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with a little somethin’ somethin’ first.

From the Player’s Tribune: Lisa Leslie

I thought I retired from basketball in 1996.

Once I played on the Olympic team that year and we won gold, I was done. No overseas hoops. Nothing. I signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models, came up to New York and tried to start modeling — doing some shows, going on auditions … mostly getting rejected for being too tall. But as for basketball? Those days were pretty much over.

I had mostly given up on the game because my dream of playing couldn’t go any further. Past the Olympics, there just wasn’t any real opportunity — in my mind — for me to play for a long time in the U.S. At the same time, there were talks of starting the American Basketball League for women to play professionally, but I opted out because it didn’t have the support of the NBA. And I didn’t want to play in Europe, which was really the only other option.

I needed to put basketball behind me. I felt like I had to make a decision and I couldn’t wait around any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling like I was standing on the sidelines, waiting for my name to be called, only to hear the buzzer go off before I got a chance to play. I moved on.

But then I got a call the following January …

Audio: Brittney Griner and Stefanie Dolson join the Trifecta: What Can The WNBA Do?

Excelle: WNBA CONFIDENTIAL: We are living in the Maya Moore Era

In the days leading up to the 20th WNBA season, there’s been a great deal of talk about Breanna Stewart as the new face of the league. Much of the 2015 narrative centered around Elena Delle Donne and her historic season, and don’t expect her to recede in the public eye as she builds on it while playing for a gold medal in Rio this summer. Brittney Griner, too, always draws attention (and found herself in a recent ESPN SportsCenter ad), while Skyler Diggins is returning from a knee injury with a massive social media following and a new level of play she reachedlast year that she believes is a permanent new state.

All of these stars deserve attention. But any sober, clear-eyed analysis of where the WNBA stands at this moment, an evaluation of the current state of the league, only provides one conclusion.

This is the Maya Moore Era.

Sports Illustrated WNBA’s Maya Moore talks season, Rio Olympics and Jordan Brand

The LA Times notices the Sparks: Sparks begin WNBA season with high hopes, and with Candace Parker back on full-time duty

In 2015, the Los Angeles Sparks made the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and for the eighth time in the last decade. But that’s not a realistic portrayal of how things really unfolded: They posted a 14-20 record (their fourth worst ever), and lost to the Minnesota Lynx in three games after sneaking into the postseason.

The Sparks begin their 2016 season Sunday against the Seattle Storm, and they’re counting on finding some consistency — a trait that eluded them for large portions of last season — to drive them back to winning ways.

The full-fledged return of Candace Parker should help.

Atlanta 11: Angel McCoughtry and the WNBA are ready for respect

Newsday: How the WNBA ‘changed everything’ for girls in first 20 years

The boys Sue Bird grew up with in Syosset all had their basketball dreams. They could pretend they were Michael Jordan or John Starks or Patrick Ewing. They could fantasize about one day wearing a Knicks uniform and being cheered by a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

“I didn’t have that,” said Bird, who is beginning her 14th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm. “There was no professional basketball for me in the United States when I was in grade school and middle school. I could look to the Olympics and college basketball, but that was only on TV for the Final Four. 

“The WNBA changed everything,” said Bird who starred at UConn. 

Kits Sun: Valavanis is the eye of the Storm

Team building and leadership started at home for Alisha Valavanis.

As one of six children, including two sets of identical twins, Valavanis developed skills that have carried through her athletic career and professional life.

She has used them on the basketball court to make shots, in the boardroom to make trades and in the community to make fans.

“From very early on, my family was our own little tribe and that helped shape how I value people and how I value connections,” Valavanis, 39, said. “It really shaped my personal journey and is at the center of who I am.”

Twin Cities: Minnesota Lynx’s Cheryl Reeve: WNBA has come a long way in 20 years

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve entered the WNBA in 2001 as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Sting.

At that point the league was five years old, and at the end of each season for her first three or four years on the job, Reeve said a question presented itself.

“You had this moment where you didn’t know, were we still going to be here?” Reeve said, referring to the league’s fragile existence in its infant stages. “During that time you had teams that were losing millions of dollars.”

Reeve said the WNBA is now far past that point. It’s through the survival stage as the league celebrated the opening of its 20th season Saturday night when the Lynx hosted Phoenix at Target Center.

SlamOnline: Watch Them Work – The WNBA has never had more depth than now. What a great time to tune in.

