Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reflection: Liberty

Avery Warley
2010-11 season: 22-11. Lost in the Big South Tournament championship to Gardner-Webb 67-66; Lost in the first round of the WNIT to Charlotte, 62-56

Who's leaving: Dymond Morgan 4.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg; Rachel McLeod 2.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg; Kittery Maine 1.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Who's coming: Katelyn Adams, 6-5 forward/center, Minnehaha Academy (Minn.): Defending state champion Minnehaha was state runner-up in Class AA; Adams played in the MCBCA All-Star game; Catherine Kearney, 6-5 center, Gloucester County Christian (N.J.): Averaged 27.1 ppg, amassing 569 points her senior year;Off an assist by sister Sarah, Catherine scored her 2,000th point, the only player in Tri-State Christian Athletic Conference with that distinction; Reagan Miller, 5-7 guard, Sanger (Texas): Led Sanger to a District 9-3A title; Competed   in the Class 3A-under game and in the Texas Girls Coaches Association All-Star Game; MVP 9-3A District; Ashley Rininger, 6-4 center, Glenoak (Ohio): Honorable mention AP Divison I All-Ohio, Averaged 14.6 ppg and 9.9 rpg her senior year; Carries a 4.14 GPA

High point: A 59-57 win at VCU, the regular-season sweep of Gardner-Webb and a top seed-clinching 72-58 decision over UNC Asheville were all highlights. But our favorite result was a 75-71 win over Longwood in which Devon Brown scored 21of her 27 points in the second half to rally the Flames from a 10-point deficit.

Low point: A 50-48 loss at North Carolina Central (RPI 325), a defeat that has to rank among the worst in the program's Division I history.

Stock: Holding steady.

Given that virtually everyone was returning from a 27-win, NCAA Tournament team, a Big South tournament runner-up that loses in the first round of the WNIT wasn't exactly what Liberty coach Carey Green - or anyone else for that matter - had in mind. He elevated the schedule, but do you think he even would have guessed that Liberty would square off against eventual national champ Texas A&M and Final Four participant Baylor?

Losses to that caliber of team don't hurt you. Unfortunately for the Lady Flames, those other losses got in the way of the type of marquee season Liberty seemed destined for. The first hurdle wasn't an opponent, it was Devon Brown. A first-team All-Big South performer as a freshman in 2009-10, Brown missed the first seven games with a knee injury and a nagging dancer's toe injury. Liberty's offense suffered; the sophomore guard wasn't in the lineup for either Texas A&M or Baylor, games when they managed 49 and 42 points of offense, respectively.

Even with Brown back, Liberty didn't dominate the Big South in typical fashion. Radford stunned Liberty, which committed 21-second half turnovers that led to the first Highlanders victory at the Vines Center since 1996. The string of 28 consecutive victories over Charleston-Southern came to an end with a 54-51 Lady Buccaneers win in February. And then the biggest disappointment of them all, a one-point loss by the top seeds to Gardner-Webb in the Big South title game -- Liberty's first-ever loss in 14 trips to the tournament final.

Turnovers are the telling stat for Liberty. The Lady Flames ranked 299th in Division I in this category (20.5 per game). That's a ton of empty possessions and more than anything else defined why the Flames ended their season wondering "what if?" In his fine season-ending recap of the Liberty season, the News and Advance's Chris Lang pointed out that Liberty was 16-0 when it committed fewer than 20 turnovers in a game; 6-11 with 20 or more.

The natural tendency when seeing turnover numbers like Liberty's is to wonder what's up with the point guard. And granted, Liberty did heap a lot of responsibility on freshman Emily Frazier. But coughing the ball up as much as Liberty did can't be the work of just one player. Turnovers were a team-wide deficiency at Liberty, and everyone needs to apply the attention to detail to curb the problem.

Assuming they can, we're bullish on Liberty's chances of returning to their accustomed spot atop the conference. Avery Warley enjoyed a breakout season, just like Brown did in 2009-10. If Brown can get a clean bill of health and return to that form, Liberty could boast the two best players in the league.

In addition, even in a relative down year Liberty maintained its reputation as beasts of the backboards (No. 2 in Division I in rebounding margin). With 6-4, 6-5 and 6-5 recruits coming in, it's as though Green has taken out another four-year lease on rebounding dominance.

Despite a negative assist-turnover ratio, Frazier showed plenty of promise in her trial-by-fire debut season. With a full campaign under her belt, she figures to play more confidently at the point. And while the loss of Maine, McLeod and Morgan - seniors who were part of a program-record 101 victories - definitely creates a leadership void, Liberty shouldn't have much trouble replacing their on-court production.

In other words, Liberty appears to have everything in place to beat everyone in the Big South and just about anyone on their schedule (assuming they're not headed back to Waco and College Station). That is, if they can learn to stop beating themselves.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CAA travel partners good news for William and Mary

Wonder what's behind the CAA's new "travel partner" format? William and Mary Debbie Taylor calls herself the instigator of it, when it comes to the women's teams.

Each team was asked to list five permanent partners in rank order to play home and away for the next three years (10 games), with only the top choice guaranteed. The remaining six “non-permanent partners” rotate through a three-year cycle in which teams face two opponents at home, two opponents away and two opponents home and away (8 games) each year.

Why does this matter? Consider William and Mary's schedule last year. Its five permanent partners were JMU, Wilmington, ODU, VCU and Drexel -- which finished 1-2-3-4-6 in the conference, and it has been like that for the last six years.

Taylor said previously the women's teams had been assigned the same travel partners as the men's teams.

The new format "is all about creating competitive equity in the league," said Taylor, who noted that picking up a few more wins could move a team from the bottom half to the top half of the conference.

The change means ODU and W&M, about 40 minutes apart, will not play each other twice every year anymore.

"In a perfect world, I'd love to play ODU twice," Taylor said. "But I'm more concerned about my schedule being equally balanced."

W&M's new permanent partners are Drexel, George Mason, UNCW, Towson and VCU. For Old Dominion: George Mason, Georgia State, James Madison, UNCW and VCU. For James Madison: George Mason, Hofstra, ODU, Towson and VCU. For George Mason: Delaware, JMU, ODU, Towson and W&M. For VCU: Georgia State, JMU, UNCW, ODU and W&M.

Reflection: Old Dominion

Tia Lewis
2010-11 season: 20-11, 14-4 CAA; Lost in the QF of the CAA Tournament to Delaware and upset by Loyola in the first round of the WNIT.

Who's leaving?: Jasmine Parker (11.8 ppg, 4.3 apg), Shadasia Green (8.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Alena Voronina (11.3, 5.4 ppg), Kquanise Byrd (7.5 ppg)

Who's coming: Myeisha Hall, 5-8 guard, Palm Beach Lakes High (Fla.): Finalist for Pathfinder Award recognizing female achievement in sports; McDonald's All-American award finalist; Scored 37 points to help Palm Beach Lakes clinch No. 1 seed in District 15-5A playoffs; Named First Team All State, Florida Athletic Coaches Association; Named 5A Player of Year by Florida Association of Basketball Coaches; Averaged 24.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, drained 55 3-pointers her senior season; Queen Tiye Jackson, 5-11 forward, Trenton Catholic (N.J.): Powered Trenton Catholic to its fourth state title in five years; Led Trenton Catholic to NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals; Tiffany Minor, 5-11 forward, The Maret School (Washington D.C.): Averaged 15.4 ppg her senior year; 2011 Finalist, Girls Subway 3-point Shootout; Ashley Betz-White, 5-3 guard, Trinity (Pa.): First Team Patriot-News' "Big 15" team despite being hampered by a knee injury that forced her to miss eight games this season. Scored 1,000th point on Jan. 2; Kaneisha Atwater, 5-7 guard, Fort Pierce Atwater (Fla.): Averaged 29.2 ppg, 6.2 apg, drained 10 3-pointers her senior season; Earned the sixth triple-double of her senior season in the first round of the district playoffs; Ranked ninth all time in the state in 400 meters (1:02.17).

High point: Victories over Georgia Tech (65-63) and Louisville (69-65)

Low point: First-ever CAA Tournament QF loss to Delaware; Falling on home floor to Loyola 67-65

Stock of program: Bumpy times

What has happened to the Lady Monarchs? Look at their overall record and note their 2010-11 nonconference wins over NCAA Tournament teams Louisville, Georgia Tech and James Madison, and it's easy to say, whatever do you mean? Look closer and you'll find Wendy Larry's program in uncharted territory.

First, some history. This team dominated a conference in a way that no program in the nation has ever duplicated, winning 17 straight conference championships, and at one point, 113 straight CAA games. ODU wins in the CAA weren't news during that span -- it was a time when a victory by fewer than 10 points was noteworthy, and the rare conference loss was front page news.

