Friday, July 19, 2019
Page 846

Pac-10 preview: The Arizona schools

Prior to the commencement of the 2008-2009 college basketball season, I will profile teams in two conferences, as well as various other teams around the country. Next up: the Arizona schools of the Pacific 10 Conference.

We have both the veteran and the newcomer in Arizona this year.

At Arizona State University in Tempe, there is head Coach Charli Turner Thorne. Going into her thirteenth season with the Sun Devils, she is as much known for her tough offense-minded teams that usually get an NCAA tournament invitation as she is for her short skirts and high heels.

Niya Butts has taken over the program at the University of Arizona, replacing fired head coach Joan Bonvicini. Butts is not new to coaching, having spent five years as assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, and short stints at Michigan State and Tennessee Tech. But this is the former Lady Vol’s first head coaching position.

The contrasts continue from there. In fact, both teams mirror their respective coaches a bit.

ASU is loaded with seniors – six, to be exact – including returning starters Briann January, Lauren Lacey and Sybil Dosty. They have four freshmen and two transfer players – one of which is Kali Bennett, formerly of the University of Washington, who won’t play this year due to NCAA transfer rules. The Devils have dealt with that before, as Dosty transferred to the school in 2006 after one year at the University of Tennessee.

The Wildcats boast four returning starters, but only three seniors. Five freshmen come in to the program, as does one player from Turkey and another from a junior college. Four of the freshmen hail from the Los Angeles area, so I will take a special interest in Arizona this year, as I’ve seen most of those young women play high school ball.

Thorne’s teams are known for their consistency. Last year her squad averaged 65.2 points per game, finished third in the Pac-10 conference and went to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Duke. The year before, the Devils went to the Elite Eight. USA Today picked ASU as one of their top 16 teams of the season today.

Butts, who has two championship rings from her Vol days, has had a decent record as assistant at Kentucky under former Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss. Butts helped UK to three WNIT appearances and one NCAA tournament berth. Butts also helped MSU to an NCAA berth the year she was there.

The ASU player to watch this year is Briann January, who won the Pac-10’s first defensive player of the year award last year. She takes the initiative and is explosive, which is a lethal combination.

Arizona players I’ll be watching are Reiko Thomas and Ashley Frazier. Thomas, a shooting guard, has the most natural talent of a high school guard that I’ve ever seen. She averaged 16.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last year, and was the most valuable player of all of the tournaments her team participated in last year. She was named player of the city of Los Angeles last spring.

Frazier, from South Plains College in Texas, helped her team advance in its regional tournament both years she was there. Arizona coaches say she has “tremendous energy.” After seeing what Shannon Bobbitt did for Tennessee, I never overlook junior college players anymore.

The Sun Devils begin their season next month by playing in the WNIT tournament, followed by the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas. On Dec. 14 is the exciting re-match of the 2007 NCAA second round game against UC-Riverside, which ASU won after coming from behind; that game will be in Tempe this time.

In about a month, Arizona will head to a tournament at the University of Hawaii, where Thomas will face a former teammate. Major opponents for the Wildcats before Pac-10 play begins Jan. 2 include Texas A&M, Long Beach State and UC-Riverside.

I wish both teams luck this year, but because of the Tennessee and California connections on Arizona’s team, I’ll have to pull for them. I love up-and-comers, anyway.

We interrupt this preview for a great piece…….

Amazing interview with Pat Summitt on this year’s team:

Check out these facts:

During head coach Pat Summitt’s 35 years at the helm of the winningest program in collegiate history only 153 women have been selected to join the Lady Vol basketball family, including this season’s group of six eager newcomers. Incredibly, every Lady Vol hoopster (since 1976) has enjoyed the opportunity to play in at least one Final Four during her career, and 58 of those accomplished women have earned National Championship rings coming in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008.

I don’t know if there’s been a more accomplished coach in any sport. If there is, I’d like to know about it.

This quote demonstrates the way Summitt’s attitude has shaped her own legacy. She simply believes her teams will rise to greatness, and she and her players eventually believe it into being:

“It’s crossed my mind that you don’t replace players like these overnight,” deadpanned Summitt. “Rather than thinking that ‘we’re rebuilding and won’t be as strong,’ I’m thinking how excited we are about our incoming and returning talent. The question I have is, ‘how long will it take to mold them into a championship team?’ “


Pac-10 preview: The Oregon schools

Prior to the commencement of the 2008-2009 college basketball season, I will profile teams in two conferences, as well as various other teams around the country. We begin today with profiles of the University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers of the Pacific 10 Conference.

