Sunday, May 29, 2011

Awfully sweet news for Elena Delle Donne

Kudos to Elena Delle Donne for being selected as a finalist for the USA Basketball Women's World University Games. The rising junior from Delaware was one of 14 finalists selected from a field of 35, which included VCU's Courtney Hurt.

Noted EDD: I was definitely happy my named was called first on the list. It felt incredible, I got chills right away.  I’m just so excited and can’t wait to get back here and start working with the team. It’s a phenomenal group of girls and I’m just really excited to be a part of this.

The trials were held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the eventual 12-member team will look to defend the USA's 2009 gold medal at the 2011 World University Games women's basketball competition August 14-21 in Shenzhen, China.

We know an action shot would be more appropriate here, but Elena was kind enough to let us post her Facebook profile pic, which we're smitten with. Delle Donne taught a pre-K class last spring, and this pic is from her final day.

VCU's Q traded to New York Liberty

Virginia's own Quanitra Hollingsworth (Chesapeake) has been traded from Minnesota to the New York Liberty. We are still anxious to see the former VCU star making an impact in the WNBA. Q is still five months shy of her 23rd birthday!

Stay or go? Hard call for legendary coaches

Should I stay or should I go?

When is it time? Time to let go of the biggest part of your life. No Debbie Ryan at Virginia anymore. No Wendy Larry at Old Dominion anymore. It hardly seems fathomable to imagine the sidelines without them coaching their respective teams.

You'd have liked to have seen Ryan and Larry play it out a different way -- leave on their own terms. Utah's Elaine Elliott did just that, announcing her retirement at the end of last season after a one-year sabbatical to think about it. She coached the Utes for 31 years and was head coach for 27 of those. At some point, she wondered if she'd be coaching until she was 100 -- wondering, will I ever think it's time?

Bjorn Borg retired at age 26; Chris Evert retired at No. 4 in the world, one match after routing upstart Monica Seles at the U.S. Open. Steffi Graf won a French Open and put down the racket for good a month later. Early-round losses were something those three greats couldn't stomach. But it's easy to wonder what if. Is it better to retire when you're still competitive, squeezing one last ounce out of your talent or wait until you've slipped just enough to let your rivals catch up?

ODU has gone three years without advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Virginia last advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2000. We'd like to think Wendy and Debbie haven't lost their fast ball, but we can't deny that both programs have struggled. The Lady Monarchs are losing recruits to other CAA schools. Virginia had an All-American in Monica Wright and was still unable to make a dent in the national tournament.

Women's basketball had a giddiness in its evolving stages stemming from the upward trends in coaching salaries and overall resources. But with that comes the bottom line and the bottom line is winning. Period. Larry added to ODU's rich tradition for 17 straight years. Ryan took over Virgina in its infancy and created a national contender. In many ways, both women couldn't keep up with the benchmark they established.

They are icons at their schools whose list of accomplishments suddenly seems like ancient history. Elliott noted that a longtime coach is never expected to rebuild; expectations never dip. When Virginia was in the Final Four, Miami and Florida State and Duke and Georgia Tech weren't considered threats. ODU dominated so long that the bigger news became the Lady Monarchs losing, not winning.

In her blog Extracurriculars, Wendy Parker recently wrote about "The Devil at the Bottom of the Wishing Well." Says Parker:

Marketing, promoting, boosting attendance and concerted efforts to make women’s hoops a little more commercially viable are lacking, and have been for years. The aggressive young coaches who are getting the plum jobs — and the money and the pressure to win — are in prime position to improve the product, and to broaden its appeal off the court as well. It’s the only environment they’ve known. 

Yet the downside of this — the loss of loyal, dedicated coaches like Larry who have struggled to keep up — also needs to be acknowledged. The women’s game is changing — on balance, I think for the better — but some of its finest ambassadors are feeling just than a little more than displaced.

