Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Guru's WNBA Musings: Spreading the News -- New York, Oh No, New York

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Congratulations to the folks at MSG, particularly owner James Dolan.

For the first time since Theresa Weatherspoon hit that famous half-court shot at the end of regulation in Houston to keep New York temporarily alive in the championship round of the playoffs, media worldwide, ok, media USA-wide attention on your WNBA Liberty franchise is coming from beyond the niche crowd that follows women’s basketball at the pro and collegiate level.

Perhaps there was a little ripple among the common person-in-the-street folks when Bill Laimbeer was hired the first time to coach New York several years ago because of his NBA ties back to the days of the “Bad Boys” NBA champion Detroit Pistons.

But the news Tuesday that Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, a previous MSG executive who was the central figure in the lost sexual harassment suit, has been made president of the New York franchise with a piece of ownership stake is as big as it gets.

How big?

The New York squad got more coverage in one day from the local mainstream media then it did the entire summer last year when the Liberty returned to Madison Square Garden before improved crowds from the previous three seasons spent in exile across the Hudson River in New Jersey while the Garden underwent a multi-million dollar renovation.

Public firestorm and media outrage be damned. Full speed ahead.

With the exception of incoming Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Lisa Leslie, who was interviewed on CBS radio by Doug Gottlieb, goggling the internet does not yield one positive reaction to the news.

And Leslie appropriately pulled back into neutral when Gottlieb refined his original question.

By the way, the victim, who some publications oddly didn’t name in Tuesday’s coverage, given the history of the case, was Anucha Browne, a native of Brooklyn who became an all-American at Northwestern and one of the Big Ten’s all-time players.

She went on to become an executive in the Knicks organization.

And since nowhere did the Guru see this indication written in the following manner: Today, as the NCAA’s top executive over all three divisions in the sport, she is technically the most powerful person directly in charge of women’s collegiate basketball.

That said, a note from the Guru to his friends out in Las Vegas wrapping up the current training camp of the USA Basketball women’s senior national pool, asks: Can any of you find out from sports betting parlors, given Tuesday’s announcement, what are the odds we will ever see Browne introduced at halftime by the Liberty in the ongoing inspiring women salutes?

In a statement released after the announcement Tuesday, the organization stood by Thomas as an innocent individual in the whole case.

Of course there is some hypocrisy in terms of who has the license to express outrage over the move.

Certainly, the fan base, who has endured to be made as second fiddle for the most part, no matter what functions the Liberty has attempted in terms of engaging the local masses.

Anyone who is employed by ESPN, given the commitment the sports TV giant gives to the sport at the pro, collegiate, and international level.

Those people in other locations who cover the WNBA as much as they can – and that includes both genres in terms of the so-called new journalists and those from traditional organizations.

But if you put a microscope to the bylines out of New York, execept for the Times columnist, none of them are people who normally cover the team but rather those who had to deal with the NBA side of the organization and the way Thomas operated the ship from the bridge.

Now in the middle of this rant, it must be noted the Liberty hasn’t exactly done much on the court in recent times since Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski, the Liberty’s longtime top executive from when the franchise was launched, was ousted by then-MSG president Scott O’Neil, who at that time, ironically, was given credit for stabilizing the organization in the wake of the mess created by Thomas.

Then a few years later Dolan and O’Neil had a falling out and O’Neil is now down here in Philadelphia as one of the NBA 76ers’ top executives.

Oddly, Bad Boy Bill is the good guy in this whole furor.

Back in the last decade when the ownership of the former Detroit Shock was ready to cough up the franchise, it was Laimbeer, who approached the brass asking for the job, saying he could turn things around, and lo and behold he pulled off a worst-to-first turnover for the 2003 WNBA title and two more before he departed.

If anything, when Laimbeer was hired by the Liberty, he probably didn’t realize how much had to be done to change the culture that fell apart during the two years after Blazejowski, whose final three years, to be fair, were not as glorious in terms of viable contention as earlier times.

Ironically, when Laimbeer was still with the Shock and there had been an opening for coach of the NBA Knicks and Thomas was running the show, a bunch of the NBA scribes showed up at a Liberty game when the Shock were in town to inquire whether Thomas might ask Laimbeer to fill the vacancy.

