Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First day of practice snippets

Thursday, September 24, 2015

ODU's Mery Andrade now Coach Andrade

Remember that movie "There's Something About Mary"? Well, we spell Mery differently in this blog, and we've always known there's something about Mery Andrade that would make her a great asset to any coaching staff.

Nobody outworked the Old Dominion defensive menace, whose expressions of absolute disbelief when called for a block still tickle us inside some 18 years after the Lady Monarchs advanced to the national title game. Andrade, along with her buds Ticha Penicheiro and Clarisse Machanguana, were part of that Portuguese connection that the ODU fan base adored during a magical time in the program's storied history.

Andrade, the soul of the 1997 team that finished 34-2, was co-CAA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 1998-99.

Alas, Mery is finally done terrorizing the opposition's best offensive player, deciding to join the
coaching ranks. Earlier this month, former ODU assistant Cindy Fisher (who coached alongside Wendy Larry in '97) added Andrade to her staff at the University of San Diego. Fisher has been head coach there for a decade.

Andrade retired in May after a long club career in Italy and previously, Portugal. She played in the WNBA, primarily for the former Cleveland team, for five seasons.

"It really is over," she said, genuine wistfulness in her voice. "I keep telling myself it is over. All this practice already with the girls; I want to be playing with them, but can't do."

Andrade said she still feels healthy, "Last year I played 40 minutes, but you know, I'll be 40 this year. I had to stop, and this opportunity came, and I'm really excited about it. All the energy I had when I played, I want to put into coaching. This is a dream come true. I said yes, and didn't think twice."

Shortly after Andrade had knee surgery five years ago, she received a call from ODU coach Karen Barefoot about an assistant position, but it wasn't the right time. "I didn't want my memories of basketball to be from an injury," she said.

Now, with her playing days behind her, she joins a San Diego team that has produced four straight 20-win seasons and is looking to return to the national tournament for the first time since 2008.

Andrade said when she visualizes herself as a coach, she's wants to be open to player needs. "There's no, 'It's my way or the highway,' because in my career I learned so much from every coach I had. They weren't all good things, but I even learned from the bad things. I want to see what fits the players because I don't think a coach should have ideas she doesn't consider changing."

Don't think Andrade doesn't bring in some expectations. She won't back down, she said, from what got her this far in the game. "Intensity, heart -- those are values, not just ways of coaching," she said. "I want to keep the values I grew up with and the work ethic."

While Andrade's college days seem like ions ago in some respects, she hasn't forgotten what she describes as a "short but intense" time. "I bring it with me in everything I do."

The Final Four year, she says, taught her, "When you find yourself in an environment you love, time flies by. That year was like that. The experience in college, I don't know when one year finished and the next started. It was just a ride. It was pure adrenalin in growing and the experience we went through was the best."

She has reminisced with Fisher and fellow San Diego resident Aubrey Eblin and Clar and Ticha, of course. Ticha was her agent this year, and she talks weekly with Clar. She was last at ODU when she was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2010.

Don't look for Mery too close to the East any time soon; the Toreros get no closer to our parts than a trip to Montana State. But she'd welcome a game in the Constant Center.

"That would be my past and my present coming together," she said.

Lady Monarch fans have expressed their congrats to Coach Andrade.

"They've followed my career when I played and now here," she said. "They're like family."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why it's hard for us to embrace the WNBA

The WNBA playoffs are upon; did you know? Unless you are a diehard, probably not. Great players, good basketball, you won't get an argument there. But relevant to move today's sports dial? Even the NBA commish had to admit when asked Thursday,

"It's not where we hoped it would be."

The normally reticent Maya Moore weighed in recently on a disappointing WNBA season in terms of butts in the seats, exposure and an overall lack of momentum.

We are the WBB diehards and even for us, here's what we find distasteful about the WNBA in 2015.

*New York Liberty president Isiah Thomas. How insulting is it to female fans and players that this man is president of a WNBA team? How tone deaf is Adam Silver to say on Thursday that Thomas "made a mistake at Madison Square Garden." A mistake is traveling with the ball. Thomas settled an $11.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit and was said, with several women corroborating, to have created a hostile workplace for women at the Garden. Now he's president of a WNBA team? "Life is complicated," Silver said when asked about it. Not really. It's pretty simple that this man shouldn't be president of a WNBA team.

