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Which was the theme from last night’s Sun-Mercury game. What on earth is going on with Phoenix? How on earth could the game against a thoroughly depleted Connecticut have been so close? And, really, what amazing heart have the Connecticut players shown this year? No quit. Has anyone done more with less than Donovan? On the bright side: Who are the WNBA front-runners in Breanna Stewart sweepstakes?

Speakin’ of the Merc: Obama Trash-Talks Phoenix Over Beating Chicago Sky in WNBA Finals

Speakin’ of doing more with less: Playoff berth within reach for Vicki Baugh, Shock as Los Angeles Sparks visit

So, tonight the Garden hosts the two top seeds: Minnesota and *gulp* New York. Seems to me the storylines are: Are the Lib legit and are the Lynx Losin’ it?

Considering the Lynx (19-9) will enter Friday’s game at New York with the best record in the league, one could say that their issues are the equivalent of “first-world problems.” But there are reasonable concerns. When a team knows how good it can play and then falls short of that a few times, there is bound to be a little worry.

From the New York Post: Lots at stake when Liberty give MSG possible WNBA Finals preview

Who says Madison Square Garden goes dark in the summer?

On Friday night (7:30; MSG), the Garden will host a possible WNBA Finals preview, when the Eastern Conference-leading Liberty meet the Minnesota Lynx — the top team in the West — in a pivotal game considering how narrow New York’s lead is in the East.

From Doug: New York and Minnesota set for matchup of WNBA Conference leaders

Bill Laimbeer and Cheryl Reeve are downplaying the significance of Friday night’s game between the WNBA’s conference leaders.

As Minnesota’s coach put it, “it’s a chance to add another ‘W’ in the win column. There’s no championship being won. It’s just a chance to get better.”

Laimbeer also said that there’s no added meaning to the game besides a chance to further distance New York from the rest of the East.

“Every game is important this time of year,” the Liberty coach said.

It almost sounds as if the two longtime friends coordinated their answers.

From Hardwood Paroxysm: How the New York Liberty Became the WNBA’s Best Defense

Swish Appeal: What is the secret to the Liberty’s staggering success?

BTW: Be sure to follow  and tonight during vs. , when will be live from MSG.

.com: How Elena Delle Donne’s Spectacular 2015 Season Stacks Up in WNBA History

From USAToday: Meet the secret to Elena Delle Donne’s success

When Cappie Pondexter arrived at the Chicago Sky through an offseason trade, she didn’t only bring a veteran scorer who is deadly when given half a step to drive into the lane. She brought a new element to third-year star Elena Delle Donne’s game: A voice that’s in the WNBA MVP candidate’s ear – all of the time.

The voice is telling her to be there on help-side defense. To get a rebound and go and attack. The voice even provides in-game tips, like telling Delle Donne to use her pull-up jumper when she’s not getting calls at the rim.

From the San Antonio Current: Stars Guard Jia Perkins On Being A Baller – And Pro Mom 

It was clear early on that Jia Perkins would make her life all about basketball.

And after turning into a well-respected player at one the country’s women’s basketball powerhouse college teams, her chances to go pro looked real good.

Then, in her senior year, she got pregnant.

In her mind, the news surely meant that those chances of making it in the Women’s National Basketball League had dramatically dwindled. At best, she thought, she’d have to search out teams later for tryouts.

But it never came to that.

Swish Appeal: A Life Inspired: Jessica Breland’s heart-stirring ascension

ESPN: DeLisha Milton-Jones hits milestone, ready for more and the AJC:Milton-Jones ties mark as Dream win

DeLisha Milton-Jones has seen a lot in her 17 seasons in the WNBA. If the Dream keep playing the way they did in Tuesday’s 71-57 victory over Connecticut, she thinks they can make a push for the playoffs.

“We have the talent, we can score with anybody in this league,” said Jones, who tied Tina Thompson’s record Tuesday with her 496th appearance in a WNBA game. “When we execute our offense and hunker down defensively and execute our game plan, we have a very good chance of putting ourselves in position to have a playoff push.”

Ad on: The Iron Woman

With the exception of time off due to injuries—knee in 2004 and Achilles tendon in 2014—Milton-Jones has been a WNBA mainstay for 16 years.

“It takes a completely dedicated commitment to keeping yourself healthy and staying in optimal shape and having a huge passion to improve upon yourself every off season,” she says. “I don’t know if many people are committed to making that type of sacrifice.

.com: White’s Steady Leadership Guides Fever into WNBA Spotlight

White, who spent five seasons as a Fever player and eight years as a WNBA assistant, is expected to be a solid candidate for league Coach of the Year honors.

