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.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Guru Memory on the Passing of Ex-NCAA Executive Titan Walter Byers

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Your Guru had to have an inner smile late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning -- take your pick -- on reading the first reports of the passing former NCAA top executive Walter Byers at age 93, yet marking another person on the wallpaper of the Guru's life who has gone on to another world.

The stories say Byers was a proponent of women's collegiate athletics.

Well, no and yes, in that order.

When the Guru came along in the mid-1970s as part of newspapers beefing up women's coverage in the wake of the rollout of Title IX legislation in Washington, in the battle to establish proportionally equal rights in athletics for women on campus the Guru was made aware to no end that Byers, Texas football coach Darrell Royal and the lot of them were the enemy.

One after another in the hearings in Congress they all paraded to testify how athletics on the men's side would go the way of Pompeii if Title IX became the law of the land.

Of course it became humorous in later years to hear such stories as Royal attending barbeques of the Longhorns women's basketball team as Jody Conradt's Longhorns rose to a national power.

That was the "No" part of the Guru's opening statement above.

But as the eighties dawned, at an NCAA convention -- and remember the NCAA is the membership, though during his rule, make no mistake the NCAA and Byers were one and the same in terms of the power in collegiate athletics -- the association enacted adoption of five women's championships in Division II and III.

That was a response to those schools that asked for it. There was no sense yet that the NCAA might move beyond that small package.

The following summer in 1980 CoSida, which is the organization for collegiate sports information directors, had their convention in Kansas City, then the headquarters locale for the NCAA.

At one of the big luncheons that week early in the convention, Byers was the principle speaker. No one said whether or not it was on the record -- the Guru was one of the few media types around because of his having to harness the power of the SIDs to make his information network work in season.

There was nothing controversial per se. HOWEVER, at one point, Byers, with the new events to happen that ensuing winter, used the phrase --and the Guru remembers this like it was yesterday (yes this would be in the book you all want me to write) -- "And women's championships. We hope you will join with us and support these events AS THEY START COMING DOWN THE LINE -- and volunteer to host them."

Now, the Guru was smart enough to see that news was breaking out.

Exactly what did coming down the line mean. And more important, the perceived enemy of women's athletics and also the most powerful person in the NCAA had just made a remark endorsing them -- and it was perhaps the first time he made such a public endorsement.

Upon conclusion the Guru phoned his bosses back at The Inquirer and informed them of what he just heard.

Abracadbra -- notebook time with the Byers comments being the lead item.

Soon after writing that report, word came that a progressive group of women's athletic directors -- many at today's Power 5 schools -- started conversations about gravitating to the NCAA because they had believed policy of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) had becme restrictive or problematic, especially the transfer rule.

Back in those days transfer students could play right away under AIAW rules and Tennessee became a big beneficiary, to the point some elsewhere complained that the budding legendary women's basketball coach was turning their universities into farm teams.

Events began moving fast after that summer and the NCAA at its momentous convention in Miami in 1981 had two major items on the agenda, establishing governance over women's collegiate sports and creating a whole array of championships across the board, including Division I.

With the AIAW still in business the NCAA was delicate in public, anyhow, as it went about gaining support.

But with the Guru, -- think about approaching coverage of presidential nominating conventions -- actually having a handle on how things might go, he was told "You may be interested that you have made Walter's reading list."

Byers did note that if the initiatives passed, schools could still participate in AIAW events, to which the response was Nada.

Ironically, a similar contrast emerged 15 years later when the WNBA was getting ready to open shop and then-NBA Commissioner David Sterm said players could also participate in the rival American Basketball League championships, to which the response was the same as the AIAW.

At the Miami convention, the Guru was invited to the opening reception party and was introduced to Byers, who said, while shaking hands, "Yeah, Greenberg. I know who you are. I say a couple of words at a convention of college PR people about women's athletics and you turn it into war and peace."

He then grinned and gave a wink.

Once passed, Byers did become an enthusiastic supporter of women's events, appeared annually at the Women's Final Four, and, get this, Ruth Berkey, who became the first NCAA women's administrator, soon also became one of Byers three wives -- the Guru is writing this late at night and couldn't get a quick answer whether she was the second or third.

Byers also became a member of the first and very large class for induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Washington Shows Early Signs of Promise in Preseason Win Over Minnesota

(Guru's note: Joining team Guru this summer, particularly out of Washington with Rob Knox, but also both to be at other places, is Lamar Carter, who, hard to believe in time, almost a decade ago was a contemporary of the Guru's original core of bloggers and bloggerettes, who have since done well, especially the group out of Rutgers, of which he was primarily a sports photographer in his student days.

His game story is followed by Rob filing separates on rookies Natasha Cloud out of Saint Joseph's, and Blake Dietrick out of Princeton.

You can follow a lot of Lamar's other stuff by using his twitter @lcarter031

Lamar just completed his second year as assistant athletic director for media relations at Howard University in Washington.

He also did some of the same work previously at ASA Brooklyn and was a media specialist at the Against All Odds Foundation out of Newark. Lamar is likely to also be shooting at games but until we figure a better look for this site for the Guru's work in addition to what the Guru does for Blue Star Media, follow his twitter to look at the gallery. When pictures are planned to post, the Guru will mention it in a precede not as lengthy as this one at the top of Rob's reporting.

By Lamar Carter (@LCarter031)

The early buzz out of the District of Columbia is that the Washington Mystics may be building something special – even if the 2015 campaign is only two preseason games old plus one special analytical scrimmage that was held here Tuesday afternoon.

Second year guard Tayler Hill scored a game-high 18 points off the bench and the Mystics defeated the Minnesota Lynx 89-63 on Wednesday morning in the team's impressive preseason home opener in the Verizon Center.

Hill, who missed most of the 2014 season after the birth of her first child, didn’t show any rust when it came to her shot – the Ohio State product went 53.8 percent (7-of-13) from the field and over 57 percent from three (4-of-7) against Minnesota.

When asked about the faith she displayed in her shot, Hill cited the work she’s put in to get back to this point.