Flash back to Jan. 25, 2009, ODU ahead by double digits over James Madison when down went point guard Jazzmin Walters. The senior returned for a series, but hobbled off with what was later diagnosed as a broken leg. Things have never been the same in Lady Monarch-land since.

ODU lost that game 72-67, its first CAA loss of the 2009-10 season and only the third time the Lady Monarchs had ever dropped a league contest on their home floor.  What followed was six more conference losses: to VCU, Hofstra, James Madison again, Drexel, Georgia State and George Mason, a victor over ODU for the first time in 45 games.

A semifinal loss to Drexel in the CAA Tournament -- ODU's first-ever in the event -- ended ODU's run of 17 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.The loss itself wasn't as stunning as the immediate acceptance of the defeat.

Year after year ODU teams talked about not wanting to be the team that ended the streak. But when it was all said and done, no player took ownership of starting a new streak and upholding a tradition that is among the richest in the sport. Life simply went on; the sun came up even though the Lady Monarchs were no longer CAA champs.

The 2009-10 team put together a fine record on paper. The conference has improved and four losses in the CAA, disappointing by Lady Monarch standards, is hardly egregious. Look closer. One of the losses was to Northeastern. Another was to Towson, on senior night at the Constant Center in front of Clarisse Machanguana, Lucienne Berthieu, Mery Andrade, Natalie Diaz, T.J. Jordan, Shareese Grant -- players who hadn't a clue what a loss at home to a conference foe felt like.

Now we come to this season, which ODU started off in inspiring fashion, putting together the best nonconference win slate of any team in the CAA. The Lady Monarchs would have had an at-large case for an NCAA Tourney bid, only like the prior two seasons, they struggled in their own league -- swept by VCU, beaten at Drexel and finally stunned by 17 at the CAA Tournament by Delaware, showing little fight and even less ferver. Playing in front of 450 folks, ODU ended its season at home with a first-round WNIT loss to Loyola, a team that frankly shouldn't be in ODU's zip code.

What has happened to the Lady Monarchs, who had at least one first team All-CAA Player in 17 of the first 18 years in the league but has had none the last two years? The last time ODU boasted the conference Player of the Year was Lucienne Berthieu in 2002. While transfer have been an issue -- seven in the last four years -- that is hardly unusual in the sport. James Madison has lost five in the same period.

Recruiting, no doubt, has become the biggest issue, and we're not talking about competing against the likes of Tennessee and Connecticut. The CAA's best players the last three years have not worn blue and white. In years past, George Mason produced a Jen Derevjanik and VCU, a Kristine Austgulen. But by and large, the elite in the conference had ODU on their backs. ODU is no longer getting the best players in the league and the players that are there don't appear to buy in to this notion: It's not about you when you wear an Old Dominion uniform. It's about Lieberman and Donovan and Marianne Stanley and Ticha Penicheiro. It's about Natalie Diaz playing on bad knees, Walters splashing an improbable 3-pointer against Virginia, Shareese Grant refusing to let ODU not win another CAA championship. And yes, it's about Wendy Larry, one of the most respected coaches in the game who exceeded the 600 win mark last year.

We don't pretend to know the ins and outs of what's going on internally at ODU. We know this. For the last three years, by ODU standards, this team has unraveled at the time in the season when most teams are peaking. Chemistry has been an issue and pride an even bigger one. Five kids with good looking resumes are coming into the 2011-12 season -- players who were looking at some marquee programs and selected Old Dominion first.Also it appears leading scorer and rebounder Tia Lewis will return for a senior year, and Mairi Buchan will be healthy again to finish out her career. These Lady Monarchs will be young and given that, they will be impressionable, capable of being molded.

Larry must make these players buy in from the tip. If we are to believe athletic director Wood Selig her future depends on it. Hers and ODU's.

Monday, April 25, 2011

VCU's Hurt invited to World University Games tryout

We spent a good portion of the season wondering whether anyone outside of the CAA was noticing the kind of season VCU star Courtney Hurt was putting together. Evidently USA Basketball was paying attention - the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Hurt will be one of 30-35 players that will try out for the 12-member World University Games team May 21-25 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"Being invited means somebody thinks I'm one of the best players in the country," said Hurt, who led Division I in rebounding and double-doubles last season. "It also means that once I get there, I'm going to have to compete against the best players in the country."

The World University Games will be held Aug. 12-23 in Shenzhen, China. Hurt will be the second VCU player invited to try out, joining former Rams center Quanitra Hollingsworth (2006 and 2007). And making the team would give Hurt something in common with VCU coach Beth Cunningham, the former Notre Dame star who earned a gold medal with Team USA during the 1997 World University Games.

The other players participating in the tryouts have yet to be announced. The team's head coach is Iowa State's Bill Fennelly; Duquesne's Suzie McConnell-Serio and Georgetown's Terri Williams-Flournoy are the assistants.

Reflection: Radford

Da'Naria Erwin Spencer
2010-2011 season: 14-16 overall, 11-5 Big South (tied for 2nd); Earned No. 2 seed in Big South Tournament via tiebreaker, lost in first round to Winthrop.

Who's leaving: Denay Wood (9.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Kaylyn Crosier (3.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg); Brooke McElroy (9.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg); Ciara Hayes 2.4, 1.9 rpg); 

Who's coming: 
Ayana Avery, 5-5 guard, West Rowan (N.C.): Averaged 19.5 points and scored a school-record 1,995 in her four-year career; Jordynn Gaymon, 6-1 forward, Sun Valley (N.C.): Averaged 16.4 points and 12.2 rebounds. An All-District 9 first-team selection by the North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association.; Ashia Holmes, 5-8 guard, Salisbury (N.C.): Averaged 10 points, 6 steals and 7 rebounds and was the catalyst for Salisbury's 2A state championship team. Named championship game MVP and regional tournament MVP. One of four Division I starters on the team; the fifth starter was highly touted freshman Brielle Blair, the player who reportedly was offered a scholarship by Virginia Tech, among others, before she entered high school. Has a twin sister, Ayanna, who has signed with Charlotte.; Kiera McIvor, 5-9 guard, Dudley (N.C.): Averaged about 8 ppg as part of a balanced attack on a powerhouse (25-2) Dudley squad. Described by coach Tajama Ngongba as "a true game-changer."; Dominique Powell, 6-2 center, Archbishop Carroll (Washington D.C.): Ngongba:  “Dominique is another athletic post player. We will look to her to be a future enforcer in the paint. Her big wing span will give her an advantage in scoring, rebounding and defending on the inside.”

High point: The 2010-11 Highlanders accomplished something previous Radford teams - or any other Big South team for that matter, rarely pulls off - beating Liberty in Lynchburg. Radford's 62-53 triumph on Jan. 17 was the program's first at the Vines Center since 1996. But for pure emotion, it probably didn't get much better than when the Highlanders rallied on the road to beat former Radford coach Jeri Porter and her George Mason Patriots.

Low point: On Dec. 30, the Highlanders committed 34 turnovers in a 73-50 loss at home to Richmond to fall to 4-10. We didn't like where the season appeared to be heading.

Program stock: Movin' on up.

Of all the teams we follow here at LadySwish, none is tougher to get a read on than this Highlanders bunch.  When they split their first four games, capped by that stirring win at George Mason, we thought, OK, looks like they've got things figured out.

Then they dropped their next eight against Division I opponents.

Well, maybe next year....

Then they won their Big South opener (as always) en route to a 7-1 start in conference play.

Whoa! The Highlanders are for real! Now if they can just....

Then they lost three straight to slide out of the conference lead.

Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted....

Then they rattled off four straight victories, two in overtime, and took eventual tournament champion Gardner-Webb to yet another overtime in the regular-season finale.

Number two seed in the conference tourney? Sweet! We know they'd love another shot at Gardner-Webb in the semis, or Liberty in the final. Can't wait to see how....

Then they bombed in the first round of the conference tourney, shooting a measly 22 percent in a 21-point loss to No. 7 Winthrop.

Busch Gardens doesn't have roller-coasters that wild. Take away that absolute stinker at the end, though, and it's clear the Highlanders have removed most of the debris from last season's 6-23 finish and re-established themselves among the contenders in the Big South. It's as though the players have finally embraced third-year coach Tajama Abraham Ngongba's program and realized, hey, this stuff really works!

The season featured the continued development of sophomore Da'Naria Erwin Spencer, a first-team All-Big South pick who finished among the conference's top six players in points (14.3), assists, steals and free-throw percentage and dropped a career-high 30 on Presbyterian. The Highlanders also benefited from a full season from Brooke McElroy, the 6-0 redshirt senior who was unavailable after the first 9 games in 2009-10 but went the distance last season and finished third on the team in scoring (9.0 ppg) while being by far the Highlanders' best rebounder (7.3 rpg).