For better or worse, sentiment has no place in sports. Chris Weller "resigned" after 499 victories and 27 years at Maryland. Theresa Grentz amassed 671 victories at Illinois before "resigning" in 2007. That same year Jody Conradt retired at Texas. Maybe it was time for all three Hall-of-Famers to move on.


Should I stay or should I go? It's a hard call, but one we suspect other coaching legends will be forced to think about a climate where winning has become everything.

Monday, May 23, 2011

ODU vs. Anne Donovan (sort of) in Virgin Islands

One way or another, Old Dominion and Anne Donovan will get together this year. Some folks want ODU to pursue Donovan as the Lady Monarchs next coach. Assuming that doesn't materialize, the current Seton Hall coach will face her former school as part of the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam Nov. 24-26 in St. Thomas. The Lady Monarchs will also face longtime rival Louisiana Tech (ODU beat LaTech to win the AIAW title in 1979) and Alabama. The schedule:

Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving Day) - Alabama vs. Old Dominion, 1 p.m.
Nov. 25 - Old Dominion vs. Louisiana Tech, 3:15 p.m.
Nov. 26 - Old Dominion vs. Seton Hall, 1 p.m.

The Lady Monarchs faced a murderer's row schedule when they last visited the Virgin Islands in 2007, as they dropped games to No. 2 UConn (86-43) and No. 4 Stanford (69-61) before upending No. 22 Purdue (66-53). 

VCU's Hurt's World University Games trials report

Can you imagine a team featuring college superstars Courtney Hurt, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins and Nneka Ogwumike? We couldn't, either, until we read Hurt's diary entry from the World University Games trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The VCU star is one of 35 players vying for one of 12 spots on the U.S. team that will compete in Shenzhen, China in August.

The trials - and Hurt's diary - will continue Tuesday, and up to 16 finalists will be announced Wednesday morning.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

JMU's Evans to play in Russia

Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year Dawn Evans will play for Dynamo Kursk, a top Russian team in the Euroleague, according to The Daily News Record.

Last year Lindsey Harding (Duke/Altanta Dream) and Michelle Snow (Tennessee/Chicago Sky) were the top two scorers for Dynamo.

Former players for Dynamo include Tameka Johnson (LSU/Phoenix Mercury) and Nikita Bell (North Carolina).

James Madison signs JUCO point guard

Junior college point guard Tanica Anderson of Midland (Texas) College has signed with James Madison.

The 5-5 Anderson was an All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference, an All-Region V selection and team MVP her sophomore year. She averaged 8.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals this past season as she helped lead the Lady Chaparrals to a 27-6 record, a Western Junior College Athletic Conference Championship and an appearance in the Region V Tournament finals. She was a two-year starter for the Lady Chaps and started all 33 games as a sophomore. 

In addition to being an all-state basketball player for Marietta (Okla) High, she is a five-time state champion and holds the state record in the 400. She was part of a 6-girl team that won the track state title in Class 3A in 2009, the first in school history.

Anderson picked James Madison over TCU and is among six newcomers. The others are Achiri Ade, Toia Giggetts, Jazman Gwathmey, Crystal Ross and Briana Jones.

On why she signed with James Madison: "I believe (head coach Kenny Brooks) can turn me into a better player and make me more skilled at the point guard position. I also really like the girls, they made me feel real welcome. They said they really needed me and they need a starting point guard to come in right away. I'm going to have to work hard, of course, and work for my position."

Midland coach Ron Jones on Anderson: "I think if she had a preference, she might have stayed closer to home but she had a great weekend there and they did a great job of recruiting her. They want her to be their point guard. I think she went to a good program and I think she'll do well in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Radford signs JUCO forward

Junior college forward Tiana Cannon (Atlantic City, N.J.), an honorable mention All-American, has signed with Radford, coach Tajama Abraham Ngongba announced on Thursday.

The 5-10 forward joins the Highlanders after completing her freshman year at Coffeyville (Kansas) College.

"Tiana is a very dynamic player with the ability to score, rebound and defend," said Abraham Ngongba. "Her uptempo style of play is perfect for our system."