“The more you practice it, the more confident you get so I’ve gotten to be pretty confident in where I am with my shot, but I know it doesn’t stop here,” said Hill.

Hill also added three rebounds, two steals and a block and has posted averages of 13.5 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals per game in Washington’s two exhibition contests.

In addition to Hill, center Emma Meesseman (11 points) and guards Kara Lawson (11), Bria Hartley (10) and Natasha Cloud (10) each scored in double figures.

“We had five in double figures and we had two more close,” Coach Mike Thibault said. “It shows that we’re moving the basketball and it shows we’re unselfish.”

One of those top scorers – Cloud – is another reason the Mystic faithful are excited about what the year could bring.

The 6-0 rookie from Saint Joseph’s got her first WNBA start in Wednesday’s game, shooting 4-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line. From the opening tip, Cloud, looked very much at ease with the speed of the game while always seeming to make the right play at the right time.

“It was a good feeling being out there today,” Cloud said. “It’s all still kind of surreal [playing at this level] but this team has made me extremely comfortable.

"I’m very comfortable in the offenses that we’re running and I’m able to just go out and play basketball.”

Added Thibault, “Cloud’s going to be really special. I think she could be one of the best rookies that comes into the league this year, if not the best.”

Even Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was impressed with the Mystics’ early returns on their effort.

“Washington is really, really committed to what they’re doing. It’s not complicated what they do, they just do it really well and they’re really committed to it,” Reeve said of the Mystics’ execution.

Washington held a one-point edge at halftime (43-42) after both teams exchanged 25-point quarters but a 29-10 third period gave the Mystics a sizable cushion.

A deeper examination of the box score showed all but one Mystics player scoring at least one basket and the home team winning several key categories, including every shooting category, assists, steals and blocks.

Looking at the bigger picture, Washington’s play has the team feeling good about the direction it’s heading in as the season opener approaches.

“I think this team can go as far as it wants to go,” said Hill. “We control our own destiny. We’ve got a really good team, a really deep team. We can go one through 12 and everyone plays their position well so I think we can go far.”

NEXT UP: The Mystics will hit the road on Friday (May 29) for their preseason finale against the Indiana Fever before opening the 2015 regular season on the road against the Connecticut Sun on Friday, June 5 and at home against the New York Liberty on Saturday, June 6.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

WNBA Rookie and Saint Joseph's Grad Natasha Cloud Focuses on the Process

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Natasha Cloud has always been about the process.

It’s a strategy that the dynamic six-foot guard with the million-dollar smile has used to make her hoop dreams of playing in the WNBA as a member of the Washington Mystics a reality.

The versatile Cloud used that approach to become one of the best ballers in Cardinal O’Hara’s storied history.

It helped her evolve into an elite-guard at Saint Joseph’s University.

Now, that same focus on the next step is what Cloud believes will continue to yield positive results.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far being here,” Cloud said while resting comfortably in a black leather chair courtside before the Mystics preseason home opener against the Minnesota Lynx Wednesday morning at the Verizon Center.

“Getting to live out my dreams is surreal. Sometimes when you come from a mid-major school, people don’t really give you the benefit of the doubt that you can make it here. (Mystics head coach Mike) Thibault took a chance on me and I am taking advantage of it.”

While Cloud was wrapping up an impressive career at Saint Joseph’s, she had a huge fan club that consisted of Thibault and assistant coach Marianne Stanley, an Archbishop Prendergast legend.

They attended a majority of her games at Saint Joseph’s last season. When Cloud was still available in the second round (15th overall), the Mystics immediately made her their choice.

“When I played at O’Hara, my only goal at the time was to get to the next level, compete collegiately and make an impact there,” Cloud said.

“The WNBA was in my thoughts, but I always focused on trying to contribute every step of the way. Now that I am here, I want to make the final roster and find a way to contribute.

I am all for the ultimate goals, but I like setting realistic ones for myself, something that I can strive for in the moment.”

The last Saint Joe's player to make a WNBA roster was current associate head coach Sue Moran, the all-time scorer for men and women on Hawk Hill and one of the all-time scorers in the Big 5 for women who was picked by the New York Liberty, though it didn't hurt to have a former Hawks assistant in Pat Coyle then on the New York staff.

Even though the Mystics have a talented roster with several key pieces returning from last season’s playoff appearance, Cloud has a strong chance of surviving the final cut. She’s living in the moment and taking nothing for granted. Thibault couldn’t stop smiling when discussing Cloud.

“I’ve been thrilled,” Thibault said of Cloud’s effort during training camp and preseason. “She’s as ready for the pro game as a rookie that I’ve coached in a long time.

"First of all, she’s got the size to play three perimeter positions and has great common sense of intellect about the game. Defensively, for a rookie, she’s at an elite level because she understands all of our concepts. She has fit right in.”

In two preseason games against the Dream and Lynx along with a unique analytical scrimmage, also against the Lynx, Cloud has impressed averaging 8.5 points, six assists against only two turnovers and is shooting 46.1 percent.

The high-flying Mystics have averaged 84 points in their preseason outings.

Cloud started and played 21 minutes against a Lynx squad featuring three Olympians.

She was the catalyst during an impressive 23-1 run to close the third period that gave Washington a 20-point bulge.

Cloud scored six of her 10 points against Lynx during the surge. She nailed a deep jumper, sank a pull-up from the wing and dropped in a beautiful reverse layup.

It was a performance that also caught the eye of Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle standout. Impressive considering that Reeve has a front row seat coaching three of the world’s greatest women’s basketball players every day.

“I saw her yesterday and today and I thought she played great,” Reeve, also an Olympic assistant to Geno Auriemma, said. “She has a really good command of the game and all of her movements are with great purpose.

"She looks really confident and you love it when a rookie isn’t afraid. She looks and plays like she belongs here.

"I think Mike is a tremendous evaluator of talent. I think it surprised a lot of people when he selected her. Obviously, she’s going to prove him very right.”

Cloud has looked comfortable during the 10 days of training camp thus far for the Mystics, who conclude the preseason with a road game against the Indiana Fever Friday morning.