Still, Radford's signature remains its disruptive, ball-hawking defense that at its best contested every pass and nearly every dribble. Radford led the Big South and ranked 14th nationally in steals per game (12.2) with Erwin Spencer, McElroy and Kay Vick leading the theft parade. Radford forced 20 or more turnovers 16 times, and 30 or more on four occasions.

The ability to turn defense into offense was key, because the Highlanders often struggled to turn offense into offense. Radford ranked 303rd out of 333 teams in assists per game (10.3) and shot just 36.8 percent from the field. Furthermore, in an age when the 3-point shot has become increasingly important, the Highlanders had just one player (Kaylyn Crosier) who connected on at least 35 percent from distance. As a team, Radford shot a paltry 28 percent from beyond the arc.

Becoming more efficient on offense - perhaps by sharing the ball better - should pay big dividends for the Highlanders. They'll also need to replace, and hopefully exceed, McElroy's team-leading 7.3 boards a game. No other Highlander averaged as many as five boards per game.

So let's see. The Highlanders were below average in passing, shooting and rebounding, yet still won nearly half their games and contended in the Big South. No wonder Ngongba was the league's coach of the year.
Clearly there's still plenty of work to do if Radford wants to make noise outside of its conference. But for most teams, digging in on defense and totally committing to the game plan are the hard parts. These Highlanders appear to have that stuff down cold.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

LadySwish wishes all women's basketball fans a Happy Easter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reflection: VCU

Courtney Hurt
2010-2011 season: 19-12 overall; 13-5 CAA; Lost to St. Joseph's in the first round of the WNIT

Who's leaving: Ebony Patterson (0.6 ppg, only played 42 minutes the entire season due to injury), Jessica Taylor (5 ppg, 2.7 rpg)

Who's coming: Christina Carter, 5-9 guard, Thomasville (N.C.): Scored 27 points with 9 rebounds and 8 assists in Thomasville's Section 2 championship game over Central Davidson, leading the Bulldogs to advance to the regional for the first time since 2005. Despite a team-high 17 points from Carter, Thomasville lost in the first round of the region. First Team All-Central Carolina Conference. 2010-11 All-County First Team (Dispatch); Aprill McRae, 6-3 center, Southeast Raleigh (N.C.) McDonald's All-American nominee; Scored 16 points to go with 11 rebounds over Fayetteville to power Southeast Raleigh to its fourth straight Eastern Region 4-A berth. Notes VCU coach Beth Cunningham, "Aprill might be the most heavily recruited player coming out of high school we have signed since I've been at VCU." ; Melanie Royster, 6-4 forward/center, Elizabeth Seton (Md.) McDonald's All-American nominee; Played in Elite Showcase Basketball Classic at Verizon Center in March; WCAC Second-Team All-Conference; Kiana Trice-Hill, 6-3 forward/center, Oak Hill Academy (Va.): McDonald's All-American nominee who loves to rebound; Played in Elite Showcase Basketball Classic at Verizon Center in March. Daughter of Rams assistant coach Trena Trice-Hill

High point: That sweep of Old Dominion was pretty sweet as was an 87-76 victory over Hofstra in the CAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Low point: A 63-31 overtime loss to Virginia Tech on Nov 21 started a three-game losing streak; the Rams were also beaten 65-58 at Towson

Program stock: Steady with tremendous upside

Shaka Smart got all the national attention. But what a job Beth Cunningham did with a Rams team that most considered in rebuilding mode prior to the start of the season.

D'Andra Moss, La'Tavia Rorie and Kita Waller were gone. Jessica Taylor and Ebony Patterson spent the bulk of the season injured. Courtney Hurt was the leading returning scorer, but her numbers from her sophomore year weren't mind numbing, just a decent 13.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg.

What a player Hurt evolved into as a junior. She didn't get CAA Player of the Year despite turning in the most consistent season in the league, blistering opponents with 23.2 ppg (second in the NCAA), 12.4 rpg (best in the NCAA) and 25 double-doubles (best in the NCAA). She received honorable mention All-American status, leaving us with one question. Honorable mention? Hurt was the first Rams player named to the Naismith watch list.

Nine games into the season Andrea Barbour gained eligibility, and suddenly the Rams had another ace. The former ACC Rookie of the Year (Virginia Tech) averaged 16.3 points and was a steady complement to Hurt. Sonia Johnson and Jennifer Lane added to the supporting cast. One problem, though, depth. The Rams had none.

They couldn't hang with James Madison, which beat them three times during the season, including in the CAA Tournament semifinals. They handled ODU with ease, surviving a voracious comeback by the Lady Monarchs at the Constant Center. This was a team that didn't seem to have the horses to win the CAA, but playing the Rams and containing Hurt and Barbour was no picnic.

With the recruits coming in, VCU will be deeper next year and Hurt will be battling Elena Delle Donne for Player of the Year honors. James Madison and ODU will be young; it's conceivable this team will be the favorite to win the league. A strong start to the season and a signature win could really benefit the VCU resume. The Rams struggled through a somewhat weak nonconference schedule this season, but with a seasoned Hurt and Barbour returning, should look to toughen up the slate.

We didn't anticipate the type of season Hurt completed and look forward to a senior year that could earn her a spot in the WNBA draft.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Xavier hires coach and it's not Cunningham

Amy Waugh will be announced as the new head coach at Xavier Wednesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.

Waugh was an assistant under former coach Kevin McGuff, who departed to accept the head coaching job at Washington.

VCU's Beth Cunninham, as reported by Mel Greenberg earlier Wednesday morning, was a candidate for the job.

Speaking of Cunningham, her former player Quanitra Hollingsworth, entering her third season with the Minnesota Lynx, tweets that the Rams coach has a little bump. "I'm prepared to spoil this baby already," said Tuesday's Hollingsworth tweet. Congrats to Beth from LadySwish!!

VCU's Cunningham a candidate at Xavier, Guru says

Another Virginia coach on the move? That's the latest from Guru Mel Greenberg, whose latest post speculates VCU coach Beth Cunningham is a candidate for the head coaching vacancy at Xavier.

Xavier coach Kevin McGuff was named head coach at Washington earlier this month. McGuff was a previous assistant to Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s all-time winningest coach, Cunningham has been head coach at VCU for the last eight years.  A former WNBA player and Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer, Cunningham spent two years as an assistant with the Rams before taking over the reins at the conclusion of the 2002-03 campaign.

Greenberg notes that Cunningham's Notre Dame connections are a key. Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski is an ND alum and, as a player, Cunningham was once to Notre Dame what Skylar Diggins is now (minus the Twitter account).

Of course, none of this would matter if Cunningham wasn't also doing a bang-up job on the Rams sideline.  And last season was arguably her best, as VCU contended for the CAA title and reached the WNIT in what looked to be a transition year. With two CAA Player-of-the-Year caliber returners - Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour - and a strong recruiting class on the way, the Rams loom as a CAA title favorite for 2011-12.

That is, assuming Cunningham is still there to lead the way. Greenberg notes that other candidates are also in play at Xavier so nothing is close to a done deal yet. But if an offer is forthcoming, it'll be interesting to see how VCU plays it. A few weeks ago, the school reportedly managed to scrounge up 1.2 million per year over eight years to keep Shaka Smart coaching its men's hoops team. Can they find a few extra dollars to entice Cunningham to stick around, too? Then again, after a contract like Smart's, is there any money left?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wendy Palmer hired at UNCG

Virginia All-American and WNBA veteran Wendy Palmer is the new head coach at UNC Greensboro.

Palmer, an assistant to Debbie Ryan, replaces Lynne Agee, who retired last month after 30 years coaching the Spartans.

In her two years at Virginia, a two-time ACC Player of the Year helped recruit and sign a class ranked in the top 15 nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz and coached All-American and national Defensive Player of the Year Monica Wright. During Palmer's tenure on the sidelines, Virginia made one NCAA appearance and a WNIT quarterfinals appearance.

Reflection: Hampton

Jericka Jenkins
This is our fourth in a series of reflections about the 13 Division I teams in our state.

2010-11 season: 25-7, 15-1 MEAC. Regular-season and conference tournament champions. Seeded 13th in NCAA Tournament, lost in first round to No. 4 Kentucky (66-62 OT).

Who's leaving: Starters Quanneisha Perry (12.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year) and Laura Lewis (4.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Bernadette Fortune (missed most of last season with an ankle injury). In addition, reserves Christy Willis, Breanna Harris and Ryen Henry have all asked for and been granted releases, Hampton coach David Six said.