Laimbeer waived them off but later went on to move from the Shock to the NBA Minnesota organization as an assistant until a coaching change at the top was made.

Now, it is revealed that Thomas played a role in bringing Laimbeer back to the Liberty after he was surprisingly let go after last season.

Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA, said in a statement when asked for a comment, that the WNBA board of governors still have to approve the ownership move.

Quite an interesting place to stick that group in terms of responsibility because the league has always walked on egg shells concerning New York, which is one of the few remaining operations with an NBA parent out of the original eight, so as not to offend one of the wealthier front offices.

Ironically, when the league started, one of the caveats was New York had to be the mainstay and had to be the perennial contender because it was, well, New York, and the guy off the street who walked into the Garden would judge the entire WNBA by what was observed at the moment.

In actuality, if one wants to start with the exile in New Jersey, since then the WNBA has experienced tremendous growth in many areas despite New York not because of it.

In the end though, the product on the floor this summer in the Garden will determine everything else and if it improves there will be enough eyewitnesses to determine who gets the credit.

Of course the last laugh in all this would again be up in Connecticut if New York makes the playoffs and lasts one round while the Sun end up lottery bound and win the grand prize in UConn star Breanna Stewart.

Stay tune. This summer just got a little more interesting.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Update - Frank Bertucci's Viewing

Hi all. If you're checking here first there seems to be enough interest that we will give Chickie's a shot. Those that get there first stake out a spot unless I get down to see if we can get a space which I'll try to do before heading to the viewing to try to be there on the front end.

And some of us will hang so the back end of the crowd still has a chance to get there since Frank's immediate family has an interest in coming down after the viewing is done after 9. -- Mel

Any changes, they will be conveyed but the site is now fixed.

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Hello everyone.

While things are quiet for another week or so basically in the world many of you come for, the blog in this post is being used more locally involving our dear friend Frank Bertucci, who died suddenly Friday night of a heart attack.

Yours truly operated in a similar manner last year for the many who came for the services of Ginnny Doyle, the former Archbishop Ryan star and Richmond associate head women’s basketball coach, who was one of the victims in the horrific ballon accident which is actually occurred a year ago this weekend.

You were directed here through the link from Facebook, twitter or email, which you all used to read my appreciation yesterday plus of course this is open to anyone else who just recently got the news.

Anyhow, the thinking is it would be nice beginning at 8 pm tomorrow night – Wed. -- and continuing on after Frank’s viewing at the Pennsylvania Burial near Broad and South to gather and hang out in the manner Frank would have loved.

At the moment, unless someone knows someplace better, it appears the best place to go would be to Chickie & Pete’s in South Philly because of proximity, space, and available and free parking.

If one of you has connections and can get us a room, that would be great but we can just gather by the bar.

If there is only a few interested for now – we can audible since the group would be smaller, if those involved so desire.

Of course, we can always dedicate another night soon either way to do something similar.

But this is a quick survey – do you have interest and feel free if you have another suggestion as a destination.

I’ll post something late afternoon tomorrow where we’re at in the process and if another place is the destination it will be mentioned and also the word will be passed Wed night. – the viewing is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.n.

So just to see what numbers we have – email me at poll416@gmail.com and put Frank’s Viewing in the subject field if possible so I know as quick as possible where we’re at to provide the update.

And thanks for helping out.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Guru's Appreciation of Frank Bertucci

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was sometime during the middle of this past Saturday evening during this quasi-quiet time between the end of the collegiate women’s basketball season and start of the WNBA training camp run-ups to the opening of season 19 that I was playing catch-up on my twitter time-line.

In scrolling fast in some instances, I suddenly saw the name Bertucci flash past and thought what is Frank up to?

In moving the directional arrow in reverse to see what I missed, I fell upon the link to the eloquent obit by Joe Juliano in The Inquirer marking the sudden passing of the longtime writer/copy editor at The Inquirer and Daily News as well as Penn Relays notable and La Salle sports publicist, to name a few, because of a heart attack suffered at his home Friday night in South Philadelphia.

What a shock.

Though aware of man’s eventual mortality, Frank, who was 68 years old, was such an ongoing presence in the Philadelphia sports scene for so many decades that in his case, it was easy to believe that the maker might make an exception of Frank and allow him to be around forever.