“Everyone has asked me have I gotten used to being in the WNBA yet,” Cloud said. “I don’t think about it yet until I officially make the roster.

"The realization of me possibly being here happened toward the end of my junior year at Saint Joseph’s. I love this team. D.C. is the best fit for me. I am excited to be here and represent Broomall, Cardinal O’Hara, Saint Joseph’s and Delaware County.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Princeton's Blake Dietrick Sees Action in Mystics' Win

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

To keep from being blinded by the bright lights of the WNBA stage, Blake Dietrick has an interesting philosophy.

“The game hasn’t changed,” Dietrick said. “It’s still the same game as it was in college. It’s just faster and everyone is more athletic so you have to take care of the ball better and make quicker decisions.”

The Washington Mystic rookie guard, an undrafted free agent, and 2015 Ivy League Player of the Year out of Princeton is enjoying the experience of a lifetime as she battles to make the opening day roster.

All Dietrick can do is stay ready when her number is called and make the most of her playing time.

She played the entire fourth quarter during Wednesday morning’s 89-63 victory over the Minnesota Lynx at the Verizon Center in a preseason game.

The balanced and high-flying Mystics placed five players in double figures highlighted by Tayler Hill’s 18 points and Natasha Cloud’s 10 markers.

Emma Meesseman and Kara Lawson scored 11 points each and Bria Hartley added 10 points for the Mystics, who closed the third quarter with a 23-1 run.

Dietrick didn’t score or commit a turnover in 10 minutes against the Lynx. She made a 3-pointer in Washington’s first preseason game against Atlanta in 15 minutes of action.

The native of Massachusetts is displaying the same tenacity and savvy she did in helping Princeton enjoy a memorable season in which it won the Ivy League title, won its first 30 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Dietrick’s defense was solid against a group of Lynx players hoping to make their star-studded roster.

“I thought I did OK today once I get over my nerves a little bit,” Dietrick said. “Even though I am out there on the court against amazing people, it’s just a matter of playing with confidence.

"Other than that, I thought I took care of the ball. I probably could’ve shot once or twice when I had the opportunities. I just focused on getting my teammates involved and getting them shots they know how to make.”

There were plenty of shots made during a unique analytical scrimmage between the Lynx and Mystics on Tuesday afternoon.

Players from both sides had to get used to playing with different rules and abandon all instincts for 10 minutes.

For example, a mid-range jumper was considered a turnover as players were strongly encouraged to shoot 3-pointers.

The scrimmage’s aim was helping participants understand the value of 3-pointers and points in the paint.

Dietrick was happy to be part of the analytical experiment that was divided into a pair of 10-minute sessions. Mystics owner Ted Leonsis suggested the scrimmage.

“The scrimmage was really cool,” Dietrick said. “You don’t really notice it. There weren’t significant changes, particularly for me since I don’t shoot a midrange shot often.

"I didn’t notice the fact that we weren’t allowed to shoot those shots. It was interesting and it’s exciting to see where the game is going.”

The cool thing about the Mystics is all of their rookies are from outside of the power-five conferences.

Natasha Cloud (Saint Joseph’s), Ally Malott (Dayton) and Kayla Thornton (UTEP) along with Dietrick have been sponges during training camp and learning everything to enhance their games at the pro level.

“It’s been awesome being here and this an amazing team,” Dietrick said. “I probably couldn’t have picked a better group of people to play with.

"Everyone is so helpful and supportive of all the rookies. They’re helping us learn and it’s been a great experience so far. It’s been humbling to play with some of the best women in the world.

"I am just so grateful to be here. I am going to keep working hard every day to help the team grow and be successful.”

The Mystics play their final preseason game Friday morning against the Indiana Fever at 12:00 p.m.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Decade Later in the WNBA, Penn State Grad Tanisha Wright Returns to NY Roots

by ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

NEWARK, Del. –
Tanisha Wright is returning to her roots.

The white New York Liberty uniform felt foreign to Wright, a Penn State graduate who spent her first 10 years with the Seattle Storm before signing with the New York Liberty this summer.

Wright was born in Brooklyn and spent plenty of summers in the Big Apple after moving to Pittsburgh and while attending Penn State.

While Wright had plenty of wonderful memories in Seattle, she is embracing the change of scenery, different time zone and playing for the Liberty.

“I have a lot of love for Seattle,” Wright said before the Liberty’s preseason opener against the Chicago Sky at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center Friday night. “However, this is part of a business.

"I spent 10 years and built relationships there. But you grow, get older, move on, and priorities change. Change is inevitable and you just have to embrace it.”

Wright’s presence also reunites her with former Storm teammate Swin Cash.

They were members of the Storm’s 2010 WNBA championship squad, one of the best teams in the history of the league.

That Storm team won 28 games and swept the Atlanta Dream in the Finals.

Now, they’ll be counted on to provide wisdom and leadership to a very young Liberty squad that will be exciting to watch on the floor this season especially once rookies Kiah Stokes and Brittany Boyd get adjusted to the faster pace of the WNBA and veteran guard Epiphanny Prince returns from her overseas obligations in June.

“Being in the league for 10 years, my role is to give them some insight that I’ve learned over the years,” Wright said. “I played with one of the best point guards (Sue Bird) in the world for the last 10 years.

"I learned how to run a team. I believe my experience and leadership style will affect and influence the team in a positive way. Of course, I want to contribute on the court. You want to be as effective as possible if you’re still playing.”

During her solid career, Wright has been durable and reliable.

She averaged 8.0 points per game in 29 games for the Storm last season. It was the first time in her career she hasn’t played at least 30 games during the summer in the league.

Two seasons ago, Wright averaged 11.9 points per contest. Third-year head Bill Laimbeer is happy to have Wright on his team.

“We went out a pursued her for a couple of reasons,” Laimbeer said. “She’s still a great player, very tenacious and has a high basketball IQ which our team needed.

"Also, her leadership was key for us. She can lead by example and our team needed that especially trying to get Tina Charles up to speed in the leadership department. She’ll be a good player for Tina to follow.”