Who's coming: 
   - Ariel Phelps, 6-2 Jr. F, Louisburg College (Tallwood High). 
   Said Six: "Great athletic body with a 6-6 wingspan, runs the floor well and is a tremendous shotblocker."
   - Brielle Ward, 6-2 Fr. F, Western High (Md.). 
   Six: "Tremendous athlete who can score with either hand around the basket. Can also shoot the jumper up to 17 feet. Excellent defender who is tenacious."
   - Benee Glanton, 6-4 F, Tampa Jefferson (Fla.) 
   Six: College-type body who will take up space with her size, bang and will be an interior force around the basket."
   - Kenyada Brown, 6-2 F, Withrow High (Ohio). 
   Six: Extremely physical post player who runs the floor like a guard. Possesses great body control and has the ability to seal defenders on her back."
   - Kenia Cole, 5-5 Fr. G, Paint Branch High (Md.)
   Six: "Ultra-quick point guard with great ball-handling skills. Can get in the lane off the dribble and finish as well as knock down the three."
   - Candace Brown, 5-9 Fr. G, Hampton High (Va.)
   Six: Powerfully-built, athletic guard with the ability to slash to the basket, finish in traffic and absorb contact. An excellent defender who has the ability to shut down offensive players." 

High point: The season-opening win at James Madison was an eye-opener, and roughing up Howard in the MEAC tourney final was obviously huge. But for national impact, it's hard to beat the Lady Pirates' 69-54 thumping of Florida, the first win over an SEC school in program history.

Low point: On Nov. 23, with star guard Jericka Jenkins nursing an ankle injury, the Lady Pirates were crushed 71-43 by Richmond at the HU Convocation Center. The loss dropped Hampton to 1-3, and the team would slide to 1-4 before Jenkins could suit up again. The rest is Lady Pirates history. 

Program stock: Up. Way up.

We figured the Lady Pirates were on track for a strong season. Little did we know that the team would exceed our lofty projection en route to not only the finest campaign in Hampton's Division I era, but the best by any MEAC team in the 64-team NCAA Tournament era. 

Along the way, Jenkins established herself as one of the top point guards in the country (second in Division I in assists), an honorable mention All-American and the undisputed catalyst of Lady Pirates success. How important was Jenkins? The Lady Pirates went 1-4 when she was out of the lineup, 25-3 when she was in it.

But this was hardly a one-woman outfit. In fact, the beauty of the Lady Pirates was how their players worked together, how they used teamwork and total buy-in of their coach's preachings to outsmart and out-execute supposedly more talented foes. This was a team with no starter taller than 5-11 and with a rotation thinner than the iPad2. Yet they kept walking off the court winners.

After running roughshod though the MEAC for the second straight year, the Lady Pirates were rewarded with a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest for a MEAC team since the field expanded to its present format. And while Kentucky escaped the Lady Pirates in their taut first-round encounter, Six said he's been inundated with e-mails and letters praising his Lady Pirates for their performance.

The graduation losses are significant; it would be tough to lose even one player from a unit that worked together so seamlessly. But Six is re-stocking his roster with what he believes may be Hampton's best-ever recruiting class. The coach said he expects to add at least one more impact player to the six listed above within the next week or so. And even more help could be on the way. Former Hampton High star Alyssa Bennett, a 6-2 guard who ESPN ranked the 32nd-best recruit in the country in 2009, is attempting to establish academic eligibility. If she makes it, the Lady Pirates would receive a huge boost.

Either way, there won't be any shortage of talent. But remember, mega-talent isn't how Hampton got where it is. The Lady Pirates played with a "We'll show them" chip on their shoulders last season and seemed to revel in the idea of doing stuff no one thought they could. Well, next season, a lot of people will think they can. Will the Lady Pirates train as hard in the offseason and play as passionately in-season without the "We don't get no respect" wind at their backs?

We're sure Six will insist on it, because in his mind, the Lady Pirates still have a lot of work to do. His oft-stated goal is for Hampton to play at a level so high they'll qualify for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. That would put them among the nation's Top 40 or so teams. Hampton's final RPI was 77.

We'll admit we weren't sure whether to take Six seriously when he first started in with his Hampton gettting an at-large bid talk. But assuming his players remain as hungry as their coach, as remarkable as it seems, they just might make it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reflection: William and Mary

Taysha Pye
This is our third in a series of reflections about the 13 Division I teams in our state.

2010-11 season: 3-26, 2-16 CAA. Lost in first round of the CAA Tournament to Hofstra.

Who's leaving: Katy Oblinger (3.2 ppg), Lindsey Moller (1.2 ppg), Aleia Gland DNP

Who's coming: Anna Kestler, 5-5 G, Mount Lebanon (Pa.): Point guard who led Mount Lebanon to the PIAA Quad state championship all four years, winning the final three; dished out 12 assists in the state quarters despite playing with the flu; Kyla Kerstetter, 5-11 G, Brentwood (Tenn.): Graduates as the Lady Bruins all-time leading scorer with 1,619 points, averaging 22.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.4 apg and 2.4 spg her senior year. Also holds school records for points in a game (37) and points in a season (585), both junior year marks. Two-time district MVP; led Brentwood to the District 11 AAA title. Named First team all-Midstate Tennessee by The Tennessean. Holds a 4.367 GPA; Mackenzie Morrison, 6-4 C, Martensdale-St. Mary's (Iowa): Led top-ranked Martinsdale-St. Mary's to the 1A state title with a triple-double 14 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks in the championship; the 10 blocks in the game and 25 in the tournament are both records. Scored 48 points and nabbed 32 rebounds in the tournament and was named captain of the all-tournament team. First team Iowa Newspaper Association.; Jazmen Boone, Princess Anne (Va.) Cavaliers finished as Group AAA state champions with a 31-1 record; defensive specialist who scored 15 points and 8 rebounds in state title game

High point: Defeating George Mason 69-57 (Jan. 23) for first CAA win

Low point: With 26 losses, we can't pick out one, but falling in OT three times and double OT once is discouraging for the Tribe.

Program stock: Downward turn

We try to stay positive at LadySwish, but 26 losses made for an abysmal season for the Tribe, which was 0-13 away from Williamsburg with 7 of the conference losses coming by fewer than 10 points. So what do you do if you're Debbie Taylor? Toss the game tape and the dumper, take a deep breath and go at it again. Because there's some great news come the fall. The Tribe look to have one of the best recruits in program history.

Mind you, we say recruit, because frankly, they all look good on paper. But W&M isn't traditionally in the mix for top recruit like Kestler, the diminutive point guard had considered Delaware, Vanderbilt, Rutgers and Virginia, to name a few, and looks to be steal for the Tribe. While size could be an issue,  her ballhandling skills and scoring prowess don't appear to be problems. We look forward to seeing Kestler in a Tribe uniform.

We also expect to see Taylor load up the nonconference schedule with some very winnable games for the Tribe -- much like Debra Clarke did for Norfolk State to start the 2010-11 season. W&M needs to learn how to win again and how to win game after game and string together some confidence.

But there were obviously deeper problems here that must be addressed for W&M to ensure this kind of season doesn't repeat itself. While injuries were a factor, they weren't the only one. This team was not a particularly effective unit for 40 minutes. During stretches they played well; down the stretch they didn't. We're not sure about the value of team bonding and team building exercises in all cases, but in this one, we don't think they'd be a bad idea to pursue during the offseason. This team lacked chemistry and cohesion and a voice to speak up and collect everyone when the opposition is making a run. Ideally leading scorer and rebounder Taysha Pye would be that player, but this much we know. Somebody needs to be. The Tribe let too many winnable games slip away, i.e., Drexel and Virginia Tech. The loss to the Hokies in double OT was particularly disturbing -- 18 in double OT?

Wendy Larry has a saying that applies here. You can play hard for 40 minutes. That doesn't necessarily mean you play effective for 40 minutes.

Defensively, the Tribe was the worst team in the league, and they did not have a player shoot the ball well from the perimeter. The brightest spot on the team was Kaitlyn Mathieu, a freshman post who shows real promise. Mathieu battled injury late in the season, but if she's healthy and committed to working out during the summer, she could develop into a real force inside for the Tribe.

We can't say the Tribe will be contending next season. We can say given that given there is no place to go but up, they should show marked improvement.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Boyle, Wolff discuss the challenges ahead

The Newport News Daily Press has been working overtime at this weekend's Boo Williams Nike Girls Invitational. Dave Fairbank talked to Virginia Tech's Dennis Wolff and Virginia's Joanne Boyle as they look to hit the ground running in their new jobs.

"It's been a lot of work and it's going to be a lot of work," Wolff said. "But there hasn't been one moment where I thought, 'What have I gotten myself into?' "

Also, David Teel opines on the twists and turns in the coaching ranks at Virginia, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion.