Unfortunately for me, the state of Oregon within the Pac-10 is no-woman’s land – a basketball dead zone. Neither the UO or OSU have fielded women’s teams that have finished anywhere near the top of the conference for many years. Last year, the Ducks were 14-17 and 7th in the conference; the Beavers were 8th with a 12-19 record.

This saddens me because I grew up watching Oregon women’s basketball. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s because my dad took me to those games that I got interested, and eventually obsessed, with basketball.

And who was my first basketball hero? None other than former Oregon All-American and current coach Bev Smith. So it’s with even more sadness that I report that Smith, with an overall record of 114-100, may be on the hot seat this year, as it’s the last year of her contract. Things have got to get better in the state of Oregon for women’s basketball, and soon.

The discontent is palpable. My former teacher and friend of almost three decades has been a Ducks season ticket holder for years. She said that this year, for the first time, several long-time season ticket holders she knows have opted not to renew their seats.

“They say they can’t do it anymore,” Teach said. “It’s sad.”

Teach added that there is much speculation among fans that this will be Smith’s last year if the team doesn’t show improvement. Some fans, she said, are ready for a change.

But things weren’t always this grim. In fact, Smith’s tenure started out brilliantly. She took the job in 2001, after the UO moved to replace controversial coach Jody Runge. Smith kicked an outspoken player off the team in December. In March, a Duck team featuring current New York Liberty forward Cathrine Kraayeveld ended the season rolling around in a joyful pile on the floor, the winners of the WNIT Tournament.

There was also a brief moment of joy in 2005 when the Ducks made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament – and in Seattle, no less, where I got to see them play.

Since then, Smith has been through a few assistant coaches and a few more players. Perhaps one of the most significant losses in the latter column came just last spring, in Smith’s mysterious decision to disallow starting point guard Tamika Nurse to return for her senior year ( ).

As a result of that move, and the loss of senior guard Kaela Chapdelaine, the Ducks are left with three returning starters: Taylor Lilley, Ellie Manou and Nicole Canepa. Five bench players also return, and the team has four new freshmen – two from California, one from Washington state and one from Las Vegas. The only senior on the team is Rita Kollo, who is redshirting the year.

Up the road at Oregon State, fourth-year coach LaVonda Wagner is trying to put together a winning team to trump the University’s long time tradition of mediocrity. She took over the program after former head coach Judy Spoelstra’s contract wasn’t renewed after nine seasons, and so far Wagner has a 37-53 overall record. Yet, the language in the OSU team prospectus is extremely positive and optimistic. I like that.

The Beavers point to what they term “a strong nucleus of returning players,” and indeed, nine players have come back this year. These seniors also represent the first class Wagner has seen through all four years. The three newcomers are: Anita Burdick, a junior college transfer from the College of Southern Idaho; Brittany Kennedy, from basketball powerhouse Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, WA; and Kirsten Tilleman, from Bozeman, MT.

The team’s three seniors – Brittney Davis, Tiffany Ducker and Mercedes Fox-Griffin – have “a lot of experience and are hungry for success,” according to Wagner. Fox-Griffin has started all three years at OSU.

Oregon has a fairly straightforward schedule, beginning Nov. 2 with a home game against Northwest Christian University. The first real challenges for the Ducks will come in December, when they face Georgia Tech, Marquette and Baylor in the same week.

The Beavers also begin at home, and travel to the Bahamas for a tournament on Thanksgiving weekend. In December, they face UNLV and UC-Irvine. Pac-10 teams begin conference play Friday, Jan. 2.

I sincerely hope Smith can begin to turn things around and do what I wanted her to do from the start, and return Oregon to its glory days of all-stars and playoffs. If she doesn’t, it would certainly be sad to see her lose a job at her own alma mater.

Wagner has always seemed sincere and likewise, I hope she can start to pull things together in Corvallis. She should be hitting her stride this year if she’s doing things correctly.

I want to see women’s collegiate basketball in the state of Oregon be great again. I am tired of the featured sports of my home state being football and men’s basketball. As a graduate of Oregon, I say: let’s go Ducks and Beavers.