“If she’s not, I think people are undervaluing what she’s done here,” said Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever’s president and general manager. “I think what she has done is a phenomenal job for a first-year pro coach with a lot of high expectations.”

Speaking’ with Steph: Dishin & Swishin Podcast: White has Indiana in great position for a deep playoff run

Rob Knox: Chicago Rookie Betnijah Laney Out of Rutgers Enjoys Being a Student of the Game

Today’s Fast Break has their WNBA Hidden Gems: Impact 2nd-Round Picks in 2015

The second round of the WNBA Draft is what separates the die-hards from the casuals. With most of the superstar talent almost certainly off the board by the 13th pick, this is where WNBA GMs show what they’re made of. It’s also where avid fans of both the college and professional game eagerly comb through possible “sleeper picks,” hoping that their team will pick up an overlooked player who will blossom into a star.

There’s good reason for this. Going back as far as 2010, at least three players selected in the second round of each draft are still on a WNBA roster. Of those players, six have become All-Stars, and we’ll likely be seeing a pair of All-WNBA selections in Emma Meesseman and Alex Bentley (2013 draft) sooner rather than later.

While the 2015 WNBA Draft was predicted by analysts to be weaker than some of its predecessors, a case can be made that its talent was simply more spread out. Even though none of this year’s second-round picks have put up eye-popping per-game statistics, several of them have still made valuable contributions in their rookie seasons, and will now look to stick around and establish themselves as household names among the more casual WNBA fans. Let’s take a look at a group of 2015’s second-rounders who’ve made an impact this season.

NCAA:

Happy thoughts in Austin: With former Olympian as new assistant coach, Texas women’s basketball poses serious threat

South Carolina: Sarah Imovbioh wants to be a part of something special at USC

Kevin Slaughter and Will Griffin crossed paths due to basketball and their love for impacting kids in their respective communities. Slaughter, a proud South Philadelphian and former high school basketball standout, has been connected to the sport for years.

Griffin, a West Philadelphia native, is well known throughout the community for his work, specifically at Lea Cultural Recreation Center adjacent to Drexel University’s athletic fields.

Unfortunately, basketball is not the only thing that bonds to the two. Through their own personal encounters with tragedy, Slaughter and Griffin have been inspired to ensure the lives of their relatives are honored, using basketball as the means to celebrate and create awareness.

New Jersey: Life of Nazerah Bugg Remembered through Basketball Tournament

The first annual Nazerah’s Hoop Dreams All Girls Basketball Tournament held over the past weekend at Tyrone Collins Memorial Basketball Courts, concluded with hundreds of spectators.

Nazerah Bugg, 14, was a dedicated basketball player at Kennedy High School that was tragically shot and killed on Sept. 20, 2014 while leaving a local eatery place.

Jamal Ramsey from Nazerah’s Hoop Dreams Foundation stated, “We keep her name alive and do it for the community. This tragic event we turn it into a positive.”

Xavier, Mount St. Joseph to hold Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic

The legacy of Lauren Hill and the fight to raise funds for pediatric cancer will continue with an annual women’s basketball classic at Xavier.

Division I Xavier and Division III Mount St. Joseph will open their respective seasons Nov. 14 at Cintas Center in the first Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic.

Xavier hosts Evansville at 1 p.m. that Saturday, and Mount St. Joseph plays Hiram College 30 minutes after the first game’s conclusion. The doubleheader will be televised on FOX Sports Ohio.

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like a bunch of clueless, self-delusional, profoundly tone-deaf  dingbats.

The university changed its stance, granting Romero a release as a result of a newly modified policy that allows athletic director John Currie the freedom to release student-athletes if new information or circumstances warrant the release.

When we see one person standing in opposition to a large entity, passions can be easily inflamed as people empathize. It’s the mini versus the monolith.

But that’s even more the case when, no matter how hard you look, you can’t figure out what the monolith stands to gain by exercising its power. Ultimately, that’s why so many people were baffled and angered by Kansas State’s treatment of women’s basketball player Leticia Romero.

“I’m thrilled for Leticia — this is what she deserved all along,” Romero’s attorney Donald Jackson said Tuesday morning. “I think Kansas State made the right decision and we’re thrilled about it. Sometimes things like this take a little time, but I congratulate the athletic director and the board at K-State on the decision they made.
Dang, but don’t I love a little sarcastic, subtle gloating….
Moving to a happier place: Rookie Alert!!!
BOOM! McBride drops 30 and the winner.
Story of the Game: Both teams were insanely hot from outside in the first half, combining to hit the first 11 three-point shots attempted. There were under four minutes left in the half when Shameka Christon tossed up the first missed three of the evening. The star of the show amongst the floor-wide bombing was a former Notre Dame guard – but not the one who tends to get all the press. Kayla McBride was smoking hot from the perimeter, not afraid to put the ball on the floor to create easier looks, and even made a couple of nice passes along the way as well. This is why Dan Hughes took her #3 in the recent draft, ahead of players like Alyssa Thomas and Natasha Howard who might’ve filled a more obvious hole on his roster.

Moments after becoming the first WNBA player to score 30 or more points in four consecutive games, holding a bag of ice on the five stitches over her right eye, Lynx forward Maya Moore was making the point that it’s not all her.

“Of course they are going to see I scored 30, looking at the points,” said Moore, who had 30 points in just under 31 minutes in Saturday’s victory over the New York Liberty. “But my teammates do so much for me. It’s all a team aggression; I just try to set the tone in the beginning.’’

(how cranky am I? I’ll be in Minny for a conference and the Lynx are on the road. Who’s in charge of scheduling!)
In the “it’s about time” category: Braxton waived. So much talent, so determined to squander it….
If you wanna catch up on WNBA games, check out Richard at WNBAlien.
Connecticut’s Carl Ademac catches up with old OLD Big East foe Barnes Arico: Ex-Red Storm coach is all ‘Go Blue’ at Michigan
“The Midwest is terrific,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and the people in Ann Arbor and the state of Michigan have been so welcoming. The people in Michigan are all about the Block M and all about Michigan. I put on a Michigan t-shirt and go anywhere from California to Paris, France, somebody sees me and goes, ‘Go Blue.’ So it’s just the tradition and the pride, and to be able to work at a University that has all that is incredible. I’m loving it and enjoying it.
From the Sports Business Education Network: Muffet McGraw’s Keynote Address, “Women in Leadership
Speaking of leadership: Congrats to St. Francis’ third year head coach John Thurston as St. Francis Brooklyn women’s basketball team has been invited to the pre-season WNIT for the first time in program history.
In USA Basketball news, the U-18 team was announced. Check out Clay Kallam’s notes from the 17s and 18s tryouts.
Speaking of USA Basketball, from Anna Wilson: Red White and Dream Come True
Last year I was invited to participate in the USA U16 national team trials. Unfortunately, I was not selected to be a part of the team and missed out on the FIBA Americas U16 championship in Cancun, Mexico. This year I was invited back to Colorado Springs, Colo., to try out for the USA U17 world championship team, and this time I had more experience and more confidence. And I made the team.
Q: Team USA, coached by Geno Auriemma, will look to retain the gold medal at the FIBA world championship for women Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. What is the process of reducing the current pool of players down to 12?
Interesting flashback from Emily Nkosi: Basketball, Jesus and young lesbian identity in Waco, Texas

“I will always worry about Emily.”

That is what coach Kim Mulkey said about me in her book, Won’t Back Down. Though this is not a flattering line to have your basketball coach write about you, I actually appreciate it. I have been worried about me too, and with good reason.

Things have not been easy for me over the past decade. I don’t think my struggle is particularly unique. We all have struggles. The clearer I get on my own pain, the more compassion and authenticity I have in relating to the world around me. I hope I can share parts of my story and my pain in a way that others can relate to and learn from. That’s why I’m writing this. It’s not about setting the record straight or telling my side of the story in my own words, but rather trying to excavate the hard earned nuggets of wisdom that, if shared, could help someone else avoid the same mistakes or feel less alone.

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First and foremost, a huge shout out to Barb Stevens and her Bentley University team. Not only did they earn the Division II crown, they went undefeated, AND they came back from 9 down with less than six minutes to go.

With her team down nine points with 51⁄2 minutes left in the NCAA Division 2 championship game, Bentley coach Barbara Stevens allowed herself a moment of consolation.

“I had a fleeting thought looking up at the clock at one point where I said, ‘OK, it’s been a good season,’ ” Stevens said.

It was about to get much, much better.

****

“We looked at each other with six minutes left and knew we had to give it everything we had,” grad student Courtney Finn said. “We had our backs against the wall and really had nothing to lose down nine points. We had six minutes left in our careers and we had to give it everything we had.”

That’s  No. 917 for coach Stevens – and her first national championship.

“I can’t tell you what a tremendous ride this has been for our coaching staff and the Bentley community,” said Stevens. “What a ride for these young ladies and proud of them doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. We’ve gone through so much together and they are truly champions.”

From John Dudley at the Erie-Times News:

The banner above Barbara Stevens in Bentley’s small sea of blue Friday night at Erie Insurance Arena read “Finished Business.”

Some business takes longer to finish.

Stevens, Division II women’s basketball’s winningest coach, finally won a title on her second try 37 seasons into what’s already been a Hall of Fame career.

The last 28 of those seasons have been with the Falcons, with whom she’s been to nine NCAA semifinals, two finals and, now, one mountaintop.

Not such good news for two coaches: Rhode Island is looking for a new leader, as is Minnesota. Rhodie looking of a new boss was not surprising, but for some, Borton’s firing was. Not for those around the program, though.

Jonathan Hawthorne writes: Paul Westhead’s time with Oregon women’s basketball inconsistent but impactful

The team, who was saddened by the news of his departure from Eugene, clearly enjoyed his style of play and mentorship.

“To play for a coach like him, who’s coached NBA players and won championships, it’s probably the highlight of my career because he has taught me so much,” Jillian Alleyne said after the game. “He taught me ultimately to believe in myself, that I can be any kind of player I want to be. So it’s been a great honor and a great pleasure.”

Speaking of coaches in unhappy situations, Kate Fagan dives into the rabbit hole that is the she said/she said of BU’s Kelly Greenberg: Two Distinct Portraits of Greenberg

Kristen Sims, a former Boston University women’s basketball player, remembers how head coach Kelly Greenberg supported her unconditionally before and after her knee surgery, taking Sims to doctor’s appointments and constantly checking in to see whether she needed anything.

Jacy Schulz, another former BU player, remembers the time she entered Greenberg’s office and the coach placed a box of Kleenex on the desk to signal what was to come. “She said I was a waste of life, and that I should never have been born,” Schulz told espnW.com.

Both Sims and Schulz speak with the conviction that comes from personal experience. This is exactly how it happened for me. And according to more than a dozen interviews conducted with former BU players, each of the above interactions reflects the dramatically divergent experiences of the young women who have played for Greenberg over the years.

Joan Venocchi at the Boston Globe writes: A bully, or a booster

Who’s the real Kelly Greenberg?

The two sides to her story sound like parallel worlds of a college hoops universe.

From Allie Grasgreen at Inside Higher Ed: Equal Opportunity Bullying

It’s clear that bullying and emotional abuse by coaches of any gender has deep roots. But several complaints and lawsuits in recent months focused more attention on behavior that people would historically expect to see more from men.

In WNBA news:

You stay put:  Atlanta Dream re-signs All-Star C Erika de Souza after career-best season

You also stay put: Quigley & Warley Re-sign with Chicago and Sun Sign Hightower, Greene

You go back: Katie Douglas leaving Fever as for Sun

You come here: Fever announce signing of Marissa Coleman and Sky sign free-agent forward Breland

Will you come here? Phoenix Mercury today acquired the rights to Polish center Ewelina Kobryn from the Seattle Storm in exchange for forward Charde Houston

And yah, WNBA Makes If Official: 2014 Draft At Mohegan Sun On April 14

WATN? Kelly Mazzante: Mazzante’s return to Hershey for state finals brought back a lot of memories; and not all were good-The former Montoursville High and Penn State star worked the state basketball finals for PCN.

WATN? Keri Chaconas: Former WNBA player settles in Huntersville

Holm grew up in northern Virginia, where she began playing basketball at a young age. Her prowess in the sport as a prep player landed her a scholarship at George Mason, her home school, in 1992.

She took advantage of the opportunity.

While Holm didn’t get a chance to play in an NCAA tournament game during her time with the Patriots, she almost single-handedly vaulted George Mason into a contender for the Colonial Athletic Association title.

Holm’s success as a 3-point shooter – her 218 treys have her tops in school history – helped drive George Mason to the CAA championship game in 1994, where the Patriots fell to powerhouse Old Dominion and their star freshman Ticha Penicheiro, 78-61.

From the AP’s Paul Newberrry: Szabados inspiring but women deserve more

 

But the fact that Szabados’ only real playing option after Canada’s thrilling victory was to sign on with the low-level Southern Professional Hockey League shows just how far women’s sports still lags behind, despite all the progress in the last four decades under Title IX.

At the very least, Szabados and so many other female athletes deserve leagues of their own.

Outside of the WNBA, there’s virtually no conduit for women to make a decent wage in North American team sports after their high school and college careers are over. That’s why Szabados eagerly joined the SPHL for a few games, even though some viewed it as nothing more than a publicity stunt for a team averaging less than 3,000 fans a game. That’s why Jen Welter – all 5-foot-2, 130 pounds of her – is playing in a men’s football league, taking on guys more than twice her size.

They have no choice, their options are limited.

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you can follow basketball in the US from far, far, FAR away (as in Ethiopia)?

Got some time before I get to serious teaching work and will do a little catching up. (Oh, there’s a pun!)

Catch’s 19 helped make the Liberty’s Newark debut a downer. They went ice cold in the fourth quarter and watched Tamika and the Fever take their revenge on the Lib for giving them their first loss of the season. Writes the ever opinionated and observant Queenie over at Swish Appeal: Defense Fails Liberty in the Clutch

Jessica Breland, go to the damn basket unless you tell me to my face that Whiz is telling you to shoot from the outside. Because I’m sorry, right now you’re one of the biggest people we have and your outside shot is comparable to mine. Maybe it was a bad night, but she didn’t impress me. Alex Montgomery lived up to her number in her one stint, stopping Douglas when no one else had managed to… and then she was buried on the bench, never to be seen again, not even when Douglas warmed back up, Catchings remembered she could occasionally shoot, and Pohlen and January were getting in on the offense. I don’t understand why a defensive coach who needed a defensive stop wouldn’t put in a defensive stopper.

Side note: It will be interesting to track media coverage of the Lib (“Thank you for coming all the way out here,” Cappie told the fans.) Looks like the Star-Ledger is sending Brett LoGiurato. The Times used Vin at the AP (no surprise) and Newsday (which is a Long Island based paper) sent Zach Schonbrun. Lenn Robbins was there from the NY Post: “Memo from Liberty to Madison Garden Square officials: Please expedite transformation on arena; our first game in The Rock was a disaster.”

The Liberty could have been the best story in the WNBA, maybe even on the New York sports scene considering the basketball and hockey teams are done, the NFL teams are in labor strife, the Mets are a woeful bunch and the Yankees can’t beat the Red Sox.

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Breland-free in (area near) D.C.

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as North Carolina hosts UConn.

Graham, of course, has the game tucked within his “Watch to watch for in the week ahead” blog entry.

Connecticut at North Carolina (ESPN2/ESPN3.com, 7 p.m. ET): The Huskies picked apart the Tar Heels the past two seasons, showing what happens when a team that relies on size, speed and forcing mistakes meets a team with equal size and speed that doesn’t get flustered.

The Tar Heels still aren’t going to run away from the Huskies, and Geno Auriemma’s young team has shown it isn’t easily flustered, but the size could be a factor with Tina Charles out of the mix — assuming the ACC side holds onto the ball long enough to get it into the post or get shots up to allow for offensive rebounding opportunities.

Some articles on the match-up:

UConn women game day, Post
Huskies will face Tar Heels without Walker, Courant
Auriemma on his heels heading to North Carolina, Register
Hayes’ injury leads to questions, Day
Breland back for Tar Heels, Bulletin
Tar Heels, schedule to be put to UConn test, Charlotte Observer
Tar Heels get a home court shot at Connecticut tonight, Independent News
Tar Heels women await No. 2 Huskies, News Observer
Lucas relishes chance to finally beat UConn, Las Vegas Review

 

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UNC’s Breland helps others in cancer fight

Breland, 22, said she was most affected by children with cancer while receiving treatment at UNC Hospitals.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

She thought of them when approached by coach Sylvia Hatchell and hospital representatives about a fund to raise money to fight cancer. And that’s how the Jessica Breland Comeback Kids fund was started.

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putting the past in the past and welcoming the present:

Jordan Barncastle ready to move on

There was no apology from Baylor’s Brittney Griner to Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle at Big 12 media day. In fact, the two didn’t talk or even see each other.

Barncastle was on the receiving end of the punch from Griner that went viral last March. The 6-foot-8 dunking sensation broke Barncastle’s nose after the two tussled in the lane during a game in Lubbock, Texas.

Griner, who was suspended two games, issued a general apology for her actions, but she hasn’t told Barncastle directly that she’s sorry.

“I have not crossed paths with her,” Barncastle said Wednesday. “The Baylor team went in the early session this morning. Maybe by coincidence, maybe not, we were in the later session.”

Jessica Breland ready to return

Jessica Breland doesn’t mind the prodding questions about her health. The North Carolina forward is getting comfortable taking a front-and-center position in the fight against cancer.

Back on the basketball court 1½ years after being diagnosed with the disease, she wants others to find hope in her comeback story.

“A lot of people wouldn’t want to kind of put their business out there, probably, but I think it’s for a good cause,” Breland said Tuesday. “Every time I talk to someone about the cancer stuff, I can just tell that their spirits are uplifted — especially young kids.

“I get something back in return from it, because I experienced it,” she added.

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