity,” University of Vermont athletic director Jeff Schulman said Wednesday. “We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued. It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

WATN? Rodrigo is new grad assistant for Georgia basketball

WATN? Mo’ne Davis shifts her drive to the basketball court: The Little League World Series pioneer two years later

Davis, 15, is heading into her sophomore year of high school at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. She dreams of a career in the WNBA, and she knows the journey begins with the process of college recruitment. That’s why Davis has made the decision to forgo high school basketball this season – after representing her school as an eighth-grader and a freshman – and exclusively play AAU with the Philly Triple Threat team, where she can go head to head with the best talent in the nation.

“I made the decision because it was time to start getting out there in front of college coaches and showing my improvement over the next two years,” Davis said.

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In Minnesota, New York roared back, the Lynx lost the handle on the ball over and over.. and over again. End result: NY secures home court advantage in the East… and Minny ponders how to regroup down two starters.

This was where the Lynx really missed Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.

Sunday’s game with New York matched the two teams with the best records in the WNBA, it was an intense game, with both teams playing very hard.

And the Lynx, within two points with 2 ½ minutes left, had chance after chance to take this game. Instead, they gave it away, turning the ball over four times in their final five possessions.

That means they still either have to win one more game or have Phoenix lose one to clinch the Western Conference title.

Chicago’s win over the Storm keeps them closer to the second seed in the East. And it wasn’t just the starters.

Shoo fly!

Shoo Jamierra Faulkner!

Same difference, at least so says Faulkner, the Chicago Sky’s speedy reserve point guard.

“I’ve always been like a little fly, getting on people’s nerves,” Faulkner said with a laugh. “Whenever we guard the ball, every person on this team is always trying to get a deflection, get a hand on the ball.”

Faulkner got her hands on the basketball multiple times while on defense Sunday night at the Allstate Arena. In fact, she set a career high in steals with 6 as she helped lead the Sky to a 93-65 victory over the Seattle Storm.

L.A. takes down Tulsa to lock that fourth spot in the West. Writes Michelle: 

It didn’t take a math whiz to figure out that Los Angeles — with Candace Parker returning to the lineup after sitting out the first half of the season to rest — was going to need an impressive run down the stretch to return to the postseason for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in the last eight years. But the Sparks pulled it off, and the locker room was suffused with an unmistakable vibe of satisfaction after Sunday’s game.

“I sat everybody down right after the All-Star break and told them I thought we needed to get to 15 wins,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We got to 14, and that was enough, but [we] knew it was going to be tough. I’m extremely proud of this team. I feel like this team can accomplish anything.”

Atlanta plays stubborn and keeps Washington from clinching that final spot.

The Washington Mystics have gone through the agony of defeat twice this season against the Dream. And today was no different. Atlanta, who has no room for error as they fight for the No. 4 seed playoff spot, again defeated the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at the Phillips Arena.

Tiffany Hayes did not play the last time Atlanta met with Washington, but tonight she made her presence tonight known as she attacked the Mystics on defense and led her team with 19 points.

McCoughtry, who followed Tiffany’s lead with 18 points, was not included in the starting lineup tonight. She came off the bench for the fifth time this season and the third consecutive game overall.

Worth the trip: Ramu Tokashiki was named MVP of FIBA Asia Women’s Championship and Japan is going to the Olympics.

More on Fever coach White — but, one has to wonder if Indy liked playing in the shadows. It’s been a tough run, last few games.

It’s not just coaches: Former CP sports editor, Phils scorer, Kenney dies, 80

With his white dress shirt, black tie and glasses, Bob Kenney looked like the quintessential newspaperman.

For South Jersey athletes, writers (including this one) and fans, he was so much more.

“He was a legend,” said Phil Anastasia, who was hired by Mr. Kenney at the Courier-Post in 1980. “His revolutionary thinking about high school sports was way ahead of his time. You look at the way high school sports are covered these days and it’s because of him, especially with girls’ sports.

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Hate starting the day with really unpleasant news: Maryland women’s assistant basketball charged with sexual abuse

Maryland women’s basketball assistant coach Bryce McKey has been charged with sexual abuse against a player he coached while serving as an assistant with the Xavier women’s basketball team.

McKey will be arraigned Friday morning in Kenton County (Ky.) District Court on a misdemeanor charge of sexual abuse in the third degree, which stems from a May 2 incident involving a Xavier women’s basketball player.

Maryland indefinitely suspended McKey on Thursday evening, according to a school spokesman.

It’s an ugly, ugly situation – the only good thing one can take away, at the moment, is the fact the young woman spoke up.