 Cannon led the Kansas Jayhawk Conference in scoring (18.5 ppg) and tied for a team-best 59 assists while averaging 7.8 rebounds for the Red Ravens.

She was in the 1,000-point club for points and rebounds at Atlantic City High, the second in her school -- and her family, to hold that distinction -- (sister Tasha was first. Tasha, by the way, started all but two games last season for Division II Newman University in Wichita, Kan). Tiana Cannon was a four-year All-Cape Atlantic League performer, garnering first-team honors as a junior and senior.

As for growing up in AC: "It's fin at times," Cannon said. "There's always something to do. You can go for a walk on the Boardwalk. I don't want to say it's a party town, but there's always something to do."

Cannon is part of a class that includes early signees Ayana Avery, Jordynn Gaymon, Ashia Holmes, Kiera McIvor and Dominique Powell.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

(Updated) Tweet, tweet, tweet on the end of the Wendy Larry era at Old Dominion

Social media reaction from former players and friends about the end of the Wendy Larry era at Old Dominion:

As a former coach and proud double alum of the university, I am both embarrassed and incensed for my program and my school. Wendy - and the legacy she built and sustained for Lady Monarch Basketball - deserved much better.

And, oh, by the way, she had 20 wins this season, was CAA Coach of the Year last season for the 8th time, and went to the Sweet 16 in 2008. Not many coaches around the country with that kind of recent success are being treated like this, but apparently we are supposed to win the CAA every single year and go to the Sweet 16 as well or the season is a failure. --former ODU assistant Allison Greene

I wish I can just say Thanks to Wendy Larry and tell her GoodLuck even tho we not on good terms!! I will always have love for her! - Pryncess Tate-Dublin

Coach Larry has stepped down from coaching? I can barely write this. I am in shock! - Nyree Roberts.

Wendy larry was the best head coach I ever had. Off the court we won't on the same page but she made me a smarter ball player. Shoutout to her and her accomplishments - Jazzmin Walters

"I honestly didn't see this coming at all. I guess the best way to describe it is that I was shocked. … For her to resign -- it seems like something she wouldn't do. … I know there were rumors, there was stuff about her contract. … I just feel like, where's the loyalty? I know the program hasn't been doing great for the last couple of years, but she has done so much for the program. If she didn't leave on her own terms, it would be sad. She's an amazing coach and an amazing person, and it's a very sad day for women's basketball. - Ticha Penicheiro, to the Daily Press

Where my ODU people at?? What about Coach Larry stepping down?? Crazy uhm?? She's one of the best coaches I ever had + a friend 4 life!# sad -- Ticha on Twitter

Wendy Larry has resigned at ODU. Coaching against her teams while at Delaware was always the best. Always loved seeing her while recruiting. - Chris Campbell, Maryland director of basketball operations.

 - one of the best Wendy Larry moments, which at the time was my least favorite. - Amy Mulligan, University of Virginia media relations (link is to an ESPN story about ODU's Final Four victory over Stanford).

WOW, I am truly saddened by the news that my good friend and the best boss I ever had is stepping down from ODU! I know I'm not the only one who will miss her coaching the Lady Monarchs with her signature towel hanging on her shoulder.. :) You'll never know how much you miss something or somebody until they're gone.. Wendy you'll be very much missed, but never ever forgotten!!! -- ODU former assistant Alisa Scott
Wow Wendy??? Oh my gaw! -- former Lady Monarch Tiffany Thompson
I can't believe that coach larry won't be on the odu bench! This is crazy. -- former ODU manager Felecia Allen

ODU had a gem in Wendy Larry

After 608 wins, 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, 17 straight CAA titles, an Elite Eight, a national runner-up finish -- now Old Dominion will learn what they had in Wendy Larry.

The legendary coach of the Lady Monarchs announced Tuesday that she is stepping down. She will remain at ODU, with responsibilities for assisting the Office of Institutional Advancement for athletic related fundraising projects, and alumni events, and yes, we wonder what that means.