One of the quotes in Juliano’s narrative from Frank’s sister Mary Lou Bertucci Rooney described him best: "Frank sometimes had a dour expression, but deep down, he was the friendliest guy you ever met. If you had Frank as a friend, you had a friend for life."

This was certainly true of the relationship of yours truly with Frank, who also was one of the more passionate soccer devotees I’ve come across besides his ongoing love for the Penn Relays.

I probably didn’t first have to deal with Frank regularly until he had the La Salle job in the 1980s when current WNBA Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, also an Olympic assistant, played for the Explorers.

Note: The Guru is writing this off the top of his head so it may be that Beth Huffman had the job then or Cheryl played across both their tenures.

Anyhow, Frank struck me, not uncommon with many others in a similar capacity of the time, that as I dealt with him as part of covering the La Salle women, he appeared to accept his WBB duties as a necessary evil but he also still maintained a professional equivalent to any of the other sports that got more attention.

Blame the dour expression for the misread because as the years went by there were times when he would engage in fine banter when we were involved with a part of the local sports scene together.

But Mary Lou was right about the friend for life.
In the final days of winter in 2010 just before heading to the NCAA women’s finals, I let the word get out that in a few weeks my longtime daily association with The Inquirer would end for the same reasons many contemporaries at newspapers across the country have been making in recent times.

Two nights later I got a call out of the blue from Frank saying he heard the news and then proceeded to offer some of the more generous remarks that were made reacting to my decision and what a loss it was going to be for the paper and the sport.

I assured him that, for one, I was still going to do what I was doing, but operating in a different manner in which this blog would now become the mainstay and that there were still going to be occasions in which I would probably be drafted back into freelance coverage for the paper, when needed.

He insisted we have lunch or dinner and since both our lives continued to be quite active it took over a year and a half until we finally got together for a nice lunch at a sports bar off Columbus Avenue not far from his South Philadelphia home.

It was quite the conversation about a myriad of things and since Frank had hit the magic number a few months ahead of yours truly, he spoke of the joys of being able to ride SEPTA for free and he was contemplating giving up his car altogether.

One hobby he took up, which Juliano noted, to take advantage of the perk that also allows just a $1 inside the Pennsylvania borders on the commuter rail division, is each week he rode a different line in its entirety, especially the ones with great distance, and then chronicled in his blog Frank Thoughts the quilted patchwork of neighborhoods the line went through and what he saw.

Indeed, a year ago remembering what Frank had said, I actually used SEPTA for a whole month in February and it was true, I could get to games quicker at times then during rush hour or bad weather in a car.

Frank often invited me to do the biography of local women’s basketball honorees for the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s massive program publication he oversaw for the organization’s annual awards banquet.

That day we had lunch and since Cheryl had won one of her WNBA titles with Minnesota, Frank, in also taking advantage of discount airfares, was planning to go to Minneapolis, and was eager to get together with her.

I can’t remember if she was going to be in town but I know they eventually hooked up when she was honored at a sportswriters banquet in Cherry Hill across the river.

During our conversation, as I mentioned some dining places I had discovered, Frank insisted we do this more regularly and every time we were at a subsequent event he kept reminding me to set a date.

That didn’t happen, though we saw each other often enough, especially when I would stop by the press box in the fall during free time to view Temple football games.

Ironically, it had just crossed my mind last week when passing one of Italian restaurant chains with the same name as Frank’s, I decided I would call to get together while not much was going on in my world.

Sadly, it’s another lesson for those of us among the living that one needs to act quicker when it comes to social engagements because obviously, you just don’t know what the next hour has in store, though you think you know.

Frank’s passing is just one more departure both recently and in preceding years that has seen us lose such notables who were part of the sports coverage scene as Frank, Stan Hochman, Sandy Grady, Frank Dolson, Chuck Newman, Bob Vetrone, John McAdams, and Andy Dougherty to name just a few.

On one hand, these are sad times for those of us who were contemporaries to these greats, but on the other, we’ll always have the fond memories of being mentored and counting ourselves to be lucky to have enjoyed their friendship while they were here.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: SEC Influence on USA Pool Surpassed by UConn

By Mike Siroky

There are only two underclassmen invited to USA Basketball’s National Team Training Camp, starting Monday in Las Vegas.