“A lot of young ladies probably don’t come forward. I was proud of [my daughter] for coming forward,” the accuser’s father said. “Hopefully by reporting them, that it will help protect other girls that are going around coaches and feeling safe and secure, and realize it’s not safe and secure.”

Perhaps things have gotten better since 2004.

Maybe.

Days after Norwood Teague resigned as athletic director at the University of Minnesota amid  allegations of sexually harassment, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported VCU paid former women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham $125,000 to settle claims of discrimination under Teague’s watch. Teague served as VCU’s athletic director until 2012, the same year Beth Cunningham left the Rams.

“VCU paid athletic Beth Cunningham received $125,000 when she left VCU,” VCU spokesman Mike Porter confirmed. “There was an agreement reached between the university and Beth Cunningham. However, the nature of the agreement cannot be discussed due to the language of the agreement.”

Then there’s the Tar Heel Trouble: UNC-Chapel Hill reports new information to NCAA

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has notified the NCAA’s enforcement staff that, in the course of responding to the NCAA’s notice of allegations of May 20, 2015, it identified two new pieces of information potentially requiring further review. The University is fully cooperating with the NCAA and working within the NCAA’s processes to bring closure to the investigation as soon as possible.

First, while preparing for public release of a series of emails from the independent investigation conducted by Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, the University found additional examples of possible instances of improper academic assistance provided to a few former women’s basketball players, directly related to allegation number two in the May 20, 2015, notice of allegations.

Moving on.

Uncertainty builds for Marist with Jossart out for season

The Marist College women’s basketball team’s rocky offseason has hit another bump.

Incoming freshman point guard Jordyn Jossart underwent surgery on her right knee on Wednesday and is expected to miss the entire 2015-16 season, the school announced Thursday.

Jossart’s absence adds uncertainty to a program that has just five returning scholarship players on its roster and still, Marist coach Brian Giorgis said, doesn’t know if it will have starting center Tori Jarosz back for another season. The point guard position in particular is an unknown, with Jossart thought to be one of several candidates for the role.

Analysis: How will Iowa mesh together this season?

With three multi-year starters gone from last year’s team and eight underclassmen dotting its roster, Iowa is going to have a significantly different look this season.

Exactly how different? Longtime coach Lisa Bluder isn’t quite sure right now.

Cool! BTW girls basketball player Megan Jackson wins spot in Kevin Durant camp

If you were to become an NBA superstar, how would you use your money to impact the lives of young people in the community where you grew up?

Megan Jackson thought about the question. Then, the Booker T. Washington junior basketball player sat down and wrote an essay.

It turned out to be one of the winning efforts in the Kevin Durant ProCamp Essay Contest, organized by Oklahoma Toyota dealers.

More cool! Young women using basketball to help overcome divisions and forge new way of life in wake of 1990s Balkan war

 More than 100 young women playing in a Bosnia and Herzegovina basketball club are overcoming the ethnic divisions and conflict that plunged the Balkan region into war during the 1990s.

The Livno Girls Basketball Club, based in the town in southwest Bosnia and Herzegovina, competes throughout the region and in other European countries. Sterling Global Operations (SGO), an international stability operations company, is a club sponsor.

The entire region was for years embroiled in the fighting between rival military forces. Programs such as the Livno Girls Basketball Club are helping to forge a new way of life, and a better future, for girls and young women, said Mike Aramanda, SGO project manager for the company’s work in the region.

More cool! Basketball at breakneck pace a way of life on Navajo reservation

At 5:15 a.m., sunrise is only a thin pale highlight over red rock mesas in the east as Alicia Hale steps out of her house for her daily run. Even in June, the morning is so chilly at an altitude of almost 7,000 feet that she needs several layers to stay warm.

The Window Rock High School senior lines up next to her mother and younger sister in the dirt yard of their house in the capital of the Navajo Nation. They spread Navajo white corn powder on the ground in a quiet ceremony meant to offer thanks to the Creator for the blessings of life.

They exit the yard through a chain link gate and set out at an easy jog.

Also cool! Kymora Johnson And Her Cavs Are Going To Play A Game At Madison Square Garden – The Cavs weren’t allowed to play in their tournament for having a girl on their team. This will have to do instead. side note: Really impressed *insert sarcasm emoticon* with the many of the comments after this article on the “issue.” Quite revealing of some folks’ buttons.

LA’s optimism: Brian Agler, Sparks keep pushing toward playoffs

The Sparks started the season 3-14 and in last place in the West and still are one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams, averaging 72.8 points per game, which ranks 10th. But now, even at 7-16, Los Angeles is in fourth place in the West, a half-game ahead of San Antonio.

“It’s been tough,” Agler said earlier this week. “But we have a chance to get into the playoffs and we are playing better.”

