Houston Roundball Review: Women's Hoops

This is The Houston Roundball Review's (www.TheHRR.com) blog to discuss women's basketball. The HRR began in 1994 and has been media credentialed to cover college and pro hoops since 1997. Member of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Comets Games

Visit the Houston Comets' 2008 Schedule page.

In past years around this time of year, due to ongoing negotiations, not seeing a local tv station listed to air six regular season Comets' games was not a HUGE surprise. However, this season is different.

In addition to no games, thus far, being picked to be broadcast on a local tv station, no radio station is listed.

That's right Sports Radio 610 is not listed. The Comets' long standing deal with Sports Radio 610 as the team's flagship station expired last season.

I do know the Comets have had talks with one particular radio station. Can you guess?

It's KCOH 1430 AM (www.kcohradio.com). KCOH is the station I appear on a fairly regular basis as part of Ralph Cooper's Sports Rap show.

However, a deal between the Comets and KCOH has not yet been reached; and, it's possible a deal between the two parties may not be reached.

I'm not sure which other radio stations, if any, the Comets have had discussions; but, with the preseason opener just a few days away -- Thursday, May 1, on the road versus the San Antonio Silver Stars -- hopefully, an announcement will be made soon.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No Coop to TSU

Cynthia Cooper will not leave Prairie View A&M University and become the next head coach of the Texas Southern University women's basketball team.

Last week, The HRR reported
Cooper could be named the head coach of the Lady Tigers in a matter of days.

TSU will honor the contract signed by Surina Dixon and interim AD Johnny Cole making Dixon the Lady Tigers head coach. Dixon was the head coach at Lane College -- where Cole was the head football coach -- two seasons ago. Dixon coached high school basketball in the 2007 - 2008 season.

Former Praire View A&M athletics director, Charles McClelland was named TSU's Athletics Director during the period Cole, as interim AD, signed Dixon to a three-year contract. Cole will now continue his role as the new head coach of the Tigers football team.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ags sign JUCO AA

Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair announced the signing of Tanisha Smith, a six-foot junior college All-American, today.

Smith led the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to a third-place finish at the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship this past season. She averaged 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while also leading the Lady Lions with 104 steals and 71 three-pointers in 36 games played.

Smith spent one season at the University of Arkansas prior to transferring to UA-Fort Smith.

A former Missouri academic student-athlete of the year in 2006, Smith plans to major in kinesiology with an emphasis in sport management at Texas A&M. She will join incoming freshmen Sydney Carter (DeSoto, Texas), Skylar Collins (Cedar Hill, Texas), Adaora Elonu (Houston, Texas) and Kelsey Assarian (Naples, Fla.) this coming fall. Smith chose A&M over Cincinnati, Georgia and Kentucky.

Smith will be a junior in the fall and play for the Aggies in 2008 - 2009.
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Hudson Leaves Owls

In a surprising decision to some people who follow the Rice Owls women's basketball team, Head coach Greg Williams announced Tuesday that Brittney Hudson has left the women's basketball program.

I have not heard of any list of potential school selections for Brittney; but, I hope she picks a school and program that fits what she seeks -- whatever that may be.
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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Comets at Wellness

The Houston Comets will begin their quest to reach the 2008 WNBA Playoffs Monday, April 21, as they will hold their training camp at the Memorial Hermann / HBU Wellness Center.

Houston Comets Head Coach & General Manager Karleen Thompson, newly appointed assistant coach Laurie Byrd and returning assistant coach Ryan Weisenberg will welcome Comets players Tamecka Dixon, Ashley Shields and Crystal Smith, free agent forward Mwadi Mabika and the recently acquired Megan Mahoney to training camp. Also in attendance will be 2008 draft picks guard Matee Ajavon (5th overall), guard Erica White (17th overall) and forward Crystal Kelly (31st overall).

Players who will join camp at a later date are guard Shannon Johnson, forward Sancho Lyttle, guard / forward Hamchétou Maïga-Ba, center Michelle Snow, forward Tina Thompson and forward Mistie Williams.
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Latest with the Comets

According to the WNBA's "Transactions Page", here are some player transactions regarding the Houston Comets:

April 19
The Houston Comets waived Tamara Ransburg.

