Sunday, December 21, 2014

Two-minute drill: Richmond's Gen Okoro

What's in her name? Richmond's Genevieve Okoro tells us along with her thoughts on becoming a doctor, what coach Michael Shafer repeats all the time and why she's not over the top about the new Harry Potter book.

Also see:
Two-minute drill: Longwood's Treasure Avery
Two-minute drill: Richmond's Liv Healy
Two-minute drill: Norfolk State's Rae Corbo

Wanna nominate someone for two-minute drill? Tweet us at @LadySwish or email us at

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hampton visits JMU again

The date - November 12, 2010 - doesn't just mark the last time Hampton and JMU met. It was also the date the reputation of the modern-day Lady Pirates was born.

The previous year, David Six's first in charge, had ended with the Lady Pirates hoisting a MEAC title. But that team did nothing special out of conference and was crushed at Duke (71-37) in the first round of the NCAAs.

So when the 2010-11 season opened with the Lady Pirates visited defending CAA champion JMU - featuring CAA Player of the Year Dawn Evans and a host of other talented returners - few had reason to suspect Hampton would keep up.

Then the teams tipped off, and the Lady Pirates opened eyes everywhere by engineering a stunning 69-64 win in a Preseason WNIT first rounder.

The loss hardly crippled JMU, which went on to claim its second straight CAA title. But it was clearly a sign of things to come for the Lady Pirates, who have obliterated the tag of "just another MEAC team" with a series of quality non-league wins ever since.

Can they pull off another one Saturday? Well, we stopped betting against the Lady Pirates a long time ago. That said, in five-plus years of giant-killing we're not sure they've toppled a team as strong as this year's Dukes.

Frankly, we don't see it happening for Hampton in Harrisonburg today. Just remember that we didn't see it happening four years ago, either.

Today's schedule

Hampton at JMU, 2 p.m.
The Lady Pirates (3-6) continue their mega-tough schedule. A big key for Hampton will be finding a way to at least stay competitive on the boards. On Tuesday, the Lady Pirates were out-rebounded 48-21 by No. 1 South Carolina, and these Dukes actually clean the glass just as well, if not better, than those Gamecocks. High-flying JMU has won four straight this season, is riding a 14-game winning streak at home and has taken 13 straight against in-state opponents.

George Mason vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 1:05 p.m.
Second of two games in the Wichita State Winter Classic. On Friday, the Patriots got 26 points from Taylor Brown (ho-hum) and a strong defensive effort (really? wow!) in a 69-57 victory over Winthrop. Seriously, these Patriots can score with just about anyone. If they can get defensive efforts to match, watch out.

Norfolk State at East Carolina, 2 p.m.
The Spartans (2-6) look to rebound from Tuesday's heartbreaking 73-71 home loss to Marshall The defeat spoiled a monster effort from guard Rae Corbo, who poured in a program Division I-record 37 points. The Pirates (8-2) average 7.1 blocks per game (tied with West Virginia for No. 1 in Division I) led by forward Ondrea Shaw, a one-time George Mason recruit who swatted away 10 in ECU's 82-33 rout of Loyola (Md.) on Dec. 9. East Carolina spanked NSU 81-61 when these teams met in Norfolk last season.

Liberty at Minnesota in Gophers' Subway Classic, 3:30 p.m.
The first of two heavyweight opponents for the Lady Flames (6-3), who will conclude play in this event against No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday. The Gophers (9-1) are led by a pair of familiar faces in first-year head coach Marlene Stollings (formerly of VCU) and forward Shae Kelley, who starred at Old Dominion before transferring to Minnesota for her final season of eligibility. Kelley is averaging a team-leading 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday in the hands of Hampton's Keiara Avant.

The Lady Pirates will be going for a sixth straight MEAC championship this season. Keiara Avant, the 2013 MEAC Player of the Year, shows off her rings on #Throwback Thursday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

LadySwish: One-on-one with Dawn Staley

She's all South Carolina now, but Virginia is still special to Dawn Staley, whose No. 1 Gamecocks beat Hampton 69-49 on Wednesday. LadySwish talked with Staley about her Virginia ties, Debbie Ryan, the women's game and by the way, Dawn, will you ever play in Charlottesville?