Minnesota’s crossed fingers: Seimone Augustus could return to Lynx lineup soon

Speakin’ of tough: Storm GM, president Alisha Valavanis reflects on first year on job

Question: You’ve made a mark your first season, which has included a revamped ticket program, a new Storm app and quirky in-game features, such as the “Between Two Birds” segments with Sue Bird. How do you view the past year?

Answer: We went into this year really committed to the experience as we build on the court. We wanted engagement opportunities and to try to create relevance. It’s been exciting for me, because people see the vision and are buying in. They’re showing up to games and having a good time. We had three consecutive games where the building (KeyArena’s lower bowl) was full. It’s too early to really tell, but there are a lot of indicators that we’re trending in the right direction.

Things are gettin’ fun in the East: New York Liberty remain thorn in Chicago Sky’s side amid playoff hunt (get better quick, EDD!)

Last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference champions, the Chicago Sky, are in essentially a five-way race for the conference’s four playoff spots.

But the defending East champs seem to face their most serious competition for supremacy from the New York Liberty. The two sides have faced off twice in five days with the Liberty winning both games convincingly, including an 84-63 win on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

What makes the Liberty and Sky such an intriguing matchup is they represent the polar extremes of the league. The Sky lead the league in offensive efficiency, with 104.8 points per 100 possessions. A primary reason for this is Elena Delle Donne, the versatile forward posting the third-best season in WNBA history so far, as measured by Player Efficiency Rating.

Speaking of the Sky: Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne hopes to break Seattle ‘curse’

Some think coffee when Seattle is mentioned. Elena Delle Donne has a different word association.

“It’s like the curse,” she said. 

Since being drafted by Chicago with the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, KeyArena is the one court in the league where Delle Donne has yet to play.

Speaking of the stubborn Sun: Chelsea Gray Shining for Connecticut Sun After Conquering Doubt and Injury

Chelsea Gray underwent a temporary crisis of faith. 

The confidence the affable 5 foot, 11 inch guard once played with as an elegant two-time All-American guard at Duke was as fractured as her right knee.

Suffering two debilitating season-ending knee injuries, as Gray did during her junior and senior years can do that. Even though she is a strong spiritual person, those unfortunate setbacks even forced Gray to have doubts.

She eventually conquered the distrust in herself believing something greater would come, despite two major knee surgeries in less than a year.

How about a little one-on-one?

Chicago Tribune talks with the fabulous Catch.

Q: This was the first Sports Humanitarian Award, meaning the selection committee had the entire athletic world to draw from. Yet they picked you. How did it feel?

A: It was amazing, even to get nominated. I was beside myself, just really ecstatic. I love working with kids. We’ve continued to grow and grow, and get better and better. Not once did I ever say “Hey, I might win this,” it was just cool to be recognized. When I got the phone call that I won, at first I was like “OK y’all, stop playing.”

Other athletes have their foundations, but they have people who run it for them, and it’s more of an appearance thing for them. From start to finish, I’m engaged and involved in every aspect of it. That’s something they were very impressed with.

SIKids talks with the fierce, yet friendly, Tina.

You got your first recruiting letter at age 12 from Stony Brook University. Did you receive more shortly after or not until you were a bit older?

More after — I actually framed that one. To be 12 years old and to receive a collegiate letter gave me a lot of confidence to keep playing the sport of basketball.

David pods with Kelsey Bone:

Last night, the Sun trailed by double figures before pouring it on in the second half to defeat the Tulsa, Shock 80-74. Alex Bentley led the Sun with 25 points, but the driving force in the second half push was the other All-Star on the Sun, center Kelsey Bone. She finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds.

The 6-4 center is a true low post, back-to-the-basket center, who patrols the paint on both ends of the court. The Sun disc jockey plays “Bad to the Bone” when appropriate, which is frequently, and the crowd roars. This is a year where the Sun was expected to contend for last place, not the playoffs, due to injuries and retirement. On a team loaded with youth, and short on vocal leaders, Bone is more than just another piece of the puzzle, she is a focal point both on and off the court for the team.

Elena goes solo here: Delle Donne writes about her sister, Lizzie.

We often read about stories of momentary greatness — a time when a human being persevered despite insurmountable odds. But what’s a moment of triumph for one person is a lifetime of perseverance for my sister, Lizzie.

Lizzie is my older sister — also the older sister to my brother Gene — but often times it feels like she’s my younger sister. She was born deaf and blind, with cerebral palsy and autism. She doesn’t speak. The only real interaction or communication I, or anyone, has with her is in person, with hand over hand sign language. She hugs. She smiles. She kisses.

Gone way too early: Former Virginia Tech basketball great Renee Dennis dies at 49

Former Virginia Tech women’s basketball standout Renee Dennis, whose No. 44 jersey hangs from the Cassell Coliseum rafters, has died at the age of 49.