April 16
The Houston Comets signed Sequoia Holmes to a training camp contract.

April 15
The Houston Comets waived Anastasia Kostaki.

April 10
The Houston Comets signed Debbie Remmerde to a training camp contract.

Now, here's a question: Where will the Comets conduct their training camp?

As of this evening, the Comets have not sent out any word regarding where they will be practicing and / or conducting Media Day. Both can begin as early as Sunday, April 20, or Monday, April 21.

While I was in Tampa for the WNBA Draft and the NCAA Women's Final Four, I was told the team would announce an agreement with a Houston area training facility. Apparently, an agreement has yet to be reached.

Also, as of earlier this week, the Comets had not hired an equipment manager.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

Coop to TSU?

Update: April 20, 2008, 7:19 pm.
Update: April 19, 2008, 8:15 pm.

HOUSTON -- Last week, word around Texas Southern University's athletic department was the naming / hiring of the next head coach of TSU's women's basketball team was a "done deal". In fact, I was told the contract of the new coach (Ms. Surina Dixon, former head coach of Lane College's women's basketball team) was in "six figures". I was told Dixon had signed the contract.

Well, according to reliable sources, the deal is not done; and, in a surprise to some people, current Prairie View A&M women's head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke is now in the picture to be named the next Lady Tigers' head coach.

For those who do not know, TSU's new athletic director is Charles McClelland. Mr. McClelland was Prairie View A&M's former athletic director; and, he hired Cooper as the head coach at Prairie View.

Keep this in mind, too: Cooper applied for the head coaching position at TSU a year before she applied for the same spot at Prairie View. However, TSU's athletic director at that time, Mr. Alois Blackwell, decided not to hire Cooper.

It appears TSU may get another "rising star" from PV. An announcement could be made as early as Monday, April 21, or by Wednesday, April 23.
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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Atunrase is ready to be a Pro

TAMPA BAY -- Wednesday, April 9, the WNBA held its 2008 Draft for college seniors; and, Texas A&M's Morenike Atunrase was selected in the second round (24th overall) by the Atlanta Dream. Atunrase was later traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars which means Atunrase will have a chance to play in front of a lot more Aggies in San Antonio than she would have in the ATL.

HRR: I'm speaking with Morenike Atunrase -- one of the newest members of the WNBA. How does that sound?
Mo: It sounds great! I really didn't follow basketball growing up -- especially on the professional level; so, I really can't say that I dreamed of this day. But, it's a great honor. I think this is definitely a career I can enjoy. Some people wake up every day and not get a chance to enjoy their jobs; but, playing basketball is something I've always loved to do.

HRR: Have you had a chance to speak with your college head coach, Coach (Gary) Blair?
Mo: Not yet. Since I was called, I got my jersey; went from place to place speaking; so, I haven't had a chance to talk with him. I'm sure he's excited for me just like all of my coaches that are here. Getting drafter is a great thing -- a name besides my name -- for Texas A&M and the women's basketball program at A&M. So, it just helps us get those players like the McDonald's All-Americans; the Parade and Kodak (now State Farm) All-Americans that are coming out of high school that A&M doesn't usually get; so, I think this (getting drafted) really helps.

HRR: One of your college teammates, A'Quonesia Franklin, got drafted (38th overall by the 2005 WNBA champion Sacramento Monarchs) as well. So, talk about that.
Mo: I think it's great. I know she's at home but, I'm sure she's ecstatic. Once again, that just speaks a lot about our Aggies program and how far we've come in a short time. Going to the Elite Eight (in the NCAA Tournament) and how far she took us and what she can do for a program. She took us on her back and led us. She's not just a great player on the court she's a great person, too. Anywhere she ends up, she'll be a great fit.

HRR: Are you ready to be a pro?
Mo: I am. I am.