Welcome home, Dawn

Two and a half hours south from where she played out one of the most storied careers in the game, Dawn Staley returns, and the three-time Olympic gold medalist is bringing the No. 1 team in the nation with her.

Top-ranked South Carolina (9-0) meets Hampton (3-5) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Pirates gym.

Staley -- as decorated an athlete the University of Virginia has ever produced -- says she and Lady Pirates coach David Six "talked a few years ago when we played in the Virgin Islands and ever since then, we've been trying to find a date that works for both of us."

Hosting the best in the nation is an impressive feat for NCAA Tournament regular Hampton; just ask Kenny Brooks how difficult it is to get the best in the game to play at your house. Staley remembers what it's like from her days coaching Temple, where she elevated the Owls program to unprecedented heights. That would be six NCAA Tournament appearances, a conference title and  a first-ever national ranking.

"When I was at Temple, nobody really gave us the opportunity to play, I mean a high level basketball team," Staley said. "It goes back to being good for women's basketball to come here and play."

It's good for the Gamecocks, too, Staley noted, given the elite program Six has built at Hampton. The five-time MEAC champs earned a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, and while this year's team lacks the experience of many of his former ones, Six didn't back down in the schedule department. Lots of coaches like to tout their nonconference slate as tough; the numbers back up Six any time he chooses to brag.

"It's a great game as far as RPI for us; they're a team that always goes to the NCAA Tournament," Staley said. "Some of his teams remind me of the ones I had at Temple. They're a dangerous team for us to play."

Speaking of dangerous . . . South Carolina has six wins by 20 points or more and a victory over Duke in Durham. The Gamecocks rank eighth in the nation in field goal percentage with an SEC-best mark of .492. The accuracy is not the product of one hot hand, but instead five Gamecocks shoot at least 50.0 percent from the field. Four South Carolina are on the Naismith Watch List of 50, and one of them, A'ja Wilso,n is the lone freshman to receive the honor. Fittingly, the team's motto is "One."

Staley is in her seventh season as head coach and says it's been a process to get here. "You've got to have a vision for your program and then you have to paint the picture of that vision by having players who believe in your vision, and that's what we've done well -- in our state of South Carolina and by having some of the best players in the country. You have to be in a conference where you get to measure yourself each and every game and get challenged. Once all that comes together, if you're successful, if you're lucky enough to be successful enough to win more basketball games than lose them, you can wind up where we are."

Every year South Carolina gets better under Staley. Holding the No. 1 spot in the AP poll since Nov. 24 is another milestone.

"We're right there where we envisioned," she said. "We've always been a blue collar basketball team. We built our reputation on playing hard defensively. Now we've got some talent that can play just as well on the other side of the ball. When it comes down to having success, you've got to have players who make plays. We've got some players who can help us make plays in multiple positions. You can't just have one. You've got to have them in multiple positions to have ones who create an advantage on both sides of the ball."

As for coming home, don't think Staley hasn't thought about it, even though Charlottesville is a good hike up I-64.

"It's always great to come back to a play where you had a lot of success," she said. "The state of Virginia has been tremendous for me and my career and to come back, it does bring back a little memory. But that was a long time ago and we're hoping to create that same success (Wednesday) night."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

JMU's Perez debuts in style

I've never met or spoken to Ashley Perez. Never seen her pound out a single dribble.

But for one day - Dec. 15, 2014 - Ashley Perez was my favorite player.

That was the day Perez, a 5-8 junior guard who transferred from St. John's at last year's semester break, was finally able to take the court as a full-fledged JMU Duke.

Now we'll spare you the rant, but suffice to say I'm not big on the NCAA rule that mandates athletes sit out a year after transferring - especially in a world where coaches change teams, and for a while there teams were changing conferences, the way some people change underwear (although if we're being honest, I'm glad I'm not married to one of those people).

Besides, as a former Division I athlete (tennis, anyone?), I know what that time in athletic purgatory is like.

Perez's debut played out in Athens, Ohio, and in a perfect world, it would have ended with her hitting the game-winning 3 or some such heroic. Of course, women's basketball games don't go according to script (except maybe at UConn). But in this case, real life turned out pretty well, too.

To paraphrase former Georgia Tech/NBA star Kenny Anderson, looks like there's another horse in Kenny Brooks' stable.