However, there would have been a third had not Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd opted to use a loophole into the WNBA as the No. 1 pick last month by Seattle.

One of two undergrads is Tiffany Mitchell, the two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year from South Carolina.

Her college coach, Dawn Staley, is an assistant for the 2016 Olympics staff.

The head man there will be Geno Auriemma, UConn’s coach. His national player of the year, Brianna Stewart, is the other underclassman.

“I’m looking forward to the training camp,” said Auriemma. He started as the USA Basketball Women’s National Team in 2009 and his record with the group is 23-0, with Gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships and the 2012 Olympics.

“We are going to have a great mix of young athletes who are hungry for a spot on the team,” he said, “and many veterans who might need to work a little harder because of it.

“And of course we’re bringing in some who could shake things up Jewell Loyd and Tiffany Mitchell are two very talented guards, who I had the opportunity to see up close in games this year.

"They both gave my team a tough time, and I can’t wait to see them working alongside players like Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen.

"We have a lot of work to do, but I honestly can’t wait to get out to Vegas and get started.”

There are 27 players invited to this camp.

It is unlikely any of the first-timers other than Stewart will ultimately make the Games cut, but this is a first fast track to future national teams.

"Running this camp will be an Auriemma All-American player, University of Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti.

All the other players are affiliated with WNBA teams now.

USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee made the invitations.

“Tiffany and Jewell have won Gold medals at the junior level, and based on their past experiences in college and with Jewell and Tiffany internationally, we wanted to see how they competed on the USA National Team level,” said Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director and chair of the selection committee.

“We are always looking toward the future, and we feel that these camps not only help USA Basketball prepare for the next big event, which of course is the Games, but for competitions beyond 2016.”

Among them are former SEC players, including LSU’s Seimone Augustus, 6-0, 166 pound forward and Sylvia Fowles, 6-6, 200 pound center and Tennessee’s Candace Parker, 6-4 175 pound center.

There are also seven legendary UConn players in this pool, some already with Olympic experience and none, of course, unfamiliar with teams assembled by USA Basketball.

They are: Sue Bird, 5-9, 150 pound guard; Tina Charles, 6-4, 198 pound center; Stefanie Dolson, 6-5, 210 pound center; Bria Hartley, 5-7- 145 pound guard; Maya Moore, 6-0 176 pound forward; and Diana Taurasi,, 6-0, 163-pound guard; and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, 6-0, 180 pound center

Notre Dame has two 5-9 representatives among the guards, Jewell Lloyd 150 pounds and Skylar Diggings, 145 pounds.

Stanford has two forward line representatives: Jayne Appelm, 6-4 210 pound center and Nnemkadi Ogwumike, 6-2 188 pound forward while Baylor has 6-8 199 pound center Brittney Griner and 5-8 155 pound guard Odyssey Sims.

All the other schools have lone representatives: 6-5 188 pound scoring forward Elena Delle Donne (Delaware); 5-8 144 pound guard Briann January (Arizona State); 6-4 185 pound center Jantel Lavender (Ohio Sate); 6-1 160 pound swingman Angel McCoughtry (Louisville); 5-9 160 poun guard Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers); 5-9 125 pound guard Danielle Robinson (Oklahoma); 5-8 145 pound guard Courtney Van Der Sloot (Gonzaga) and 5-10 170 pound swingman Monica Wright (Virginia).

The most intriguing player may be 6-7, 200 pound center Jem Hamson, a newcomer on the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks roster.

Don’t remember her?

Well she is still an All-American basketball player from Brigham Young; that is, she completed basketball there a year ago, skipped her WNBA draft selection and stayed on campus to play volleyball with her last year of eligibility in that sport, where she became an All-American for the second time, making the Final Four

Among the invitees are 14 athletes who have captured a combined 16 Olympic and 18 FIBA World Championship Golds.

Bird and Taurasi have three Oympic Golds. The 2016 Games are likely their last.

Augustus, Fowles and Parker each have won two Olympic Golds; Pondexter, McCoughtry and Moore each have one, though Pondexter did not make the 2012 team.

