Thursday, December 14, 2017
Page 690

Nice peek at incoming Cal frosh

Courtesy of Caltriplethreat, courtesy of dfineguy, who was at the Pro-Am game in San Francisco yesterday.

Sparks preparing for six-game road trip

The LA Times’ Mark Medina has been spending a lot of time at Sparks practices lately, as he’s had a story almost every day for the last few days. Apparently in today’s practice, Coach Michael Cooper paused for a moment to ask them why they still weren’t getting a training camp drill right.

Oh boy. It might be a long trip considering that, and the fact that Lisa Leslie still hasn’t been cleared. But according to his twitter, Candace Parker’s husband Shelden Williams is packing. I wonder if that means he and Lailaa are going with the team?

The road trip starts Thursday in New York.

Shock waive old-timer Barb Farris

Another of the foursome on my “Bad Girls” poster is gone now.

*sigh*

Layshia Clarendon speaks

It’s so easy to get a wrong impression of someone, and Cal-bound Layshia Clarendon is a perfect example. At times during her high school career she seemed like a drama queen. In reality, she had almost her entire team on her shoulders for a long time. Who knows, but maybe the almost-a-Bear will have it easier in college in comparison – at least as far as carrying the load. I wish this soft-spoken young lady all the luck in the world.

College recruiters: ready, set, GO!!

Today marks the start of the first main college recruiting push of the summer for NCAA and JC coaches. There are major high school tournaments going on around the country from today through July 15. From July 16-20 is an NCAA dead period, where coaches are not allowed to even speak to prospective recruits. Then July 21 it’s “game on” again, with a second round of tournaments that run through the end of the month.

If you’re a player, you need to bring your best game during these days. If you’re a coach, you need to be able to watch continuous games all day long, for days on end. July, more than any other month of the year, is when college scholarships are born.

Many girls I know are playing in the End of the Trail Tournament in Oregon City, Oregon this week. A hot tournament in the south is the Big State Flava Jam in Texas. Other prestigious tournaments:

July 5-8: USA Invitational, Penn State
July 6-8: Southern Premier, Atlanta
July 6-8: USJN Midwest, Cincinati
July 9-11: Boo Williams Jr. All-Americana Showcase, Hampton, VA
July 10-12: Showtime Nationals and Top 10 Camp, Atlanta
July 11-15: Nike Summer Showcase, Chicago
July 12-15: Battle in the ‘Boro, Murfreesboro, TN
July 21-15: Battle on the Bayou, New Orleans
July 22-25: USJN Nationals, Washington DC
July 28-31: Nike Nationals, North Augusta, S.C.
July 29-31: Candace Parker Invitational, Greenwood, S.C.

If you’re anywhere near any of these cities and want to check out a hot slice of the future, GO!

Mercury 104, Sparks 89

I know what happened – I just don’t know why. Other fans from my awesome section are similarly perplexed.

The Sparks seemed to abandon their “reboot the season” plan to play killer defense, and in the last half of tonight’s game they weren’t boxing out at all. The box score says Phoenix out-rebounded LA 40-31 (15-6 team rebounds), but frankly I’m surprised it wasn’t a wider margin.

Then there was the lack of offense. The numbers don’t look bad; 43.8 percent shooting is respectable, and they kept the turnovers low at 11. But the Sparks just seemed to lack offensive rhythm and cohesiveness. One of the season ticket holders who sits behind me aptly commented during the fourth quarter, “They just look confused – like it’s the first game of the season.”

It’s one of the most frustrating situations for fans and one of the most agonizing for players: when a team has all the talent in the world but isn’t, for whatever reason, putting it together. I really hope the Sparks can turn it around soon, but as Daniel said before leaving tonight, they’ve dug themselves an awfully big hole.

Positives:

– Saw DeWanna Bonner’s dad outside Staples Center before the game, and he remembered me from the Final Four. He said his daughter has found the perfect team for her in the Mercury, and she and the whole family are pleased. Good deal.

– The music for the Sparks kids has improved. Just last game I was complaining to one of my seat partners that the kids were dancing to “Yeah” from 2003, and tonight they rolled out some new routines complete with new tunes. Very nice! Now if they could change the music they play while the team is on the court, and during timeouts.