Dennis died of ovarian cancer Aug. 4 at a nursing home in Trumbull, Connecticut, according to her mother, Mary Dennis. Virginia Tech announced her death Monday.

“I’m so saddened and shocked,” former Hokies coach Carol Alfano said in a phone interview upon learning the news. “That’s way, way too young.”

Dennis is the Virginia Tech women’s basketball program’s career scoring leader, having tallied 1,791 points from 1983-87.

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even after my fabulous trip to Omaha (with a drive by workshop with the amazing folks at the Omaha Community Playhouse), visits with various parental units book-ending an intense Summer Professional Development Institute with Early Childhood educators…and then my cable/internet access goes out (Thanks TWC!) …I find that nothing much has changed in the W. Folks are still pounding the heck outta each other and nothing seems guaranteed. Unless you’re Phoenix. (Now if that doesn’t put the kibosh on ’em, NOTHIN’ will…)

Catching up on the games I missed with Richard at WNBAlien.

On the good news side: Catch is back. (No, the pun wasn’t intended, but I’ll take it!)

Faith, fitness and a new pregame routine are allowing Tamika Catchings to perform as if she is 25 again — not 35, which is what she turns on her birthday Monday.

She scored 14 of her 25 points in the fourth quarter Thursday night, leading the Indiana Fever to a rare 82-64 blowout of the Chicago Sky at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

On the bad news side: Delisha is out. How is it possible that she is 39? Yes, I know she didn’t start with the league in ’97, but I still group her and Becky as “one of the originals.” Totally sucks. 

And yes, I was surprised when Milton was switched out of Cash. Really? Why? But, Swin Cash is happy to be in New York

On the “huh!” side, just when I thought Cappie and the Lib were on their deathbed, the revive enough to annoy the heck outta the Dream. Still, my eyes aren’t shining with joy when I think about NY.. sigh.

Looking at the standings, it’s a bit shocking to see where Chicago has landed – even with all their injuries. (I point to Indiana and coach Dunn’s effort.) The Sky has a helluva a lot of talent, and yet??? (Oh, and Delle Donne won’t attend WNBA All-Star Game.)

The same could be said for LA – and they don’t really have an injury excuse. Makes me wonder about chemistry and coaching.

It just shows that coaching in the W IS important — and hard to quantify/qualify. Just like Donovan hasn’t been the “disaster” that some folks presumed, Mike hasn’t been the Mystics’ miracle worker (yet?). Albert Lee wonders: Who will be the Washington Mystics’ best player over the next several years?

Lots to look forward in the second half of the season — especially if Augustus and Brunson return. Ditto for EDD. Games I’m looking forward to:

  • July 22: Atlanta @ Minnesota (How does the Dream hold up against the West second time through?)
  • Juy 24: Phoenix @ L.A. (This is the time for LA to make their push)
  • July 29: L.A. @ Phoenix (see above)
  • August 5: Atlanta @ Phoenix (Deja vu West Coast Test)
  • August 7: Chicago @ Minnesota (If they have their full compliment, and they’re making a run at the playoffs, this game could be key)
  • August 8: Connecticut @ New York (This game could be about draft picks and/or a playoff spot.)
  • August 10: Atlanta @ Chicago (Again, health and a run for a playoff spot could be at stake)
  • August 16: LA @ Phoenix (These two teams don’t like each other… the end of the season is approaching… playoffs are at stake…. what’s NOT to like?)

From Mechelle: WNBA first half: The good, the bad

Right now, there is no WNBA team flying higher than Phoenix, which has the best record in the league and is host to the All-Star Game on Saturday (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET). Now there’s some serendipity.

When the 2014 season began, defending champion Minnesota appeared to be the favorite, and the Lynx are still a threat to win it all. But they need to get healthier, and they know that the Mercury’s confidence is brimming.

Phoenix and Minnesota also have Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore leading the MVP race, along with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry. The Dream are atop the East but are thinking bigger than that. After coming away empty-handed from three trips to the WNBA Finals, Atlanta — with Michael Cooper now as its coach — wants to get past that ceiling. 

In terms of the schedule, we are actually already past the midway point of the season. Seattle, in fact, has just 10 games left. But it’s still a good time to assess where every team is and  hand out some grades. Considering most of the league is around or below .500, it stands to reason that there’s a pretty big gap between those earning A’s and everyone else.

From Swish Appeal: How is each WNBA team faring at the All-Star break?