Bird is also three-time FIBA World Championship Gold medalist; Charles, McCoughtry, Moore and Taurasi have two, while Appel, Fowles Augustus, Griner, Ogwumike, Sims and Stewart all have one Augustus, Bird, Parker and Taurasi each won a Bronze in 20006.

The final 12-player 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team will be selected from the 2014-16 USA National Team pool by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee.

The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games will be Aug. 5-21.

There are 12 nations in the competition, including host Brazil and the USA, which earned its berth by virtue of claiming the Gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.

The Gold-winning nations from each of the five FIBA zone Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2015 will also be in Rio, while the remaining berths will be awarded to the top five finishing teams at the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying .

U.S. Olympic women’s basketball teams have earned a record seven Gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal, and are 58-3 all-time in Olympic competition.

The 2016 U.S. team will enter Rio riding a 41-game Olympic winning streak that dates back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics bronze medal game.

Since the inception of the 1995-96 USA Basketball Women’s National Team program, the USA National Team, in addition to its record five-straight Olympic Gold medals, has captured four FIBA World Championship Gold medals, one FIBA World Championship Bronze medal and one FIBA Americas Championship Gold medal, while compiling an 86-1 record for a .989 winning percentage in those events.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Staley Addition Keeps South Carolina Loaded and in Pace With Tennessee

By Mike Siroky

It is hard to keep pace with the top teams in  the Southeastern Conference off women’s basketball.

Just as Tennessee immediately improves its roster with two players who have practiced with the team all season – one of them future All-American point guard Diamond DeShields from North Carolina -- so too does league co-champion South Carolina add an immediate impact player in Sarah Imovbioh, the ACC's leading rebounder (10.8 per game – or a 334 total -- with more than 12 points per game) last season with Virginia. With 207 rebounds at SC, she will have a 1,000 rebound career.

The native of Nigeria has graduated with a year of eligibility left, so she’s immediately eligible. 

This is an NCAA loophole that harkens back to the AIAW and the start of the women’s game when all transfers were immediately eligible.

 By completing her degree, she earned a fifth year of eligibility, having already redshirted her first year on the Virginia campus. The NCAA rule that allows the fifth year based on completing 85 percent of her degree by the coming season and she obviously met that standard by earning the degree which she will receive next month.

Ironically, it was at Virginia where SC coach Dawn Staley rose to prominence as a Hall of Fame player. 

Now she’s reaped a fruit out of her lower-considered alma mater.

It was Staley who announced the arrival to her Twitter followers, messaging this is a "true gift to our program." 

While Staley busies herself this summer as the top assistant with UConn’s Geno Auriemma for USA Basketball, she is through recruiting with the other newcomer being another international player, 5-8 guard Shay Colley from Brampton, Ontario, Canada

The Gamecocks and the Lady Vols will be the favorites to repeat again the coming seasons. Yes seasons. More than the next one.

Imovbioh can help replace graduating players Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam.

 There is plenty of other depth. 

Two-time conference player of the year Tiffany Mitchell is likely to pair at guard with rookie of the year A’ja Wilson. 

Alaina Coates would be the center. Jatarie White is the most gifted of the others. All the starters would be better than 6-0. 

Maryland and Ohio State also pursued Imovbioh. 

Imovbioh was in high school at St. Anne’s-Belfield, Va. She earned Parade All-American status there. 

She sat out what would have been her freshman season at Virginia due to NCAA restrictions around her original high-school enrollment while in her native country. She did not meet core curriculum standards while attending school there.

Staley has assigned 13 scholarships, her usual limit with a team of all-stars. She has 15 available.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Countdown to the Start of the Phila/Suburban Women's NCAA Sumnmer League

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

OK. As promised, here's all the info from Commissioner Kessler on the start of the summer league which will continue to be played  on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Kelly Bolish Gymnasium in suburban Hatboro, Pa., with one possible addition if the number of teams increase by one to 14.

Updates will be provided as we continue to get closer. He also told me there was a facebook page for the league constructed for him though I think we will continue to blog and the site will link unless it works better to write inside the site.

That said, here is everything that the Commish sent to the Guru. Deadline for applications is April 30, this Thursday.