 Welcome to JMU Nation, Ashley.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The few, the proud, the Lady Pirates

We liken playing for Hampton coach David Six to joining the Marines - not everyone can handle the demands, but those who can wind up part of something special.

Take the Lady Pirates' 2014-15 non-conference schedule...please. I mean, it's brutal. And don't just take our word for it. According to official NCAA accounting, so far it's been the toughest Division I non-conference slate in the country.

And guess what? It's about to get even tougher.

On Wednesday, the Lady Pirates (3-5) will host the No. 1 team in the nation, South Carolina (9-0). Three days later they'll travel to JMU, a Top-25 team to just about everyone that doesn't have a poll vote. And two days after that they'll visit No. 25 DePaul, which last week came within two missed free throws in the final seconds of knocking off Notre Dame.

Oh, and the Lady Pirates' non-conference finale will be on Jan. 5 against Princeton, which is 10-0 now and a pretty good bet to be 15-0 by the time the Tigers show up in Hampton.

Those four games spread out over the nearly two-month non-conference window would be plenty tough enough. That they come on top of the seven-game gauntlet Hampton's already run makes the whole thing one of the more challenging schedules we've seen in years.

Consider that the seven teams Hampton has played so far - Northwestern, Quinnipiac, Kansas State, Lehigh, Washington State, Penn and Richmond - are a combined 42-12. Northwestern and Lehigh are still undefeated. The "weakest" team in the bunch might be Richmond (4-4), which just knocked off Wake Forest.

Virtually every team lines up 1-3 games they're pretty sure they'll win, even if they have to reach outside of Division I to do so. Evidently that memo never reached Six's desk, as there's nothing close to a soft touch on Hampton's schedule.

Adding to the degree of difficulty is the fact that six of the seven games were on the road, with two of those on consecutive nights at Penn and at Richmond. Remarkably, Hampton won both and was the fresher team in the second half each time.

Now Six didn't set that up on purpose; he said a tournament Hampton had entered got canceled. But he didn't shy away from the challenge, either. And the fact the Lady Pirates were able to sweep both ends of that unique doubleheader suggests that for this particular program, such kamikaze scheduling isn't just brutal, but also brutally effective.

You see, there's a method behind Six's scheduling madness, a whatever-doesn't-kill-us-makes-us-stronger factor that no doubt has helped fuel five-time MEAC champion Hampton's Division I-best 50-game winning streak against conference foes. Because while this year's schedule might be a bit extreme, Hampton has been seeking out non-conference challenges - and winning their share of them - ever since Six took over.

Two years ago, for example, the Lady Pirates beat Mississippi State and LSU, lost to DePaul by one point and South Carolina by 11.

Because of heavy graduation losses and several players adapting to new roles, this year's HU edition was probably less-equipped than most Hampton squads for such sink-or-swim scheduling. So it wasn't exactly shocking when the Lady Pirates sank like a stone in blowout season-opening losses at Northwestern (by 26 points), at Quinnipiac (by 28) and at Kansas State (by 20).

But Six said he finally began recognizing his own team, particularly defensively, in a 14-point loss to Washington State, a game the Lady Pirates tied up midway through the second half before Cougars star Tia Presley (36 points) went nuts. The next time out, the Lady Pirates were giving Lehigh what-for in the second half until foul trouble caught up with them.

Finally, vintage Hampton surfaced on Dec. 5 at Penn, where the Lady Pirates held the Quakers to just 12 second-half points. The following night, they limited Richmond to 36-percent shooting in the second half and turned a one-point halftime deficit into an 11-point win.

Two nights later, the Lady Pirates returned home and spanked conference foe Morgan State by 20 for their third victory in four nights (in three different cities).

Hampton will take this three-game winning streak, along with fresh legs and renewed confidence into battle Wednesday. Of course, they'll need a lot more than confidence to even stay connected to Dawn Staley's Gamecocks. For while the Lady Pirates are just finding their defensive chops, South Carolina has been employing next-level defense all season. Opponents are shooting just 33.1 percent against the Gamecocks, and six of their last eight opponents have scored 50 points or fewer. Two weeks ago, North Carolina Central, Hampton's MEAC comrade, produced only 26.

Of course, North Carolina Central is no Hampton.

Besides, it's not like these guys haven't seen tough teams before.