Wright is still adjusting to the Liberty and learning the new terminology, offensive and defensive sets as well as Laimbeer’s personality.

She sees a side of him that many people don’t or didn’t know existed if they just went off of the “Bad Boys” 30-for-30 documentary about Laimbeer's playing career with the NBA champion Detroit Pistons under Chuck Daly.

“He’s a pretty funny guy,” Wright said. “As much as he is about his business, he’s pretty lighthearted during practices.

"He jokes with us which helps.

"You’re able to come in and do your job and not feel as intense. He already has that winning pedigree and he has those high expectations. So when you step onto the court, it’s about your business. Not about these little things that don’t matter. It’s about what it takes to win.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Rosters Virtually Set for Philly Summer League

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Following last Thursday night's draft, the teams are set, barring the discovery of some errors, for this season's Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer League.

There will be 13 teams, not enough players registered to incrase by one to 14 with each gertting one bye prior to the late July playoffs with opening night set for June 16 at the Kelly Bolish Gymnasium, home of the AAU Renegades, in Willow Grove Commons Business Park in Harboro, Pa., same as the last several seasons.

Division II and Division III school squads are allowed to play in tact under NCAA rules, while teams are allowed only two Division I players from a particular school.

Saint Joseph's has 11 players in the league and Villanova has two while Lafayette and a few others have members playing.

Some rosters will have 11 players while others will have a few more, though those teams believe not everyone will show every night -- Tuesday and Thursday are game nights with three doubleheaders on all three courts.

Since the NCAA is expected to implement rules changes a week before the league begins, when the oversight committee votes on all the recommendations, the Guru suggested and it might occur that to help players get ready for NCAA play in the winter, the league will use four 10 minute quarters instead of two 20 minute halves, and anorther change involving the 10-second rule might be implemented.

Stay tuned.

For now, here are the rosters -- the schedule come soon, as sent by Commissioner David Kessler, who begins his 22nd year running the league.

On the group rosters such as Philadelphia University, West Chester, and USciences (formerly known as University of the Schiences of Philadelphia), when a player is not from that school, Kessler put down an indication besides the graduation year.

Some players have already graduated. The big news out of the league is that Saint Joseph's graduate Natasha Cloud, who was on the winning Gold team last summer, is a second round draft pick of the WNBA Washington Mystics and likely to make the roster.

Also, the commissioner now has a facebook page for the league -- link to come -- and he will post his newsletter there besides giving out the printed nightly edition while your Guru will continue here with a roundup.

There may be some nights that a brief descrepency in standings may occur -- most likely in points for and points against -- since we each keep our own as a safety check.

The draft mechanics are somewhat different since groups of players requested to be together and also schools suggested to the commissioner in terms of their D-1 participants, which two should be together.

All that said, here are the rosters of the 13 teams, who will be designated by their team color only when play gets under way.

Team Black/Philly U. (13)
Kelsey Jones 5’5 ‘17
Alicia Lister 5’5 ‘18
Velez Jackson 5’5 ‘19
Rachel Day 5’7 ‘18
Alynna Williams 5’3 ‘21
Jess Kaminski 5’8 ‘18
Tori Arnao 6’ ‘16
Erin Maher 6’ ‘18
Jacqueline McCarron 5’10 ‘16
Alexandra Heck 5’10 ‘16
Regan Marriner 5’11 ‘17
Erin Rafter 5’11 ‘19
Mary Newell 6’ ‘16

Team Maroon/West Chester (14)
Mariah Powell 5’11 ‘16
Jasmen Clark 5’4 ‘16
Rylee Power 5’8 ‘19
Camden Boehner 5’7 ‘18
Brandi Vallely 5’7 ‘18
Emily Torrance 5’9 ‘17
Dallas Ely 5’7 ‘15
Tiffany Johnson 5’3 ‘16
Courtney Wanner 5’10 ‘17
Brittany Sicinski 5’10 ‘16
Tori Smick 5’10 ‘17
Brooke Mullen 5’9 ‘17
Kendall Benovy 5’11 ‘16
Mariah Traywick 6’1 ‘17

Team University of the Sciences- (13)
Micah Morgan 5’7 ‘19
Molly Greenberg 5’6 ‘18
Marissa Sylvester 5’8 ‘19
Colleen Walsh 5’10 ‘18
Haley Helms 5’6 ‘20
Amber Reiley 5’8 ‘16
Hadiya Tucker 5’10 ‘19
Laura Trisch 5’10 ‘18
Natalie Stella 5’9 ‘18
Sarah Abbonizio 5’8 ‘20
Alex Thomas 5’10 ‘19
Shannon Evans 5’10 ‘16
Caitlin Conroy 6’4 ‘18

Team Millersville- (11)
Lexi Scrivano 6’0 ‘16
Jade Farquhar 5’9 ‘19
Aunjel Van Brakle 5’10 ‘16
Jasmine Hudson 5’7
Kendra Bamberger 5’10 ‘18
Celeste Robinson 5’8 ‘16
Taylor Pritchett 5’10
Alex Stam 5’9 ‘16
Tyisha White 5’6 ‘16
Regie Robinson 5’9 ‘19
Jessica Gerber 5’5 Kenyon ‘19

Team Penn State Abington (11) (Royal Blue)
Tyniqua Henderson 5’8 CCP ‘16
Jiana Clark 5’7 ‘17
Shayna Rodriguez 5’9 ’19
Elizabeth Jones 5’7 ‘18
Brittany Keyes 5’7 ‘18
Madison Kimball 5’11 ‘17
Kimberly Pessoa 5’7 ‘16
Janaiah Elum 5’3 ‘16
Kyra Lunsford 5’5 ’16 5’9
Breanna Lineman 5’9 ‘17
Maggie Locke 6’1 Holy Cross ‘19