Speaking of the All Star Game: Albert is cranky at these decisions: 2014 WNBA All-Star Game: Sue Bird and Ivory Latta named as injury replacements. Which is a little goofy (infuriating?). Mostly, I think, because, even when they DON’T intend to, it always seems folks are blaming the players for the selection process. (Flashback to Sue Wicks’ selection). ‘sides, Sue herself is honest enough to wonder how she got the nod to attend. But, USA Basketball thinks she’s still got enough to do a feature on her: Before They Made It: Sue Bird

Nate points out the “snubs.” (Another word I dislike, ’cause it brings it to the personal, where there are always so many intangibles involved…)

Obviously, folks on Twitter weighed in about the selections almost immediately. Swish Appeal readers have already commented and voted about the matter. And I pre-emptively posted a table of statistics that should make it pretty easy to glean who I think the biggest snubs, er, candidates for replacement spots are.

With some time to think things over, let’s try to bring that together to see who are the players most deserving of a replacement spot.

Oh – and it bloody-well be a sellout so the West Coast franchises will stop ducking the responsibility for hosting the beast. (And West Coast fans can stop whining about it “always being on the East Coast.”) Put your money and your organizational skills where your mouth is, I say….

More on the game:

Can’t avoid it: Diggins an All-Star on, off the court

Not even Drake’s infatuation can throw Skylar Diggins off her game.

From Elliot: Stanford graduates Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike meet again as WNBA all stars

Nneka Ogwumike could afford to play the charitable big sister last weekend when her Los Angeles Sparks demolished Chiney Ogwumike’s Connecticut Sun 90-64 in basketball’s version of Family Feud.

While running down the court in the second half, Nneka told Chiney, “Hey, tie your shoe.”

Always the protector, Chiney recounted this week as she and her sister prepared for round two Saturday in the WNBA all-star game at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

More on the sisters from Doug: Ogwumike sisters headline WNBA All-Star reserves

Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike became the first pair of sisters to be chosen to participate in the WNBA All-Star game when the league announced the reserves on Tuesday night.

“It means the world to me because, honestly, I didn’t expect to come to the league and be able to feel like a confident player,” Chiney Ogwumike said of the honor. “You expect rookie struggles, and I have struggled at times, but I have great teammates who lift me up, and I have an organization that gives me so much confidence. And to be there alongside my sister. … I think it’s just awesome and I feel blessed.”

The sisters are amazing enough for the NY Times to have given them some space: Rivalry Begins for Sisters With Ambition – Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, Sisters and No. 1 Picks, Face Off

Shortly after she was selected in April as the No. 1 overall pick in the W.N.B.A. draft by the Connecticut Sun, Chiney Ogwumike moved into her own apartment. During her first visit, Ify Ogwumike, Chiney’s mother, presented her second-oldest daughter with a housewarming gift that carried a not-so-subtle message, a study guide for the Graduate Record Examination.

“She put it purposely on my night stand,” Chiney Ogwumike said this month. “It’s ominous, watching me all the time.”

Brittney Griner set for 1st healthy WNBA All-Star Game

Around this time a year ago, Brittney Griner wasn’t in a good place. The Mercury center was struggling to recover from a sprained left knee and brooding over the realization that she would have to miss the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game.

Sitting out any game is no fun for an athlete. Sitting out your first All-Star Game after being voted in by the fans in your rookie season — that takes disappointment to another level.

“It sucked,” Griner said. “It definitely sucked, not being able to play and having to sit there and watch everybody else. It was horrible.”

And yes, we noticed: Griner blossoming in WNBA after rough first year

Which is why Swish Appeal has a Q&A with Diana Taurasi: Phoenix Mercury’s hot start, Brittney Griner’s improvement, the WNBA title chase

What about those Merc? Deflecting Brondello leads Mercury rise

Right, the players make the plays and it’s wise for a coach to keep everyone aware of it.

“Obviously, the organization and detailed work that Sandy’s put in every day has kind of made us really focus going into games,” Taurasi said of Brondello, a former world-class guard from Australia whom she played for in Russia the past two winters. “Knowing what we’re doing on both sides of the ball … that’s really helped.”

VIDEO: From Ben and the .com: Taurasi and Catchings (Please, please, pleeeease let them both be in Turkey!!!)

From Jayda: The Storm’s Brian Agler talks about his team and its struggles

Q: The roster has suffered a few setbacks. How do you think the team has handled adversity headed into the All-Star break?

Agler: There’s been a lot of inconsistencies with our team this year. Like a lot of teams, we haven’t had a lot of time to practice because the season is 2½ weeks shorter. … I don’t think our defense has been up to par with the (Storm) teams in the past. I see that as a lack of court time because there are some things that need practice repetition. But we talk about it and understand the importance. So, that’s our focus, to become consistent on the quality of our play.

Shoni rules the World of Jersey. (The jersey that you wear, silly!)