To keep a healthy knee, begin at the beginning

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (anteer-i-er croo-see-at lig-a-ment) n. – one of the four major ligaments of the knee. It connects from a posterio-lateral part of the femur to an anterio-medial part of the tibia. These attachments allow it to resist anterior translation of the tibia, in relation to the femur.

It seems like every time fans of women’s basketball turn around, another player suffers the season-ending injury known as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear. And it’s no wonder, as 12 years worth of data have found that the incidence of ACL injuries for female players is twice that of males in the sport. This discrepancy is even more pronounced in soccer, where the injury ratio is four women to one man (1).

One or more factors may play a role in an ACL injury. Research has found that women tend to have stronger quadriceps than hamstrings, whereas in males, strength is more balanced between the two muscles (2). This discrepancy may explain why women tend to remain more upright during athletic participation, and thus more susceptible to injury (1, 2).

Hormones are also thought to influence ACL tear rates. Women are more likely to tear an ACL during ovulation, though doctors are not sure why (3). Other factors that can contribute to injury rates are the differences in locations of the intercondylar notches in the knees of males and females, and the wider angle of the leg bones to the knee due to wider hips in females.

University of Tennessee Assistant Athletics Director and head Athletic Trainer Jenny Moshak has seen her share of ACL injuries in her 20 years at the school. The most recent was the injury freshman Vicki Baugh sustained in the final minutes of last spring’s National Championship game. Moshak said late season injuries are common.

“There are a lot of over-use injuries, when players keep beating up the body with the same motor patterns,” she said.

Moshak said certain players seem to be predisposed to ACL tears due to a combination of biomechanical factors and personality – the “kamikazes,” she said.

“A lot of it is a biomechanical issue,” she said. “But we can correct much of that.”

One of the ways Moshak and Tennessee Head Strength Coach Heather Mason work together to do that is what Moshak calls neutralizing over-pronation of the foot. An athlete who over-pronates is given orthotics and a program to strengthen the arches of the foot. The result is improved stabilization.

Prevention and rehabilitation also involve a lot of core training, according to Moshak.

“We focus on stabilization more so than strengthening,” she said. “You have to look above and below the injury.”

Over the last decade or so, coaches on all levels have taught female players how to jump and strengthen the legs, and numerous workout recommendations to those effects abound (4, 5). But Moshak said ACL tear prevention needs to go much deeper than that, to the parents and coaches of young players.

“Today you see athletes playing one sport competitively at a young age,” Moshak said. “The bodies of these kids aren’t getting rest.

“An athlete has to get from point A to point B, and it’s up to the coach to train them properly.”
Moshak said it’s extremely important to instill the correct motor patterns for movement in athetes at a young age, when they’re forming playing habits.

“Adults oversee kids, and there’s a right and wrong way to move,” she said. “They need to learn the difference as they grow and develop.”

Hopefully, as youth basketball becomes even more specialized, coaches will focus just as much on Strength and Conditioning as sports skills. It will take some time, because even today not all high school coaches have an S and C program for their players.

But I’m optimistic that coaches of middle school and younger-aged girls will eventually focus on agility, proprioception and other crucial skills in developing players. It’s just a matter of time before the S and C industry that is now engrained in all U.S. college athletic programs trickles down to secondary schools.


Dave Chappelle said it: Wrap it Up!

The Shock closed out the series today, sweeping San Antonio in three games. I was really happy for Alexis Hornbuckle – the first woman to win an NCAA title and a WNBA championship in the same year. You make the University of Tennessee and all your fans proud, girl. Seeing the pictures of her with the championship hat on was such a deja vu……

I was also happy for Taj McWilliams-Franklin. I’ve always appreciated her class, authenticity and warmth, and seeing her emotion in the closing moments today was a warm fuzzy.

The best moment of the game for me was after Becky Hammon fouled Lex hard in the closing minutes. Lex went to the floor and landed face down. I was talking to the TV but then got quiet when Lex kept laying there. Her teammates went to her and bent down. Suddenly Lex raised her left hand, her index finger extended in the universal “one minute, please” sign. Her teammates must have busted up, because when Lex finally raised her head, she was laughing too. (That’s one thing I’ve always loved about her is her sense of humor).

I’ve never been happy to see a WNBA season end before today. This has been an emotionally tiring few months, and I need a break.


This interesting interview with Candace Parker was posted yesterday on

She is particularly frank in this piece, which I enjoyed. Ms. Parker keeps a lot in, and I do too so I understand. But it’s nice to know that even Superwoman is human.