Team Pink/University of Scranton (11)
Julia Gantz 5’10 Bloomsburg ‘19
Sarah Payonk 5’10 ‘17
Katherine Feehery 6’1 ‘18
Jaclyn Gantz 5’7 ‘16
Noelle Alicea 5’7 ‘16
Johanna McMillan 5’7 U. N.C. Wilmington ‘17
Karissa Mansure 5’7 Catholic U. ‘19
Lauren Whitlatch 5’10 U. Pa. ‘18
Sarah Engman 6’2 Widener ‘16
Sarah Fairbanks 6’1 St. Jos ‘16
Alyssa Monaghan 5’4 St. Jos. ‘19

Team Light Blue/ East Stroudsburg (11)
Molly Rubin 5’7 ‘16
Maddie Wallace 6’2 ’18
Noelle Powell 5’7 ’19
Rachel Falkowski 5’9 ’17
Melissa Poderis 5’6 ’16
Ann McKnight 5’6 ‘19
Courtney Brown 5’7 ’17
Michelle Boggs 6’1 ‘16
Madison Tamburini 5’8 ‘17
Ryann Fiascki 5’8 ‘15
Emily O'Donnell 6'1 Albright '16

Renegades (11)
Lauren Rothfeld 5’9 Salisbury ‘18
Mackenzie Carroll 5’10 Colgate ‘19
Calypso Carty 5’8 Utica ‘17
Sarah O’Hara 5’7 Wilkes ‘18
Kate McLaughlin 5’7 PSU Wilkes-Barre ‘17
Brianna Spector 6’ Oneonta State ‘17
Lindsey Kelly 6’ Nazereth ‘16
Emma Dorshimer 5’9 Gettysburg ‘19
Shelby Schoonover 5’7 Lycoming ‘19
Rachel Helton Bloomsburg
Courtney Webster 6’2 LeMoyne ‘18

Team Verrelle/Gallagher (11) (Kelly Green)
Grace Mirack 5’8 DelVal
MaryEllen McCollum 5’8 Holy Family ‘14
Kaitlin Kelly 5’7 DeSales ‘18
Jenna Swope 5’9 Gettysburg ‘15
Megan Gallagher 5’8 DeSales ‘14
Christine Verrelle 5’8 Dowling ‘15
Darrah Morrison 5’10 Catholic U. ‘18
Carolyne Heston 6’ Holy Family ‘14
Emily DeAngelis 5’11 Wilkes ‘18
Amanda Fioravanti 6’1 St. Jos. ‘17
Jazmin Horne 5’7 St. Jos ‘17

Team Ted Hagedorn (11) (Neon Green)
Carly Monzo 5’10 Loyola ‘18
Eliza Polli 5’8 Swarthmore ‘13
Megan Quinn 6’2 Villanova ‘17
Alex Louin 6’ Villanova ‘18
Samantha Stipa 5’5 Lafayette ‘18
Nia Holland 5’6 Lafayette ‘19
Sarah Sherman 5’7 Juniata ‘17
Brynne Brouse 5’8 Wash. Coll. ‘18
Marissa Leyes 5’1 Gwynedd Mercy ‘18
Mackenzie Rule 5’6 St. Jos. ‘17
Maureen Leahy 6’2 Bryant U. ‘16

Team Keith Wood (11) (Gold)
Tuga Goff 5’4 Rosemont ‘17
Lauren Crisler 6’2 American U ‘17
Taylor Bryant 5’5 U. Pa. ‘16
Danielle Derr 5’10 Bloomsburg ‘13
Shira Newman 5’7 Millersville ‘13
Monica Newman 5’5 Millersville ‘10
Alex Smith 5’7 Holy Cross ‘14
Jasmine Elum 5’6 Bethune-Cookman ‘12
Ashley Wood 5’6 Kutztown ‘14
Kristalyn Baisden 5’10 St. Jos. ‘19
Adashia Franklyn 6’1 St. Jos. ‘18

Draft Team (11)
Natalya Lee 5’8 Kutztown ‘16
Kelsey Watson 5’10 Kutztown ‘17
Devin Gold 5’6 Caldwell ‘15
Lauren Gold 5’6 Shippensburg ‘17
Margaret Melhem 5’10 Moravian ‘19
Michelle McCaughern 5’11 LaSalle ‘12
Libby Dougherty 5’11 McDaniel Coll.
Sarah Griffin 5’2
Elizabeth McBride 5’5 Immaculata ‘16
Chelsea Woods 6’ St. Jos ‘18
C.C. Andrews 5’7 St. Jos. ‘16

Team Holy Family (11)
Katie O’Hare 5’10 Holy Family ‘19
Casey Thomas 6’ Holy Family ‘19
Kylie Giedemann 5’6 Holy Family ‘18
Kelly Giedemann 5’5 Holy Family ‘18
Taylor Walker 5’6 Holy Family ‘18
Erin Fenningham 5’8 Holy Family ‘16
Kiernan McCloskey 6’1 Lehigh ‘17
Alexandria Somers 5’10 Montco
Michala Clay 6’ St. Jos. ‘19
Kathleen Fitzpatrick 5’8 St. Jos. ‘17
Lauren Postell 6’ Morgan State ‘17

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Back Home in Chicago, All-Timer Cappie Pondexter Looks to Help Bring the Sky a WNBA Title

by ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

NEWARK, Del. –
Chicago Sky guard Cappie Pondexter has renewed energy and a stronger sense of urgency as the twilight of her marvelous career dawns.

One of the top 15 players in WNBA history, Pondexter was involved in the biggest trade of the offseason between the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky.

Both teams swapped Rutgers graduates in moves that figure to help each squad. The 32-year-old Pondexter was traded from New York for Epiphanny Prince.

“It’s a business at the end of the day,” Pondexter said before leading the Sky against her former team in the preseason opener for both squads at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center Friday night.

“I respect decisions that are made from executives. I thought Chicago was the best choice for my career at this point. I am a seasoned vet and time is winding down. From Chicago’s perspective, I was the piece that they were looking for and I thought I was the perfect fit.”

The Sky reached the WNBA Finals last season only to be swept by the Phoenix Mercury, the team that drafted Pondexter with the second overall pick in 2006 and whom she won the 2007 and 2009 championships with.