HRR: Congratulations, Mo. I'm looking forward to following your pro career.
Mo: Thank you.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Six Picked in Draft

Update: Morenike Atunrase was picked 24th overall by the league’s newest expansion team, the Atlanta Dream, in the second round, but was later traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars along with WNBA veteran Ann Wauters and Atlanta’s 2009 second round pick for Camille Little and Georgia Tech’s Chioma Nnamaka who was drafted 21st overall.

HOUSTON, TX -- The WNBA held its 2008 WNBA Draft Wednesday afternoon; and, six players from Texas schools were chosen in the three round draft: two from Texas A&M; two from Texas-El Paso; one from Baylor University and one from Rice University.

Texas A&M's Morenike Atunrase was chosen by the Atlanta Dream in the second round with the 24th pick overall.

UTEP's Natasha Lacy was selected by the Detroit Shock in the second round with the 28th pick overall.

Angela Tisdale (Baylor) was chosen by the Chicago Sky with the 33rd pick in the Draft.

Atunrase's college teammate, A'Quonesia Franklin, was selected by the Sacramento Monarchs with the 39th pick.

Lacy's teammate, Izabela Piekarska, was picked by the Monarchs with the 40th pick; and, last but, certainly not least, Rice's Valeriya Berezhynska was chosen by the Detroit Shock with the 42nd selection in the Draft.

Of the six player chosen in the WNBA Draft, five of them were interviewed by the Houston Roundball Review this season either at a conference media Day (Tisdale); after a practice and / or a ball game (Lacy and Berezhynska); during last weekend's WNBA Pre-Draft Camp (Berezhynska and Franklin); or on Wednesday's WNBA Draft Day (Atunrase).

Congratulations to all six players and good luck in the pros!
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Comets Select Ajavon

Updated from Tampa Airport, 6:00pm EDT --

TAMPA BAY -- With the fifth pick in the first round of the 2008 WNBA Draft, the Houston Comets selected guard Matee Ajavon from Rutgers University.

Listen to this HRR interview with Matee: "...
very excited..."

In the second round, the Comets chose point guard Erica White from LSU with the 17th overall pick. Erica is not here at the Draft. She's back at home.

With their third round draft pick (31st overall), the Comets chose forward Crystal Kelly from Western Kentucky. Kelly was named to the 2008 State Farm All-American Team.

Listen to this HRR interview with Crystal: "...surreal..."
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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

#8 in '08

Tampa, FL --

Once again, the Lady Vols did what they had to do to win their second consecutive championship and 8th total. They played old Tennessee Lady Vols basketball. Hard, pressured defense and ball movement which Stanford could not keep up with.

Before the championship game, I said the squad that played team ball would win; and, the team that played the best team ball did win. Stanford just could not get their offense rolling. In the first half they had two long dry spells, the first lasting almost 5 minutes and the second lasting almost 2 minutes. That is a lot of time without scoring a single point, especially against a team like Tennessee. Stanford should hold their heads up high because of the great season that they had. They just fell one game short.

Your 2008 NCAA Women's Final Four Champions: University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

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ICE vs. ACE Part 2

Tampa, FL -- Does the 2008 NCAA Women's basketball championship come down to one thing: candICE wiggins vs. candACE parker? The 2008 WBCA/State Farm Wade trophy winner vs. 2008 AP Player of the Year winner? I think not.

Both of these players will need to have a good game in order for their respective team to have a shot at winning the title. But I think the player that gets her teammates to step up and contribute will be the one hoisting the trophy.

In the semifinal games, ICE was able to move the ball around and get her teammates to be a factor in the game. This was the deciding factor in beating UConn (which they admitted themselves). For ACE, she was the only real force in the win against LSU (besides the double digit missed free throws). Most of her teammates where non-factors throughout the entire game.

During their first meeting this season, Stanford was able to come back and beat Tennessee by having everyone contribute, while Candace tried to carry the Lady Vols on her back. It didn't work. If Tennessee tries to win their 8th title by having Candace carry them again, it won't happen. Tonight, the squad that plays as a team will be the champions.