*Griner/Johnson saga. We don't pretend to have the inside scoop on Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson, but domestic violence and Griner's lack of interest in providing financial support for Johnson's twins -- which we have to assume Griner had some prior knowledge of -- are hard to stomach.  Imagine a male athlete ditching his pregnant wife and the financial responsbilities that come along with children. He'd be crucified in the media. He'd have to answer for it in a press conference. Bottom line: It's hard to cheer for Griner right now.

*The WNBA has a loyal gay and lesbian following,  yet the league continues to market to this fan base in a lukewarm manner and a pride day a year ago was little more than lip service. Maybe they're trying to be PC, but if I'm part of that fan base, I don't feel appreciated. Frankly, I would feel dismissed.

*Tell me why again why anyone in Tulsa should care that the Shock made the playoffs? The Shock finally have a player to be excited about (and yes, bummer that Skylar missed most of this season with a knee injury), and the team is moving to Dallas where they'll be lost in a sports market consumed by football.

*Sylvia Fowles demanding to be traded to one team. Is that what you would expect from one of the faces of the league? Again, picture a franchise player in the men's game demanding to be traded to one team and not having to answer for it. Can't picture it? That's because it wouldn't happen.

*No Taurasi. We don't blame you, Diana, or Candace (who missed the early part of the season to rest). But the fact that international play remains a priority -- and given salaries, that's understandable -- it's hard to invest in a league that doesn't invest in its players.

Media remain remiss to criticize or even to analyze women's athletics with depth. We should be past the point that we're happy women are playing and hold female athletes to the same standards as their male counterparts. That means Griner and Fowles might have to answer some difficult questions.

No don't get us wrong. We like the idea of the WNBA. We respect the overwhelming majority of the player in the WNBA. We were thrilled that Elena Delle Donne, a kid we saw play in high school, got the much-deserved MVP vote. But this is a league with some problems worth addressing that often seems tone deaf to reality. Isn't it time for a realistic conversation about a league that is loaded with talent but struggles for relevancy, that has playoffs just when the NFL and college football have started, that will lose most of its marquee talent in a year to the Olympics?

The WNBA isn't where we want it to be, either, and we admire Silver for his candor, but we hope he moves the ball forward. He has a stake in this league succeeding, but let's not stand around and wonder why it's not. Many of the aforementioned issues need to be addressed in a thoughtful manner.

The league's infomercials say "WNBA cares." Our question is cares about whom?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Being gay in women's basketball: It's still don't ask, don't tell

It's been a little over two months since the Supreme Court ruled on the legality of gay marriages in this country. We haven't heard a peep about it from college women's basketball coaches.

Here's the secret in the collegiate game that everybody knows and nobody talks about. Many of its coaches are gay. Many of its players are lesbians. While it's not unusual for players in the WNBA to come out as Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson have, it is unusual for both professional and collegiate coaches and players to be open about the lifestyle they are leading if they, in fact, happen to be gay.

There are no openly gay coaches in the women's game. A year ago, there was one, Sherri Murrell, who shared news of her partner and children in her bio for Portland State. Murrell was let go after eight seasons last winter.

We had hoped the Supreme Court ruling would pave the way for others to be comfortable enough to be open about their lifestyle that really should be nothing more than that. Just as nobody is making a political statement about being straight; nobody is making a political or theological statement about being gay. Last month, SportsCenter droning in the background, my college-age son and I had the same reaction to a tease for an upcoming story on a Major League Baseball player's decison to come out to his teammates.

"Why is this even a story at all?" my son asked. "So what if he's gay? Do you see stories about players opening declaring they're straight?"

I'm a generation behind him and wonder the same thing. The first black man to play baseball was a story just as the first NFL player to be openly gay was a story. Someday it won't be. Today, we can't see the word Michael Sam in a sentence without a mention of his being gay.

Except that you hear nothing about women's basketball minus the latest revelation in the Griner/Johnson drama. College women's basketball is silent. Insiders still hear about programs that discriminate against gay players, so called "non-gay" programs singled out during a recruiting process that we rarely get a real look at. I've been around this sport for 20 years. I know gay coaches; I know straight coaches; I know gay players; I know straight players. But I would feel just as uncomfortable asking a coach about her partner as she would answering it.