Chicago advanced to the WNBA Finals despite a bumpy road that featured plenty of adversity and the youngest roster in the league.

Pretty sure with Pondexter’s addition, the Sky won’t have that distinction this season.

Pondexter’s mission is clear: Get the Sky over the hump and make this season a happier ending. She’s ready to accept the challenge.

More importantly, Pondexter is thrilled to have a chance to play for her hometown professional squad, a thought that seemed unfathomable when she graduated from Chicago’s Marshall High School after being named Miss Illinois Basketball in 2000 and 2001.

“I never thought about playing for my hometown team, but I think it’s a great opportunity to be around family and the people that love me every day,” Pondexter said. “I left when I was 18. So for my whole professional career, they’ve had to fly all around the country to see me play. Now, they get a chance to be around me every day and see me play. It’s going to special and I am looking to seize every moment of it.”

Prince also returned to her home in the deal having grown up in Brooklyn

Pondexter joins a talented Sky team featuring veterans Courtney Vandersloot, Tamera Young, Allie Quigley and a healthy Elena Delle Donne. While the presence of the 6-6 Sylvia Fowles would also help, it appears as if the Sky has moved forward without her in their season plans after she said she was looking for a trade.

A scoring machine with an assassins’ mentality, the ruthless Pondexter brings leadership, mental toughness, championship experience and a chip on her shoulder after averaging a career low 13.2 points last season with the Liberty while battling nagging injuries. Pondexter’s awesome game flows beautifully like lyrics from a Drake rap song.

She’s tough-minded, determined, a top defender and an immediate asset to the Sky.

“She’s been incredible so far in practice,” Delle Donne said before performing in front of her Delaware hometown fans for the second straight season in the packed Bob Carpenter Center. “She brings a certain type of knowledge that we’ve never had. She’s been through a lot and she can teach us a lot so we’re happy that she’s here.”

With good reason as Pondexter is the 2007 WNBA Finals MVP, a six-time WNBA All-Star and is fourth all-time in league history in career scoring average (19.2 points per game) and 30-point games (20).

A three-time All-WNBA selection, Pondexter was the 12th player in WNBA history to reach 5,000 career points. Pondexter also earned a gold medal as a member of the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing.

Now, Pondexter is joining forces with a former WNBA Rookie of the Year (Delle Donne) and sixth woman of the year (Quigley, who starred at DePaul in Chicago). She doesn’t have to perform at an elite level to make an impact. Her presence alone will be a difference and help the Sky contend for a championship this season.

“I believe I fit in well here,” Pondexter said. “This is my third team, but I’ve been around for a long period of time so I know how to mesh with a certain group of women. This group is amazing. They just want to win and get better. They’ve embraced me from the moment that I’ve walked in.”

Now, Pondexter is looking to return that love to the Sky and their faithful fans.

“I am happy to be with this group,” Pondexter said. “They’re making me better. They’re challenging me because there are so many skilled players here.

"I am going against somebody who has a great skill set every day and I don’t have much room to make mistakes. It’s great playing with Elena because she’s such an amazing athlete especially with her natural shooting ability.

"One of my goals is to continually challenge everybody and be a solid teammate. I think that’s important.”

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tayler Hill Out to Star in the WNBA For Washington Like Her Buckeye Days at Ohio State

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

With a sparkling 24-karat smile, Tayler Hill delivered a simple message.

“I’m ready,” the third-year Washington Mystics guard succinctly said during Monday’s media day at the Verizon Center.

“I am anxious and excited to get back out on the court.

"Last year I sat out most of the season, came back at the end but I wasn’t 100 percent. I am excited to be back this year. I feel like I haven’t played since my rookie season where I was healthy.”

The 24-year old Hill missed most of last season after giving birth to her son Maurice on June 18. Five weeks later, Hill returned to the Mystics in solid playing shape.

However, the talented Hill never found her groove on the court while averaging 7.8 minutes in the Mystics’ final five games.

Now with an entire offseason to get ready, she is poised to enjoy a breakout year and treat fans to the types of performances that made the affable Ohio State product the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.

That was two seasons ago when the Mystics finished last with the worst record the previous summer but another disappointment beset the team when Washington in the lottery failed to land in the top three that would have meant getting Phoenix's Brittany Griner (1-Baylor), Chicago's Elena Delle Donne (2-Delaware) or Tulsa's Skylar Diggins (3-Notre Dame).

However, it turns out the Mystics did get value out Hill at number four.

A pleasant package of electricity, explosiveness and excitement, Hill will be a critical component to the Mystics’ championship hopes this season with her athleticism, tenacious defense and scoring ability.

“I love Tayler,” veteran guard and WNBA All-Star Ivory Latta said. “She’s a versatile guard.

"She can bring the ball up the court and she can spot up and make 3-pointers," Latta continued.

"Her first step is unbelievable. Everybody thinks because she had a baby, she’s going to be slower. Actually she slimmed down more than she was before she had the baby. They’ll see how versatile she is this season.”

While patiently answering questions for about 10 minutes, Hill was engaging, laughing and funny.

Even after a majority of the reporters departed, Hill showcased the boundless energy of a toddler while distracting and cracking jokes with Latta as she was being photographed.

Hill arrived in camp in phenomenal shape.

Though she acknowledged being a first-time mother and an elite athlete simultaneously were challenging, Hill handled the additional responsibility like a champion. She continued working out, studying film, providing the necessary attention to her son and enjoying life.

Hill balanced both because of her supportive family and friend, Nicole who also serves as her nanny.

She has been a rock for Hill. With the comfort of knowing her son was in safe and caring hands, Hill was able focus on building from the end of her rookie year when she averaged 6.5 points and finished strong.

“Being a mom is amazing,” she said. “There’s no feeling like being a mother. I still got my work done.

"You may have seen online that people said ‘I am not playing overseas and I was just sitting home with the baby.’

"That wasn’t the case. The coaches sent me a lot of film during the offseason. I definitely did the work that needed to be done in the offseason to get to where I needed to be. I lost the weight, ate right, got back in shape and now I am ready for this opportunity.”