 

The league’s list of high-profile players has never been short. Somewhere between Lisa Leslie catching her first poster and Maya Moore hitting that game-winner in last year’s finals, however, something changed. The national narrative shifted back to women’s basketball not being worth a man’s time. But there hasn’t been a better time than now to tune in.

“We have a lot of different types of women and players,” Mystics center Stefanie Dolson says. “We still have those superstars, like Diana, like Candace, they’re still in the game. Then you have a new generation of players coming in. Brittney Griner, Skylar, Elena. And then my class. In my class, we have some great personalities. We’re very skilled too.”

Damn skippy, Stef.

David Berri at VICE: HOW THE WNBA COMPARES TO OTHER SPORTS LEAGUES AT AGE 20

As the WNBA celebrates the tip off its 20th season this weekend, it’s easy for naysayers to paint a picture of a league that’s stagnant at best, and a NBA charity case at worst. After all, WBNA average per-game attendance last season was only 7,138—the lowest mark in league history, and well below the average per-game NBA draw of 17,849. Women’s professional basketball, this line of thinking goes, has had two decades to build a fan base and establish itself in America’s sporting consciousness. So why can’t it come close to the NBA?

Here’s the answer: that’s the wrong question. Or, more accurately, it’s the wrong comparison, and a misleading one

Yesterday’s games

No Diggins? No problem, the ageless Plenette Pierson is here! If you read the numbers, you’d think Indy won – but their defense was lacking and slow. Dallas shot 36 free throws. Sims shot for carp, but earned her living at the charity stripe. Nice production from Theresa Plaisance, too.

“We were more aggressive,” Pierson said of the last two quarters. “We started making shots, we got fouls called on them. That’s what helped us get the win.”

“I thought we took some early rushed shots,” Coach Fred Williams added. “But luckily tonight they went down for us and it’s not going to go that way ever game. I felt we have to get better at that end, be selective of taking quick shots, kind of work the ball around a little bit.”

No Delle Donne? No problem, the rest of the team (Pokey played 11) made Curt Miller’s W coaching debut miserable. Connecticut shot 33.8%. Yikes. At least Rachel Banham brought a little sunshine.

Well, this is a good sign.

The Chicago Sky got off on the right foot to start then season, and had to do so without its biggest star.

WNBA reigning most valuable player Elena Delle Donne was out with an illness (stomach virus) for the season opener on Saturday night, and yet the Chicago Sky managed to manhandle the visiting Connecticut Sun at Allstate Arena, 93-70.

Jayne’s last second shot carried the Stars into overtime, but the Dream made sure they secured the win in the extra minutes. McBride looks to have picked up where she left off last year, but there’s not much of a bench presence. For Atlanta, Layshia gave them some nice minutes, and Elizabeth Williams played 36… but I wonder about her 2-6 shooting.

“We fought,” Hughes said. “They were very coachable late, gave us a chance to win the game. We didn’t get it done in overtime. We’re a work in progress, but their spirit was good.”

When Tina and Sugar shoot 50%, Bill is happy – and the Liberty win. No surprise Shoni didn’t get in. Slightly surprised Adut didn’t. Auspicious opening game for Tayler Hill and Bria Hartleynot so much for Stef and Emma.

As the final horn sounded on the Washington Mystics’ 87-76 season-opening loss Saturday night, New York Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer shook hands with his counterpart, Mike Thibault, and offered a few appropriate words of encouragement.

“Get healthy,” Laimbeer said.

Ah, being healthy is an amazing feeling. Stomping your press-anointed competition for the ’17 title is even better. Lynx rolled as the Merc’s defense let them shoot 54%. I do love the twitter conversation the two social media teams have, though. :-)

“It’s a good starting point for us in a really bad way,” Taurasi said. “We know what we have to get better at. The season isn’t made on 40 minutes, but the way we bounce back is going to say a lot about this team going forward.”

Hey – if you just scanned this page, do the game a favor – click on the links and read the full articles. Show the sports editors that people appreciate their coverage…

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who’ve “Kickstarted” for Joanne Lanin’s publication of her book, “Finding a Way to Play.” Lucky you, there’s still time to jump on the women’s history bandwagon. From Jo:

I am also grateful to the people who took the time to answer my questions over the last four summers as I sought to deepen my understanding of the struggles that pioneers of women’s basketball have faced. In no particular order, they are: Cindy Davies, Fayth Goodrich, Angel Goodrich, Marjery Johnson, Eckie Jordan, Theresa Grentz, Corinne Gulas, Kirsten Cummings, Helen White, Celeste Chartier, Jo Dill, Molly Bolin, Pat Griffin, Pat McKinzie-Lechault. Lorraine Rizzu- to, Marge Burge, Angela Alford, Paula Passarello, Lin Dunn, and Jane Pittman.”