– The guy who replaced the annoying rollergirl had a replacement tonight, and she was the best one yet. We think they should keep her, because she has just the right amount of enthusiasm in her voice without being over the top. She is also louder than the man, but not too loud.

– What a nice sized crowd! Almost 10,000 in attendence at Staples.

Nice piece from the Daily Breeze on Candace Parker’s return, but women will never get credit for having kids that’s equal to the attention men get, even when they’ve been suspended for drug use.

– And speaking of CP, it was just damned nice to see her out there, even if she was a little slow and not quite in her rhythm. Six points, four rebounds, two assists and one turnover is not bad for being gone for 10 months.

– Diana Taurasi was very focused and serious tonight, and put up 20 points. No antics, no jawing, no spitting, no standing halfway on the court when she’s not playing, no faces at opponents or officials. Just all business.

Unsurprisingly, Candace Parker did the pre-game welcome duties on the mic.

Kinda weird seeing the non-starter huddle include Parker (and Lisa Leslie).

CP took the court at the 5:35 mark in the first quarter, to standing applause.

CP at the free throw line.

Action in the third quarter.

The pummeling continued in the fourth quarter.

The Sparks are now on the road for a month, and fans will not see them again until August 6.

Edit to add: Kathy Goodman blogs about the game.

Early decisions growing in college ball

The Lansing State Journal notes the increasing trend in early signings in women’s basketball.

“There’s definitely pressure to do it and get it done with,” said Madison Williams, a Detroit Country Day senior-to-be, who committed to the Spartans in May. “From my family and high school coaches and AAU coaches, they understood I couldn’t make my decision until I was ready. Most of the people around me wanted me to wait until I was ready, but a lot of coaches were like, ‘Now, now, now.'”

Is there a correlation between this and the (previously noted in this space) increasingly high college transfer rates? Absolutely. Are kids getting offers increasingly early? Hell yes.

One amazing young lady I know, who just finished her sophomore year, already has offers from five colleges. Five. At this rate, universities will be offering middle school players by the time I turn 50.

Basketball is now a year-round sport, and kids are pushed to join AAU teams at earlier and earlier ages. With the explosion of interest in girl’s basketball, there are more and more young women competing for available scholarships, so the need for a girl to stand out is greater. Over the years, competition has driven sports from a casual pursuit to a scientifically-calculated endeavor.

I’m far from the only one I know that laments what amounts to a loss of some childhood for baller kids. Their time is scheduled so tightly, and I worry that some don’t get the down time that they need. And I always feel bad when I inadvertently make an athlete squirm when I ask what she plans to study in college.

“I don’t know,” the kid will say shrugging, her face a mask of confusion and embarrassment.

I’ll tell her she has plenty of time to figure that out, but obviously she already feels the weight of expectation that she must have her life figured out by the time she gets her high school diploma.

Since the moods and lives of teens change weekly, if not daily, who’s to say that the college a girl picks when she’s 16 is a place she will like and feel is right for her at age 19?

If colleges are going to exert pressure like they do, coaches have no business complaining about high transfer rates.

Technology’s effect on recruiting

This article basically says nothing, though it obstensibly pretends to address the effect of twitter.com on recruiting. For the last few years, the NCAA has made noises about slapping regulations on facebook and myspace, but nothing’s happened yet. So why would they try to regulate twitter? Obviously the NCAA and its sanctions are scary enough already, or someone would have violated a policy by now.

Lynx updates

Minnesota Lynx Coach Jennifer Gillom answers questions in this interview.

Too bad more coaches don’t understand this:

Motivation is the key. These girls respond to the enthusiasm, the encouragement. They need that because they are so young. I also think that instruction is definitely the key because they are young, they are still learning. So you want to teach them tricks, you want to add on to their game, develop them as players.

Is it any wonder the Lynx are still doing well despite the loss of Seimone Agustus?

Meanwhile, I’m mad that no one told me Candice Wiggins was in the ‘hood recently. I would have stopped by.

CP back in the building

While I was away from the Internet today, the Sparks announced that Candace Parker will return to the court Sunday, for the game against the Mercury.

Best news I’ve heard all season. Whether she plays 30 seconds or 30 minutes, it will be great to see her in her team uniform rather than street clothes.

___________________

Diana Taurasi DUI update: in a public statement released today, she says she’s embarrassed about the incident.

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