Greatest challenge: Wolff.

Greatest advantages: Boyle.

Greatest pressure: Larry.

Women's basketball in Virginia just became much more interesting.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ex-Richmond standout Kim Hairston joins UVa. staff

Georgia assistant coach Kim Hairston, an ace recruiter who worked under Joanne Boyle at Richmond and California, has re-joined her former boss as part of Virginia's new staff.

Hairston certainly has plenty of in-state connections. A native of Bassett, Va., Hairston was an assistant at Richmond in 2004-05 when the Spiders went 23-8 and earned the program's first NCAA Tournament berth in 14 years. She also spent three years as an assistant at JMU. And as a player, Hairston was the 1996 Big South Rookie of the Year at Radford and helped the Highlanders advance to the NCAA Tournament. She hit 40.2 percent of her 3-pointers that season (45-112), the second-highest figure in program history. She later transferred to Richmond and made the CAA All-Defensive team in 2000.

Hairston comes to Virginia after four years at Georgia, where she made an immediate impact upon joining the staff of Andy Landers in 2007. “Kim is very well organized from a recruiting and an office standpoint,” Landers said. “She’s very professional. She’s very excited about being the best she can be and she works at that every day. Before she was hired, I thought all that about her. What I didn’t know was how good she was going to be on the floor. As we progressed through workouts before the fall it became apparent pretty quickly that she’s excellent there. She brings great enthusiasm, has a great understanding of the game, motivates players well and teaches well."

Last year, Hairston made minor news with the Lady Bulldogs when she was named in a secondary NCAA violation, one of 14 Georgia self-reported on its athletic program in 2010, for accepting a Facebook friend request from a 2012 recruit prior to the time coaches can send electronically transmitted correspondence to recruits. Hairston was unaware accepting the request wasn't allowed; the Lady Bulldogs staff was forbidden to contact that recruit for 30 days.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Caldwell-mania strikes Baton Rouge

LSU certainly hasn't wasted any time marketing its new coach. Just wondering: if things had shaken out a bit differently, can you imagine one of these around exit 118B off I-64?

The Boo Who's Who

Planning to check out any of the action at this weekend's Boo Williams Girls Nike Invitational? We know we are, and we look forward to relaying some of what we learn over the next few days.

Of course, it's not always easy getting details about the various teams heading into the tournament. Fortunately, our pal Jason Kidd from has put together this rundown on the participants on Boo Williams' latest squad, and also has the schedule for the three-day event that begins Friday at the Boo Williams Sportsplex.

See ya at the games!

Reflection: James Madison

Tarik Hislop
2010-11 season: 26-8; CAA champions; Lost in first round of NCAA Tournament to Oklahoma

Who's leaving: Dawn Evans 23.1 ppg; Lauren Jimenez 14.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 53 FG percentage; Jalissa Taylor 6.5 rpg; Courtney Hamner 8.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Who's coming: Achiri Ade 6-1 F Seton Keough (Md.): First team Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland; MVP (consolation) of the Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational Basketball tournament; Averaged 14 ppg, 11 rpg as a senior; two-time Baltimore Sun all-Metro first team; Finished her career with 1,371 points and 1,096 rebounds; McDonald's All-American nominee;  Toia Giggetts 6-0 F Lake Taylor (Norfolk): Cog for national power Lake Taylor, the 2010 Group AAA state champion; Lake Taylor lost 66-63 to national power Princess Anne in the 2011 Eastern Region semifinals. The Titans were 26-0 entering the game; Jazmon Gwathmey 6-2 G Liberty (Va): 2010-11 Virginia High School League Group  A Division 4 Player of the Year after leading Liberty to the state title; Averaged 20.3 ppg, 7 rpg, 3.3 apg, 3.5 spg and 1.7 bpg in the state tournament and scored 26 points and had eight rebounds in the state final; Liberty finished the season 22-5; Crystal Ross 6-3 F/C  Smyrna (Del.): Second team all-state; Smyrna (21-2) lost in the state semifinals to eventual state champion Sanford; Briana Jones 6-2 F Whitefield Academy (Ga.): Whitefield Academy lost in the Region 9-A semifinals; 1,000-point scorer and McDonald's All-American nominee; state champion discus, 2010; Won "Poetry Out Loud" competition at Whitefield after reciting a pair of Langston Hughes poems

High point: Defeated Virginia 82-80 (Dec. 20) behind 42 points from Evans; Won second straight CAA championship and first on neutral court, defeating Delaware 67-61.

Low point: Lost to Monmouth 69-66 (Dec. 18)

Stock: Consistently rising

There was a time when it was difficult to imagine Old Dominion without Ticha Penicheiro, Virginia minus Monica Wright, Drexel with no Gabriela Marginean.

Sometimes players are so etched in a program, they become part of its fabric. So be it with Dawn Evans, the CAA's all-time leader in points and 3-pointers. She wasn't the most efficient player in the league last season, only its most important. Quite simply the 2011 CAA Player of the Year was a game changer, capable of elevating her level to match the occasion. She is part of a veteran JMU group that is Kenny Brooks' most successful in his nine years as head coach.

So the Dukes will begin again with five newcomers -- a class regarded as No. 42 by ESPN, the only class in the conference to receive a Top 60 ranking. What we love about this class is its height and athleticism. Achiri Ade, a 6-1 forward from Maryland, and oversized guard Jazon Gwathney appear to be at the head of it, but this much we know. We'll see the best young players early. Brooks has no qualms about starting freshmen, and by the time they graduate, you'll swear they've been there at least five years.Meredith Alexis started 31 games as a freshman. Tamera Young had 28 starts her first year. Evans started all but five games of her college career.

JMU will be among the youngest teams in the league next season, but given the program Brooks has built there, we see the Dukes contending in a conference where Delaware and VCU are obvious frontrunners. They will need more consistency from rising junior Tarik Hislop, a sleek guard whose pull-up jumper can be deadly when she's hot. Hislop averaged 10.8 points this season, but shot 31 percent from the floor after shooting 39 percent her freshman year. She will have to improve on those numbers for a Dukes team that needs her scoring punch. Nikki Newman and Lauren Whitehurst, both steady rebounders, also must improve their offensive output.

To only look at Evans' statistics does her a disservice. She has been the heart and the vocal leader of the Dukes since she started as a freshman. JMU needs to find a leader in this group, a voice to bring calm when freshmen mistakes show themselves on the floor. Who emerges in that role will be tantamount to the team's success.

Given the losses to graduation, it's hard to imagine the Dukes reaching the heights they have achieved the past two years with back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament. But come March, this team will likely be rounding into Kenny Brooks form, and we know what that means. A third straight CAA title is not out of reach.

Virginia Tech fills out coaching staff

New Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff has apparently locked in his coaching staff, according to this report in the Newport News Daily Press. In addition to former Vanderbilt star Chantelle Anderson, who we profiled earlier this week; the Hokies new coaches are:

Billi Godsey: a former guard at Archbishop Carroll High in Washington and Hofstra (1999-2003) who has spent the past three years as an assistant at UMBC;

Thomas Joyce: the men's basketball manager of operations at Bucknell the past two seasons who served in a similar role under Wolff at Boston University.

All certainly have highlights throughout their resumes. But did the applications for these jobs include the phrase "women's basketball coaching experience optional?" In addition to her three years at UMBC, Godsey spent two successful seasons as an assistant at Division II Molloy College. But Wolff and Joyce will be coaching women for the first time, and Anderson just completed her first season as an assistant.

Honestly, we thought Wolff would surround himself with at least one longtime women's basketball assistant. But maybe a lot of gender-specific experience is overrated. Here's hoping that's the case, because we'd certainly like to see this group succeed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reflection: George Mason

Scoring and assist leader Taleia Moton returns.
2010-11 season: 13-17, 7-11 in CAA; Lost in first round of the CAA Tournament to Georgia State
Who's leaving: Angelee LaTouche (4.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Brittany Poindexter (11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Ashleigh Braxton (5 ppg), Brittany Eley (5 ppg)

Who's coming: Talisha Watts (6-2 F/C, Brooksville (Va.) High): Seminole District Player of the Year whose team achieved the top ranking in Group AA and finished with a 20-3 record and loss in the region to Spotswood. VHSCA AA honorable mention. Annie Lawler (6-0 F South Kingston (RI) High): Scored her 1,000th career point as a junior, Lawler was the stud player on a South Kingstown team depleted by graduation. South Kingstown was defeated by Woonsocket in the first round of the playoffs despite 26 from Lawler.; Rachel McNair (6-0 F, Nyack (NY) High): Became a 1,000-point scorer after only three years of varsity experience; NYSSWA All-State Fourth Team (10 teams are picked in Class A)

High point: Defeating Delaware 67-56 on Feb. 17, limiting Elena Delle Donne to 14 points in 40 minutes.