Folks have grown restless at ODU, both inside the department, where new athletic director Wood Selig made her contract dispute public, and amid the declining fan base. The Lady Monarch faithful clamor for a return to the glory days when they made lunch meat out of the rest of the CAA. New coach or not, we don't see those times coming back.

We recognize the times at ODU, specifically the last three years when the program did not meet its own standards. We also recognize Larry set those standards and maintained those standards at a time when other mid majors failed to do so. In the last three years, ODU has gone from an elite mid major to a pretty good one -- good enough to beat Georgia Tech and Louisville this year. Pretty good doesn't cut it with Selig or fans yearning for the past.

Selig has women's basketball roots, so he should know this. This CAA has evolved into a better CAA due to Old Dominion forcing the conference schools to elevate their programs or be left in Lady Monarch dust. Elena Delle Donne plays in this CAA. Denise Dillon coaches in it. ODU isn't going to chew through the conference anymore. The conference has markedly improved because it has had to in order to keep stride with ODU.

We don't know who ODU will get, but they won't get another Larry. ODU wasn't a steppingstone on her resume to an ACC or SEC program. She, like Virginia's Debbie Ryan, made it her passion, her life. The former WBCA president and ODU alum has lasting ties with every coach in the game. Every CAA school would love to have a home-and-away relationship with Tennessee. Put the feather in Wendy's cap for that, and for keeping ODU afloat during a time when BCS schools can boast charter flights and major television packages.

She is the role model you'd love your child to play for. She's funny and witty and smart and nurturing with an x's and o's mind that can't keep her from diagramming plays on napkins over dinner.  If you've ever listened to her speak publicly, you know where her heart is, where her heart has always been. She is a Lady Monarch. Frankly, it's hard to imagine the ODU bench without her.

At LadySwish we don't think she lost her fast ball. Have their been problems? Indeed, particularly in March the last three years when teams should peak, not falter.  We would have liked to see Larry take a crack at it with five new freshman, including a Parade All-American, traditionally not a kid who would choose a CAA school.

We will miss Wendy Larry, but we have always appreciated her for what she has done and what she kept doing for two decades. We have no doubt the restless will gain some respect, too, for a legacy we don't expect to see duplicated.

BREAKING NEWS: Wendy Larry is stepping down at ODU

Wow. Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry is stepping down to take another job within the university.

No title has been mentioned for her new job, but a press release from ODU notes that Larry will have "responsibilities for assisting the Office of Institutional Advancement for athletic related fundraising projects, and Alumni events."

Larry earned her 600th career coaching victory this year. If this closes the book on her career, she will finish with a record of 608-234 in 27 years, highlighted by her 559-203 record in 24 years at ODU. In that time, she took the Lady Monarchs to 20 NCAA Tournaments and 17 (consecutive) CAA titles.

In recent weeks, the relatinship between Larry and athletic director Wood Selig has appeared strained in various media reports involving her contract and the school's unwillingness to extend it beyond next year.

In the release, Selig was quoted: "Wendy and Lady Monarch basketball are synonymous. Wendy has been a consistent thread, as a student-athlete and coach, throughout much of our program's national success. So many people I have met associate ODU with our highly successful women's basketball program. We can all thank Wendy for the role she has played in helping with the national branding of our women's basketball program."

And from Larry: "I was truly blessed to have coached hundreds of student-athletes who wore the Lady Monarch uniform with pride during my tenure at ODU. I am forever grateful that the late President Marchello and Dr. Jim Jarett took a chance on me and brought me home."

Monday, May 16, 2011

NSU adds small forward from Atlanta

Norfolk State has a new Spartan.

Her name is Ebony Brown, who signed for the 2011-12 season. The 5-10 small forward from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy (Dwight Howard is an alum) earned All-Metro Honorable Mention by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution her senior year. She was also one of 23 players selected to the Class A 2011 all-state team by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.

Brown averaged 11.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as she led Southwest Atlanta to a 24-5 record for the 2010-11 season after helping the team advance to the semifinals of the state tournament in 2010.