Thanks again to all my backers. I will be updating you with printing details and publication dates as soon as I have them. Also, I’ll be sending you a survey to get your address (and t-shirt size if you wanted one). Women’s basketball rocks! And so do the people who support it.

$15 will get you a signed copy.
$25 will get you a signed copy for yourself and a thoughtful gift for your best wbb friend.
$100 (I’m looking at YOU coaches) will get you five signed copies for your starting five, ’cause young players NEED to know the history of the game their playing.

Speaking of history, Mama Taj’s in the house: 

As a 20-year-old with both a passion for basketball and a deep sense of responsibility toward family, Taj McWilliams-Franklin would go to the old practice gym at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, at 6 o’clock each morning with a basketball in one hand and a baby carrier holding her infant daughter, Michelle, in the other.

She felt the need to work on her game, but couldn’t allow it to come at the expense of motherhood. Such workout sessions began defining who McWilliams-Franklin would be for decades to follow.

She became one of the most accomplished players in WNBA history while also distinguishing herself as a strong mother figure, not only for her three daughters, but her adult teammates, as well.

She needs that duality in her life. That’s why she left behind all the trappings of professional and Division I college basketball to attempt to transform Post University women’s basketball into a successful program.

Speaking of current history, from Chuck Culpepper at WaPo: WNBA star Brittney Griner is tough-minded, but fighting doesn’t define her

An authentic American athlete has a fresh blotch on her bio, so it might help that she also has uncommonly sturdy innards.

It might help that Brittney Griner had the guts to confirm her homosexuality to a student who asked . . . at the dawn of ninth grade. It can’t hurt that the former assistant coach at Baylor, Damion McKinney, found it “amazing to me how she could take being mocked,” and said, “I’ve never seen a kid who could handle things like people holding up [unkind] signs, the way she could.”

It surely helps that her keen sense of self dates back to a girlhood in which she would slide blithely under the car to help her father repair it, cut the hair off her Barbies and then paint them black and green, study military shows with her Vietnam-veteran dad, dream of following him into the police, even stand up to him when life asked for that. Even the professor who helped the WNBA parse her recent domestic-fight case deems her “a very, very brave, brave, brave person.”

As feared, a 5th player says “ouch:” Sun lose Kelsey Griffin

The cost of a crowded guard house: Shock releases Angel Goodrich

From Seattle: NBA playoffs mess with Storm practice (I dunno about you, but the WCWS messed with my sleep!)

Ummmm, is it too late to start a Kickstarter campaign to fix WNBA.com (and hire writers who can identify players in photos correctly)? From Rebkell folks:

1) The website rolls over to the next day at 9PM PDT. This means that I need to scroll left for any West Coast games still in progress on the scores scroll 
2) On that same scores page, the score frames span the entire page so that the left scroll button covers up half of the first score. It needs to be resized so that there is a gap between score and edge. 
3) Many pages – the box scores, the all-time leaders page are examples – do not resize horizontally based on one’s browser dimensions. The font is too big and the rest of the information simply goes off the right side of the page. 
4) Those oversized pages also do not present a horizontal scroll bar so it is impossible to view it. I have had to reduce the font size in order to fit it all onto one page. 
6) Resizing the main page any smaller than full-screen on my laptop will cause all the menu items in the header to disappear. They are actually collapsed on the left hand side but that is not intuitive at all. 
7) The career stats page no longer calculates totals for a player 
Cool The roster page no longer lists number of years in service next to a player’s name. That at-a-glance feature was useful. 
9) Many links are still pointing to the old DNS which makes them useless. On the Storm page, this includes revenue-generating links like how to purchase ticket plans or register for the fan road trip. So far that seems to be the same story on the Dream and Sun sites that I checked. 
10) The standings page has started the season already. It is listing the pre-season games as win-loss. Hopefully this will get cleared before June 5th. 
11) Every single ticket link that I saw on the schedule page is broken and redirects back to the main team page. 
12) The headers for the drop-downs also have old links attached to them so if you click on them it takes you back to the main site again. 
And one other question: 
1) Where would you suggest we go to check injury reports, latest transactions (updated within the hour), historical numbers for all players who no longer play for the league, and other statistics and facts that sports fans tend to want to know? None of these are available on the website.