Low point: Beaten at home on Nov. 26 by Radford, former team of Jeri Porter and Taleia Moton. Patriots were outscored 31-9 in the final 10 minutes.

Program stock:  Trickling upward

The record isn't gaudy, but the progress is there. When Jeri Porter took over at George Mason three years ago, the Patriots were 4-26. Last year they improved to 10-20. This year's 13-17 mark included a series sweep of Delaware (Elena Delle Donne played in one of those games) and wins over Hofstra, Drexel and a four-point loss at Old Dominion.

A winnable first-round game in the CAA Tournament turned into a 68-64 loss and Porter said at the time that her teams needs to develop a maturity and consistency lacking for much of this season.

Three starters will depart, but the Patriots return scoring and assist leader Taleia Moton. Ninth in the CAA in scoring offense last season, George Mason needs production, and the trio coming in put up big numbers during acclaimed high school careers. Talisha Watts looks to be the most impressive of the bunch behind her all-arms, all-legs build that gives her a sizable wing span despite her slight frame. She led Lynchburg's Brookville High to a 20-3 mark and was recognized as Seminole District Player of the Year.

Porter describes Annie Lawler of South Kingtown (R.I.) High as "shooting the ball as well as any post player I've seen all summer." Rachel McNair also comes in as a 1,000-point scorer from high school.

We don't doubt that given the youth, the Patriots will still struggle offensively, at least at the start of next season. We'd like to see a banner senior year from Evelyn Lewis, a Hampton High star who transferred in from Penn State and scored 17 in her George Mason debut. The 6-3 center averaged just 4 ppg last year despite shooting a team-best 51 percent from the field. We like the way freshman Christine Weithman finished the season -- her 21 points against Northeastern in the regular-season finale was a career high -- and look for her to become a more consistent offensive threat as a sophomore. Weithman, the top free-throw shooter on the team, completed her career at Blake High in Silver Spring, Md., as the all-time leading scorer there.

The Patriots could also get a lift from Janaa Pickard, a 6-1 forward who led the team in blocks two years ago before missing last season with a knee injury.

We don't see the Patriots challenging for the league title as early as next season. We do see them challenging other teams in the CAA and moving in the right direction under a coach intent on rebuilding a program that was once in the upper half of the conference.

Virginia Tech's Kyani White transfers to ECU

More fallout from Virginia Tech's coaching switch - freshman guard Kyani White has transferred to East Carolina in search of a more uptempo style of play.

That's interesting, because since new Tech coach Dennis Wolff has only been on the job for a couple of weeks, we don't really know what his style of play will be with this group. Apparently, White's father does, though.

"He's a slow-down coach and it was not a good fit for her," Nsonji White, who coached his daughter at Stonewall Jackson High, told's David Fawcett. The father also expressed concerns that Wolff, the head coach of Boston University's men's team for 15 years, had never coached women.

The move costs the Hokies their best musician, as White is an accomplished percussionist who was majoring in music education. But Tech fans never really got to see what she could do on a basketball court, as White averaged 1.0 points in 8.2 minutes over 17 games (one start) in her debut season with the Hokies.

Still, East Carolina is clearly excited to have her.

 "Kyani is a proven scorer with great ball-handling ability. She has fantastic communication skills on and off the court," Pirates coach Heather Macy said. "We have watched her play since she was nine years old and are excited about her potential in a Pirate uniform. With Kyani, we feel comfortable about our point guard rotation for seasons to come."

White is the second player to lose interest in Tech in the wake of Beth Dunkenberger's resignation. Late last month, 2012 verbal commit Kristen Gaffney from North Carolina's Green Hope High, a first-team All-State pick who averaged 31 points a game, re-opened her recruitment and will consider other schools.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Smith looks at Boyle's highs and lows at Cal

Passing along a link from our buddy Michelle Smith at

She looks at the highs and lows of Joanne Boyle at Cal. Boyle, named Virginia coach on Monday, coached the Golden Bears to four NCAA Tournament appearances and two WNIT tournaments.

Hampton's Six gets 3-year extension

The meteoric rise of Hampton coach David Six continued Wednesday when the school announced it had agreed with Six on a three-year extension. Terms were not disclosed. A year ago, then-interim coach Six also signed a three-year contract. The year before that, he was Hampton's director of intramurals. At this rate, in a few more years Six will have a lifetime contract.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Even draft picks find it tough to make WNBA

Obviously it would have been great publicity and a nice ego-boost had James Madison's Dawn Evans or Richmond's Brittani Shells been selected in Monday's WNBA draft. But the reality is, with roster space at a premium, the odds of an undrafted free agent making a team, while slim, are pretty much the same as those of a second- or third-round pick.

Last year, for example, five undrafted free agents made opening-day rosters, as opposed to four second-rounders and three third-rounders. Overall, only 16 of the 36 draft picks actually made teams; even the No. 7 overall pick (Danielle McCray) couldn't make the cut.

In 2009, the first year the WNBA reduced roster sizes to 11 per team, only 18 of 39 picks made it to opening day.

Again, it would have been great to get drafted. But unless you're a first-round pick - and in most cases, even if you are - making a WNBA team is a longshot whether you hear your named called or not.

Reinson sheds interim tag at Longwood

Longwood's new coach? Same as the old coach.

Virginia's "quiet" coaching search ended Tuesday when the Lancers announced that Bill Reinson, the former men's basketball assistant who took over the women's team in early December after Kristin Casuro was fired, was given the full-time gig and inked to a multi-year deal.

The Lancers went 6-17 under Reinson in 2010-11, but did engineer victories over College Basketball Invitational runner-up Cal State-Bakersfield and William and Mary and nearly knocked off perennial Big South heavyweight Liberty.

Reinson apparently had to re-interview for the position, at which time he presented what athletics director Troy Austin called "an exciting vision for the future of our women's basketball program."

Said Reinson:  “It has been a lifelong dream of mine to be a Division I head coach and I am grateful for the opportunity and excited about the chance to build a very successful women's basketball program here at Longwood. I would like to thank President Patrick Finnegan and Troy Austin for showing faith in me, as well as everyone else who supported me during this process.”

Chantelle Anderson to VaTech as assistant

Former Vanderbilt star Chantelle Anderson will be part of Virginia Tech's new coaching staff under Dennis Wolff, Anderson announced via Twitter. Her words:

IT'S OFFICIAL!!! So hyped! Next year I will be coaching at....

A two-time Kokak All-American and the 2002 SEC Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 Anderson scored a school-record 2,604 points during her career at Vanderbilt (2000-03). In February, the Commodores retired Anderson's jersey at halftime of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee game before a sellout crowd of 14,163. Anderson was the No. 2 pick in the 2003 WNBA draft , but her pro career was hampered by injuries, including a broken patella, a torn Achilles tendon and an ACL tear.

Anderson recently completed her first season as an assistant coach with Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Division II team. The team's head coach is 26-year-old Clarisse Garcia, who finished her playing career at Villanova in 2007.

Off the court, Anderson has remained visible in a variety of roles, including color commentary and a guest stint on the MTV series "Made." She projects confidence and an infectious personality, and is clearly proud of being a 6-foot-6 woman. Assistant coaches are often seen but not heard from. But we have a feeling Tech fans will be getting to know a lot more about Chantelle Anderson.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Evans goes undrafted by the WNBA

Dawn Evans did not get drafted on Monday by the WNBA.

Some analysts projected the James Madison senior as high as a first round pick. Others had her going early in the second round. But the 5-7 guard who averaged 23.1 ppg, third-best nationally and led the Dukes to back-to-back CAA Tournament championships did not get a call. Evans was the CAA's Player of the Year and an honorable mention AP All-American.

We have to think Evans' health played a major role in her not being selected. The kidney disease she is battling limited her ability to practice this season and makes for an uncertain future. The physical demands of the pro game likely scared most teams away from Evans, who will likely be invited to a team camp.

None of the 13 Virginia schools had a player selected in the 36-pick, three-round draft. As predicted, Maya Moore of UConn was the No. 1 pick, selected by Minnesota.

Welcome back to Virginia, Coach Boyle!

Joanne Boyle, who coached for six years at Cal, three years at Richmond and started her career as an assistant at her alma mater, Duke, was introduced as Virginia's fourth head coach at noon on Monday. Here are a few snippets from her press conference.

I'm proud to acknowledge coach Ryan as my coach, mentor and dear friend.

I want to express how blessed I feel coming back to the ACC, which is a homecoming for me.