     2015 Timeline of important dates
           Friday March 27 - e-mailed application for NCAA certification
          Wednesday April 1 - e-mailed league information letter, registration form to players and coaches
          Thursday April 30 deadline for entry into league
          Thursday May 21 player draft - 7:30 at the Renegades
          Monday June 1 - order shirts
          Monday June 8 - schedules and rosters e-mailed to players
          Tuesday June 16 - shirts distributed, league begins
          Thursday July 30 - end of regular season
          Tuesday August 4 - quarterfinal playoffs
           Wednesday August 5 - semifinal playoffs
          Thursday August 6 -championship game
      We'll be able to add a 14th team this year, which will mean more players. But tell your players to get the application to me right away. I'm going to get inundated and will probably turn players away if they register near the deadline. 
      I've also attached the by-laws. If you feel we need to change anything, be prepared to discuss it at the draft on Thurs. May 21.
      You'll also notice in the timeline that I'm giving myself a lot more time to do everything. Last summer was a horror story! 
      Note that I made the switch from Comcast to Verizon, so this is a new e-mail address -- deucedbk@verizon.net

The Official League Letter

(Guru's Note: Email the commissioner to get a registration form. It will not copy the correct readable way into this blog.





                         PROGRAMMING” AWARD                              




                           “LIKE” OUR PAGE          

                PHILADELPHIA/SUBURBAN WOMEN’S                          

                                           BASKETBALL LEAGUE


Site: Kelly Bolish Gymnasium (home of the AAU “Renegades”)

         2950 Turnpike Drive

         Hatboro, Pa. 19040

             Site has 3 gyms, snack bar, ample parking, and is near the Pa. Turnpike


Playing dates: Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning Tuesday June 16. Game times are 7:00 & 8:15 P.M.


There is space for 14 teams of 11-12 players per team. TO ENSURE ACCEPTANCE INTO THE        



Fee: $135.00 per  player (includes shirt with name and number on back, number on front along with

                league logo imprinted over the heart. Fee also includes officials, score/timekeepers, awards,

                  site rental, and league expenses – insurance, balls, books, copying, etc.)


This is a draft league. Players can form teams, but cannot come into the league with a full squad (Exception: a D-II or D-III institution can enter their entire team) The league needs the flexibility to assign players to each team. This is done for parity and because NCAA regulations prohibit Division I players from playing with more than one college teammate.


Division I players are required to submit a letter of permission from their Athletic Director to the League Director or they will not be permitted to play. Letters can be submitted by e-maill, through regular mail, or delivered in person. THIS MUST BE DONE BEFORE THE PLAYER’S FIRST GAME! Application for NCAA certification was made on Friday March 27. League should be sanctioned in the coming weeks. Check on the status at ncaa.org.






    CHECK ($135.00) SHOULD BE MADE OUT TO “PHILA/SUBURBAN WOMEN’S BASKETBALL”                          








                              DAVID KESSLER

                             310 WYNDALE DRIVE

                              CHALFONT, PA 18914-3940



                                                                                DAVID KESSLER, LEAGUE DIRECTOR



                                                                                STEVE MICHIELLI, CO-DIRECTOR


The Guru will have the by-laws in a future blog since it the format copied from is not dropping within the margins of this platform.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Guru's WNBA Report: Number 22 Loomed Big For Two Reasons on a Draft Night Tribute to Lauren Hill

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The biggest number on WNBA draft night here last week  at the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Connecticut Sun, was 22 for separate reasons.

The first was WNBA league president Laurel J. Richie welcoming the immediate audience and those across the nation watching on TV and referring to Lauren Hill, the courageous 19-year-old Division III freshman at Mount St. Joseph’s in Cincinnati who succumbed earlier this month on April 10  to pediatric brain cancer.

In a poignant short speech, Richie re-capped the events of the past year and Hill’s cause which was embraced by the WNBA, as well as the NCAA,  and established that draft night was dedicated to Hill, who wore uniform number 22 which was used in some of the fundraising efforts to bring awareness to the disease.

But several days earlier 22 became a cause celeb because one of the loopholes that allows a female player in the United States to leave college before her eligibility expires and opt for the WNBA draft is if she turns 22 during the calendar year of what would be her rookie season.

Two star collegians exercised the escape clause in Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B, who went second to the Tulsa Shock, and Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd, who became the overall top pick of the Seattle Storm.