She admitted she’s exhausted, and says she’ll be sleeping. (Good!!)

I liked the quote about how her dad won’t even be satisfied until “her excellent is her excellent.” But this was particulary revealing:

“He knows how much I hurt after we lost and how upset I was that we aren’t in the Finals.”

Yeah. And I had wondered Friday after the MVP ceremony, when they showed her in the crowd at the game, if it was hard for her to be there. I’m sure it was.

Honestly, I still feel wistful about last weekend too. I’m pretty much OK now, but ESPN ran the video of that stupid last-second shot a few times, and I turned away. I don’t want to see it again.

It was a good year, but there’s so much to look forward to next year.

College season four weeks away………………………..


Candace Parker wins both ROY and MVP

Love this one



Really hyphy

I sure am proud of her. She is the only other player besides Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld to be both ROY and MVP in the same year. The woman is phenomenal.

more thoughts on the women’s game

Last Friday the LA Times published in its online edition the response I wrote to a poorly-written column the week before, slamming the WNBA. (It was written by a young woman, no less, which was one of the things that most offended the offended). I researched for it and wrote the piece, after which I edited it about four times. It turned out pretty good, I think:

I’ve been writing since I was 4, which is why I’m a perfectionist about the art form. If I’d had a little extra time the column could have been better, which is why I responded to my own work on the site. I had to outline a few story ideas I’ve had for the WNBA for a long time, in light of the original columnist’s jab. The women of the league have to go through so much to play the sport they love and make a living. Wouldn’t it be nice to read about their lives in other countries? Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out a bit more about the new Sparks owners?

Even at my age, there are times when I marvel at what a cruel and unforgiving world this is. It took Title 9 to get a level playing field for women in sport. Women’s basketball has been an Olympic sport only since 1976, and the sport wasn’t seriously practiced collegiately until the early 1970’s. The WNBA is all of 12 years old, and some people criticize its players and teams for not playing like the 62-year-old NBA. It’s like so many other things in life: that’s the breaks, kid.

Last summer I got into an email argument with one of the Times’ female sports staffers. This was her closing paragraph in her first reply to me:

As for your assertion, “If you would write something uplifting about women’s basketball, it might help the sport rather than tear it down. You are contributing to the problem by writing columns such as yesterday’s,” it is not my job to be the public relations person for the WNBA. It is not my responsibility, because I’m female, to praise a female-dominated enterprise that I know to be flawed and that I find less than compelling. As a columnist, it’s my job to voice an opinion based on my experience and knowledge. I’t’s my opinion that the WNBA is at a crossroads and may need to alter its business plan to survive.

She’s right in that it’s not her job to be a public relations agent for the WNBA. But the other comments are illuminating. It’s obvious she doesn’t like the WNBA, and neither does the rest of the sports staff. And it’s easy to attack it in this Kobe and Lakers-obsessed town.

I used to be a newspaper reporter, and when an editor and/or a reporter like something, they’ll write about it; they’ll push it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Did anyone see the column following the Olympics that praised Kobe Bryant for his behavior at the games, i.e. giving him props for acting like he should have been acting all along? I hope no one did, because it was vomit-inducing. It’s obvious the Times has its collective head too far up Kobe’s rear to care about other types of basketball. High school games barely get any play in that paper, either.

But I have to give the Times sports editor credit for letting me speak out, and take a few jabs at the paper in the process. I hope someday the Times will give women’s hoops a fair shake on their pages. In the meantime, I’ll fill in the blanks as best I can for all the great things they’re missing.

Vols pics!!

One of the great people who I’ve met on the Summitt message board, Mike, has helped me with quite a few pictures the last few months. Now he’s allowing me to share some of his.The lucky homey goes to all the Lady Vol events, and has taken a lot of pics lately of our new team. I’m getting excited. I mean, I barely know them, but I’m excited for the future. I have good feelings about it. An inside source at Tennessee told me today that “Everyday in practice is a new adventure unfolding on the court. Like a soap opera, you’ve just gotta tune in tomorrow to see what happens!”Try to keep me from doing that.The thing that strikes me are the similarities between the new team and the team that just left. Mike says there’s another beautiful one, like CP, and Brianna Bass is just as short as Bobbitt and wears her hair similarly. Mike’s letting me share his photos, so I thank him.PhotobucketThe new Vols sign autographs after the football game a few weeks ago. Bass is the one in the stutters.PhotobucketBeing introduced at the game.TeamGet used to this sight: the huddle.PhotobucketAt practice……PhotobucketAt practice 2……PhotobucketThe new Nikki Caldwell, aka Daedra Charles.Did I say I’m excited???!!!

