Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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Great piece on UCLA’s Chinyere Ibekwe

Great piece in today’s Daily Bruin about the senior forward, who is working hard in her senior year instead of getting by on her athleticism alone:


A lot of players are in the same boat.

The story explains that none of this growth would be taking place without first-year coach Nikki Caldwell, who has helped “push her to her athletic limits as never before.”

Even before Ibekwe stepped on the court for Caldwell, she had a feeling about her new coach.

“When it was announced that Nikki was our coach, even before I met her, there was something that drew me to her,” Ibekwe said. “When you meet people, you’re either all in or all out, and I was all in with her.”

That is when things started turning around. By deciding she was “in,” Ibekwe committed herself to facing the adversity of her junior year and learning from it.

“(Ibekwe’s success) started with her mental attitude about wanting to have a great senior year. … She’s somebody who has taken that to heart,” Caldwell said. “I think she has taken pride in wanting to be that go-to player inside. But I think it started with a change in her mindset.”

Under Caldwell, Ibekwe quickly realized it would no longer be enough to coast on her athleticism alone. Caldwell pushed her to bring fire, aggressiveness and discipline every day. She is being pushed to her athletic limits as never before.

“You have to make up your mind every day on what type of leader you want to be when you step on the floor,” Caldwell said. “There are days when she’s done that and days when she needed the help of her teammates to get it done. But she is doing it more than she has probably ever done in the past.”

The numbers verify what Caldwell says. Ibekwe has eclipsed her sophomore statistics and leads the team both in rebounding and blocked shots by quite a bit in Caldwell’s system that preaches board play and defense.

And Ibekwe appreciates everything Caldwell has done for her as a senior.

“I feel (Caldwell) had the choice to not deal with me and focus on her younger classmen, but she has really embraced me, asked me to be a leader, and I’m doing as much as I can to help her,” Ibekwe said.

Lady Vols and coaches visit Children’s Hospital

These pictures made me smile – a great team doing a great thing. They need to buy Charles-Furlow some sweats, though. And the picture-clicking sound effect is cool:


Another “it’s official” entry

Season ticket holders got personally-addressed emails today, though I didn’t get mine until about an hour ago when I got home. My friend Monique called to tell me at about 2:30. Here’s the official release from Sparks co-owners Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson:

Dear Sue,

On behalf of the entire Sparks organization, we would like you to join us in congratulating Candace Parker and Shelden Williams on the upcoming birth of their first child this Spring. We are delighted to be adding a new Sparks fan, and we look forward to the one-on-one games between him/her and Lauren Lockwood.

We are excited that Candace plans to return to the court this season, and we are already getting ready for our home opener (which for the first time ever is our season opener) on June 6. We came closer to our goal of another WNBA Championship, and all of our Sparks players share our view that close is never good enough for Los Angeles!

Thank you, as always, for being the best fans in the WNBA. We look forward to seeing you soon!


Kathy and Carla


(January 7, 2008) – Last year was a year of firsts for Candace Parker. In 2008 she was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, she was the first woman in the WNBA to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player and she captured her first Olympic Gold Medal at the Summer Games in Beijing. Entering a new year, Parker has another special first to look forward to. This spring, she and husband Shelden Williams of the Sacramento Kings are expecting their first child.

“Shelden and I are very excited to be expanding our family,” said Parker. “We feel blessed and look forward to becoming parents.”

“We are happy to welcome a new addition into the Sparks family and on behalf of the entire organization we congratulate both Candace and Shelden,” said Penny Toler, Los Angeles Sparks General Manager.

Parker will continue to work out in preparation to participate in the 2009 WNBA season.

Parker nearly averaged a double-double her rookie season (18.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and she led the WNBA in rebounds. She earned the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year award and the Most Valuable Player award marking the first time in the WNBA’s 12 seasons that a rookie has won MVP. Parker won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Lady Vols in 2007 and 2008. She led the team in scoring (20.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg) her final season at Tennessee. Parker was named the 2007 and 2008 Collegiate Female John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Player of the Year, Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year and Kodak All-American. She earned the NCAA Final Four MVP award in 2007 and 2008.

On the Sparks board fans are freaking out a bit, as would be expected. One person said the 2009 season is shot. In a later post this person said, “it’s disappointing all the fans who bought season tickets to see Candace play. She’s the new face of the WNBA, and now she’s out indefinitely, how does the WNBA market itself?”

I guess we shall see. You never know in this wild and woolly game of life, what will happen.

Pat Summitt told the News Sentinel that she had talked with Candace about it and both of them are excited. Summitt also said that if it was a girl, she’d hope she would come to Tennessee. Most interesting to me was that Candace released a statement through the University of Tennessee as well as the Sparks. Once a Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol, they say.

Congratulations to Candace.

Link to News Sentinel story:


European update

Sophia Young (Baylor, San Antonio Silver Stars) and Keisha Brown (Georgia, Los Angeles Sparks) have signed contracts with the Galatasaray Istanbul team of the Turkish League. The squad is currently ranked fifth in the league with a 5-4 record. Young played for Galatasaray last year.


The Israeli League has been off since Dec. 15, and games aren’t scheduled to get underway again until Jan. 22. But will they? Will the current unrest in Israel delay or cancel the league? I wonder.