 

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a fool’s errand… BUT, I do want to take a moment to point out this:

Jacki Gemelos’ Chicago Sky WNBA box score: 16 minutes, 4-7, +24. Honestly, who would have ever thunk that?

Nike announces signings of the top four WNBA draft picks (photos)

More love and respect for Katie Douglas: Retiring Douglas set example for area girls basketball players

Katie Douglas was a 6-foot-1 girls high school basketball player running the point long before such God-given backcourt leverage was fashionable.

The 1997 Perry Meridian graduate helped usher out single-class hoops while at the same time forcing observers of the girls game to think differently.

“With Katie there was no good way to defend her,” said longtime Franklin Community High School girls basketball coach Walt Raines, whose Grizzly Cubs have long staged battles against the Falcons.

Storm star Sue Bird presented with Moyer Foundation award

A little follow up from NPR: What Anti-Domestic Violence Advocates Are Saying About The WNBA Suspensions

More not-so-happy-news for the Lib: Prince to miss beginning of WNBA season to play for Russia

Speaking of the Lib – where’s Taj? Post hires former WNBA All-Star as head coach

From Swish Appeal: Key questions each WNBA Western Conference team faces heading into the 2015 season and Key questions for each WNBA Eastern Conference team faces in the 2015 season

From the Daily Courier: Kobritz Column: What the WNBA needs to learn from the NFL: “While the NFL is trying to ban one of its marque players over a tempest in a teapot, the WNBA is about to embrace a sleaze ball. Go figure.”

From the Huffington Post: Should Those Who Spoke Out Against Donald Sterling do the Same With Isiah Thomas?

In NCAA news:

Oklahoma women’s basketball: Sherri Coale talks potential rule changes, playing four quarters

Seven families protest handling of Illinois women’s basketball probe: report

The letter the newspaper obtained said the families “most strongly object to the manner in which the ‘internal investigation’ of mistreatment and abuses by the coaching staff was handled and is currently being handled by your office. We find this protocol unacceptable as well as completely disrespectful to the student athletes and their families affected by the coaches and coaching staff involved in these patterns of abuse.”

The seven families are writing in behalf of former players Taylor Tuck, Sarah Livingston, Amarah Coleman, Taylor Gleason, Alexis Smith, Nia Oden and Jacqui Grant.

David Teel at the Daily Press: Removing graduate transfer rule would be height of hypocrisy for NCAA

“If you’re transferring to be in a graduate program, the NCAA wants you to be working in earnest toward that degree rather than just using up your last year of eligibility,” Kevin Lennon, the association’s vice president of Division I governance, told the Associated Press.

Really? The NCAA wants Utopia? Well, then let’s have Mark Emmert solve the budget deficit, immigration reform and Middle East conflicts.

Were the 14 freshmen who declared for next month’s NBA draft “working in earnest” toward an undergraduate degree? The 15 sophomores?

The NCAA has no business attempting to police or discern an athlete’s motives. No one should care if a graduate transfer cares about getting a master’s.

Something for the twit who hate-tweeted me about this Liberty/Thomas fiasco from the New York Times: Any Publicity Is Good? Isiah Thomas and WNBA to Find Out

The Liberty will kick off a new W.N.B.A. season with their annual media day Thursday. This year’s event will probably be the best-attended one in franchise history. The reason? Isiah Thomas, the team’s new president, will be on hand alongside the players to face reporters.

From the Daily News’ Linda Stasi: It’s not just Isiah Thomas! There’s plenty of jobs available for all the other pervy, misogynistic male celebs out there

It’s about damned time that we all stopped harassing sexual harasser Isiah Thomas for becoming president and part owner of the New York Liberty women’s basketball team, pending board approval.

So listen up, disgruntled female hoopsters! Let us not think of the sexist pig’s rise to the heights of your sport as the height of absurdity/insanity/disrespect. Let us instead think of it as the height of female liberation!

After all, we women have finally reached true equality. If the man who cost Madison Square Garden $11.5 million in a sexual harassment suit can still get the top gig in women’s sports, just think of the possibilities. No, not for you. For them.