I talked to Debbie on Saturday and have a great relationship with her. She's a legend and she's the one who has paved the way for us younger coaches.

Boyle spoke about time and place being a factor in her decision to leave Cal after six years: There were a lot of things going on. I never expected it,. It wasn't something planned. When opportunities arrive, you always say, 'What does that look like for me?'

Boyle was offered the head coaching job at Duke but declined when Gail Goestenkors left in 2007:  When the Duke job came open, I had just been at Cal for two years. ... After two years, we hadn't done a whole lot. We hadn't made it to the tournament; we were building a program. I hadn't gotten it where I wanted to get it. ... I didn't feel at that time I could ask them to believe in me and walk this path and just turn around and leave.

I struggled with it; I'm not saying it was an easy decision. There are just other factors that made it seem right. ... I just kept coming back to the ACC and my family and the time in my life and the challenge for me. .... It's never easy to leave a team.

On the ACC: I've watched a couple of tapes on the plane. We all need depth; we all need physical post play; we all need guard play. ... Put out a great product, have kids buy into the system and just play a high level of basketball and a game that's fun to watch.

On recruiting in the East: I know a lot of the East Coast people. Even when I went out west we tried to recruit some East Coast kids.

It's huge. It's no different than how we approach Cal. Really the theme is protect your state. .... You've got to sell what you have and there's a great product here. It's the academics and the athletics. ... It's selling what I believe in. You've got to sell your state and keep as many kids at home.

On hiring a staff: I need to have East Coast connections, so that's a part of that. I want a great x's and o's person with me. ... So there's just a balance going on. ... I've got feelers out, phone calls out. I don't want to build it immediately. I want to make sure it's the best fit to get off the ground running.

On JPJ Arena: It's an unbelievable facility, the best I've seen.
My goal is to do the best I can and win as much as I can and build a sustaining program and build a championship team. ... My goal isn't to come in and be average.

In talking with the Cavaliers: I told them this morning I'm pretty transparent. What you see is what you get. ... My faith is the biggest thing I have in my life so far. If God wasn't in my life, I don't know where I'd be.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Guru weighs in on Boyle, Wolff and ODU vs. Wendy

Mel takes a look, and a few shots, that made us chuckle at LadySwish. Here are a few snippets; read the full post at

Has any state beyond Virginia ever had a cluster of its major universities perform a messier job in the same time period of botching up the way they do business in the women’s game, which is not to deny what a great hire former Duke player and assistant Boyle is in succeeding Ryan. She also head coached at Richmond.

While Virginia officials were busy keeping the university charter jet fueled and airborne, not far away Virginia Tech decided the cheapest way to save travel money finding a coach is to just walk down the hall to the men’s office where they decided operations director Dennis Wolff, a previous head coach at Boston University, was perfect to replace Beth Dunkenberger and women’s coaching experience was not a necessary qualification.

Not to be outdone in the state of Virginia, especially involving schools with past track records of Associated Press Poll appearances, Old Dominion’s athletic director Wood Selig, a former member of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament committee when he was at Western Kentucky, decided last week to take advantage of the fading newspaper industry and use the medium as a public forum for dissing longtime Lady Monarchs coach Wendy Larry.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Virginia finally confirms Boyle is coach

Joanne Boyle
Virginia finally agrees. Joanne Boyle will be the new head coach of the Cavaliers.

The university has scheduled a press conference for noon on Monday to introduce the fourth coach in school history.

Friday, April 8, 2011

ODU's Larry deserves better from her boss

Wendy Larry says she has a contract to coach at Old Dominion through the next two years. ODU athletic director Wood Selig says it's a one-year deal and delivered a strong message with his language in a recent newspaper story.

"I told her she had done nothing in the past three years that I could take to the board to get an extension," Selig said Thursday. "It would have been D.O.A. (dead on arrival)....

How would you like to work for this guy? Has the Lady Monarch program declined in the past three years? Definitely. We can't argue that. Do you air your coach out to dry in the media? Hell no.

We're a media outlet that loves a candid answer -- a rarity these days from anyone who gets quoted regularly. But this is a little too much candor about a personnel matter. If Selig wants Larry to go, so be it. But don't try to humiliate her in the process.

We have a series of reflections we're planning on each of the 13 teams starting next week, and in our ODU piece we will share our thoughts on the direction of the program. Our point here is when you embarrass your coach publicly, you embarrass the program and fail to give someone who has earned it a fair shake. What chance does she have now? Selig needs to see progress to extend her contract. We assume that means ODU must get to the NCAA Tournament next year given the Constant Center is hosting the first two rounds. (Making it as far as the conference championship and losing on the opponent's home court can't be enough; ODU did that last year at JMU.)

One starter is coming back. Five freshman are coming in. Everyone knows the illustrious history of the CAA and at-large bids. Win and win the CAA Tournament or off with your head.

So if you're Larry right now, what do you do? Maybe give Pat Summitt a call and tell her you can't go to Knoxville next year to continue the storied series, because essentially your boss has issued an ultimatum? What is it you're telling recruits who wonder if they sign with ODU, will Larry be there? Could Selig have given the details about Larry's contract without using an expression like "dead on arrival"?

Sadly, there's little room for sentiment in sports -- something Debbie Ryan could attest to. Selig wasn't around for the glory years -- 17 straight CAA championships -- essentially ancient history in his mind. ODU set the bar in the league and is now playing catchup after dominating the race for nearly two decades. It was a standard that men's basketball struggled to match. For years Larry elevated ODU to a place where no CAA team dared to go -- in the Sweet 16, wins over ranked foes, in the national limelight.

Three years of disappointment -- dare we say at the hands of one class -- and show her the door?

We admit that we don't like what's happened to the Lady Monarchs of late. We like even less how Selig handled it.

Dawn Evans a WNBA 1st-round pick?

Could JMU's Dawn Evans wind up getting selected in the first round of Monday's WNBA draft? ESPN thinks it's possible, listing the Dukes star as the 10th-best prospect in play for the 12-team draft:

Evans might surprise some people by potentially sneaking into the first round. Few can create offense like she can. She averaged an impressive 23.1 points as a senior and can really hit a hot streak and carry a team by herself. She scored a career-high 42 points against Virginia this season and scored 38 on three other occasions. Some might not like the swings, however, as there will be games when Evans scores 14 points on 22 shots. She is a guard who needs to be the focal point of the offense and needs the ball in her hands to create. She isn't a combo guard - she is a scoring point guard. She has good range out to the 3-point arc and is well-versed in operating the pick-and-roll. She isn't a fit for every team, but for the right system she could be dynamite. 

Fair points, although we're not sure the way Evans played at JMU is the only way she can play. She can set up others, too, and, if asked to be more of a distributor in the pros, we don't think she's going to just take her ball and go home. Overall, though, we like this ESPN rating. Problem is, ESPN doesn't have a team.

If Evans is chosen with one of the first 12 picks, she would become the ninth WNBA first-round draft pick from a Virginia college since the league began in 1997. The all-time Virginia draft board:

1st round
2 - Monica Wright, Virginia (Minnesota, 2010)
2 - Ticha Penicheiro, Old Dominion (Sacramento, 1998)
5 - Tammi Reiss, Virginia (Utah, 1997)
7 - Tora Suber, Virginia (Charlotte, 1997)
8 - Katie Feenstra, Liberty (Connecticut, 2005; rights traded to San Antonio)
8 - Tamera Young, James Madison (Atlanta, 2008)
9 - Quanitra Hollingsworth, VCU (Minnesota, 2009)
12 - Hamchetou Maiga, Old Dominion (Sacramento, 2002)

2nd round
2 (14th overall) - Megan Frazee, Liberty (San Antonio, 2009)
3 (19th overall) - Lucienne Berthieu, Old Dominion (Seattle, 2002)
4 (16th overall) - Clarisse Machanguana, Old Dominion (Los Angeles, 1999)
4 (17th overall) - Lyndra Littles, Virginia (Connecticut, 2009)
10 (20th overall) - Nyree Roberts, Old Dominion (Houston, 1998)
11 (23rd overall) - Mery Andrade, Old Dominion (Cleveland, 1999)
15 (27th overall) - Schuye LaRue, Virginia (Los Angeles, 2003)

3rd round
3 (27th overall) - Adrienne Goodson, Old Dominion (Utah, 1999)
3 (29th overall) - Sharnee Zoll, Virginia (Los Angeles, 2008)
4 (30th overall) - Nare Diawara, Virginia Tech (San Antonio, 2007)
4 (31st overall) - Telisha Quarles, Virginia (Phoenix, 2003)
5 (31st overall) - Ieva Kublina, Virginia Tech (Indiana, 2004)
6 (34th overall) - Krystal Vaughn, VCU (Washington, 2008)
6 (34th overall) - Kerri Gardin, Virginia Tech (Chicago, 2006)
6 (38th overall) - Svetlana Volnaya, Virginia (Detroit, 2001)
13 (45th overall) - Tere Williams, Virginia Tech (Phoenix, 2001)

4th round (1997-2002)
6 (54th overall) - Sharron Francis, Old Dominion (Minnesota, 2002)
16 (64th overall) - Tiffany Thompson, Old Dominion (Los Angeles, 2002)

Elite draft
Prior to the WNBA's initial season in 1997, the league held an elite draft of players who had played in other professional leagues. Virginia's Wendy Palmer (9th overall) and Old Dominion's Nancy Lieberman (15th) were both 2nd-round picks.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

ODU turns up the heat on Wendy Larry

It's been a tough offseason for veteran coaches. A few weeks ago, Debbie Ryan resigned at Virginia after 34 seasons, and while she won't comment on the backstory behind her decision, indications are it wasn't all her idea. A few days later, Van Chancellor, a Naismith and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer, stepped down at LSU, apparently under similar circumstances.