Coaches, perhaps fearful of losing certain recruits, booster support, geez, maybe even their jobs remain silent. They don't talk of partners; they don't share family photos on their bio pages. If their partner has a child, they often don't recognize him or her as their child. But haven't we gotten to the point where if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem?

I asked for response before I wrote this, and most of my emails went unreturned. A refreshing exception was former Old Dominion guard Bettina Love, a Lady Monarch for two seasons prior to transferring to Pitt. Today she is an author, speaker and associate professor of educational theory and practice at the University of Georgia.

Like many college-age women, Love discovered her sexuality in what she calls a welcoming community at Old Dominion, where she met the woman who today is her wife.

For attitudes to change and for progress to be made, Love stressed that being open about lifestyle must come from the top down. Ideally, she said, WNBA presidents, college administration and college coaches would pave the way.

"WNBA coaches don't have to recruit; they don't have to take the heat that a collegiate coach might take," Love said. "

In 2014, the WNBA planned to have a gay pride initiative, which ended up being seen as little more than lip service, a knock to a sizable percentage of the league's fan base.

"If you're looking at the WNBA as a model, this is terrible," Love said. "How do you just deny this huge, loyal fan base you have? You go to any WNBA game, any college game, there are a huge amount of gay people. Because we love the game, because we embrace the community, we tolerate it.

"At the end of the day, it's about revenue. This is the problem with the WNBA. They haven't lost fans because of their homophobia."

Love understands how college coaches are fearful of losing recruits if they open up about their lifestyle, but she adds, "They will also gain some."

Love said she believe many coaches believe they have more to lose than to gain by being open about their sexuality, but isn't it time, she asks for "somebody to step outside the box?"

As for collegiate players . . . 

"There's a difference on everybody on campus knowing an athlete is gay and the public knowing," Love said. "There's this notion these players (like Sam and Griner) are coming out to the public, but that doesn't mean they haven't been living their lives openly gay. I'm a college professor. I don't tell my students I'm gay, but I don't live my life in a way that I'm hiding, either."

One of the most insightful books on the subject is from Kate Fagan, who discovered her sexuality while playing for a University of Colorado team led by born-again Christians. In her book "The Reappearing Act," Fagan talks about losing her best friend, a teammate, because of her sexuality and being made to feel that being a lesbian was a sin. In an article written shortly after the high court's ruling, Fagan questions whether it will have an impact on female athletics and concludes that while it will, it will be in painstakingly slow fashion.

Like my son, I relish the day when this isn't a story -- when we're not looking to either celebrate or condemn a lifestyle. Someone will take the lead in this sport and others will follow. Until it happens, it's still taboo -- unfortunate for a sport that strives to be progressive by its nature.

As always, we welcome your comments.

Related: Same-sex marriage: What's it to you?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Comings and Goings XIII: Hampton

Chanel Green
Here's our final installment of Comings and Goings with a look at Hampton.

The rest of the series is here with an updated note on George Mason's Jasmine Jackson. Makes us giddy for the season!

Comings and Goings: Old Dominion
Comings and Goings: Richmond
Comings and Goings: George Mason
Comings and Goings: Virginia
Comings and Goings: Virginia Tech
Comings and Goings: William and Mary
Comings and Goings: VCU
Comings and Goings: Liberty
Comings and Goings: Longwood
Comings and Goings: Norfolk State
Comings and Goings: Radford

Who's going

Kenia Cole 5-4 Sr. G; graduated, made 17 starts and averaged 7.6 ppg and 3.5 rpg, second in the MEAC in apg (3.9)
Kyani White, 5-7 Sr. G;  graduated, started 29 games and averaged 10.3 ppg, MEAC 3-pt FG percentage leader (.436)
Jackie Marshall 5-9 Sr. G; graduated, played sparingly, scoring just 56 points all season
Lauren Johnson 5-6 Sr. G; graduated, played sparingly, scoring just 23 points all season
Tyler Hobgood, 6-1 R-Jr. F; graduated, made 12 starts and averaged 2.2 ppg; 
Brielle Ward, 6-2 R-Jr. F; graduated and will play her final year of eligibility at St. Francis; started 47 games and averaged more than 20 minutes per game the last two season; averaged 6.9 rpg last season
Barbara Burgess: the former assistant is now head coach at Delaware State