Speaking of Shoni, from the Journal-Courier: Schimmel, McCoughtry stick with U of L roots

Shoni Schimmel and Angel McCoughtry are enjoying their first season as teammates on the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, and the partnership of the two greatest alumnae in University of Louisville women’s basketball history will reach new heights on Saturday when they both start in the league’s All-Star Game in Phoenix.

From USA Today, David Woods asks: Who is the greatest women’s basketball player ever?

It’s easy to ignite discussion in a bar or chat room on who’s the greatest male basketball player of all time. M.J. or Kareem? Wilt or Russell? What about LeBron?

What about the female players?

That might be a more difficult conversation. Not because there aren’t candidates, but because it’s a list that can’t easily be pared.

“It’s just like the NBA or the NFL. You can’t say there’s one player because that’s how good the game is, and that’s how much it’s evolved over the years,” said Kelly Krauskopf, president and general manager of the Indiana Fever. “That’s the way it should be.”

In other news:

Catching up with Texas Tech’s “no tolerance” policy: Texas Tech reinstates Nigel Bethel II and Video of Nigel Bethel Punching Amber Battle During Texas Tech Pickup Basketball Game Emerges After Grand Jury Dismisses Charges

Cool: Sugden makes history at the Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships

From Paul (who I hope to cross paths with in Istanbul): Waiting for the youth scene to catch fire in 2014

Having written last week about the various shortcomings on court at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, I have to confess my spirit was barely lifted by the U20 European Championship Women.

The play seemed to me at least, to be of an inferior quality to many previous editions. The Final itself, between eventual winners France and their opponents Spain, was exciting in terms of its conclusion due to the fact it went to overtime.

But, whichever way you dress it up and even taking into account the mitigation of some excellent defense – which was highlighted by Spanish senior team boss Lucas Mondelo – it was not the spectacle you would expect and epitomised much of the tournament.

From Connecticut: KML ready for senior moment

For three years, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has talked about looking up to the likes of Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley, and Stefanie Dolson on the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.

But the tables have now turned on the Anaheim Hills, Calif., native. She and Kiah Stokes are the only seniors on the Huskies’ 2014-15 roster.

“There is definitely a lot more pressure, and a lot more responsibility,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “But the people on this team, they take care of themselves.”

Oops and ouch: Naje Gibson, a talented women’s basketball recruit, will not attend Pitt this year as she is academically ineligible.

From the Ames Tribune: “Fab Five” freshmen add versatility, depth to ISU

Rare has been the year in Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly’s tenure that he could call upon nine or 10 players in a given game or even play a proper five-on-five scrimmage without one team blowing out the other.

That may change this season.

More from Iowa: Polish team takes a chance on injured Poppen

Chelsea Poppens knew that her stock was down after rupturing her ACL in January during her stint in Australia and that any overseas professional team picking her up for the upcoming winter season would be taking a chance.

Lublin of the Polish league took that chance on the 6-foot-2 former Iowa State forward this week, signing Poppens for the upcoming season that starts in September, about one month after she is tentatively projected to fully recover from her injury.

More international basketball news: For Fort Gibson ex, this move requires a passport

Slowly, over the course of time, Carissa Crutchfield has drifted away from home.

That current joins with a tidal wave in a few weeks.

From Fort Gibson to Oklahoma State to the University of Arizona, Crutchfield will head to Krasnoyarsky Russia, to begin a pro basketball career. It’s Russia, but smack-dab in the middle of Siberia, 2,500 miles or a five-hour flight from the capital city of Moscow.

From the Daily Californian: Cal women’s basketball must develop role players

Depth was a major issue for the Bears last season, and it was evident in their lack of a second-string point guard to back up Boyd. When Boyd left the floor to rest or because of foul trouble, Gottlieb was forced to play Afure Jemerigbe at point guard. The Bears also had little depth behind Gray and hit lulls in scoring whenever she left the floor.

Despite losing a major cog in Brandon, Cal projects to bounce back, improving its role players as well as its main stars. Gottlieb’s quick-paced tempo complements Boyd and Gray with the Bears running up and down the court every chance they get. Gottlieb plays to the team’s strengths, allowing Boyd and other wings to gamble and trap around the perimeter to force turnovers, leading to easy buckets in transition.

Tough news from down the road:

Former Campbell Hall girls’ basketball standout Lauren Holiday has taken a medical retirement from basketball at UCLA.

She will remain with the team as an undergraduate assistant.

Holiday suffered from multiple concussions and was the subject of a Times’ story last February looking at head injuries among women athletes.