My prediction: Stanford. But then again, everyone thought UConn could not be stopped. We'll just have to wait and see.
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Sunday, April 06, 2008

2008 NCAA Women's Final Four Semifinal Game #2

Tampa, FL -- I guess there had to be at least one ugly game tonight, and it was LSU vs. Tennessee. Bad, no horrendous shooting (LSU - 35.2%, Tennessee - 30.4%). Lowest total points scored at halftime (22 to 18) and total scored for a game (47 to 46) in the Final Four, EVER.

And the player that gets Tennessee to the championship game is......Alexis Hornbuckle. Not Candace Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle. She had two points total, yes, two points. But those two points came with 0.7 seconds left in the game. I guess it's true what they say...it's not the number of points you score, but when you score them.

Tennessee did not win the game, even though they led most of the way. LSU lost the game at the buzzer, again, just like at the 2004 Final Four in New Orleans. In New Orleans, LSU got cold down the stretch and let Tennessee win. Tonight, LSU lost the game at the free throw line. LSU shot 19 free throws to Tennessee's 7. Of those 19 free throws, LSU made 7. Tennessee made 2. Making 7 of 19 free throws (36.8%) = loss. Tennessee wasn't any better (28.6%), but a 1 point win is the same as a 30 point win. It's a win. Tonight was an ugly win, but still a win.
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2008 NCAA Women's Final Four Semifinal Game #1

Tampa, FL -- The Tampa Turmoil strikes again!!!!!!!!!

For the first time in several years, UConn loses a game in the Final Four. It was a hard fought battle between Stanford and UConn. Stanford struck early and UConn battled back. But for every change UConn made to chip away at Stanford's lead, Stanford would respond. UConn could only get within 1 point at the 14:09 mark in the second half. UConn led only once (3-2) early in the first half. UConn coach Geno Auriemma just could not find a game plan that Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer could not counter.

I have to say that this game was way better than last year's semifinal game 1. Last year - atrocious, this year - a great battle.
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TCU's Adrianne Ross

TAMPA BAY -- Adrianne Ross helped lead TCU to the Women's National Invitational Tournament this post - season. Ross received an invitation to the WNBA's Pre-Draft camp. The 5'8 shooting guard helped her cause with her performance at the camp.

HRR: When did you know you had been invited to the pre-draft camp/
AR: I found out Tuesday. We finished playing Sunday night. We had Monday off. I got a call from Coach Mittie (head coach Jeff Mittie) around 9 am. I said 'cool'.

HRR: Were you surprised to get invited?
AR: I talked to a lot of my friends that were going to be at the camp; so, I was kind of waiting on the call. I felt like my career was 'up to par'. I'm grateful to be here. I know they're a ton of people that aren't here. I'm grateful. I'm not surprised.

HRR: Did Coach Mittie offer any advice on what to expect at camp?
AR: He told me 'Don't got out there like it's an And-1 game. Go out there and have fun. Play defense. Don't look to shoot every time because everyone is.' Everyone knows I'm a scorer; and, they've seen me playing over the years or else I wouldn't be here.' Pretty much to have fun; and, that's what I'm doing.

HRR: Describe the process for me.
AR: We got here and we took our physicals. We had the media stuff and all that. We got to know each other and hang out. Then, we had the two-a-day session and play basketball pretty much and that's what we all do. It's been a lot of fun.

HRR: How did you do Friday?
AR: I didn't pass with flying colors; but, I don't think anyone out here was trying to dominate; so, I'll say in that aspect, I'll say I did well. I'm out here hustling. I'm not taking any plays off.

HRR: Have you received any input regarding where you may go in the Draft?
AR: No. They're so many mock drafts out there. The main thing is to stay focused and not get caught up in the speculation and keep your fingers crossed and see what happens.
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CU's McFarland at Pre-Draft Camp

TAMPA BAY -- Colorado's Jackie McFarland's college basketball career ended Wednesday, April 2. Her first steps toward a pro career began April 4. McFarland participated in the WNBA's Pre-Draft Camp April 4 and 5 and hopes she did enough to get drafted in the April 9 WNBA Draft.