Add this: Adam Silver Needs to Step in on the Isiah Thomas Hiring

And (fingers crossed) WNBA BOG Reportedly Could Reject Effort To Make Isiah Part-Owner Of Liberty

At the other end of the spectrum: Flat Rock basketball team honored for record breaking success

Success came in leaps and bounds for the Flat Rock Rams this year.

Both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams won District championships, with the girls adding in a Regional championship.

The regional crown was the first in school history.

For their efforts the girls were honored at a recent City Council meeting.

“They had a great season this year,” Recreation Director Rodney Wade said. “They were Huron League champions, District champions and Regional champions.”

The girls that are seniors on this team are the first group to have went through the Flat Rock Recreation League program from first grade through High School.

Shawnee basketball’s Freeman to be inducted into OGBCA Hall of Fame

For a man who didn’t even play basketball in high school, let alone college, Steve Freeman has had a one-of-a-kind career coaching the sport.

The long-time coach, who has been an assistant with the girls basketball team at Shawnee High School, will be honored for a storied career when he is inducted into the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame on May 30.

“It’s a really nice honor, very exciting,” Freeman said. “It’s also very humbling, because so much about winning is being in the right place at the right time with the right kids. I’ve been fortunate that I have, a lot of the time, been in the right place at the right time. There are a bunch of very good coaches who have never were lucky enough to be in that right situation. I feel really privileged, really blessed.”

From Billy Watkins at the Clarion Ledger: Who was first? ‘Reportedly’ Sue Dabbs

“Football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track and field, tennis. Oh … and I love volleyball,” she said. “I try not to miss anything. This is a dream come true for me. My mama told me I became an Ole Miss fan at the age of 6. I don’t remember it. But I can’t remember not being one, so it had to be early.”

Dabbs said she enjoyed the column about Beth, who lives in North Carolina and is an ordained Episcopal priest and a cancer survivor.

“Beth deserved having a story written about her,” Dabbs said. “She’s done a lot with her life and did a lot for females in the sports writing business.”

And that is true. She did.

From Virginia: What Cosby girls basketball team does for classmate with autism will warm your heart

From L.A.: Japanese American basketball leagues help girls progress at prep level

Standing just 5 feet 3, Lauren Saiki was sometimes the smallest player on the basketball court. But her signature thread-the-needle passes and heady ball-handling propelled the point guard and her teams from Alhambra Mark Keppel High to four consecutive playoff appearances, capped by last season’s run to the Division II state championship game, a first for the school.

Saiki, 18, has earned a basketball scholarship to West Virginia.

For all this, she can credit the fundamentals she learned while playing for more than a decade in a Japanese American basketball league.

“That helped build my foundation,” Saiki said. “. . . I really fell in love with basketball.”

What’s cool is this continues the long history of women’s Japanese-American basketball on the West Coast.

Before, during, and after World War II, Nisei youth clubs offered hundreds of city girls like Ide a place of camaraderie and belonging where they could play basketball and baseball, socialize with boys, develop leadership skills, participate in community service, and forge lifelong friendships. In an era when Japanese-Americans faced racial barriers to social acceptance, these clubs enabled urban teenagers to claim American identity and enjoy the pleasures of popular culture.

Which connects to this from Jayda: Ramu Tokashiki looking to catch on with Storm

A half-dozen journalists attended the second day of Storm training camp Monday. All were interested in one player: Ramu Tokashiki.

A 6-foot-3 forward, Tokashiki stands out in the basketball world in Japan. Nicknamed “Taku” (pronounced TOCK), Japanese slang for strong, she signed with the Storm to be challenged by WNBA players.

“I understand she has no competition, per se, within the Japanese basketball system,” said journalist Misa Seely of American Sports Access. “There’s nobody as tall as she is and nobody as quick as she is. Her size and strength and ability to score is what makes her a superstar.”
Tokashiki is expected to make Seattle’s regular-season roster. It would make her the third Japanese player to compete in the WNBA.

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I. Love. Taj.

If I only could find a Hair-O-Dynamic Taj doll, maybe I wouldn’t be so sad.

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but that doesn’t mean stuff isn’t happening across the age groups.