Brown joins NSU’s other 2011 class members: Quineshia Leonard from Hampton High School and Ashley Dillard from Woodside High School. Both were named to the 2011 All-Peninsula District Second Team by the league’s coaches after signing with the Spartans during the November signing period.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ODU's Noelle back in the "House"

She's back at home in "House." That's right. Former Old Dominion forward Nicole Bellinghausen (now known as Noelle Movement) will guest star in Monday's episode of "House." The actress, singer, songwriter also made an appearance in a March episode. The show airs on Fox at 8 p.m.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

And then there was one: Maiga-Ba waived by Minnesota

Hamchetou Maiga-Ba has been waived by the Minnesota Lynx. Maiga is a nine-year veteran of the league, and assuming she isn't picked up, that leaves one Lady Monarch in the WNBA. Los Angeles Spark Ticha Penicheiro is the lone ODU player in the league, entering her 14th season!

A different Parade of stars, including two headed to Virginia, ODU

We've kind of had the sense that the abilities of Virginia-bound Sarah Imovbioh were something of a secret nationally. Well, as of Sunday, the secret is out - Imovbioh isn't just a Parade All-American, she's also one of three finalists for national player of the year in the 35th - and most unique - edition of the magazine's annual girls basketball honors.

The St. Anne's-Belfield standout was joined by Princess Anne High star Elizabeth Williams and Michigan's Jasmine Hines as "Top Players of 2011." National player-of-the-year honors went to consensus No. 1 recruit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

"Originally from Nigeria, the 6-foot-2 Imovbioh might be the surprise of the finalists, but her numbers don’t lie," Parade wrote about Imovbioh. "She is a rebounding machine and hovered around 30 points per game this season."

Imovbioh, and Old Dominion-bound Kaneisha Atwater, are far from the only surprises Parade produced with this year's 40-player, seniors-only team, which is notable not only for who is included but also who is not. For example, former Virginia signee Bria Smith, who will now attend Louisville, is ESPN's No. 8 recruit, a second-team All-USA selection by USA Today and one of the stars of last summer's world championship USA Basketball U-17 team. Yet she didn't make Parade's cut.

Smith is one of three recruits ranked in the top 10 by ESPN (along with No. 7 Justine Hartman and No. 9 Morgan Jones) that weren't chosen by Parade. Six McDonald's All-Americans (Smith, Jones, Hartman, Ariya Crook-Williams, Brianna Banks and Bonnie Samuelson) were also left off.

Instead, the magazine appeared to place an emphasis on honoring under-the-radar talents. Last year, for example, Parade's fourth team featured three players who had either signed with or have committed to UConn, two with Tennessee and others ticketed to Oklahoma, Boston College, Penn State and Stanford. This years list includes players headed for Maine, UTEP, San Francisco, Ohio University and Canisius.

Parade doesn't explain its selection process, so the criteria it used is unclear. But while some All-America teams value skill set and college upside, Parade seems to have placed a premium on actual high school production. Imovbioh averaged 29 points and 22 rebounds as a senior. Hines, who is bound for Michigan State, is the all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, in the state of Michigan.

As for Atwater, all she did was average 29.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.9 steals at Westwood (Fla.) and post six triple-doubles. These stats may not have swayed McDonald's or USA Today, but they were plenty good enough for Parade.

This approach is clearly a departure from previous Parade All-American teams, and since the magazine didn't bother to explain itself, they've left themselves open to charges that some of their selections don't make sense. But it's not as though everyone doesn't already know elite prospects like Smith can flat-out ball. If Parade wants to spread some of its glory to wildly productive but less-heralded performers, that's OK with us.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Whoa! ODU recruit named Parade All-American

Old Dominion-bound Kaneisha Atwater, a Fort Pierce, Fla., Westwood senior guard, will be recognized in PARADE magazine on Sunday as a member of its 35th annual All-America High School Girls Basketball Team.

Can we just say, "Wow, Lady Monarchs. What a recruit!" ODU's last Parade All-American was Alli Spence in 1999.