Now, the Virginian-Pilot reports that Old Dominion is taking a wait-and-see posture regarding an extension for Wendy Larry, who has just one year remaining on her deal.

“I told her she had done nothing in the past three years that I could take to the board to get an extension,” athletic director Wood Selig said this afternoon. “It would have been D.O.A. (dead on arrival).”

Under Larry, the Lady Monarchs won 17 straight CAA titles, advanced to the 1997 NCAA title game and as recently as 2007-08 were in the Sweet 16. But ODU has failed to reach the NCAAs in any of the three seasons since. The Lady Monarchs concluded the 2010-11 campaign with a WNIT first-round loss to Loyola (Md.) in front of 450 fans at the Constant Center.

The timing isn't ideal for an ODU resurgence, either. The Lady Monarchs lose four senior starters off its 2010-11 edition and will need to rely on a promising but obviously untested five-player freshman class. Given Larry's track record, it would be foolish to think she can't make it work. But in the increasingly what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of women's basketball coaching, it looks like she's going to have to. 

Ex-UVa signee Bria Smith open for business with Tennessee

Whoever is going to coach Virginia had better get on the job quickly if they plan on re-recruiting high school All-American Bria Smith. reports that Smith will visit Tennessee later this month and will make a decision "relatively soon." Smith, who starred at Christ the King High in New York and is ranked No. 8 among high school seniors by ESPN, signed a letter-of-intent with Virginia last November but was granted a release when Debbie Ryan stepped down. Louisville, a finalist during Smith's initial recruitment, also appears to be strongly in the mix again, at least according to one of Smith's McDonald's All-American teammates. Said Louisville-bound senior Sara Hammond: "I've been working on her. I was telling her she needs to come. She hasn't talked much about it, but she smiles every time I mention Louisville."

Virginia has its coach and it's Boyle

On Tuesday night at the Final Four, Joanne Boyle said she was not the head coach at Virginia.

On Thursday afternoon, it appears she is. Boyle becomes the fourth coach in Cavalier history, replacing Debbie Ryan. The story has been confirmed by The Daily Progress, the newspaper that covers the Cavaliers.

Duke alum Boyle has coached Cal since 2005, and a year later, was named the Pac-10 Coach of the year after bringing Cal to its then-school-record No. 15 AP ranking for two weeks. During her tenure at Cal, the Golden Bears notched four-straight NCAA Tournament berths (2006-2009), each with 20+ wins, for the first time in school history. In 2010, Cal earned its first-ever WNIT Championship

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Boyle rumor: Coaching searches, the power of the 'Net and LadySwish

Sorry, folks, but we don't have any "scoop" on Virginia's women's basketball head coaching search today. Never have, really.

We set up this site because we love the sport and wanted to shine a spotlight on the cool players and teams within the state in which we reside. It was never our intent to be a news-breaking vehicle; we're simply not set up that way.

Last week, the Internet winds were howling about Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy being in play for the Virginia job, so we wrote a post passing this on. We wrote it in an "for what it's worth" tone, and noted in the first paragraph about these were simply rumors. Even so, our site went crazy, and for the next two days we nearly doubled our typical volume of hits.

You'd think we'd be happy. But because many were interpreting our post as our actual reporting, we got nervous. Over the next 48 hours, for purely personal reasons, no one wanted Williams-Flournoy to be the Virginia coach more than us.

That didn't materialize, and we vowed to be more careful the next time. So on Tuesday, when the 'net began buzzing about Cal coach Joanne Boyle, we simply retweeted what was being said. Next thing we knew, that tweet had become the basis of a newspaper story. Within hours, other news outlets across the country were scrambling to verify the substance of our "report." Report? It was one mouse click. We never wrote a single word.

We have extensive newspaper backgrounds, so we know how the game works. But we're still trying to figure out the whole cyberspace game (you'd cackle hysterically if you saw us trying to post pictures on here sometimes). And over the past several days, we've learned a great deal about how quickly something we post can gain traction in the 24/7 online world.

We vow to be careful. Our credibility is on the line. That said, we feel that if something is making the rounds, it is our responsibility to make sure Virginia hoops fans know about it. At a time when most major news outlets outside of Storrs treatment women's basketball as an afterthought, it is our primary focus. We don't make a habit of posting everything we hear or read -- trust us.

But getting a lot of attention or "beating the competition" is not why we do this site. We've been fortunate to cultivate a small-but-loyal band of followers. We feel blessed to have a few very well-connected sources, most of whom are friends. But we have little interest in nor are we equipped to chase news, and we don't want to leave folks with the impression we are.

So we hope Virginia lands a really fine coach. In the meantime, we'll try to stay as plugged into the search as we can and be as honest and reliable as possible in passing along the information that comes our way.

Monday, April 4, 2011

LadySwish musings from the Final Four

Classy in defeat
What struck us from the Final Four:

*Geno. How classy. Only minutes after Notre Dame shocked UConn, he had a microphone stuck in his face and offered some pretty nice words. Unlike Pat Summitt, whose indictment of her team seemed unnecessarily brutal, Geno had only poignant remarks about his Huskies and all Maya Moore had accomplished the last four years.

*Is the in-game interview the worst idea ever?

*Or is it the social media correspondent? Actually we like the idea, but it has to have some structure. Could you have the tweets in a crawl? Also, wouldn't it be cool to see what some of the players are saying? For example, Tina Charles tweeted the whole game including, "Lorin never shoots the ball. It KILLS me."

Too much.
*Camera didn't catch Maya Moore heading out of her last collegiate game. We saw it on replay, but that's hardly the same. Funny considering ESPN's history with "Maya-cam."

*We've seen enough of Condoleezza Rice to last a lifetime.

*And while we're on TV coverage, every coach in America is in the stands. Wouldn't you have loved to have seen some of them? Mulkey? Summitt? Debbie Ryan, even? Rather than having sideline reporters who add very little, how about having the sideline reporters roam the stands for famous faces?

*What was Xavier thinking when A&M coasted the length of the floor to stun Stanford? What goes around comes around?

*Do you get the feeling Virginia just wasn't willing to pay the bucks for Nikki Caldwell that is pocket change for LSU?

*What happened to Tiffany Hayes?

*Bria Hartley and Meighan Simmons: Life is tough for freshman point guards when the stakes are high.

*How many games do you think The Cardinal would have won in the Big East? The Big 12?

*Lorin Dixon is the new Maria Conlen of UConn.

*"Fourth time is the charm" is low hanging fruit for headline writers.

*Maya Moore's hair hasn't moved in four years. Contrast that with Geno, who is always running his fingers through his.

*Why was Doris Burke fawning over Maya Moore during Notre Dame's moment?
He'd be cute on court.

*There should be a Husky on the court just like there is a Butler bulldog.

*3,000 empty seats? At the Final Four? Now that's a problem.

*Gary Blair for president.

*Yeah, Griner is good. But so is Nnemkadi Ogwumike.

Na'ama Shafir, Toledo
*The best story you probably don't know about: Junior guard Na'ama Shafir scored a career-high 40 to lead Toledo over USC 76-68 in the WNIT title game before a sellout crowd of 7,301 in Ohio. No, that's not the story. Shafir is an Orthodox Jew. She had to get permission from her rabbi to play, had to walk to and from the arena (Shabbit prevents riding in motorized vehicles) and could not speak to the media afterward due to religious restrictions.

*No knock to either A&M or Notre Dame, but UConn and Baylor shouldn't have to beat the same team four times in a season.

*We'll miss Maya.

*Notre Dame vs. A&M; who do you like. We're going Irish.