ODU bids for signature win at Louisville

It's will be an extremely tall task, but if Old Dominion can knock off No. 10 Louisville tonight, it would be the Lady Monarchs' biggest win in years, and certainly the most notable of the Karen Barefoot era.

By far.

It's too early to judge the quality of the non-conference opponents ODU (5-2) has played this season. But we can evaluate the Lady Monarchs' victims over Barefoot's first three seasons, and over that span ODU didn't beat anyone even close to the caliber of these Cardinals (8-1).

In fact, of the 20 non-conference victories the Lady Monarchs compiled in their first three seasons under Barefoot, only two came against teams that finished with a winning record - last year's WNIT first rounder against Navy (24-8), and a 2012-13 decision over South Carolina State (20-9).

One other non-conference win, in 2011-12 vs. North Carolina A&T (15-16), came against a team that finished close to .500. ODU's other 17 non-league victims all finished at least five games below the break-even mark.

Furthermore, the Navy, South Carolina State and N.C. A&T victories all came at the Constant Center. ODU's "best" non-conference road win the past three seasons was probably a 2012-13 decision at a Virginia Tech team that finished 10-20.

In fairness to the Lady Monarchs, they haven't exactly had a ton of opportunities for quality non-conference wins. Barefoot's scheduling style appears to favor building a team's confidence with a healthy dose of home games against manageable opponents. And it seemed to work last season, when the Lady Monarchs caught fire in mid-February and played their best ball down the stretch.

Since being in top form come March is the goal of every team, it's hard to knock this approach. Still, Old Dominion teams were once famous for knocking off a contender or two before Christmas, too.

Tonight, let's see if these Lady Monarchs can take their best shot.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Two-minute drill: Longwood's Treasure Avery

While we love the name Treasure, we promise we won't call Longwood's T. Avery Treasure. She talks about cow tipping back at home in Lincolnton, N.C. and her favorite WNBA player (hint, coach Wanisha Smith, you'll be proud!).

Also see:
Two-minute drill: Richmond's Liv Healy

Two-minute drill: Norfolk State's Rae Corbo

Wanna nominate someone from your team for two-minute drill? Tweet us @ladyswish or email us at

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hey, whatever happened to....?

Shae Kelley
A look at how some of the recent transfers from Virginia Division I programs are performing since they've moved on:

Shae Kelley
Starting forward, Minnesota (9-1)
   - With Wednesday's season-ending injury to Minnesota star/leading scorer Rachel Banham, the versatile former Old Dominion star is about to go from missing link to alpha-dog in the Gophers' bid to remain on track for Big Ten/NCAA glory. So far it's been a seamless transition for Kelley, who has already nabbed a Big Ten Player of the Week nod and through 10 games is averaging similar numbers (16.8, 8.8 rpg) to the ones she put up at ODU. Of course, those stats came while serving as Robin to Banham's Batman. One of the reasons Kelley left the Lady Monarchs was to find a brighter spotlight for her talents. With the Gophers' go-to scorer now lost for the season, Kelley certainly has that now.

Verdine Warner 
Starting center, Shaw (5-3)
A 6-4 center who mixed glimpses of greatness with bouts of inconsistency during her lone season at Hampton, Warner is producing monster numbers across the board for this Division II power - 24.6 ppg on 65 percent shooting and 12.5 rebounds.

LaTorri Hines-Allen
Starting forward, Towson (3-6)
The one-time Virginia Tech post player and currently the Tigers' leading scorer and rebounder (17.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg)), Hines-Allen has scored at least 21 points in three of her last four games, including a 21-points, 8-rebound effort Sunday against Maryland.

Brittni Montgomery
Starting forward, UCF (4-4)
Another former Virginia Tech performer, Montgomery is the Knights' leading rebounder (6.3 rpg) and had a career-high 22 points with 10 boards on Nov. 19 against Stetson.

Raeshaun Gaffney 
Starting guard, Xavier (6-3)
Gaffney, who began her career at Virginia, ranks second among Musketeers in scoring (9.9 ppg). Scored a team-high 15 points when Virginia visited on Nov. 20. The Cavaliers prevailed 71-62.

Kaneisha Atwater
Starting guard, Florida Gulf Coast (7-2)
A former Parade All-American who spent a year at VCU, Atwater set an FGCU Division I record with 33 points in Thursday's 68-58 victory over Providence. Through nine games Atwater leads the Eagles in scoring (15.0 ppg).