"I was pretty shocked to find out I made it," Atwater told the Palm Beach Post. "I was surprised — very excited."

The 5-7 Atwater led the Treasure Coast in points (29.2), assists (6.2) and steals (7.9) per game during the 2010-11 season and also added 7.5 rebounds. During her high school career, she saw time at all five positions on the court and averaged 28.2 points her junior season.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Boyle fills out Virginia coaching staff

New Virginia coach Joanne Boyle has assembled a staff with strong ties to the Commonwealth and/or region:

  - Kim Hairston, assistant: A Bassett native, Hairston starred as a player at Radford and Richmond who served as an assistant to Boyle at Richmond and Cal. Hairston has been an assistant at Georgia the past four seasons.

   - Cory McNeill, assistant - Baltimore native who, as the defensive coordinator at Georgetown, helped turn the Hoyas into one of the nation's top defensive teams over the past four seasons.

   - Katie O'Connor, assistant - A four-year starter at Virginia Tech (1995-99) who spent three years as an assistant with the Hokies. She has spent the past seven seasons as an assistant at Kansas under former Tech coach Bonnie Henrickson.

   - Sarah Holsinger, director of operations - A native or Luray, Holsinger spent two seasons as JMU's director of operations before taking a similar job for six years with Boyle at Cal.

"It was important for me to put together a talented staff that is passionate and experienced in recruiting and skill development," Boyle said. "Kim, Cory, Katie and Sarah are a group of rising stars in the profession who have helped build incredibly successful programs. They are all a great fit for the University of Virginia and I know they will work hard to drive the vision I have for the program. I'm excited and proud to bring this group together and we are looking forward to continuing to elevate the great tradition of Virginia women's basketball."

Bria Smith chooses Louisville

Former Virginia signee Bria Smith closed out her second go-round in the recruiting game Wednesday by choosing Louisville. A McDonald's All-American, Smith obtained her release from the Cavaliers after Debbie Ryan stepped down. While she maintains she continued to consider Virginia during her re-recruitment, she told ESPN that she simply couldn't see herself at Virginia with Ryan.

"They were still a choice but if it was meant to be, it would have happened last time," Smith said of Virginia. "I am a believer that things happen for a purpose and I just really wanted to play for Coach Ryan. When she left, it was like all my feelings about playing for Virginia left as well."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hoops notes (VT, UVa., VCU, JMU)

VIRGINIA: Former Virginia signee Bria Smith revealed on Twitter that she will announce her new college choice on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Within minutes of the tweet, Smith's timeline became filled with "Please come to our school!" postings. We suspect the avalanche of pleas is fine by Smith, a McDonald's All-American and consensus national Top-10 recruit who seems to be reveling in the attention that comes with being the last major recruit on the market. Smith has been coy about her decision so far, but has visited Tennessee and Louisville since obtaining her release from the Cavaliers in the wake of Debbie Ryan's resignation. According to reports, Oklahoma is also in the picture.

VIRGINIA TECH: Fomer Virginia Tech director of basketball operations Jill Jameson has accepted a similar position at Wisconsin. The move reunites Jameson with new Badgers head coach Bobbie Kelsey, a former assistant at Tech. Both came to the Hokies in 2004; Kelsey left after three seasons to become an assistant at Stanford.

VCU: The Rams dipped into the junior college ranks and added a fifth incoming recruit last week by signing Carleeda Green, a 5-7 combo guard from Chipola College (Fla.). A Washington D.C. native, Green averaged 11.3 points in helping Chipola to a 19-11 record last season. She will have two seasons of eligibility with the Rams.

As reported a couple of weeks ago, Rams star Courtney Hurt is one of 35 players to have accepted invitations to the World University Games trials May 22-25 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Hurt will be vying for a spot on the 12-player team that will represent the U.S. in the international competition Aug. 14-21 in Shenzhen, China. Also at the trials: Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers (Suffolk) and Maryland's Lynetta Kizer (Woodbridge).