White developed as a scorer at Hampton after transferring in from East Carolina; her 10.3 ppg was second to Malia Tate-DeFreitas (21.3 ppg). Cole's steady hand will also be missed; she led the MEAC in assist-to-turnover ratio. Ward will be asked to fill in the void left by the graduation of three posts for the Red Flash, 6-23 last season.

Who's coming

Leah Whitehead, 6-2 F, Laurel, Md., (Pallotti High) -- transferred to the Maryland private school from Arundel High for her senior year
K'Lynn Willis, 5-5 PG, Detroit (Cass Tech); the point guard has been called "lightning in a bottle," by Pirates coach David Six
Dejanae James, 5-4 G, Hartford, Conn. (Weaver High); slick passer also recruited by Drexel and Marist
Chanel Green; 5-4 G, Washington, D.C., (East Carolina); the transfer played high school ball at Woodson and sat out last season due to NCAA rules; earned invite to the Nike Skills Academy in high school; did not put up significant numbers for ECU; will have two years of eligibility remaining
Janell Crayton: the former assistant at UNC Asheville joins Six's staff

Green's experience and quickness at guard should mesh well with a Hampton team that struggled to find scoring at the guard spot a year ago when a last-second basket in the MEAC tournament quarterfinals to Maryland-Eastern Shore prevented a run to a sixth straight title. James' basketball IQ could afford her early playing time, joining a returning nucleus that includes reigning conference Player of the Year Tate-DeFreitas, Kaylah Lupoe, Ryan Jordan and Georgianna Gilbeaux. Lupoe emerged as a scorer late in the season, scoring 81in a four-game span.

Jephany Brown, a 6-0 forward from Washington, D.C., who ranks as one of the top five junior college prospects in the nation and played high school ball with Green, signed with Hampton but her availability is uncertain until she finishes summer session at Walters State (Tenn.) Community College. Taylor Pate, a 6-2 forward/center form Proviso West High in Hillside, Ill., will not be attending Hampton this fall.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Comings and Goings XII: Radford

Alexis Jackson

Winding down Comings and Goings with Radford.

The rest of the series so far with Hampton on deck:

Comings and Goings: Old Dominion
Comings and Goings: Richmond
Comings and Goings: George Mason
Comings and Goings: Virginia
Comings and Goings: Virginia Tech
Comings and Goings: William and Mary
Comings and Goings: VCU
Comings and Goings: Liberty
Comings and Goings: Longwood
Comings and Goings: Norfolk State

Who's going

Ayana Avery, 5-5 G 10.6 ppg, 36 percent from 3
Jordynn Gaymon, 6-1 F, 6.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg
Kiera McIvor 5-9 G, 3.6 ppg
Janelle James, 6-3 C; slowed by knee injury as a freshman last season; the Lancaster, Ohio native has transferred to Ohio State but will not play basketball
Britney Anderson: assistant coach has returned to her alma mater, Virginia Tech, to assist Dennis Wolff

These guys will be missed; Avery, Gaymon and McIvor started a combined 70 games last season, and Avery led the Highlanders in scoring. James, who recovered from knee surgery, returns closer to home to finish her education. The 17 wins last season was the most since 2007-08.