I’m already planning my July trip down to DC to watch the USA play on the 16th (are you?), and obviously I’m making plans for the Maggie Dixon Classic Dec. 9th (ya wanna help push our group to over 50? Email me at womenshoopsblog (at) gmail.com) ’cause Spoon’s back in town:  Weatherspoon returns to Garden as coach of Louisiana Tech at Maggie Dixon Classic in December

In the land of the Olympics:

Nate writes: 2012 Olympics Significant To Tamika Catchings Because It Could Be Her Last Opportunity

Catchings happy to be playing again as US women’s basketball training camp opens

“It’s not ideal since other teams have been practicing for a lot longer, but it’s what we have,” said Bird, who will also be playing in her third Olympics. “Every time you put the USA jersey on it’s an honor. I’m lucky I have had the opportunity to represent my country. Growing up there was no WNBA to look forward to, for me my dream was always playing in the Olympics.”

U.S. women’s basketball team in Seattle for Olympic tuneup

“I don’t think I have ever been as stressed out or as nervous, anxious, scared to death as I was whenever you are coaching in a medal situation for USA basketball because the expectation level is, ‘Of course we are going to win,'” Auriemma said. “That’s good and bad. … That’s great because we are the United States of America and we are supposed to win. It’s bad because sometimes people don’t appreciate how hard it is to win.”

Whirlwind Time For Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore – WNBA Season Begins; Olympics On Horizon

From Jayda: Seattle a growing hotbed for women’s hoops

…to explain Seattle’s emergence as a center of women’s basketball, you have to go back, way back. Before the WNBA’s Storm and its passionate fans were born, before the Seattle Reign tipped its toe in the water of women’s pro hoops, before even the Washington Huskies women were outdrawing the men’s team at Edmundson Pavilion.

The story of how Seattle has become a hotbed for women’s hoops dates way back to pioneers like Cathy Benedetto and Joyce Walker, the women who showed the way. They made it possible for a couple of 13-year-olds emulating their hoops heroes in their hometown to believe it had always been that way.

The Cardinals have a new coach: Ball State University women’s coach Brady Sallee has lofty vision for program

“I remember watching the television when (Ball State) beat that team down south that wears orange (Tennessee),” said Sallee, invoking the style of Brady Hoke by refusing to acknowledge an arch-rival by name. “I’m excited to bring those opportunities and moments back to Ball State University.”

The Seawolves need a new coach: UAA women’s basketball coach says it was time to move on

Tim Moser, one of the most successful coaches in the history of UAA athletics, is leaving his job as the school’s women’s basketball coach, saying it’s time for something new.

Moser molded the Seawolves into a national powerhouse in his six seasons in Anchorage. He finished the most recent season with a 30-5 record and was one victory shy of making a third NCAA Division II Final Four appearance.

High Point needs a new coach: Wake Forest hires Jennifer Hoover as new women’s basketball coach

Jennifer Hoover, Wake Forest’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, was hired as the Demon Deacons’ new women’s basketball coach on Wednesday.

Hoover, a long-time assistant who went 20-13 at High Point in her first try as a head coach this past season, was a three-time All-ACC honoree during her playing career at Wake Forest.

The Hoyas have a new coach: Georgetown introduces Keith Brown as women’s basketball coach

The Norse have a coach: NKU names new women’s coach
Former Michigan associate head coach Dawn Plitzuweit has been chosen to lead Northern Kentucky University’s women’s basketball program into Division I.

Toledo will have extra space next season: UT gets NCAA waiver – Women’s basketball team allowed to exceed scholarship numbers

Mikaala Shackelford has a new team: UWGB women’s basketball: Prized Minnesota recruit to leave after all

WNBA champion Lynx welcome back motherly leader (The next article in the hopper: As the NBA season opens, the 28-38 Trailblazers welcome back fatherly leader)

Taj McWilliams-Franklin led this bonding process like only a mother could. The 41-year-old, 6-foot-2 center with three daughters of her own has returned for another year with the Lynx. Her teammates couldn’t be happier to have the lanky lady they call “Mama Taj” back in the fold

Depth, Luck Major Part Of Repeat Hopes

Depth, camaraderie and health are the three main ingredients to a title defense. Look no further than the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks’ bench play during last year’s 2011 NBA Finals and its inability to replace JJ Barea and Tyson Chandler during this year’s first round playoff exit.