Aprill McRae 
Starting center, North Carolina A&T (6-3)
A preseason first-team All-MEAC pick who spent her freshman year at VCU, McRae was the Aggies' leading scorer in each of their first three games and dropped a career-high 23 points on William and Mary. Her numbers fell off dramatically after that, though, and she has not appeared at all in A&T's last three games.

Debbie Smith
Starting guard, North Carolina A&T (6-3)
The ex-JMU performer scored a career-high 22 points in an 80-69 road victory over Howard on Dec. 6.

Kyani White
Starting guard, Hampton (3-5)
White, who spent a year at Virginia Tech before transferring to - and graduating from - East Carolina, is averaging 5.8 ppg for the Lady Pirates in her final season of eligibility.

Myeisha Hall
Starting guard, Stetson (7-2)
An Old Dominion recruit who spent a season and a semester with the Lady Monarchs, Hall is averaging 12.3 ppg for the Hatters and is one of four players in double figures.

Jacqueline Brewer 
Starting guard, Mt. St. Mary's (2-6)
The Mountaineers' leading scorer, Brewer went for a career-high 28 points (11-17 FGs, 5 of 8 3-pointers) in Monday's 81-65 thumping of Coppin State. Brewer spent her first collegiate season at VCU.

Char-Dell Dunnigan
Reserve forward/center, University of Charleston (Division II)
Former George Mason performer is averaging 3.4 points and 3.0 rebounds through seven games.

Alexis Lloyd
Reserve guard, USC (6-2)
Yet another ex-Hokie, Lloyd has appeared in six games (53 minutes total) and is averaging 1.2 ppg for the Trojans.

Briana Jones
Starting forward, Georgia Southern (2-5)
Former JMU player is averaging 7.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest for the Eagles.

Sade King 
Reserve guard at Division II New Haven (6-2)
Former deep reserve point guard at Hampton is averaging 3.9 ppg in just over 13 minutes per game.

Brittany Martin
Reserve center, Wichita State (5-2)
The transfer from Old Dominion by way of Northwest Florida Community College has appeared in all seven games (59 minutes total) and is averaging 1.4 ppg and 2.7 rpg heading into Friday's showdown with undefeated Kansas State.

Christina Carter
Starting guard, North Carolina A&T (6-3)
Former VCU lead guard ranks second among Aggies in scoring (9.7 ppg) and has a team-high 27 assists through nine games.

Amanda Fioravanti
Awaiting eligibility at St. Joseph's (3-6)
Fioravanti transferred from Virginia at last year's semester break and has been sitting out ever since. If, as expected, she regains eligibility upon the competion of this semester, Fioravanti should make her St. Joe's debut on Dec. 21 when the Hawks visit Notre Dame.

Alex Kiss-Rusk
Starting center, McGill University (Canada)
A Quebec native who spent her freshman year at Virginia Tech, Kiss-Rusk is averaging 9.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 1.3 blocks at McGill. One of her teammates is point guard Carolann Cloutier, who spent a season with Old Dominion in 2009-10 before transferring to UMass.

Logan Powell
Reserve forward, Kentucky State (Division II)
After a promising first year at Norfolk State, the Kentucky native opted to return closer to home and is currently averaging about 12 minutes a game for the Thorobrettes.

Larryqua Hall
Reserve guard at Division II Johnson C. Smith (7-1)
Formerly of Virginia Tech, Hall started three of the team's first five games but hasn't appeared in the last two contests.

Paris Brower
Reserve guard, Mt. Olive (Division II)
Ex-Radford performer has made brief appearances in five games.

Breannah Davis-Bloom 
Reserve guard, Charleston (0-7)
Former Norfolk State player has seen 29 minutes of action spread out over six games.

Waiting their turn....

Serafina Maulupe (Virginia Tech)
Sitting out redshirt year at Cal State-Northridge

Jessica Pellechio (VCU)
Sitting out redshirt year at Drexel

Denisha Petty-Evans (George Mason)
Sitting out redshirt year at Siena.

Amani Tatum (JMU)
Sitting out redshirt year at Manhattan

Lauren Evans (Virginia Tech)
Sitting out redshirt year at Arizona