Because Hill limited her offseason Twitter postings to occasional motivational messages, photos of her son and rare in-the-moment updates of her life gave her bleacher critics some fodder to try and criticize her. Hill blocked out the noise. She owed nobody an explanation and those that mattered knew what she was doing.

“I am not that type of person that talks about going to the gym every day or need to flaunt what’s going on behind the scenes,” Hill said. “I really don’t get into the media things. I don’t know what was said about me unless somebody else tells me. They don’t know me personally so I don’t take what they say personally.”

Not even discussing her haters could steal Hill’s joy Monday.

She is preparing to become a stronger leader and more consistent on the court. Hill has the ability to do some special things for the Mystics and emerge into a force around the league. She has put in the work and now she’s ready to showcase all of her skills.

“I don’t know that I have an expectation that’s specific right now,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said of Hill. “But we need all of our guards and her particularly because of her athleticism to help us in our transition game offensively, to spread the floor with three-point shooting, and because she’s so quick, she can really help us on the defensive end.

"She’s got long arms and quick feet and she has the ability to come up with steals, so I think we’re looking for a huge improvement on both ends.”

The Mystics had two players among the top 30 in the league in 3-point shooting last season in Latta (37.7 percent) and Bria Hartley (32.7).

Hill could make it a trifecta of Mystics among the league leaders in 3-point shooting. She is happy to be one of the building blocks of the Mystics rise.

They were 16-18 last season and lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Indiana Fever in a pair of tough games.

“We are working towards winning a championship and taking everything one step at a time,” Hill said. “We have to work together as a team to reach our goal. Coach’s message to us at our first team meeting was to ‘play like a champion every day.’

"I know his mindset is he wants to win a championship and that’s how he prepares us every day in practice. As a team that’s how we carry ourselves on and off the court.”

With a focused and healthy Hill making significant contributions this season, the Mystics could enjoy a memorable summer. Then she’ll have plenty more reasons to flash her beautiful smile.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Under the Radar Arrival in Washington, Herrington Could Help Make WNBA Mystics Soar

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Armintie Herrington’s presence on the Washington Mystics roster is like adding a secret ingredient to a meal that enhances the flavor from great to ‘make you slap your mama’ awesome.

In a transaction that flew under the radar this offseason, Herrington, a tough as nails veteran guard, signed as a free-agent with the Washington Mystics in February. It could end up being the move that elevates the Mystics to the WNBA mountaintop. Herrington is a critical component to the Mystics championship puzzle.

“I am excited to have another opportunity to play in the league,” Herrington said Monday afternoon during Mystics media day at the Verizon Center. “I am hungry. I am happy to be here and to have another opportunity to learn and grow. More importantly, I know I don’t have many years left in the league so I am focused on winning a championship. Everybody here has the same goals and we feel like we have all the pieces.”

Herrington’s versatility and experience makes Washington’s roster deeper and diverse. More importantly, her wisdom, toughness, defense, and quickness will be welcomed qualities in the nations’ capitol this summer.

Mystic fans will enjoy her passionate performances throughout the season. This will be Herrington’s fourth team since entering the league in 2007. She played for the Los Angeles Sparks last season.

While she will miss her buddies on the west coast, Herrington is happy not to have to deal with the occasional California traffic jam, although D.C. transportation, especially whenever the president decides he wants to take a quick cruise through the city, can be just as tough.

“I am much closer to the Verizon Center and traffic is not as bad,” Herrington said. “It took me 45 minutes to drive to the Staples Center. We were able to find different apps to help us get to the arena quicker. The transition to D.C. has been fine. I’ve been able to work out. "

A 5 foot, 9 inch guard from the University of Mississippi, Herrington was selected in the first round (third overall) of the 2007 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky.

During her first year, she started every game and went on to earn Rookie of the Year Honors. Herrington was traded during the 2009 season to the Atlanta Dream. She was instrumental to the Dream making the playoffs during her entire tenure with the team.

She joined the Sparks in 2014 as a free agent.

In addition to being named the Rookie of the Year in 2007, Herrington has been named to the All-WNBA Second Team (2011 and 2012) as well as the WNBA All-Defensive First-Team (2013).

Her regular season career averages include 6.3 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. Her post season career averages include 6.5 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game.

“My mentality is thinking like a champion,” Herrington said. “The time is now for us. I am happy to be a part of an organization that wants me and a staff that believes I can help the team. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be coached by Mike (Thibault) and play with not just great players but also great people.”

While Herington should help the Mystics, she is not expected to carry the team.

The Mystics return veterans Ivory Latta, an All-Star last season, Kia Vaughn, who earned MVP honors after helping USK Praha win the FIBA EuroLeague Women championship last month, and Kara Lawson.

In addition, the Mystics’ youthful and brilliant brigade of Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Emma Meesseman, Jelena Milovanovic, Tayler Hill, Stef Dolson and Bria Hartley should continue to develop.

“We’ve had good leadership with Kara, Kia and Ivory and now you’re bringing in one more veteran in Armintie, who understands what it’s like to play at the highest level,” Thibault said. “She’s not going to be ready to play at the start of the season like she will be at later in the season. Just her voice in the locker room will help our younger players. Anytime you add somebody who has competed for a championship to your team, you’re getting better automatically.”

Herrington has been around enough to know that nothing will be handed to the Mystics no matter how good they look on paper.

She played in consecutive WNBA Final series in 2010 and 2011 with the Atlanta Dream. Last season, the Sparks were expected to challenge for the Lynx and Mercury in the west with their talented roster, but they battled inconsistency.

“I learned that if you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to get anything,” Herrington said. “With this team, we feel like we’ll get the work in and we are all thinking about cutting down nets. That’s the feeling I get from being around this team.”

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Guru's WNBA Report: Mystics Rookies Natasha Cloud and Blake Dietrick Relish Arriving at the Next Level

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

After four years of being leaders of their respective teams at Saint Joseph’s and Princeton, it’s new faces for Natasha Cloud and Blake Dietrick as they attempt to make the opening day roster of the Washington Mystics.