The Minnesota Lynx understand how important all three are to their goals this year, and they met two of those three objectives during the offseason by holding on to nine of their 11 team members from a year ago. And with coach Cheryl Reeve rolling out essentially three capable units during training camp, Minnesota has the depth to make another title run.

pilight has Three things the WNBA could do better

Now, most articles like this focus on things that cost money. Wouldn’t it be great to pay salaries competitive with those in Europe, have the players flown on chartered jets, and have massive advertising blitzes during the NCAA tournament, and so on. The WNBA doesn’t have tons of money, so today we’re going to focus on things they can do that cost nothing.

Speaking of “doing better”: What Can We Expect Kelley Cain To Contribute To The New York Liberty?

The New York Liberty announced via Twitter yesterday that first round draft pick Kelley Cain has arrived in training camp, which is perhaps the first step in calming the fears among some fans that they completely wasted a draft pick.

Surely we’ll learn more about what she offers the team as she spends more time in camp, but what might her numbers tell us about what she offers?

Well, not that much.

From a team who ought to do “real better”: Penicheiro has the right kind of mileage for Sky

Mix of veterans, youth encourages Silver Stars’ Hammon

If only basketball was played four-on-four: The Recker Crew – Mom knew best that hoops-playing quadruplets were destined for on-court success

Deidre Recker has been to every Ohio girls’ basketball state tournament since 1978. She’s proud of that fact, and mentions it often. She started bringing her children to those state tournament games when they were barely old enough to follow the action.

This is where you want to be, she’d tell them, and point to the court. This is where you’ve got to be.

Deidre stops, and she corrects herself. She hasn’t been to every state tournament since 1978. Once, in 1993, she had to watch the games on television instead.

Deidre was eight months pregnant that year. With quadruplets.

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With a hefty dose of W:

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Tulsa Shock

Well here’s the bright side – the Shock finally hired a coach who might know what he’s doing. Respected Indiana Fever assistant Gary Kloppenburg takes over, and all you can say is good luck Klopp. The first move he made was positive, sending loose cannon Andrea Riley (who could easily have been cut anyway) to Phoenix for veteran point guard Temeka Johnson. Any upgrade in talent is a good thing when you’re as bad as this Tulsa team was last year.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Seattle Storm

Storm head coach and general manager Brian Agler pulled off an unusual feat this offseason – he traded away two established veterans for the #2 pick in the draft, and yet still managed to make this roster even older than last year.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: San Antonio Silver Stars

It was a strange offseason for the Silver Stars. They added some veteran talent, potentially improved their depth significantly, got lucky in the draft in the eyes of many – and yet unless a longshot or two comes through, failed to address their key weaknesses from a year ago.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Phoenix Mercury

Remember when I said Atlanta had a pretty poor offseason? Well Phoenix’s was probably worse. They kicked it off by trading their starting point guard, Temeka Johnson, for wild (and wildly inaccurate) gunner Andrea Riley. The one defensible reason behind that move was that it opened up plenty of extra cap space, but an effort to spend that cash on restricted free agent Erin Phillips didn’t work out when Indiana matched their offer sheet. The Mercury settled for the consolation prize of Minnesota’s Alexis Hornbuckle instead (who really isn’t anybody’s idea of a point guard)

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Minnesota Lynx

This one’s almost as dull as Connecticut. When you waltz through the regular season 27-7, then drop just one playoff game on your way to the first championship in franchise history, you understandably don’t want to change much. They cored Taj McWilliams-Franklin just in case she might’ve been affected by another bout of wanderlust, allowing them to re-sign their evergreen starting center. Rather more surprisingly, restricted free agent Candice Wiggins was also re-signed, despite widespread expectations that someone would throw a large contract at her that the Lynx wouldn’t want to match. The offer never seemed to materialise, so Wiggins decided to stick around and go for the repeat.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Los Angeles Sparks

New coach, several new players, and hopefully for Sparks fans, the start of a new era in LA. The combined shambles under Jen Gillom and Joe Bryant last season has been consigned to history, and the reins have been handed over to former Atlanta assistant Carol Ross. As a nice little bonus for Ross, the Sparks beat the odds and ended up with the #1 pick in what most people saw as a one-player draft (at least they did once Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins chose to stay in school). That allowed LA to add Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike, an extremely talented forward who should be able to help immediately. Eventually, they also accomplished the important task of re-signing centerpiece star Candace Parker to a new contract.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Washington Mystics