Fun stuff: Central Kitsap’s new girls basketball coach Nikki Nelson a dribbling phenom

Nelson, a Chewelah native (that’s about an hour north of Spokane if you didn’t know) was a ball-handling wunderkind and can probably still get it done today.Check out this video of Nelson performing at halftimeat a Seattle SuperSoncis game (remember them?) on April 4, 2014

More from the Courier-Journal crew: Walz ready to replace U of L women’s vets (and congrats on the munchkin, Jeff!)

On Tuesday, U of L coach Jeff Walz said his program is on task and headed in the right direction, despite the challenges presented by the departures of WNBA All-Star Shoni Schimmel, standout forward Asia Taylor and two other key seniors.

Having five freshmen ready to play is a big factor in that transition, Walz said.

“I’m really excited about where they are now and even more excited about where they’ll be in two or three months,” Walz said.

The freshman class is built around wing Mariya Moore, a McDonald’s All-American who will play for the USA under-18 team this summer. Walz is an assistant coach for that team.

A little more from Louisville: Jeff Walz summer Q&A, WNBA, newcomers, more

All right, I’m going to admit something. University of Louisville coach Jeff Walz held a news conference to update some news with his women’s basketball program today, but I got distracted by his 13-month-old daughter, Lola, during the news conference and only caught about half of what he said.

So here’s a transcript of a portion his news conference from today — with the obligatory Lola photo gallery attached

Good news in Nashville: Vanderbilt’s Rebekah Dahlman back after health scare

“I stepped off the court and I was like, ‘Something is wrong,'<TH>” Dahlman said. “I took off my arm sleeve and I just noticed that my arm was completely black and blue and very swollen. Like double the size of my left arm.”

What happened next is a blur in Dahlman’s memory. Trainers rushed her to the emergency room at the university’s medical center.

“I’m kind of freaking out,” Dahlman said. “I didn’t know what to think and didn’t know what to do.”

From Georgia’s Telegraph: Lady Vols’ Massengale eager for comeback

Tennessee is preparing to welcome back a senior point guard while monitoring the status of an ailing post player.

Ariel Massengale is looking forward to returning for her senior season after missing the final 16 games of the 2013-14 season with a head injury. Massengale, who also underwent offseason surgery on her right knee, says she’s hoping to be 100 percent by the start of the school year next month.

While Massengale awaits her return, sophomore center Mercedes Russell is recovering from offseason surgery to her right foot. Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said Russell is out kind of indefinitely right now” and was uncertain whether the injury would affect the 6-foot-6 center’s status for the start of the season.

Sports Illustrated on a former Vol: Where are they now: Catching up with Chamique Holdsclaw

She turned herself in to the police two days later and spent a night in jail, where heckling inmates challenged her to  games of one-on-one. Holdsclaw finally decided to deal with her depression. “This wasn’t the court saying that I had to do therapy or anything of that sort,” she strains to note. “This was all me trying to get things right in my life.”

On her lawyer’s recommendation, she hired a forensic psychologist to audit her medical records; he referred her to another psychologist who, after a 15-minute review, revealed that she didn’t just have clinical depression she also had bipolar II disorder. “And I’m like, Man, you got all that in 15 minutes?”

The news was upsetting but also came as a relief. Now there was and explanation for the the emotional swings she had experienced. Furthermore, the psychologist noted, Holdsclaw was not only taking the wrong drugs to treat the wrong ailment, but also taking them at the wrong times. After switching to a new drug, Depakote, a mild mood stabilizer, and a new therapist with whom she meets with once a week, she has noticed a major difference. “Looking back,” she says, “I really should’ve been in therapy more. It’s changed my life. It’s like you come in one person and leave another.”

The fabulous Nancy Fahey and her amazing Washington U (St. Louis) program goes dunlin‘.

Dicky V is all wet:

And are the stripped shirts!

Signing off! Thank you, oh Coffee Shoppe, for your internet access….

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Florida:

For the past few days, dozens of women’s basketball coaches across the country have willingly let their players, fellow coaches, or administrators dump buckets of ice cold water over the heads.

Friday, Miami coach Katie Meier became one of the latest to let herself get soaked as part of the #Chillin4Charity campaign that is raising money for the Kay Yow Fund

Here’s how it works: 

After being called out be a fellow coach, a coach has 48 hours to complete the Cold Water Challenge by allowing a bucket of ice water to be dumped over their head. Once the challenge is completed, the challenging coach donates $50 to the Kay Yow Fund. If a challenged coach fails to complete the challenge within 48 hours, he or she must donate $250 to the charitable fund, named in honor of former N.C. State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow who died in 2009 after a third bout with breast cancer.

You can follow the Icey Cold Water Dumpings on twitter at #Chillin4Charity. (Hmmmm…. I’m surprised there is the @Chillin4Charity… hint, hint)

Jayda:

Red Raiders:

Michigan

Seattle Storm:

Will The Bun chicken out??