Nevertheless both exhibited boundless energy Monday afternoon as the blend of rookies and veterans went through the interview paces of the WNBA team’s annual media at the Verizon Center.

The odds for the most part are more with Cloud, who spent her first collegiate season nearby at Maryland in College Park before the former Cardinal O’Hara star switched to the Hawks.

Cloud was viewed a ton of times by Mystics coach Mike Thibault as well as assistants Eric Thibault, his son; and Marianne Stanley, the former Immaculata star, last winter hoping she’d stay under the radar, which occurred as they picked her in the second round behind former Dayton star Ally Mallot.

Thibault, though, minced no words on draft night saying that had not Mallot still been on the board, he would not have hesitated to take Cloud in the first round.

Dietrick was signed as an undrafted free agent, but possessing qualities in which Thibault felt the Ivy player of the year deserved a shot from the Tigers squad that made history with a 30-0 season before losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“Fit in first, learn what we’re doing,” Thibault said about the role of rookies on a squad in his third season after being let go from a decade running the Connecticut Sun.

Thibault thinks that his squad should now be thinking about winning the WNBA title.

“It’s no longer a case of trying to get a little better. We’ve had people who have played together for a while,” Thibault said.

“I told the team, though always worry about just the game in front of you, it’s like when a new college coach comes in and most of the team had existing players but now these are all our own players.”

Former Duke star Monique Currie departed over the winter ending the run of the longest surviving Washington player under Thibault.

“I think our rookies have a chance to make an impact this year. We start with Ally Mallot, she’s a true version of a stretch four. She can play around the basket and at the three-point line. She has a great, great offensive sense.

“I think her biggest adjustment will be at the defensive end. Natasha Cloud is one of those people who have played at all three wing positions, perimeter positions in college.

Initially, we’ll probably play her more as a small forward and because of her length and her size at six feet, she can handle the ball well enough to be a point guard,” Thibault continued.

“We’re going to use her as a kind of multi-dimensional offensive player and then the other part she has going for her is she’s been an all-league (Atlantic 10) defensive player in college for several years, so she can guard all three perimeter positions and that gives you the ability to do a lot of different things with the team defensively.

“I expect a lot from them right away.”

As for the motivating factor to sign Dietrick, Thibault noted, “With Blake, you saw a player who played both guard positions, you have a player who is a very capable three-point shooter. She’s a tall guard which allows her to do a lot of things.

“She knows she has a battle on her hands just to try to make a roster but it’s an opportunity for her to come in and see what she can prove. Watching her in college, I thought she made good decisions and anytime you have an offensive weapon that can stretch the floor, I think you need to give them a shot to see what they can do.”

Dietrick said she got the word of Washington’s interest as the draft got under way.

“They were in that time slot and coach Thibault made the call,” she said.

She already got a taste of WNBA action during the first night of camp, which got under way Sunday.

“We did some workouts and played some pickup, so it’s been pretty good so far. We’ll get a better sense once practice started but so far its been good.”

The only Ivy player who has made an impact was Allison Feaster of Harvard in the early part of the WNBA history that began in 1997 and she went on to be an all-league player.

While that Crimson team has been considered the league’s best, Dietrick last season was the signature star on the Tigers squad that over the last five seasons matched much and even surpassed some of that Harvard’s group accomplishments.

“I’m so happy to represent Princeton and the league and Annie (Tarakchian) was at the USA tryouts this past weekend as well. We’re all doing big things for Princeton and trying to make our mark and out our names out there.”

Cloud, meanwhile, would become the first Big Five player to make a WNBA roster since Temple’s Kristen McCarthy was drafted by Connecticut in 2007, though the last to make her mark occurred the previous year when Owls all-time great Candice Dupree was picked sixth overall by the then expansion-Chicago squad.

She was later dealt to Phoenix and was a key in the Mercury’s third league title last season and has had several All-Star accolades.

For Cloud, who played the last several summers in the Philly League, whose draft is Thursday night, landing on the Mystics is tops being on a team only a few hours from home.

And living in Washington, with the city’s role in America, is great.

“It’s really cool,” Cloud said of being in the nation’s capital.

As far as her first hand’s on action, Cloud explained, “It’s a faster pace. It’s more physical. It’s kind of similar to your transition from high school to college figuring out to fit in, how to adjust, things that worked in college won’t necessarily work here at this elite level, so it’s figuring out your fundamentals, your ball handling and all that stuff.”

Rob Knox, who will return covering the Mystics as well as providing features on the rest of the league and his WNBA notebook, was on the scene Monday and will have more stories out of here later in the week. Rutgers graduate Lamar Carter, who is the SID at Howard here in the District, will also be making some contributions.

But the Guru did ask Thibault, looking at the competition in the Eastern Conference, who made the most improvement.

“I don’t really have a feel for that because right now there’s still a lot of question marks from teams in our league. In our division, Connecticut had a big loss with (Chiney) Ogwumike being out,: he said of the reigning rookie of the year out of Stanford.

“What Sylvia Fowles does with (reigning Eastern Conference playoff champion) Chicago will have an impact. New York’s added new pieces but they haven’t played together yet. Atlanta’s going to miss Sancho Lyttle, possibly, in the early part of the season so I really feel our conference is in flux and at least early in the season,” Thibault said.

“So if somebody can get off to get a good start and get some momentum can maybe take control of it a little bit.”

In Thibault’s first season down here, the Mystics saw the Western teams early and was able to feast enough off of them to make the difference in landing a playoff spot to bring joy to the fan base and then returned again to the postseason last season.

Now, it’s about going much further.

“Right now, I’m not going to worry about what other teams are doing. I can’t control that. We’ll try to worry about what we’re doing and take control of that each day.”

On Tuesday, the Guru will be on the scene at the Mohegan Sun for the Connecticut Sun Media Day and then on to New York Thursday before seeing the Liberty the next night battle Chicago in the Sky’s return to Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center to give star Elena Delle Donne another homecoming.

Rob will also be at the game.

-- Mel

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