Who's coming

Destinee Walker, 5-11 G/F, Florence, S.C. (West Florence High), All-Star Girls Report lists the versatile wing as the 347th overall recruit in the country, the highest-ranked recruit ever signed by coach Mike McGuire; averaged 16.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.8 apg and 3.3 spg as a senior; amassed more than 1,000 career points; two-time Region 6-4A Player of the Year; two times all state; accepted to Team USA U17 tryouts last summer in Colorado Springs
Sydney Nunley, 6-3 C, Lewisburg, W.Va. (Meade High); had a triple-double (21 points, 16 boards, 11 blocks on Senior Night); averaged 15 ppg, 16 rpg, 5 blocks as a junior when she led G
Lydia Rivers, 6-2 F, Kinston, N.C. (Kinston High); sidelined most of her senior season recovering from an ACL injury; MVP of state championship in 2013 when she recorded 9 blocks; named Kinston's Female Athlete of the Year after averaging a double-double as a junior; two-time MVP for volleyball and track and president of her class her junior year; dad played tight end at Virginia tech
Jen Falconer, 5-7 G, Mechanicsburg, Pa. (Cumberland Valley High); led Cumberland Valley to the PIAA 4A state title game as a junior; leading goal scorer as a freshman and sophomore for school soccer team and named Mid Penn Conference Player of the Year as a junior when she was selected to play in the 2014 High School All-American Girls' Soccer game
Alexis Jackson, 5-8 G, Severn, Md. (Meade High); amassed more than 1,000 career points; can play all five positions; selected as a U.S. Junior National all-star after her junior year; one of two students selected from her high school to attend a student-athlete leadership conference in 2014
Courtney Davidson, assistant coach: the Michigan State standout who will assist with the point guards was the former director of operations at the College of Charleston and Youngstown State

Third-year coach McGuire looks to build on a banner year when the Highlanders advanced to the postseason WNIT with a 17-14 record, finishing tied for second in the Big South. Starters Aisha Foy (10.3 ppg), Janayla White (6.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Jayda Worthy (7.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are joined by a crop of newcomers we're excited to see.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Comings and Goings XI: Norfolk State

Michelle Wright joins the Spartans                                         
Here's a look at Norfolk State's Comings and goings.

The series so far:

Comings and Goings: Old Dominion
Comings and Goings: Richmond
Comings and Goings: George Mason
Comings and Goings: Virginia
Comings and Goings: Virginia Tech
Comings and Goings: William and Mary
Comings and Goings: VCU
Comings and Goings: Liberty
Comings and Goings: Longwood
Who's going

Rae Corbo, 5-6 G started in all 30 games her senior year, leading scorer with 20.8 ppg
Ebony Brown, 5-9 F, played in 14 games, 2.1 ppg
Jazamine Gray, 5.4 F, 4.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, started all 30 games
Aivah Parham, 5-10 F, 4.7 ppg, 5.1 ppg
Io Chaney, 5-11 G/F, played in 12 games, averaged 1.2 ppg, has transferred to American University

The huge loss is Corbo, a should-of-been MEAC first-teamer who delivered consistently last season with 15 20-point games and was clutch in the conference tournament.

Who's coming
Michelle Wright, 5-10 F Baltimore (Baltimore City Community College/Dunbar High), Maryland Junior College Player of the Year after leading Baltimore City with 20.7 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 3.6 spg; will have two years of eligibility remaining; also shot 33 percent from 3; led Dunbar to consecutive Class A state titles and was first-team All-Metro (Baltimore Sun), spent her freshman year at Moberly (Missouri) Community College
Ashante Doby, 5-5 G, Palm Beach, Fla. (Miami Dade College/Palm Beach High), first-team All-Southern Conference honors, averaging 8.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.4 spg; shot 36 percent from 3, attended Palm Beach Central for one year after graduating Palm Beach High
Quiera Gilmore, 5-6 G, Charlotte, N.C. (Ardrey Kell High) averaged 5.6 ppg, 5 apg, 3.1 spg
Yazmen Hannah, 5-7 G, Hickory, N.C. (Hickory High), AP all-state selection, led Hickory to 47-0 finish and 3A state championship
Alexys Long, Clinton, Md. 5-10 F, (Largo High), 12.7 ppg,  younger sis of NSU men's signee Alex Long
Kiara Phillips, 5-10 G, Melbourne, Australia: Gulf Coast State: The Australian played in 26 games last season, averaging 4.7 ppg and 1.3 rpg; will have two years of eligibility remaining; her twin sis, Tenaya, plays professionally in Australia

Exciting to see the Spartans sign such a sizable class. Expect Wright to be an early contributor given her impressive resume that will complement the offensive prowess of Kayla and Nia Roberts. Debra Clark looks ready to build on last season's success that included an 11-5 conference mark, a defeat of Hampton and a trip to the MEAC Tournament semifinals.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Comings and goings X: Longwood

Here we go with another installment of Comings and goings. This time it's Longwood, which finished 4-26 during an injury-plagued 2014-15 season.