And speaking of the Land of the Bun, the Land of the Sun and fundraising opportunities: What are folks doing during the WNBA All Star Game in Phoenix? They SHOULD be CHILLIN4CHARITY!

Oh, and speakin’ folks who could be chillin’ – Where’re my Division II, Division III and NJCAA champeens at?

FDU-Florham: You were the first women’s team from New Jersey ever to win a national collegiate basketball championship AND you were perfect in your run to the top. How else would a New Jersey team celebrate a championship but make coach Marc Mitchell “swim with the ice fishes”?

Bentley: YOU were perfect in your run to the top. Doesn’t your coach, Barbara Stevens, deserve to “chill” after you had to come back from a 9-pt deficit to win?

Trinity Valley: You had one blemish on your run to the top, but have won back-to-back-to-BACK titles. Take a load off and chill with your championships, coach Elena Lovato.

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drop me a note, ‘kay?

I mean, geez:

Spare Parts Seattle (‘ello LJ!) takes down Will This Road Trip Ever End Indiana.

“(Tina’s) play tonight is just inspiring,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “If you can’t sit there and think about what she’s getting done at her age – the minutes she’s playing, hitting big shots, making big plays and guarding one of the better players in the league in (Tamika) Catchings, it’s hard not to really compete when you’re on the floor with her.”

Spare Parts (2) San Antonio takes down Not Quite New Look Phoenix.

“(Robinson is) just evolving into a player this year with the loss of Becky (Hammon) and Sophia (Young) where we have got to play through her,” Hughes said. “And playing through her takes different forms. It takes scoring, but it also takes her facility to set up people and that arc that she is working on was really important today.”

Coach of the Year Candidate Washington smoosh the This Wasn’t the Season Bill was Hoping For New York.

Hey, at least we held off the collapse until the fourth quarter.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt looked like she heard the scurrilous rumors that her classmates had passed her in the rookie rankings, and was determined to take back her place as the most surprising success of the class of 2013. She shook Katie Smith off her on defense repeatedly to get open jumpers, and she was fighting for rebounds every chance she got. She was very physical, and paid the price for it.. (Katie got in a pretty good hit on her, too. Katie is a Bad Girl, after all.) Kia Vaughn (who actually started the second half) threw her body around like nobody’s business, setting screens and picks and boxing out viciously. We kept throwing her passes. She doesn’t even go here anymore! She was strong on the inside. Tayler Hill played briefly, and it was amusing to watch the young Buckeye going up against the old Buckeye when she was matched with Katie Smith, but amusement value was all she provided. Nadirah McKenith looked solid but unremarkable. Emma Meesseman went hard after the ball, but her judgment was not always the best. She’ll learn. And she’ll be scary when she does.

Lose by a Little Get Revenge by a  Lot Atlanta stomps Can’t Quite Get it Together Connecticut.

Tall Person In the Middle Tulsa trumps Tall Person Missing in the Middle Minnesota. In Minnesota.

Liz Cambage had 27 points and eight rebounds as the Shock broke a 14-game losing streak against the Lynx and posted the biggest franchise win – home or away – since moving to Tulsa in 2010. 

“I think it signifies a real sign of growth for this team,” said guard Candice Wiggins, a five-year Lynx standout before coming to Tulsa in an offseason trade.

Yup, the next few weeks will be miiiiighty interesting. LA is looming (Sue Favor sends this link: Red hot Sparks put away injury-depleted Fever, 94-72), Atlanta is dreaming a Lyttle, and the #3 and #4 spots are up for grabs in both conferences. Read all about it at L’Alien!

A little high school history out of Bradenton, Florida: Southeast’s first girls basketball state champions stand alone

Those Lady Noles were an up-tempo team that epitomized the run-and-gun label and trapped all over the court. In a victory over Bayshore, Southeast scored 106 points. They had speed and athleticism and a big front line.

“We pressed the heck out of people and ran kind of a like a run-and-jump defense,” says Smith, who now works in the medical profession as a salesperson. “Olivia was an amazing person, and our inside force and could move well. Her sister (Christella) came off the bench, and she was big. Loretta was amazingly fast, smart and sassy. She was gifted, and Coach Narbut made us special.”

Sad news out of Georgia: Pat Rivers, the first girls basketball coach to bring a state title to Augusta, died Saturday morning.

“She pushed us a lot. She motivated us. She made us work harder,” said Natasha Reid, captain of the 1997 team who now works as a special education teacher at East Central Regional Hospital.

“I tried to be laid back, but she pushed me to be a leader. I didn’t see that back then. I’m glad she did.”

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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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