"I think I did fairly well," said McFarland. "I think that in the first session everyone had a little bit of nerves in them; but, as it progressed, I felt more and more comfortable. I really like to run up and down the floor. Conditioning is one of my strengths; so, all in all, I think it was a good experience. I think I did pretty well."

Colorado advanced deep into the Women's National Invitational Tournament; so, Jackie came to camp in top shape.

"I think that definitely helped out a lot," McFarland added. "Playing Wednesday night, I literally hopped on the flight the next morning on Thursday to get to Tampa. Thursday was a little bit of a day off; but, with the travel, I didn't have enough time to get rusty or anything like that."

McFarland mentioned she thought she had missed the chance to play in the Camp.

"Coach (Kathy McConnell-Miller) had let me know right before the WNIT started that I had gotten invited; but, I didn't know when it was. I actually thought I had missed it because we advanced so far in the WNIT; but, she told me after Wednesday's game, I needed to get on the plane Thursday morning. I was like 'let's do it'.

McFarland hasn't heard where she may go in next week's three-round WNBA Draft.

"I haven't heard anything," Jackie said matter-of-fact. "People said I played well; so, I hope that translates to getting chosen. I want to have the chance to at least go to a training camp and prove myself. This weekend was pretty short; so, you can't get a chance to see everything that a player can do. Basically, it's up in the air right now."

Colorado made great strides on the basketball court in 2007 - 2008 and the deep run in the WNIT cemented the season.

"A lot of ups and downs; but, overall, I think it was a success," McFarland summarized. "The last three years we had a lot of rebuilding. We had young players and a new coach. I think this year we beat a few good teams in the top 25. We got a ranking of our own in the top 25. We struggled a little bit in conference; but, we made into post-season for the first time in five or six years and had a great run in that; so, I think it was a good end to my senior season and my career at CU."

McFarland will graduate next month in May.

"Four more weeks. I'll graduate with my bachelor's and masters. I've talked with my professors -- in case I do get drafted and go to training camp -- I'll try to take my finals early."
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Aggies Aqua Impresses W

TAMPA BAY -- A'Quonesia Franklin, senior guard for the Texas A&M Aggies, went from a disappointing loss in the Elite Eight Tuesday night to the WNBA's Pre-Draft Camp Friday and Saturday and made a solid impression.

"I think I did pretty well," Franklin said after the final session. "Basically, I did what I did for my teammates at Texas A&M which is getting the shooters the ball; getting the posts the ball; and leading the team."

Franklin hasn't heard any scuttlebutt about her performance during the three sessions; however, she did impress quite a few people.

"I haven't heard anything about where I may go in the Draft," Aqua added. "But, I have the confidence that I'm going to get picked; so, I should be fine."

Franklin was invited the pre-draft camp on April 2 -- just two days before the Camp began.

"I heard I was invited the day after we lost to Tennessee," Franklin stated. "We played Tuesday night; and, I found out Wednesday morning. Then, I flew here Thursday."

"I was a little surprised. I was really hoping to get an invite. I knew Mo (Morenike Atunrase) had gotten her invite; and, I was just praying that what I did in the NCAA Tournament had helped me earn an invitation."

Franklin helped guide the Aggies to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history; and, she described the experience as "great". She admits she has not quite gotten over the loss to Tennessee.

"I'm still struggling with it," Aqua lamented. "A couple of girls here at camp were like 'You shouldn't be here. You should be getting ready for the Final Four.' But, you win some, you lose some. I'm kind of over it now. I'm just ready to go to the next level."

Franklin has thought about playing in the WNBA since "the league first started. It's a dream."

Aqua summarized her camp experience as a great one.

"The camp was a great experience. Playing against the best of the best. Just playing ball and doing my thing on the court and meeting new people."
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Carolyn Jenkins at Pre-Draft

TAMPA BAY -- Carolyn Jenkins is the Director of Player Personnel for the WNBA. She took a few minutes from her busy schedule to discuss the now completed WNBA Pre-Draft Camp.