It’s over

I’m not sure if anyone else felt this way, but I was way more hurt after yesterday’s game than today’s. Yesterday I was pacing around like a crazy woman afterwards, and finally left the house not really knowing where I was going. (I ended up at the gym, of course). Today I was just sad. Things weren’t going our way, and the Silver Stars are a very good basketball team. They have some incredible defense, great ball movement and amazing shooting. It also didn’t help that the referees were horrendous again, and were letting Becky Hammon foul away freely. I was pretty OK when the game ended, but got a little sad about an hour and a half ago. I haven’t been this sorry to see a season end before.

I don’t know if we could have handled it if we would have made it to the finals. There are still too many glaring holes in our game. One of the biggest for me all season long as been the lack of offense geared towards the posts. There is no high-low game, and that’s one thing I thought would be a staple for sure, given that we have the two best posts in the league. Secondly, why can’t we shoot the lights out from outside, like San Antonio? We should be able to do that. And why aren’t we experts at the free throw line? Finally, where’s our stifling defense?

These questions will undoubtedly be answered over the off-season. In the meantime, I’m really concerned about our two rookies – both of whom have played non-stop for a year now.

Candace Parker dislocated her shoulder six months ago, and has kept playing on it. She is about as mentally tough as they come, but I sense she’s not only physically but emotionally drained, because sometimes lately she’ll seem to zone out briefly during games.

I’m a sensitive schmuck, and I pay attention. Unless I’m really exhausted, I notice just about everything, and saw a couple things our rookies did the last two games that gave us a brief glimpse into where their heads are at.

Yesterday, as that last shot went in, Sophia Young started rolling around on the floor. A few feet away, Parker sank down to her knees on the same floor and put her head on it. The camera was focused on the Stars, but you could see Parker on the bottom right of the screen. For a woman who pretty much always has her game face on, that was amazing to see, as was her reaction to a foul called on her today late in the fourth quarter. The camera showed her, dead on, in complete disbelief. She was just standing there saying “what?” over and over, and I thought she was going to start crying, for real. Here’s the side view:

She seemed to be completely torn up about it, which bothered me.

Then there is Shannon Bobbitt. The girl is a real rookie, unlike her teammate, but she didn’t get much of a chance to be treated like one. She was thrust into the starting position when Temeka Johnson left the team to care for her dying grandmother, and the others weren’t performing as expected. Bobbitt shouldn’t have been put in the role, though, because she wasn’t ready. She should have been groomed for it, but she found herself in over her head. No doubt she was feeling pressure, and fans and journalists were relentless in criticizing the Spark guards all season, including today.

Cooper had told his guards to step up and shoot today, and Bobbitt tried. She did score a couple times, but she also missed some shots. I thought I read defeat on Bobbitt’s face today, and then came her last foul in the fourth quarter. She was chasing Hammon toward the left corner, and Hammon tumbled out of bounds:

Bobbitt landed on her stomach, and Hammon’s lower leg slightly brushed her head as she flew into the camera zone. Bobbitt looked up at the ref who had whistled the ball dead, and then she put her head down on her hands and just laid on the floor, face down, for several seconds.

Our poor girls. I am worried about them both, for different reasons.

I wanted to open up the floor for discussion and observation. Was there anything anyone saw in either this game or the New York-Detroit games this weekend that provided insight into the state of mind of the player? Please share. Because I’ve always believed that it’s this kind of stuff that is the most important thing in life: figuring out the real stories behind the fronts.

SASS 67, Sparks 66

So painful. So very incredibly painful. I can’t even think of a word right now that matches the hurt in my gut. I’ve been sitting here for almost 20 minutes and may be able to get up in another five, I don’t know. I’m trying to visualize the Sparks locker room right now. Maybe not.

I need to get out of the house and not think about basketball until 2 p.m. tomorrow. Seriously.


Edit to add that I understand Coach Michael Cooper, Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker were very upbeat in the post-game interview. Good sign! Because if the Sparks can play well through all four quarters tomorrow, rather than collapsing in the second and third quarters……….you know.

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