Considering how little WNBA players make compared to their NBA male equivalents, the action may not be the start of a big trend but it is a wake up call across the board, more so on the collegiate side of things.

Notre Dame certainly appears to have either been caught sleeping, considering Irish coach Muffet McGraw claims she got the official word several hours after the Irish loss to Connecticut in the national championship game in Tampa, Fla., or deceived.

McGraw also stated since the move that several weeks earlier Loyd indicated she was going to return for her senior season. Of course by opting out now, she was able to go No. 1 instead of being picked most likely behind Connecticut sensation Breanna Stewart.

Financially, the payout is the same in the front of the draft, though with an opportunity to be in Europe next winter a lucrative payout looms a year ahead of schedule.

As to McGraw’s reaction – she did not attend the draft but neither did UConn coach Geno Auriemma or Duke coach Joanne McCallie, who had two of the other top four picks in the draft.

Talking to some WNBA coaches off the record while discussing their picks on the record, there did not seem to be major sympathy in Notre Dame’s direction, with some saying this has been going on for some time in the men’s collegiate game and those coaches have learned to suck it up.

Several also said they usually check birthdates in the women’s junior class just in case moves occur similar to Loyd, more so than Zahui B, who as a foreigner is thought of more on the scale of those players who have had relationships with the NCAA.

But there could be an impact in recruiting on the women’s side in that perhaps birthdates may be part of the research process, though unlike the men’s one-and-done we’ve seen exist, the women, for now, would be in a three-and-done mode if they qualified under the loophole.

Hall of Fame South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, a former all-everything point guard  in high school here in Philadelphia, at Virginia in college, and then also in the pros and in the Olympics, spoke of the looming change while being on the scene to celebrate her first Gamecocks product to the WNBA, Aleighsa Welch, who went in the first round to the defending Eastern playoff champion Chicago Sky.

Ironically, Staley’s first Temple product, WNBA All-Star Candice Dupree, now with the champion Phoenix Mercury, also went to Chicago as the sixth overall pick when the Sky launched its inaugural season as an expansion outfit in 2006.

“I think you’re going to see it a little more,” Staley said of an early exit and then quipped, “Thankfully for us, Tiffany Mitchell is only 20.

“You have to (to check the birthdate),” Staley said. “You’re seeing the effects of the WNBA. Players are getting a lot better. And they want their dreams to come true a lot sooner.

“I think it was a great move for Jewell Loyd. She wouldn’t become No. 1 playing in the WNBA next year so here’s an opportunity for her to do,” Staley continued.

“I talked to her a little bit, but get your degree,” Staley said with emphasis. “You got one of the things you wanted to do as far as playing in the WNBA but just go back – I think she’s just five electives short of graduating, her mother told me so, it’s a great move for her and her family.

“I wouldn’t want to be Muffet at this point because it catches her off guard but we’re learning from Jewell Loyd as coaches as an example. You have to prep for it because obviously you recruit thinking you’re going to have a player for four years and it’s little bit of a setback making that adjustment because it’s hard replacing that player that could leave early. It’s really hard.”

As far as having the player for three years, Staley pointed out, “You can manage the roster a little bit better but if we lost Aleighsa Welch last year to the WNBA it would have been a big missing piece because of the intangible, the experience, the teaching.

“She taught our younger players how to play and sustain playing at a high level every single day.”

The reward, of course, was the Gamecocks being ranked first or second through the polling season and then making the first trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four following one appearance in the books during the AIAW era when Magic Johnson’s sister Evelyn made them a national force in the late 1970s.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno, whose player Brittany Hrynko from Philadelphia went in the first round to the Connecticut Sun and then was swapped to the Atlanta Dream for former Duke star Jasmine Thomas, commented on the culture change saying, “If a player is good enough to, they’re probably going to go.

“But the bottom line is you still have to make the roster,” which one WNBA coach said is getting shorter as more veterans stick from year to year.

Coming up in the next blog as the Guru goes through the quasi-quiet period between the NCAA and WNBA seasons are the details on the upcoming annual Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer League, which could expand from 13 to 14 teams if enough players sign up.

“We have most of the adjustments worked out to go to 14 if enough players sign up,” said longtime commissioner David Kessler, who noted the moves are not many to put expansion in play.