HRR: How do you think the Camp went?
CJ: I thought it was a great camp. I thought the players that came here really competed. They had great sessions. There was good camaraderie amongst the 42 players that are here. I think they had a good showing in front of all of our coaching staffs and general managers; so, now it's a wait and see for the players until our Draft on April 9th.

HRR: What's the process to determine and pick which players are invited the pre-draft camp?
CJ: We evaluate the players starting at the beginning of the college season. We have a staff that goes out and scouts players throughout the country. We also took to our teams -- as we move closer to the Draft -- to make sure that the group that we have selected is in agreement with the players they would like to see at the Camp. Then, we start making phone calls. Plus, a lot depends on the teams that are still playing in the NCAA Tournament or have just completed a couple of days before the pre-draft camp. We try to get them to attend; but, we understand that they have school work to make up and their schedules are complicated.

HRR: Rank this overall draft class.
CJ: This is probably, from top to bottom, our deepest draft class in terms of depth of talent. Particularly at the shooting guard and the power forward positions. I think all our teams will be greatly enhanced by whomever they select and whenever they select, I think they'll be a role for those players in our league. I think they'll have a great opportunity to go to training camp and to compete against other players.

HRR: How has the game improved in just the last two or three years/
CJ: I think what you're seeing is the players in this generation we're starting to get in the league have been aware of the league since they started playing; so, making the WNBA has always been a unique goal that the players coming in are starting to prepare for to play professionally domestically since they started playing game. You see that in the level of conditioning and the skill set. I think it's just something that they've always dreamed about which provides extra motivation for them.

HRR: Do you believe there are any areas you'd like to see players improve?
CJ: It always goes back to the fundamentals. Regardless of how strong and / or athletic the players are, shooting ability; ball-handling ability; passing ability; the ability to defend; it always has to go back to the fundamentals. Whether they can dunk or they're five-two. The players that have extended careers in the league are those that always go back in the off-season and work on those things.
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Karleen Thompson Talks Draft

TAMPA BAY -- The WNBA Pre-Draft Camp concluded yesterday; and Houston Comets Head Coach / General Manager Karleen Thompson sat down and spoke with The HRR and gave her thoughts on the upcoming WNBA Draft (April 9) and the Comets off-season moves.

HRR: Give me a general sense of the overall talent you've seen Friday and Saturday (at the pre-draft camp).
KT: I've seen a lot of great role players. Players that will come in and, not necessarily, be the superstar but will do what they do best and play within themselves. Hustle. Scrap. Be good teammates. Overall, just a good chemistry.

HRR: Do you think it's a big deal that the star senior players (Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, and Candice Wiggins) are not here at the Camp?
KT: I think so because it gives the lesser known players the opportunity to shine and show what they can do.

HRR: Let's focus on the Comets. What does the team need as you go into the 2008 WNBA season?
KT: The one thing we wanted to focus on is to get some veteran players that may have a year or so left (in their careers) but can help us to make that transition with the younger players toward the future. I think we have a good balance now. I definitely think we need a shooter -- a pure shooter. We need a lot of different things. We need a point guard. A young point guard that can learn behind Shannon (Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson). We also need a post player -- a back up post.

HRR: I'll try to pin you down here. You have the fifth overall pick in the first round. Are you going to stay at the fifth spot. Is that your preference? Would you like to move up, move down, get more picks? What would you like to do?
KT: We've been trying to give ourselves a chance to move up; but, it's pretty tough to get up high in this Draft. We're very confident we're going to get a great player at five that will come in right at the beginning and have a tremendous impact on the team.

HRR: Since you mentioned the team needs a shooter and a post player, with the fifth pick will you try fit one of those needs or go for the best available athlete?
KT: It depends on who drops there at five. We have in mind the player that we would want. Will she drop there? I seriously doubt it; but, at that point, we may go with the best player available. We're going to wait it out and see what happens. Anything can happen in the Draft.

HRR: One last thing. Tell me, in your opinion, how the Comets' off-season has gone so far.
KT: I think we, as a coaching staff, are very excited. It's been a lot of work trying to get some of these free agents. I think we lucked up on a couple in getting Shannon Johnson and Mwadi Mabika. We have Tamecka Dixon at the beginning of the year. That says a lot. To sign Tina Thompson and Michelle Snow back gives us a great chance. We're just excited about it. I think the off-season went well; and, we'll go from there.
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Saturday, April 05, 2008

AP Coach and Player of the Year Awards

The AP Player of the Year is: Candace Parker from Tennessee. This was pretty much expected.

The AP coach of the year is: Gene Aurimo, I mean Geno Auriemma. At least I think that's who the winner is. The guy giving out the award either does not know how to read, or was very nervous. Possibly both. Also, Geno was the only coach in the room and accepted the award.

After the awards were handed out, once again, the majority of the media members in attendance (less than 15) were huddled around Geno congratulating him, but very few went over to congratulate Candace. In my opinion, this is the reason why Geno thinks he is above the game and players.

Don't get me wrong, the coach of the year award is a big thing and the winner should be congratulated. But the entire thing is about the game and the players, not only about the coach. People need to remember that. Without the players, there is no game. To be respected, you must first respect the game. The game was here before us and the game will be here after we're gone.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T the game.

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State Farm Coaches All-America Basketball Team and State Farm Wade Trophy Winner

The 2008 Women’s All-America Team was announced today and the winners of this prestige award were:

Sylvia Fowles – Sr. Center, LSU
Crystal Langhorne – Sr. Center, Maryland
Erlana Larkins – Sr. Forward, North Carolina
Angel McCoughtry - Jr. Forward, Louisville
Renee Montgomery - Jr. Guard, Connecticut
Maya Moore – Fr. Forward, Connecticut
Courtney Paris - Jr. Center, Oklahoma
Candace Parker - Sr. Guard/Forward/Center, Tennessee
Kristi Toliver – Jr. Guard, Maryland
Candice Wiggins – Sr. Guard, Stanford

Each recipient was asked to say a few words which caught the players off guard. This is the first time that the players have been given the opportunity to thank their families, coaches and teammates during the actual presentation.

The announcement of the players selected to the All-America Team was not a surprised. Each player demonstrated game in and game out why they deserved this accolade. What was a surprised to the crowd was the selection of the 2008 State Farm Wade Trophy winner: Candice Wiggins from Stanford. After her name was announced, Candice almost fell out of her chair while the players on stage, as well as many people in attendance, roared with applause.

Most people expected the winner would be Candace Parker from Tennessee. And even though Parker has had a very good year with getting Tennessee back to the Final Four, I think the following highlights more than prove that Wiggins was the correct choice:

- helped lead Stanford to their first Final Four since 1997
- only the 7th player in Division I history to earn All-America honors for all 4 seasons
- earned Pac-10 Player of the Year accolades for the third year (only woman in basketball in Pac-10 history)
- leading scorer in Pac-10, averaging 20.2 points
- 1st player in NCAA history to record two 40+ point performances in NCAA tournament (44 against UTEP and 41 against Maryland)

After the presentation, I had the honor to interview Courtney Paris from Oklahoma.

Q: How does it feel to be selected to the All-America team for a third time?
A: It’s very humbling…the bar in women’s basketball is rising every year and to be picked as a top player is a big honor for me.

Q: You’ve achieved a lot of honors and records so far in your three years at Oklahoma. Would you return any of the honors/records for a shot at a title?
A: I would return all of it at a shot at the title. I have one more shot next year. We’re going to prepare ourselves to get it done. With all these guys graduating (Parker, Wiggins, Langhorne, etc.) it’s going to help a lot too.

Q: What do you think of the incoming class (of high school players)?
A: It seems like their going to make a big impact. I think it shows how much our game has grown.

Q: There has been some negativity with Maya Moore not being considered for player of the year honors because she is a freshman. How do you feel about this?
A: Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. She’s definitely done everything on the court that deserves being a national player of the year. I think being a freshman should have nothing to do with it. The national player of the year should go to the best player.
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Friday, April 04, 2008

Berezhynska Discusses Pre-Draft Camp

To say Rice's Valeriya Berezhynska was surprised to receive an invitation to the WNBA's Pre-Draft Camp in Tampa, FL, is a mild understatement.

"Yea. I had no idea," Berezhynska said.

"About a week and half, Coach (Greg) Williams called me and he asked me what I was doing next Thursday (April 3). And then he told me I was going to the Final Four; so, I thought he got me some tickets.

"So, I thought I was going to just watch some games; and, then, he told me, 'You're going to draft combine.' So, it was quite a surprise. I didn't expect it all."

Val prepared for the combine by working out with Coach Williams.

"We've done a whole bunch of individuals and I've been getting killed," Berezhynska stated. "We have done everything you could possibly do -- we did one-one one; we did rebounding; we did full-court stuff; everything."

Coach Williams also offered Val this advice: 'Pay attention to little things. The game will come to you as long as you do the little things. Stay in shape. Do not even think about being tired.'

After Thursday's physicals and measurements were taking by WNBA personnel, Val learned she's officially six-foot-three and a half instead of the six-foot-four she had been told "for the last eight years." Val jokingly added, "I've been lied to. I've been 6'4 since my freshman year in high school."

Berezhynska described today's first session as "pretty light". There was no full-court playing just half-court basketball. Some five-on-five and a few full-court drills.

She believed many of the players were a little nervous in the first session and played "tight" because the session was in the morning; however, Val added "Then, everybody got it together and we started coming together a little bit more. The second session was definitely a lot better."

Val thought she did well in each session. She rebounded well and made "a couple of shots"; but, she didn't take the ball to the basket enough and she passed up a couple of shots.

Berezhynska has not heard any information from anyone regarding where she may be selected in the April WNBA Draft; so, she's trying not keep her hopes up so she won't feel disappointed (if she's not selected). However, Val has no qualms where she's selected. She simply wants to get drafted because she simply wants to play at the next level.
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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ags Season Ends in E8

A fantastic season came to an end for the Texas A&M Aggies tonight in the NCAA's Elite Eight.

The second-seeded Aggies
lost to top-seeded Tennessee 53 to 45 in Oklahoma City.

Despite her left shoulder "popping out" twice, Tennessee's Candace Parker scored a game-high 26 points to help her team earn the win.

Tennessee's, Alexis Hornbuckle, senior guard, swished a deep three-point shot as the shot clock expired to put the Lady Vols ahead 48 to 43 with 50 seconds remaining in the game.

"I’m just so proud of this basketball team," Gary Blair, Aggies head coach, said. "When you look at the eight schools that were left, this is the way it should be.

"High school seniors should realize that they should go to the school that best fits their talent and opportunity. There are a lot of schools that you can live your dream out at, especially Texas A&M. These seniors are so special. They believed in us first. I want them to be successful in life. We had every intention to win this basketball game. Our last two (NCAA Tournament) games, we didn’t leave our best game on the floor. Tonight, we left our best game on the floor, but just didn’t execute. We gave people around the country a new team to root for. It’s time to spread it around."
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Owls Val in Pre-Draft Camp

As I mentioned a few days ago, Rice Owls senior center Valeriya Berezhynska has accepted an invitation to participate in this weekend's WNBA Pre-Draft Camp.

The Pre-Draft Camp will take place at the University of Tampa's Bob Martinez Center this weekend as part of the NCAA Women's Final Four in Tampa.

Berezhynska is one of approximately 40 players invited to the pre-draft camp that will have two on-court sessions Friday followed by one Saturday session. All sessions are closed to the general public.

However, the final 30 minutes will be open to the media; so, I will get a chance to check out a few sessions this weekend and interview a few players, coaches, personnel people, etc.

The WNBA Draft is scheduled for April 9 at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. ESPN2 will provide exclusive first round coverage, while the second and third rounds are televised on both on ESPNU and NBA TV. WNBA.com also will have complete analysis and comprehensive coverage throughout all three rounds of the draft.
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