The other installments:

Comings and Goings: Old Dominion
Comings and Goings: Richmond
Comings and Goings: George Mason
Comings and Goings: Virginia
Comings and Goings: Virginia Tech
Comings and Goings: William and Mary
Comings and Goings: VCU
Comings and Goings: Liberty

Ebony Gilliam

Who's going

Riannah Frazer 5-4 G: Graduated last spring and will play her final year at Division III Stevenson University near Baltimore
Shannon Mosby 5-3 G: Played 22 games last season as a walk-on and averaged 2.4 ppg, transferred to Division II Salem International in West Virginia.

Who's coming

Ciarah Bennett, 5-5 PG, Camden, N.J. (Woodrow Wilson High), 12.1 ppg, 5.2 apg
Ashlee Jones, 5-9 G, Orlando, Fla. (University High); 12.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, named University High Female Athlete of the Year
Kate Spradlin, 5-8 G, Blue Ridge, Va. (Lord Botetourt HS): walk-on
Eboni Gilliam, 6-0 F, Richmond, Va. (L.C. Byrd High, Cape Fear Community College); 13.6 ppg (2nd-leading scorer), 9.0 rpg, 33 double-doubles for Lady Sea Devils; first player in program history to sign with D-I school; has two years of eligibility remaining
Kemari Jones, 6-0 F, Melbourne, Fla. (Melbourne Central Catholic); 18 ppg, 11 rpg; Honorable mention Class 3A all-state (Florida Association of Basketball Coaches)

Coach Bill Reinson tells us Daesha Brown, who underwent ACL surgery last December, is on the mend nicely, about a month ahead of schedule, and Khalilah Ali, who also tore her ACL and sustained meniscus damage, should also be ready by the season's start barring complications. Brown played in just three games last year before the knee injury, scoring 29 against Wake Forest and Ali started in seven.

Expect to see what physical post Eboni Gilliam can do right away, as she comes in with junior college experience under her belt, and Bennett looks to be an adept passer who can give a boost to the Lancers offense. Another bright spot: Autumn Childress will enter the season healthy. The ACL tear she suffered in high school is long behind her as is anemia. Reinson said fatigue slowed Childress last season before doctors determined she had almost no iron in her blood. He expects her to make an impact at both the 3 and the 4.

The Lancers are in for a treat in August with a 10-day trip to Italy that will include four games, one against the national team from Cameroon. Road games against James Madison, Oregon State, Virginia and West Virginia are on tap during the season.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Comings and goings IX: Liberty

Brooke Alexander
We move along with Part IX of Comings and goings with Liberty.

The rest of the series:

Comings and Goings: Old Dominion
Comings and Goings: Richmond
Comings and Goings: George Mason
Comings and Goings: Virginia
Comings and Goings: Virginia Tech
Comings and Goings: William and Mary
Comings and Goings: VCU

Who's going

Karly Buer: 5-7 G, 11.6 ppg, second leading scorer on the team last year;
Jasmine Gardner: 6-2 F/C, started 2 games, averaged 4.4 ppg
Ellee Rollins: 5-7 G, played 97 minutes last year, averaging 0.7 ppg
Emily Frazier: 5-7 G, started 16 games, averaging 4.9 ppg
Simone Brown: 5-11 F, started 26 games last year as a sophomore, averaging 7.5 ppg, transferring to University of North Florida near her home in Land O' Lakes, Fla.

Buer played just one year at Liberty after graduating from Missouri State, but sparked the Lady Flames from the 3-point line and was a key cog in the team's Big South championship and near upset of North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Brown will sit out next season for the Ospreys per NCAA transfer rules and have two years of eligibility remaining.