JMU: Former Robert E. Lee High star Kristine Mial, who spent a year at JMU before transferring to Frederick Community College, has signed with East Carolina. A 5-9 forward, Mial missed the entire 2009-10 season at JMU with a knee injury. But she had a dominant 2010-11 campaign at the juco level, averaging 21.3 ppg and earning NJCAA Division II second-team All-America honors while helping FCC to a 25-6 record.

HAMPTON: All-American point guard Jericka Jenkins was named Hampton University's Female Student-Athlete of the Year after directing the Lady Pirates to a second straight MEAC tournament title and the NCAA Tournament. The junior led the Lady Pirates in scoring (13.4 ppg) and ranked second nationally in assists (7.3) and assist-turnover ratio (3.0).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Reflection: Virginia Tech

Shanel Harrison
2010-11 season: 11-19, 1-13 ACC. First-round loss to Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament (81-58)

Who's leaving: Nikki Davis 6.4 ppg, 3 rpg, Brittany Gordon 4.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, Elizabeth Basham 3.3 ppg; Beth Dunkenberger resigned after seven seasons coaching the Hokies.

Who's coming: Larryqua "Reka" Hall, 5-10 guard, Hillgrove (Ga.): Averaged a team-best 14.4 points and 4 steals while leading her team to a 22-6 record and the state quarterfinals. Named Cobb County Girls Basketball Player of the Year by the Marietta Daily Journal.

High point: Stunning Vanderbilt 74-68 on Dec. 30. Monet Tellier was the tournament MVP for the Hokies, who won their own Hilton Garden Classic. Tech trailed 34-19 at the break only to score 55 points in the second half to defeat an SEC opponent for the first time since 2004.

Low point: Losing 66-52 to Robert Morris on Dec. 11 at Cassell. Robert Morris led by as many as 28, shooting 51 percent in the first half.

Stock of program: In flux

Hokie fans grew weary of losing in 2010-11, particularly in the ACC where Tech's lone victory came against Clemson. Conference struggles are nothing new for the Hokies, just 9-48 in their own league in the last four years. The most daunting blow: a 50-point loss at Duke, the most lopsided by Tech ever in the ACC.

Dunkenberger, who we rooted for given her passion for her alma mater, led the Hokies to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances her first two years, but those were largely behind players recruited by former coach Bonnie Henrickson. The program needs a facelift.

Enter Dennis Wolff, a seasoned men's coach but a curious choice to head the women's team. Unlike Virginia's Craig Littlepage, Tech AD Jim Weaver didn't scan the nation for a new coach. Weaver didn't leave campus to find Wolff, working as the men's basketball director of operations. Wolff was grossly overqualified for that job, as he was men's basketball coach at Boston University from 1994-2009. Most folks don't think of BU for its athletics, but Wolff was wildly successful there, leading the Terriers to three straight conference titles (2002-2004) and four postseason appearances.

Weaver stressed at the press conference announcing Wolff's hiring that he had found the right man for the job. If we have a reservation, it is this. Wolff has no experience coaching the women's game, and we wonder if a upstart young female coach might have added energy and vision to a program that has the resources to compete with the ACC bigs. Wolff's daughter, Nicole, played at UConn and we don't doubt that he was instrumental in her development. But that experience is not the same as recruiting, coaching and connecting with a team of young women. We like the addition of former Vandy star Chantelle Anderson to his staff, though her only experience is a year of assistant coaching at the Division II level.

Tech's first order of  business is recruiting, as Dunkenberger was unable to snag the state's best players in her tenure. Wolff has talked about the need to build the Hokies from the foundation up, and that requires him and his staff to draw elite players to Blacksburg. There's no reason why he can't if  Tech is willing to make a sincere commitment to the women's program. The ACC is a great conference to play in; Cassell is state-of-the-art with a core fan base ready to get behind a winner. All you need to know about the practice facility is it cost $21 million. Great digs.

Yet much like Virginia right now, Tech has only pieces of a team. