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Congrats: Lori Blade going into Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame

In 22 seasons, 14 at Edwardsville and eight at Carrollton, Blade has a career coaching record of 624-83. She won her 600th career game with a 51-22 victory over Belleville West on Dec. 10.

In the 14 seasons at EHS, Blade has helped the Tigers to 13 regional titles, 11 sectional titles and seven straight Southwestern Conference championships. Edwardsville has played in the super-sectional round 11 of the last 13 years.

Thanks: Slater helped push growth of girls basketball

Even in retirement, basketball is never far away from Larry Slater.

He can watch his daughters Jeanice and Terrie coach the sport he grew up loving. He can see his granddaughters play the game that changed his life.

It’s a long way from the days when Slater was trying to find a way to get girls involved in the recreation basketball program in Hartselle.

 

Cool: Main Line Girls Basketball Association’s Tigers meet former Mighty Mac Judy Martelli

NCAA

You stay put: UTC Hoops: Jim Foster Receives Contract Extension

Welcome back: Jamie Carey returns to Women’s Basketball as familiar teacher, leader

Louisville: Walz Reviews Women’s Basketball Season

Kentucky: Q&A: Barnhart discusses issues within women’s basketball program

Why are so many leaving the Kentucky women’s basketball program?

Black Bear coaching pipeline returns? UMaine women’s basketball associate head coach to take Presbyterian job

Bye? Badgers women’s basketball: 2016 recruit from Milwaukee changes her mind

Bye: Fowler leaves ISU women’s basketball

Wowza: Duke star Azurá Stevens transferring to UConn

Tada! South Dakota introduces Plitzuweit as new women’s basketball coach

Hello: Todd Starkey named Kent State women’s basketball coach

Hello: Seattle University hires Suzy Barcomb as women’s basketball coach

Nebraska: Basketball has always been a way of life for Amy Williams

Utah women’s basketball: Surprise first year under Roberts builds Utes’ ambition

Arizona women’s basketball head coach Adia Barnes steps into rebuilding stage

So, about those stories that UNCWB is being set up as the fall guy….

New UNC Allegations Focus on Women’s Basketball
New UNC Notice of Allegations focuses on women’s basketball – USA TODAY
How UNC men’s basketball, football could avoid punishment from NCAA – CBSSports.com
Five questions (and answers) about UNC’s amended notice of allegations – Greensboro News & Record

WNBA – hard to believe preseason starts TOMORROW!

Don’t have a team? Spend less $2o bucks and get one! (I’m looking at you, every single coach of a player who got drafted or you think should have been drafted. We all know coach McGraw’s signed up.)

WNBA League Pass (Formerly LiveAccess) is now available for $16.99. Use the code ‘WNBA20’ for a $2 discount. Free trial is May 14-17.

New WNBA president Lisa Borders wants to fill seats with fans as passionate as she is

First call might be to Jerian Grant: “Get With the Program” Why I Watch Women’s Basketball

But worse than all of that, the respect isn’t always there. Coming from such a close relationship with the women’s team in college, I wasn’t used to hearing people put down the women’s game.

You see the disrespect in how people dismiss women’s basketball as “boring.”

You see it in your Instagram feeds and Twitter mentions, where comments about women’s basketball players get really ugly.

The stereotypes, the put-downs, the jokes. We’ve all heard them.

This culture of disrespect fuels the perception that the WNBA game is somehow inferior to the NBA game.

After four years of sharing friendships, memories and the same court with the women’s team at Notre Dame, to hear those stereotypes and see that culture was upsetting.

Newsday: Liberty optimistic it can continue its recent success

Q&A with Dallas Wings General Manager Greg Bibb

WNBA: FGCU’s Knight soaking up Sparks training camp

Former Gophers star Rachel Banham gets ‘green light’ in first WNBA camp

Storm guard Jewell Loyd intends to play without fear in her 2nd WNBA season

Jude Schimmel gets her shot in WNBA camp

Imani Boyette Follows in Mother’s Footsteps, Finds Perfect Fit in Chicago

Chicago Sky Tamera Young uses basketball to empower youth

Chiney Ogwmike pleased to be back with Connecticut Sun

New Sun Coach Curt Miller Ready To Get Going – His Way

Oregon Women’s Basketball: Jillian Alleyne and Kelly Graves talk WNBA Draft

Nice: WNBA’s Connecticut Sun Reaches Agreement with Fox 61 and WCCT to Televise Seven Games

Rookie Breanna Stewart embraces pressure to elevate Storm

Moriah Jefferson’s New Coach Very Confident In UConn Star’s Abilities

Newest Spark Talia Walton Is Out To Prove Her Doubters Wrong

Seven things to expect in the Fever’s upcoming season

Tamika: The Last “First” Day

As I laid in bed this morning I couldn’t go back to sleep. This is officially my final “First Day” of training camp. It’s crazy to think of the emotions that swirled through my head the first time I watched a WNBA game, to the that night I got drafted, then the first time I set foot in Indianapolis, the first time that I got announced on the court after sitting out the first year… the first time I scored, the first time I won an award… just so many firsts and even more memories.

Flashback: WNBA player recall Prince’s invite to Paisley Park and The story behind Prince’s private party for Minnesota’s WNBA team

WNBA Star Chamique Holdsclaw: From A Virtuoso On The Court To A Champion For Mental Health

USA Basketball

Auriemma likes experienced U.S. Olympic roster

BTW, if you think only women’s sports writers are the only one subjected to #morethanmean, you might want to have a chat with fans and players…

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First we have DT taking the season off.

Then we have Z.B. leaving early to enter the draft.

Then we have Ms. Loyd leaving early to enter the draft (and coach McGraw being not so happy) Is it a bad idea? Good Idea?

Then we have CP3 absenting herself for a hunk of games. (Will Big Syl be next?)

Then we have a HUNK of transfers (as Blue Star Media notes:College players on the move, but not many coaches ):

Minnesota

Virginia

Wichita State: Returning starters Michaela Dapprich and Alie Decker are among four players leaving the Wichita State women’s basketball program

Indiana

Vanderbilt

Oklahoma State: Four players transfer and top recruit decommits amid departure of assistant coach Richard Henderson

USC: Women’s Basketball Loses Two Key Freshmen Players

Boston College

Texas: Nekia Jones.

Kansas State: Jones prepares to transfer while Meeks eyes graduate degree

Some who benefitted from transfers:

Mississippi State got Oklahoma State’s Roshunda Johnson

Oakland got Illinois’ Taylor Gleason.

Oregon got BC’s Kat Cooper.

Minnesota got Marquette’s Kenisha Bell.

DePaul got Illinois’ Jacqui Grant

So you’re looking to find gem in the European basketball mines? Check out this from Blue Star: I wish these stories weren’t true 

There are success stories. Check out this list of international newcomers to the NCAA (Spain is represented quite well).

The NCAA spins a happy tune: Women’s basketball championship a success across multiple platforms

The 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship and Women’s Final Four hosted in Tampa Bay resulted in successes across multiple platforms.

The Women’s Final Four attendance totaled 39,540, marking the highest attendance for the Women’s Final Four in the last five years. The national championship game attendance reached 19,810 fans in Amalie Arena.

In addition, the first and second rounds of the championship, taking place at the top 16 hosting sites under the new Division I women’s basketball format, recorded the second-highest total attendance since 2004. The overall 2015 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship also recorded the third-highest number of fans since 2004, with a total of 239,746 going through the turnstiles.

Coaching News:

Utah looks to Pacific for their new coach, Lynne Roberts.

UALR says “Stay Put Please” to Joe Foley.

So does Syracuse to Q.

Lafayette brings back a classic: Theresa Grentz

Interesting… Kansas says “Yes” to Brandon Schneider. After Jody Adams said “No.” 

Georgia stayed local… and generous when they hired Joni Crenshaw. Writes Jordan James: Crenshaw follows Landers’ lead, but will put own stamp on program

Western Carolina lured back a two-time assistant when they signed Stephanie McCormick as head coach.

North Florida looks to Miami for their new head coach, Darrick Gibbs.

Air Force tags Chris Gobrecht.

Portland State got Lynn Kennedy from NAIA’s Southern Oregon.

Southeast Missouri State University snagged Rekha Patterson from Ball State.

Some post-draft news:

ESPN – Draft Grades (Yah, I’m kinda excited about the Lib this year)

Bleacher Report has 2015 WNBA Draft Results: Full List of Selections and Top Takeaways

Atlanta: Logic a promising work-in-progress for Dream

Atlanta: Hrynko of DePaul to fight for roster spot

Chicago: Sky’s top pick Parker puts troubles behind her

Chicago: Parker in ‘disbelief’ over WNBA draft selection

It didn’t take long for Cheyenne Parker to hear her name called during the 2015 WNBA draft Thursday night.

Less than 30 minutes to be exact.

“It was crazy, I just dropped to my knees,” Parker said about being selected. “I was just lost for words. My initial thought was, ‘Is this real? Did this just happen?’ I am just so blessed.”

Los Angeles: Sparks draft Central Michigan’s Crystal Bradford with No. 7 pick in 2015 WNBA Draft

Minnesota: Lynx trade for guard, draft Cal forward and U’s Shae Kelley

New York: Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer Eager To Work With Kiah Stokes

New York: How 2 prize rookies will fit in with new-look Liberty

Phoenix: Wichita State’s Alex Harden surprised by WNBA Draft

Seattle: Storm’s rebuilding nearly complete after 2 top draft picks

Seattle: Storm got the cream of the crop in drafting Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jewell Loyd

Tulsa: Shock selects Sweden’s Amanda Zahui B. with No. 2 pick in WNBA draft

Washington: Punch Shots: Cloud deserves her shot at the WNBA

Washington: How will Ally Malott and Natasha Cloud fit with the Washington Mystics in 2015 and beyond?

Semi-drafted: Princeton’s Dietrick earns spot on Washington Mystics training camp roster

Not drafted: Jude Schimmel Talks of Managing Her Sister Shoni’s Career. BTW, did you catch her new book: ‘You Don’t Have to Leave the Reservation to be Successful’

Speaking of the W:

Did ya catch the video, Sue Bird: Revealed?

You can never get enough Chiney. First she’s Dishin’ and Swishin’ (CO reflects on the Draft Experience & first year in the WNBA) and then she’s video-ing.

The Power of Drake, Scandal And The Upcoming WNBA Draft (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #1)

The Way Female Athletes Are Shown In The Media Needs To Change (UNFILTERED | CHINEY OGWUMIKE #2)

 
 

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…and it’s pretty frightening!”

Mechelle goes all “Sound of Music meets Sweet Sixteen”

That most feel-good of films, “The Sound of Music,” turns 50 this month, and there’s no way I’m letting the opportunity escape without somehow getting a basketball column out of it.

I’ve written about “The Sound of Music” and hoops before, but that was in 2002. You should be allowed to do it at least once a decade, right?

So now as the regionals are upon us, here are 16 (going on 17) observations about the Sweet 16.

As for yesterday’s games….

That was close…(someone will be chewing on that ill-advised three for a while). Gamecocks survive clash with nemesis North Carolina. From Mechelle:

South Carolina’s nightmare from the 2014 NCAA tournament almost came back to haunt the Gamecocks again in 2015. This time, though, the top-seeded Gamecocks are moving onto the Elite Eight.

In a game that was not for the faint of heart, the Gamecocks survived 67-65 over a tough, gritty North Carolina team that nearly upset South Carolina for the second consecutive year in the Sweet 16.

It looked rather dire for the Gamecocks here at Greensboro Coliseum, as they trailed by three points with 1 minute, 21 seconds left. They had made just one shot from the field in the previous four minutes.

And: Gamecocks topple another barrier – South Carolina in first Elite Eight since 2002, is one win away from first Final Four

Olivia Gaines stood on the foul line with the end of her college basketball career staring at her.

That’s not really what she was thinking about, but she knew. So did fellow South Carolina seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam. The Gamecocks were down by three points against North Carolina, the team that had cut short their season the year before. Here they were with just 81 seconds left to keep it from happening all over again.

That was not… Irish by 21 over Stanford. Late show with Lindsay Allen lifts Notre Dame past Stanford

Lindsay Allen picked the right time to have a career night for Notre Dame’s second-ranked women’s basketball team.

Allen, a quiet 5-7 sophomore point guard who usually plays third fiddle to her equally dangerous and well-known teammates Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, poured in 24 points in the first half – matching her season high alone in the first 20 minutes of play – and finished with a career-high 28 as Notre Dame disposed of stubborn Stanford, 81-60, late Friday night to reach the women’s Oklahoma City Regional championship game.

That was close...(Ole! to my right. Ole! to my left!)

“At the end of the game, you just don’t think,” Romero said. “You just want to help your team to win the game. … All those games that we have had, it has always been somebody different. Today was me shooting the last shots. I’m sure (Sunday) we are going to have a lot more weapons. … Having a team like this, you just play, and it’s just easy.”

That was not… Bears by 15 over Iowa (Live by the three, die by the three?) Baylor WBB advances to Elite Eight with 81-66 win over Iowa

For a minute, the Iowa Hawkeyes looked like they were in Oklahoma City to give No. 2 seed Baylor a ball game. Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle ignited an 11-0 run late in the first half and brought her team within two points of the Big 12 champions.

But just as the game became interesting, a youth movement broke out momentarily in Oklahoma City.

Sweet 16 trip ‘special’ for Dixon, Iowa women, despite loss

Melissa Dixon was a woman on the run.

Seemingly on the move all night, Dixon was looking for an opening, looking for a screen, looking for anything that would allow the nation’s most prominent 3-point shooter a chance to get off a shot.

But Baylor’s defense was too tight and the second-seeded Bears downed Dixon and third-seeded Iowa, 81-66, in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Graham on the Bears/Irish: Supporting casts step up

It was no surprise to see Baylor coach Kim Mulkey react to a successful offensive sequence by pirouetting partway toward the crowd and pumping a fist in exaltation during the second half of her team’s Sweet 16 game Friday night. It wasn’t all that surprising to see her do it again just a few minutes later. You need only read body language on a kindergarden level to know what Mulkey is thinking at any given moment during a basketball game.

Even she acknowledged, “I’m not responsible sometimes for what I do or see or say on that sideline.”

On today’s games:

Texas v. UConn

Texas’ twin towers to test UConn – But will Longhorns have an answer for Huskies’ hot hand from 3-point range?

Stats gurus warn against predictions based on the last game you watched, but that might be Texas’ best hope against No. 1 UConn in the NCAA women’s regional semifinal here Saturday (ESPN/WatchESPN, noon ET).

The Longhorns played a “Twin Towers” lineup for much of their 73-70 victory at Cal in the second round on Sunday, and 6-foot-7 junior forward Imani McGee-Stafford and 6-5 sophomore center Kelsey Lang together scored 34 points while converting a combined 13-of-19 shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the inside presence of Lang (two blocks, two steals) and McGee-Stafford (11 boards) frustrated Cal’s talented tandem of Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray, holding the latter to just seven points.

And thanks, HuskyNan:

Texas Women Return To Spotlight, But UConn Casts Big Shadow, Courant
Capsule: Texas (24-10) Vs. UConn (34-1), Courant
UConn women face tall task against Texas front line, Register
Texas assistant coach quite familiar with competitiveness of Moriah Jefferson, Register
Women’s NCAA tournament preview capsule: Texas vs. No. 1 UConn, Register
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Geno Auriemma builds UConn into gold standard in women’s basketball, Daily Freeman
NCAA Albany: UConn capsule, Saratogian
UConn’s Breanna Stewart playing in familiar surroundings, Troy Record
Is There Anything UConn Can’t Do? Tweet, for One, NY Times
Hadley: Notre Dame, Stanford and Connecticut: the transitive property, The Observer
How Texas can pull a mammoth upset of No. 1 UConn women in Sweet 16, Sports Illustrated
Texas glad for big challenge, Albany Times Union
Texas has chance to take down Goliath, Troy Record
Texas Ready For Sweet 16 Matchup With UConn, CBS Local
Texas Longhorns ready for No. 1 Connecticut, 247Sports

From Mike DiMauro: The Texas of women’s basketball meets … Texas

The absurdity of it all.

Connecticut versus … Texas.

Texas, with its roughly $160 million athletic budget, only $100 million more than UConn’s.

Texas, from the Indian word “tejas,” meaning “friends” or “allies.” Connecticut, loosely translated from its Algonquian origin, must mean “uptight.”

Texas, famed in slogans, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and “Remember the Alamo.” All we have is Alamo Rent a Car at Bradley Airport.

Texas, feted in song: “All My Exes Live in Texas,” the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Galveston.” After the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, what do we have, really, besides traffic and people who like to complain a lot?

Gonzaga v. Tennessee

Gonzaga relishing improbable run – Gonzaga looking to make a splash against Tennessee in its own backyard

This opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed, is not a new one for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team. It has one it more than any other women’s team in tournament history.

And this opportunity, to play deep into the NCAA tournament as a double-digit seed 2 miles from campus, isn’t a new one, either, for the Bulldogs. They reached the Elite Eight here in 2011.

But this opportunity, this season at No. 11, might not have seemed like it was going to happen for Gonzaga.

Kelly Graves, the coach who built this program into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, left last spring to take over at Oregon.

Dayton v. Louisville

U of L women not looking past Dayton in Sweet 16

Louisville has won its past three regional semifinals and is facing a team out of the Atlantic 10 that has never made it this far.

“When you get to this point in time, I don’t think the kids even know what round they’re playing in,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said Friday. “It’s just the next team that you have to face. The ball’s still the same size, the court’s the same length, everything’s the same.”

Dayton trying to knock off second team from Kentucky

Dayton has already upset one team from Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and the Flyers don’t see why a game with Louisville should be any different.

“Playing UK on their home court really prepared us,” said senior guard Andrea Hoover. “That was a tough environment for us and playing here on a neutral court against Louisville, we’re more than prepared.”

Dayton, Louisville set for NCAA Tournament matchup

The Flyers will try to solve an unpredictable Louisville defense that uses halfcourt trapping and fullcourt pressure to force 20.1 turnovers per game.

“I think it’s a great challenge,” said Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who held the same title at Siena from 1987 to 1990. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’re very aggressive. We just played Kentucky, and we pretty much knew what we were going to see. With Louisville, you’re going to see pressure, but it’s going to be different kinds. It’s going to come at you in different ways.”

Whitaker enjoying march to Sweet 16 – Former Lady Topper coaching against Louisville

Rob offers a 2015 NCAA Preview – Spokane Regional

Maryland has size with the 6-4 Howard, 6-3 (and massive) Jones and 6-2 Pfirman. They will need that size against Duke’s frontline, especially the versatility of Azura’ Stevens. Maryland is not a pressure defense team, nor do they play a lot of junk defenses. They play man-to-man and depend on their size and rebounding to get stops and extra possessions. This is a team better known for its offense (80 ppg) than its defense (60 ppg). Their scoring balance is excellent, and while they don’t have great shooters, they get enough out of them to make sure that the sturdy Jones gets plenty of touches and the aggressive Walker-Kimbrough gets to attack the basket. The true catalysts for the team are Mincy and Brown, who make and take big shots. This isn’t actually a bad matchup for Duke; Maryland has depth but not as much as Mississippi State. They can shoot but their shooters are streaky. Maryland has size but not as much as Duke. These are two teams that are extremely familiar with each other, teams that battled tooth and claw for a number of years. That rivalry will fuel this game beyond simply the desire to make it to the Elite Eight and could make it a very close game.

Duke v. Maryland

Maryland women’s basketball finds edge inside the lines starts between the ears

Put aside pick-and-rolls and fast breaks for a minute, and let the top-seeded Maryland women’s team take you inside their heads.

Let them tell you about their trigger words and their best selves. About the outside pressures they face and the internal focus they need. About dealing with their fears and increasing their mental performance. About making sure they don’t get trapped in downward spirals, and about focusing on process rather than outcome.

If it sounds a bit more clinical than your typical whiteboard diagram, it should. 

Maryland women’s basketball meets former ACC rival Duke in Sweet 16 – Terps to play Blue Devils in NCAA tournament for first time since 2006 national championship overtime victory

After two knee surgeries, Laurin Mincy leads Maryland women to Sweet 16

As shot after shot ripped through the net and her thin blade of a frame bounced around the Xfinity Center court, possessed by some rare electricity, Laurin Mincy felt like the player she was always meant to be.

No longer was the Maryland senior defined by the surgical scars on each knee, by the angst of playing in a body that would not answer her spirit’s call. She was back — back to being the 5-year-old girl who’d reduced opponents to tears with her precocious crossover dribbles, back to being the middle schooler who’d had her jersey retired because she was just that dominant.

Top-seeded Maryland getting ready to face longtime rival Duke in Sweet 16

Duke, Maryland rekindle rivalry in Sweet 16

The Duke Blue Devils have waited 13 months to renew their heated women’s basketball rivalry with Maryland. Now that the teams are set to square off Saturday afternoon in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Duke plans to keep the explosive Terrapins waiting even longer whenever the Blue Devils have the ball.

“If we speed up and play at their tempo, then it could be disastrous,” Duke guard Ka’lia Johnson said Friday at the Spokane Arena.

The Blue Devils are 23-10 and ranked 16th in the most recent Associated Press poll, but turnovers and a lack of depth have posed problems all season.

“We have no depth whatsoever,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

 Okay – off do some spring cleaning… in the hopes it will encourage spring to show up…

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but the rest of the world sure did.

Here’s hoping you and yours are safe and hugged.

As for the basketball world, here’s what I missed:

It’s never too early: The early NCAA women’s basketball preseason top 10

Job filled: Pepperdine promotes assistant Ryan Weisenberg to job as women’s basketball coach. I guess only folks near the program can say whether this is a good or lazy hire.

Another job filled: New women’s basketball coach Randy Norton’s UAB connections go way back

Another job filled: Wright leaves Gannon to coach Miami (Ohio) women’s basketball

You stay put: Duke extends women’s basketball coach McCallie’s contract through 2018-19 season

It’s about time: Alabama reassigns women’s basketball coach Wendell Hudson to administrative role

And well they should: Special year treasured by Irish fans

 They came with basketballs to be signed, and cameras to snap photos.

They formed a line that snaked down the north dome of the Joyce Center, around the concourse, and past the basketball office in the south dome, to get autographs.

They showed up more than 1,200 strong, forcing a move from Purcell Pavilion to the north dome.

Notre Dame women’s basketball fans showed up in record numbers to celebrate a remarkable season, and bid farewell to seniors Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner at the Fighting Irish women’s basketball banquet on Tuesday night.

From Sean Farrell: Syracuse Women’s Basketball: A Season In Review

With the selection of Kayla Alexander in the WNBA Draft last week, the women’s basketball season officially came to a close. Between a 24-8 record, an appearance in the Big East semifinals and the NCAA Tournament, it was arguably the most successful season in Quentin Hillsman’s seven years at Syracuse.

From jords: Kentucky Women’s Basketball 2012-13: Year In Review

Congrats: Schimmel Sisters, Angel Goodrich Win Prestigious NABI Honor

Angel Goodrich, Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) alumnus who recently was selected by the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, only the second Native player to be drafted into the league, and Shoni and Jude Schimmel, the first Native Americans to play in an NCAA women’s basketball tournament championship game, were named the recipients of the 2013 Phil Homeratha Leadership Award. The award, named after the late Haskell Indian Nations University women’s basketball coach, Phil Homeratha, will be presented during the NABI Championship games taking place at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Sunday, July 21.

Cool: Roonie Scovel Talks About Seeing Former Player Drafted by WNBA

Podcast: Brenda & Mechelle:  WSC Radio Show: April 19, 2013: The end of the NCAA basketball season, the WNBA Draft and more

A blog entry from Elena: A little girl’s dreams realized

My days leading up to the draft were spent with 11 other rookies going to meetings to help ease the transition into the professional sports world. Rookie orientation was only three days long and as you can imagine, there is a lot of information that can be helpful in preparing to enter the WNBA. So, because of the short time period, we had to fit a lot of meetings into those three days. Because I was so busy focusing on the tips and information I was being presented with, I barely had time to focus on the fact that I was just days away from one I had dreamt of for as long as I could remember. Playing professional basketball was a lifelong dream and I was lucky enough that, due to the fact that the league existed for most of my life, this was a realistic dream.

From Full Court: Making sense of the Mystics’ Meesseman mystery pick

From the Pittsburgh Courier: Brittney Griner is Gay — Can the WNBA finally move on?

Last Wednesday during a press conference the #1 Draft pick in the WNBA, Brittney Griner did the unspeakable. She casually, matter of factly and openly came out as gay in her first press conference as a professional basketball player.

Griner enters the WNBA as one of the most successful college basketball players (male or female) ever, and she will do wonders for the Phoenix Mercury as a low post defensive stopper. However, what is more important than her play on the court is that her openness about her sexuality shows that as a league and a business the WNBA has finally grown up. Griner’s admission shows that the WNBA is no longer obsessed with finding that “crossover” star to “save” the league and might actually get back to the business of promoting good basketball.

More: Brittney Griner discusses being gay

From Kate Fagan: What does it mean to be an openly gay athlete?

From Jemelle Hill: Brittney Griner’s inspiring message

From LZ Granderson: No perfect time- Society’s not waiting for NFL to be fully prepared for an out player

From AZ Central: WNBA is fine with gay athletes such as Brittney Griner; why can’t men’s major pro sports seem to handle it?

From Fox Sports Arizona: Mercury embrace Griner as player, person

From Outsports: Podcast: Brittney Griner comes out to little fanfare

From HoopFeed: Before Brittney: Emily Nkosi talks about Griner and life since leaving Baylor after coming out

Will her play translate into the W season? WNBL grand final MVP Kelsey Griffin has re-signed with the Bendigo Bank Spirit for next season.

Movie time! Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt’s life, career chronicled

Pat Summitt smiled, laughed and shook her head at times.

The Hall of Fame coach, who has early onset dementia, was part of the audience watching a screening of a documentary about her career. “Pat XO.”

“It’s a wonderful film and they did a great job with it,” Summitt told The Associated Press. “It was really incredible to see all those people share their stories.”

Four losses:

Hall of Fame Clemson women’s basketball coach Tribble dies at age 80

Hall of Fame coach Sheridan dies: Shadle Park great won five state volleyball titles, two state girls basketball titles with Highlanders

Crash kills former Orange Park women’s basketball star, Alicia Gladden

Godwin Heights mourns girls basketball player who collapsed, died during practice

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my trip last week to Nebraska and my trip this week to New Orleans: Nebraska was freezing, New Orleans is not.

Things that happened in New Orleans:

  • Sitting at the WBCA All-Star game and listening in a couple of SEC folks deconstruct the second half of Kentucky/UConn game.
  • Coming up with a new game to play: Guess which high school player is going to which program based on their style of play.
  • Watching Griner take a moment for a picture with a young fan. Griner standing on the arena floor, fan in the stands: Fan is almost as tall as Griner’s upper body.
  • Yummy, yummy po’ boys at Mothers.
  • Being stalked by friend Renee and her crew. Always good to see familiar faces — even if it’s only once a year.
  • Chatting with deeply-in-the-know-folks about certain coaches who make goofily loud statements about how they’d rather be in a place known for its pasta v. goin’ to New Orleans. Clue-free, much?
  • Walking. Lots of walking. Staying up on St. Charles — a little nearer than I was back in my youth hostel days, but still a walk into the center of the city. Beautiful buildings — brick being the specialty of the house.
  • Pelicans. Brown, that is, are all over the city ’cause, you know, it’s the state bird. And their NBA basketball team is renaming itself the Pelicans. (Guess they got jealous of the Stormy Petrels, huh?).
  • Actually, pelicans are a similarity to my trip to Nebraska, in that we saw a string of 9 migrating white pelicans. And we’re staying nearish to the Blind Pelican.
  • Teasing coach McCallie as you meet her walking the streets ’cause she’s got that “I lost my rental car in the parking lot” look. Liking the fact that she can go with the flow and approve of the sleek silver corvette I point out for her. (BTW, she did find time to provide some F4 analysis.)
  • Knowing my day is brunch, basketball, basketball, dinner. What could be better?

From those folks actually working:

About that Purple, Black and Neon-Green High School Game: Black Team Clinches Win in 2013 WBCA High School All America Game, and no, celebrity coaches Swin and Catch did not throw basketballs at each other. But they got close to throwing on a jersey to secure their team a win.

Sports Illustrated points out that In women’s Final Four, it’s a heated rivalry and two newcomers (even though I know Richard knows Walz has been there before.).

The Times-Picayune’s Trey Iles says, California women’s basketball a Bear of a team when it comes to rebounding, Rachel Whittaker says Connecticut freshmen adjusting to Women’s Final Four stage, hoping to give seniors one more shot,
Cal, Louisville feature tough teams looking to continue Women’s Final Four runs,and Terrance Harris writes, Notre Dame and UConn leaving past in the past as the rivals square off — again– in the Women’s Final Four

The entire state of Connecticut might be in frenzy these days trying to figure out just how deep No.1 Notre Dame has gotten into the heads of its beloved Huskies these past two years.

Arguably the best rivalry in women’s college basketball has become awfully one-sided these last 24 months, with the Fighting Irish winning seven of the last eight games over UConn.

But as far as Notre Dame senior All-American point guard Skylar Diggins is concerned, nothing in the past, not even the three wins over the Huskies this season alone, has meaning as the two powerhouse programs from the Big East get set to square off for a fourth time this year during the national semifinal round of the NCAA Women’s Final Four on Sunday night at the New Orleans Arena.

No surprise, a ton of stuff from the Horde (thanks, Nan):

Huskies believe they’re ready to avert failures vs. Irish, Post
UConn vs. Notre Dame: Who has the edge?, Post
Breaking down the women’s Final Four, Post
Incoming freshman Saniya Chong will get close up look at her future teammates, Post
Auriemma Says Whatever He Can (To Anyone) To Motivate Players, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis Join Exclusive Club Of All-Americans, Courant
UConn Women Face Common Dilemma Vs. Notre Dame – Not Letting Another Team Get Inside Your Head, Courant
Jeff Jacobs: UConn Women Will Win This One, In First 39 Minutes, Courant
Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis named to WBCA All-America squad, Register
Roads for seniors Skylar Diggins, Kelly Faris lead to the same place, Register
Notre Dame vs. UConn, Register
UConn gets one last chance to beat Irish, Day
This is the one that counts, Hour

Kelly Whiteside at USA Today thinks that For Notre Dame, Connecticut, it comes down to crawfish:

It’s easy to be unnerved by a bowl of crawfish.

“It was looking back at us,” Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins said as she described her team’s experience sampling the local Final Four fare. “Had eyes in it still.”

In a way, the Notre Dame-Connecticut women’s national semifinal on Sunday is little like a bowl of crawfish. We’ve seen it more than once (or twice or thrice) but it’s still transfixing. You don’t want to look away.

From the Chicago Tribune: Loyd and Tuck: A tale of two seasons

Gene Wang, WaPo: Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz basking in Final Four

From the YouTubes, Notre Dame athletics is workin’ it: During the 2nd day of the Final Four, the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team practiced at Tulane University, had their head shots taken for the ESPN broadcast, and celebrated at the Final Four Salute dinner.

Congrats – and so well deserved – to AP COY McGraw (Gives me chance to shout out a former Lib player, WATN? COY: Vanessa Nygaard is girls’ basketball coach of the year)

Yup, AP Tom, McGraw, Auriemma have crossed paths for years

From the SBT:

From the Mercury News’ Stephanie Hammon: Brittany Boyd shows maturity in sophomore season for Cal women’s basketball team

“I knew that going with a very exciting, dynamic freshman point guard there were going to be some times where you say, ‘OK, that’s a growth moment,’ but a lot more times that you see the spectacular,” Gottlieb said. “I wanted to give her that rope and that empowerment to be her and she has continued to stay with us and try to get better every step of the way.”

“I grew up in a sense,” Boyd said. “I understand the game more.”

Hammon also adds: Cal women’s basketball team expects the unexpected from Louisville’s defense

“After our Baylor win, we went into the press room, and they’re all asking me how long are you going to enjoy this, and I said, ‘For a lifetime,’ ” Walz said by telephone from New Orleans, site of this year’s Final Four. “I said, ‘We’re going to talk about this the rest of the day, tomorrow, the next day, next week, next year.’ I’ve been doing this for 18 years now and really just come to the conclusion life’s too short. You have to enjoy your moments.”

The Louisville Courier Journal makes up for lost time:

Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel is shining bright in the NCAA Tournament

Q&A with U of L’s Monique Reid: Been there, done that, doing it again

Women’s NCAA: Cards’ defense can baffle Cards, too

If you find yourself puzzled as to what kind of defense the University of Louisville women’s basketball team is running, take heart.

Sometimes the U of L coaches and players don’t know, either.

The Cardinals’ shifting schemes have keyed their surprising run to the Final Four. They will switch defenses as many as three times in a single possession, and as you might expect, that occasionally causes confusion on both sides. During the Elite Eight victory over Tennessee, coach Jeff Walz’s assistants asked him what defense the team was in.

“I turned around and said, ‘I don’t know. Shut up,’ ” Walz said. “ ‘Who cares? They’re playing hard.’ They started laughing.

Inside the Louisville-California women’s matchup

Akoy Agau in his words on Louisville basketball in the Final Four

‘If it can happen three times . . .’ Auriemma’s Huskies face an Irish streak

Jere’ from the NY Times adds: Far From Reservation, Sisters Lead Louisville

Louisville had just advanced to the women’s Final Four, and the sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel had helped cut the nets in celebration, a rare achievement for American Indian athletes. But it was not the biggest family news of the day.

NBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and folks on “Women’s Basketball as a Model for the NCAA”

Griner says, “Why not, ” Swin says, “Why should she have to?”

Some chick offers The UConn perspective — historical, physical and emotional — on Sunday’s semifinal

From Harvey Araton at the New York Times: At Intersection of Fading Eras in Women’s Game

Donehew, who was a graduate assistant and director of operations for Summitt’s team from 2001 to 2008, was close enough to be inside the circle after the painful diagnosis came in the summer of 2011. She was part of a small group that included Summitt’s son, Tyler, meeting one day to plot a strategy with Summitt on how to proceed publicly.

“We talked about what she wanted to do moving forward: her career, her plans, her legacy,” Donehew said.

But what of the heritage of the Big East, where Donehew has worked for the past four years, joining the conference at a time when its women’s basketball fortunes had become very much the competitive equal of its acclaimed and soon-to-be-mourned big brother?

And, since there are folks on the gentlemen’s side who are all het up about the officiating in the Syracuse/Michigan game, I have an excuse to revive this brilliant April Fool’s from a few years back: 

Cleveland, April 1 (AF) – The NCAA and the Women’s Basketball Officiating Consortium announced new assignments for game officials in Tuesday’s women’s Division I national basketball championship game today, replacing the previously-assigned officials with a new group who had not previously officiated in this year’s NCAA tournament. The original crew, Sally Bell, Dennis DeMayo and Dee Kantner, will be replaced by University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, Maryland coach Brenda Frese and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.

Mary Struckhoff, the National Coordinator of Women’s Basketball Officiating for the NCAA, announced the new officiating crew at a press conference last night. “While we realize that many fans will be surprised by this change, we think it will make for a more exciting contest. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing this group try to manage a basketball game. We’re particularly delighted that Brenda was able to take time out from updating her resume to officiate on Tuesday night.”

The reactions of the referees originally scheduled to officiate the game were surprisingly upbeat. “I think this is the finest group of coach/referees they could have assembled,” said DeMayo. “I know that every one of them has corrected my officiating mistakes dozens of times, and made sure I knew exactly how I had missed each call. It’s an honor to give up my spot in the national championship game for these outstanding individuals. I’m looking forward to reviewing the game tape with them so I can learn how someone can call a game so well from 30, 40 or even 70 feet away from the play.” (Click to continue reading)

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are here.

Vicki L. Friedman and Paul White offer up their Full Court mid-major All-Americans: Much more than Delle Donne

Given the nature of the American sports media, it’s easy to think that the only special players are the ones who play at the biggest schools. But special players can be found throughout the Division I ranks — and not just at Delaware — so the Fullcourt.com Mid-Major All-American team is our way of recognizing some of the talent that often gets overlooked.

Of course, as is the case with our Player of the Year, as every so often there’s a star so incandescent she manages to seize the spotlight no matter where she enrolls.

Mechelle has a nice piece on Griner.

Baylor’s Brittney Griner glanced up at the national championship banners inside the New Orleans Arena and winced a bit Saturday.

“I thought, ‘We should have another one up there. We should be here fighting for one more,'” Griner said. “It definitely makes it hard, but you can’t run from stuff. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

More from Mechelle: Final Four offers good mix – Favorites or underdogs, there is something for eveyone in New Orleans

If you’ve seen “Oz the Great and Powerful,” you know the most emotion-provoking characters in film are not actually humans. China Girl, the doll, and Finley, the helpful winged monkey, are voiced by real people, but they are computer-generated imagery. They steal your heart and steal the show from James Franco, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis.

The Louisville and Cal teams are flesh-and-blood folks, but they have a fairy-tale quality that almost makes it seem as if they could have been manufactured in someone’s imagination.

Meanwhile, the box-office big names — No. 1 seeds Connecticut and Notre Dame — are also here, ready to live up to their star power.

She adds another piece: Diggins ready for final shot at title

It’s no easy trick: being focused on an ultimate goal, but not too focused. Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins has been thinking about winning a national championship for the Fighting Irish since she was a little kid and saw her hometown team celebrating the NCAA title in 2001.

That’s a long time to carry a very specific dream that an extremely small amount of Division I players actually get to realize. Diggins has been in the past two NCAA title games, with the Irish losing to Texas A&M in 2011 and Baylor last season.

Graham says, Jeff Walz keeps Cardinals believing

The old basketball adage about a shooter’s mindset holds that a player misses 100 percent of the shots she doesn’t take. A coach also loses out on the potential rewards of 100 percent of the gambles he or she doesn’t take.

And if you think it’s difficult to play for Walz, the bellicose, sarcastic sideline ranter, try figuring out what college basketball’s mad genius is going to try next. 

More Graham: Reid’s heart makes up for bum knee

Monique Reid might be limping toward the end of her college career, but she’s about to put some distance between herself and any other woman who has played basketball at the University of Louisville.

She grew up going to Louisville games long before her hometown school started playing games in a downtown NBA-style arena. She was the kid who attended all the basketball camps and sat in the front row when the Cardinals played. She was the ball girl who idolized players like Sara Nord. And Sunday, she’ll become the first player in program history to play in two Final Fours.

Michelle writes: There’s no place like home – Berkeley High star Boyd committed to Cal despite coaching change

Brittany Boyd arrived at Cal a year and a half ago knowing how to play at one speed — on your mark, get set, go — every outlet pass turning into a race to the rim on the other end of the floor.

Races, mind you, that she would usually win because she is the fastest player on the floor.

“She gets the ball, and you just have to book it down to the other end,” junior forward Gennifer Brandon said. “I just tried to stay close to her in case she wants to dish it.”

Fagan suggests Players, not past meetings, are key – Stewart, Jefferson could be the key to Huskies finally solving Irish this season

Finally, Fagan gives us Four storylines for the Final Four

The heavyweight matchup Sunday night is UConn-Notre Dame Part IV.

That game has the most buzz because the storylines are endless: the Big East rivalry, the last go-round for Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, the up-and-coming play of UConn freshman Breanna Stewart. And, of course, the million-dollar question: Is it possible for the Fighting Irish to beat the Huskies four times in one season? Considering that between them UConn and Notre Dame have 19 appearance in the Final Four, it makes sense that Sunday’s second semifinal is overshadowing the first, between No. 2 seed California and No. 5 seed Louisville. The Golden Bears are making their first appearance in the Final Four, and the Cardinals are making their second.

But even though the Cal-Louisville game is flying under the radar, there are some interesting subplots to pay attention to when the two teams tip off Sunday (ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET). So we start with that game as we break down the key things to watch going into Sunday’s national semifinals.

At Swish Appeal, Richard Kent has some 2013 Final Four tidbits from Louisville’s Jeff Walz: Griner, sideline style, and unexpected scoring

The S.A. Admin says Cal, Louisville a matchup of fun teams looking to take away each others strengths

Jessica Lantz picks up an old story thread: Native American heritage draws support for Schimmels, Louisville in Final Four run

I grew up in Oklahoma – no secret there. And Oklahoma, the literal end of the Trail of Tears means “Red People” in Choctaw. As a native Okie, these are things that you learn about when you take Oklahoma History, a required course in the junior high curriculum. But for other folks in other states, these things might be overlooked – like most of the small native population is.

Despite being in this country well before any of my ancestors, the Native American population is relatively small in the United States. Natives account for 0.8 percent of the population in the 2010 U.S. Census, but in Oklahoma the number is a “whopping” 8.6 percent. That makes the heartland of America (as some call the state) the fourth-most populous when it comes to identifying as American Indian/Alaska Native behind Alaska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

So when I was watching the NCAA women’s basketball tournament regional games in Oklahoma City, where a pair of Umatilla Indians were busy knocking of the No. 1-ranked team in the country en route to the Final Four, I wasn’t entirely surprised when the camera panned to a large contingent of smiling faces rooting for Jude and Shoni Schimmel.

In non-Final Four news, I guess we’ll soon find out if Gail’s at Ohio State, if Courtney or Cynthia is at USC, and what, if any impact, the Rice/Rutgers fiasco has on C Viv.

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catch up on last night:

Louisville took care of Tennessee in an eerily similar manner to their take down of Baylor — race out to a lead, then tire (or do dumb stuff) in the middle of the second, then win.

Dan writes: Louisville stops Lady Vols’ run to Final Four, 86-78

Tennessee’s problems began on offense. Louisville used multiple defensive alignments to thwart the player and ball movement that was so prevalent in the Lady Vols’ regional semifinal victory over Oklahoma.

Tennessee had just one point to show for its first seven possessions.

“It may have rattled us some,” UT assistant Dean Lockwood said. “But that’s where you respond at the other end of the floor and we couldn’t do that.”

In the end, there was too much Jude and Shoni. Says Mechelle: Schimmels lead Cards to Final Four

Louisville’s Schimmel sisters, Shoni and Jude, recall watching a movie called “Double Teamed” when they were in middle school. It was about identical twins Heather and Heidi Burge, who went to the Women’s Final Four three times while playing at Virginia in the early 1990s.

The film is hokey, but it’s still a sweet, triumphant story of the sisterhood and athletic success of real people.

“When we were younger, the movie seemed very realistic to us,” Jude Schimmel said. “What they did was our dream, too.”

Shoni added, “Yeah, that was us.”

Duke tried copy Louisville, but couldn’t hold on in the second.

It was an angry glare that could have melted steel.

It certainly melted No. 2 seed Duke’s hopes of pulling off an upset against No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the Norfolk Regional final of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Just a quick glance at the daggers beaming out of Skylar Diggins’ eyes early in the second half let Duke know it was in trouble.

Adds Graham: Sky’s the limit for Notre Dame

The dances in the middle of the court were complete. Those members of the crowd not clad in green already had begun to drift off into the Norfolk night. But there was one last bit of official business to take care of before Notre Dame left the court for the final time.

By unanimous decision, the announcer intoned, the regional’s Most Outstanding Player award went to Skylar Diggins.

Close, but not quite. There wasn’t any need to go to the judges on this one. Diggins won by knockout. 

From the News Observer: 

Just getting to a regional final was probably accomplishment enough for a Duke women’s basketball team that endured much adversity this season.

That did little to salve the pain the Blue Devils felt as Notre Dame cut down the nets at Old Dominion’s Ted Constant Convocation Center on Tuesday night.

From the Chronicle:

“Our first half was pretty good,” Liston said. “We held them to 31 points and we were right on pace for the [defensive] goal that we wanted to keep them at for the game. I thought we did a great job and we had great focus on the shooters and the go-tos that we wanted to shut down, [but I] wish we could have had that same focus in the second half on defense.”

At the Rockdale Citizen (GA), Darrell Huckaby says hes A fan of women’s basketball and Andy Landers

I was a fan of women’s basketball long before it was cool. I coached girls’ basketball in high school for about 25 years. It made sense to follow the college game. Besides, I liked it. It was a game of strategy and shooting and defense.

In 1985, my Woodward Academy team won its way to the state tournament for the first time in school history. I decided to reward my team with a trip to the women’s Final Four in Austin, Texas. In those days the women’s tournament was played on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, so on the last Thursday in March, we piled into two school vans and headed west.

Yes. We drove to Austin, Texas, for the games.

Tom Goldman at NPR says, Baylor’s Departure From Women’s Basketball Tournament Leaves Huge Hole

Also at NPR: Notre Dame, Louisville Triumph To Round Off Final Four

From Kate Fagan: Big East trio finds way to Big Easy

The right side of the Women’s Final Four bracket looks just like you’d expect it to. But if you shift your glance to the other side, you see one of the most unexpected matchups in recent memory.

Michelle says: They’ve got next

Of this year’s 3 To See, only one remains standing. Notre Dame’s title-craving Skylar Diggins carries the torch for this year’s crop of extraordinary women’s basketball talent into the Final Four in New Orleans.

But if this year’s unpredictable, thrilling tournament has taught us something, it’s that there are other players worthy of our time, attention and admiration all over the top ranks of the game.

And with the Final Four set — Notre Dame and Louisville joined the party on Tuesday after Cal and Connecticut earned their spots on Monday night — this next group of young players already has reached star status as they make their Final Four debuts.

From the experts, Picks (Now that we’re in New Orleans …)

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Glenn Nelson’s ESPN story on Shoni Shimmel a while back (2008): Innovative Schimmel unafraid of new moves

She conjures visions of Pistol Pete — that’s what everyone says about Shoni Schimmel. Just watch her come cold off the Hermiston High School bench, spin off the dribble and cause a pair of defenders to tumble like bowling pins. Then, with the defenders sprawling, watch Schimmel raise up, five feet beyond the 3-point line, and bury a jumper.
Pistol, all right. Pistol with a ponytail.

Still, Pete Maravich has been dead five years longer than Schimmel has been alive. And invoking his name only underscores the ever widening generational gap between the player and those who seek to categorize her.

And1 mix tapes?

Check.

“I get a lot of stuff from those,” says the super sophomore out of Mission, Ore., the tribal headquarters of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla), over on the eastern part of the Columbia River.

Or this video from ESPN for women’s history month: Her Story

Now, from the Portland Tribune’s Stephen Alexander we have: Shoni’s big screen shot – Portland’s basketball star shines on and off the court in ‘Off the Rez’

The Red Lake Massacre was just another dark moment for Native Americans, whose history has been littered with tragedy. But, through the hottest fires of hell can come the most precious pieces of gold.

The event set into motion the making of the documentary film “Off the Rez,” which premieres April 26 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The movie follows Oregon basketball prodigy Shoni Schimmel and her family, who left the Umatilla Indian Reservation and moved to Portland and Franklin High for Shoni’s last two years of high school.

“I’d like to think that there’s kind of some good in any dark cloud,” says Nelson Hernandez, “Off the Rez” producer.

Oh, and you might have missed the news that Shoni’s sister, Jude, is joining the Cards next year.

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