Who's coming

Brooke Alexander: 6-0 F Frisco, Texas (Prestonwood Christian Academy), averaged 13.5 ppg for first-ever state champion Prestonwood Christian in 2014 and also led team in assists, steals and 3-pointers made; team reached state final in 2015; TAPPS 5A all-state as a junior and senior; finalist for her school's Athlete of the Year award, generated interest from Texas A&M and Arizona among others
Keturah "KK" Barbour: 6-1 F, Charlottesville, Va. (Albemarle High); All-time leading scorer at Albemarle, amassing more than 1,200 points; averaged 23.8 ppg and 10.2 rpg as a senior; cousin to former VCU player Andrea Barbour
Stephanie Patton: 5-9 G, Hiawassee Ga.. (Hayesville High); amassed nearly 1,400 career points and 193 treys; transferred from Towns County High in Georgia to Hayesville midway through her junior season; at Towns County, set freshman class scoring record (326 points) and was the Georgia Class A state golf runner-up
Molly Reagan: 6-2 F/C, Braintree, Mass. (Braintree High); led Braintree to a 24-1 record and Massachusetts Division 1 state championship as a junior; selected Liberty over Yale, Dartmouth and Princeton; one of three Division I players at Braintree (Ashley Russell (Penn) and Bridget Herlihy (Villanova)); the three were 95-7 at their high school with two state titles
Kaitlyn Stovall: 6-3 F/G, Hopewell, Va. (Home-schooled), played high school ball at TPLS Christian Academy in Midlothian; part of BWSL AAU team that won a national title her freshman year and was national runner-up her sophomore year

Kudos to Carey Green and staff for what looks to be a recruiting class full of bigs that will leave an impact at Liberty. Reagan's basketball IQ looks to match her academic smarts, and we're excited to see Liberty get a near-local in Barbour. With the return of Ashley Rininger (12.8 ppg, .518 FG percentage) and a cast that includes Sadalia Ellis, Emily Frazier and Katelyn Adams, we expect the Lady Flames to make their usual run to a Big South championship and earn a 17th trip to the national tournament.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Comings and Goings Part VIII: VCU

Prom queen and new Ram Sandra Skinner
We continue to take a look at the Comings and goings from our state teams. Our latest installment: Virginia Commonwealth.

The others we've written about so far:

Comings and Goings: Old Dominion
Comings and Goings: Richmond
Comings and Goings: George Mason
Comings and Goings: Virginia
Comings and Goings: Virginia Tech
Comings and Goings: William and Mary
Comings and Goings: James Madison

Who's going

Brittani Burgess, G/F; 1.2 ppg; transferred to Maryland-Baltimore County
Briana DuBose, 5-10 G/F; 1.1 ppg; transferred to American
Monnazjea Finney-Smith: 6-1 G, 9 starts last season, averaged 5.6 ppg; transferred to Hampton
Rob Norris: Beth O'Boyle's assistant is now an assistant at Georgia Tech

The three Marlene Stollings recruits hope to find playing time elsewhere. Finney-Smith (5.4 ppg) was a significant contributor. Burgess and DuBose were never able to find meaningful minutes under Beth O'Boyle, who took over at VCU in April 2014 after Stollings left for Minnesota.

Who's coming

Bria Gibson: 6-1 F, Raleigh, N.C. (Sanderson High), 19 ppg
Sandra Skinner, 6-0 F, Winchester, Ky. (George Rogers Clark High), all-state in 2014, leading her high school to Final Four, amassed more than 1,000 points as a junior, also played volleyball and ran track, 3-star recruit according to ESPN
Katherine Strong: 6-0 F, Chicago Heights, Ill., (Bloom High), tore her ACL as a junior; nominated for McDonald's All-American Game as a senior
Galaisha Goodhope, 5-5 G, transfer from Old Dominion who was dismissed from the team; part of CAA All-Rookie team and biology major who plans to be a doctor, will have two years of eligibility for the Rams; averaged 8.1 ppg her sophomore season
Richard Fortune: Former ODU assistant joins Beth O'Boyle's staff, reuniting him with Goodhope, who he coached for two years.

Lots of size with this Rams class, which also includes Goodhope, a capable point guard with scoring ability. VCU finished 16-14 last season but struggled to find firepower on offense and dropped seven of its final nine. The Rams return their top five scorers led by Isis Thorpe (12.3 ppg), but could benefit by one of the freshmen posts making an early impact. Shanice Johnson (6-0 F), who the school had announced would be on the team after being suspended from Delaware last January, will not be joining the Rams this fall.