Rutgers loses again

On the heels of Saturday’s loss to Tennessee, the Scarlet Knights fell to Syracuse tonight, 68-54. I have to say, I’m a little shocked. But almost equally surprising was C. Vivian Stringer’s quote from this story:


“We didn’t have anybody that came to play today, simple as that,” Stringer said. “We’ve played a very easy schedule, by and large. If the upperclassmen were doing what they should have been doing, those freshmen would have got a lot of experience. But we’re barely getting by, so I decided we’re going to win or lose the game, I’m going to play the freshmen. They don’t know what they’re doing, but I thought I’d give them a chance anyway.”

Curious – what do people think of this quote and game strategy?

Candace Parker rumor goes unanswered for now

Someone started a rumor on the rebkell board yesterday that the reason Candace Parker isn’t in Russia playing for the team she’d signed with is that she’s pregnant. The thread is now up to seven pages, all crap posts and nothing else. Meanwhile on “The Summitt” board there was a very short thread on this rumor where all the posters said “wow, if it’s true, congrats, Candace!” The difference was funny to me.

In the meantime, what’s the real story?

A longtime Sparks season ticket holder called her representative this morning, who told her she hadn’t heard the rumor and didn’t know anything. I called my own rep this afternoon, and he said no one at the Sparks office had heard anything like this from Parker, but if there was news, Sparks STHs would be the first to know.

Both of these people are genuinely decent human beings, so I know they’re not pulling our legs; they really don’t know anything. If Parker is indeed with child, she hasn’t told her USA employer.

Personally, I’m not going to speculate. There’s this old 80’s song “Rumors,” by the Timex Social Club, that I think of during times like this. But Monique and I were talking tonight at the Fairfax Tournament, and if it’s true, we’d like our money back from the Sparks.

This isn’t the day to be from Texas

Both #4 Texas and #3 Texas A&M (below) lost tonight.

I don’t think I’ve seen a more dejected group of young women.

Texas toast

It’s official

UCLA announced Jasmine Dixon’s transfer today:


Oregon 73, UCLA 56

I took two of my girls to the game today and it was the birthday of one, so we partied afterward. This was also a straightforward one-team-plays-great-while-the-other-team-plays-crappy game. And I’m going to a high school tournament tomorrow, so this won’t be a long post.

The Ducks came out blazing from the get-go, took the lead and never looked back. They played mad D, Taylor Lilley was making ridiculous shots and couldn’t miss, and Micaela Cocks and Jasmin Holliday also came up big for their team.

The Bruins looked lethargic, and their brilliant moments were way too far and few between. They shot 36.8 for the game to Oregon’s 55.6. But what concerns me is that their rebound total today was 35, which is what it’s been the last few games. And that’s way below the 50-plus per game they were getting a couple months ago, and doesn’t even match their season average of last year. Even worse in today’s case was that the Ducks only had 25 rebounds.

“We’re going to have to focus on getting better in our man-to-man defense,” Coach Nikki Caldwell said in the post-game interview.

She added that with a week until their next game, against USC, they would use the time to “get back to their defensive scheme.”

Oregon looked very good today, and it wasn’t a surprise to me. I have wondered for many weeks how they have been losing as much as they with the assistant coaches that are on board.

Caldwell was uncharacteristically quiet for her; she didn’t yell at the team, and at the end of the game she took a seat on the bench.

Oregon Coach Bev Smith did the opposite, remaining quiet for most of the game before coming alive at the end, standing and shouting to the Ducks. After she went through the hand slap line afterward, she turned around and walked the other way to slap the hands of her own squad.

The Ducks and their many fans, which helped fill Pauley Pavilion, were extremely excited about the win, and with good reason: Oregon had been swept by USC and UCLA for the past four consecutive seasons. Three Ducks are also Southern California natives: Lilley and Tatiana Thomas of Newhall, and Jasmin Holliday of Chino Hills. An especially large contingent showed up to cheer on Holliday. They also stayed after the game and waited until the freshman finished up a radio interview so they could cheer her as she walked across the court towards them.

Bruin notes:

Today was the second consecutive game that Tierra Henderson sat with the team on the bench in street clothes. The senior guard was suspended from the squad indefinitely last month for a violation of team rules.

New recruit Jasmine Dixon was again at the game today. She got some kind of paperwork on a clipboard from one of the team assistants, took it back to her seat and proceeded to fill it out with an older woman sitting next to her. I looked back over less than 10 minutes later and both women, as well as a young girl sitting with them, were suddenly clad in large blue UCLA sweatshirts. It looks like things are moving along.

Jasmine Dixon to UCLA

Jasmine Dixon confirmed last night that she is enrolled at UCLA and will play basketball there beginning this December.

Dixon made headlines in early December when she suddenly dropped out of the Rutgers basketball program and announced she was transferring schools. Rumors have circulated that Dixon was considering UCLA, among other schools, but no official announcement has been made.

Dixon was sporting a UCLA Bruins sweatshirt at last night’s UCLA-OSU game. She said she begins classes at UCLA on Monday, and has to sit out of play until a year after she left Rutgers, as per NCAA rules. She added that she is looking forward to joining the Bruins team.

A graduate of Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach, Calif., Dixon guided her team to a third consecutive state title last year, was voted one of the top players in the state by coaches, and was a McDonald’s All-American. Dixon was one of a highly-touted Rutgers freshman class of five. She said she left the program because she didn’t like it there.