At least there are some new names in DC, even if the general quality isn’t much different from last year. They let former franchise player Alana Beard walk after growing tired of paying her to be injured; shipped wing Marissa Coleman to LA for Noelle Quinn in the hope that both could benefit from a change of scenery; dumped Nicky Anosike on LA in a separate deal, this time for fringe backups Natasha Lacy and LaToya Pringle; sent last year’s first-round pick Victoria Dunlap to Seattle for backup center Ashley Robinson; and signed over-the-hill point guard Dominique Canty and consistently inconsistent veteran big Michelle Snow as free agents. And breathe. You certainly can’t accuse head coach/general manager Trudi Lacey of being inactive in trying to improve this team after the debacle last season.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: New York Liberty

It was pretty quiet for the Liberty and their fans through most of the offseason. They re-signed Leilani Mitchell and added veteran Kelly Miller to help her at the point, which should keep Cappie Pondexter at shooting guard a little more consistently this season (although “Cappie, do something” will likely still be the solitary crunch-time play). They also eventually re-signed key backup Essence Carson, although it took a while and some of the fans were becoming a little nervous.

Then everything got a little weird.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Indiana Fever

For a team that made very few changes during the offseason, there are still several question marks heading into training camp for the Fever. They kept point guard Erin Phillips by matching a restricted free agent offer sheet she signed with Phoenix, then traded last year’s starting power forward Tangela Smith to San Antonio for Roneeka Hodges. That was about it for meaningful offseason activity. Smith had a thoroughly terrible season in Indiana last year, and they traded her away to dump what had quickly become an ugly-looking contract, but it leaves a hole.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Connecticut Sun

Well this one’s dull. Sun head coach Mike Thibault is so convinced that his roster is all set and that no one could break into his rotation that he used the 9th pick in the draft on a Malian 19-year old playing in the French second division.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Chicago Sky

Well, being in Russia coaching Spartak Vidnoje certainly didn’t hinder coach Pokey Chatman’s WNBA activity this offseason. They made a big splash early, turning the #2 overall pick in the draft into Swin Cash and Le’coe Willingham in a deal with Seattle. The addition of proven veterans continued in free agency, as point guard Ticha Penicheiro and center Ruth Riley were both brought into the fold. Chatman also made a deal with San Antonio for the rights to Serbian forward Sonja Petrovic, who’s been playing for her at Spartak, and even she could be a useful addition if she can adapt to the WNBA game.

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Atlanta Dream

It’s not been the greatest of offseasons for the Dream. It started with assistant coach Carol Ross being stolen away by the Sparks to take over in LA, followed by backup point guard Shalee Lehning announcing that the knee injury that ended her 2011 season would in fact mark the end of her WNBA career, and backup post Alison Bales also deciding to retire from the WNBA. Brazilians Erika de Souza and Iziane Castro Marques will spend at least the first half of the season with the Brazilian national team preparing for the London Olympics. Erika was re-signed and is expected in Atlanta following the Games; Castro Marques remains an unrestricted free agent.

Free agency didn’t exactly result in a deluge of additions or improvements either.

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From WNBAlien, you get a handy list of all the teams, their free agents, and a little analysis tossed in.

From Nate, you get, What Each WNBA Team Do In 2012, Pt. 1: Intro & Teams In ‘Win Now’ Mode

In any professional sports league, it’s not just about wins and losses, even though it is the most visible measure of a team’s performance. There are other metrics that need to be viewed to see how the team is doing and where it should be in the future. These include the age of the roster, how younger players played, etc.

To me, there are three categories of strategies among all teams in a professional league.

Here are the categories:

Category 1: Go for the championship this year, make moves to acquire players to win now this year.

Category 2: Stay with current roster, make moves to improve and aim for postseason, and create havoc once the team reaches the postseason.

Category 3: Build the foundation of the team for the future. (In WNBA terms, aim for the 2013 draft) If a team was previously built for categories 1 or 2, in layman’s terms, blow the team up and rebuild.

In the WNBA for this season, each of the 12 teams falls in one of these sorted categories.

(BTW, there’s some great stuff over there on the Cal/Stanford game, too.)

From SlamOnline, you get She’s So Money: WNBA Finals MVP Seimone Augustus has persevered and now sits at the top of her sport.

A little WATN? for Valerie Still: Being honored at the Kentucky game.

A little WATN? for Taj McWilliams: Getting the St. Edwards Alumni Achievement Award.

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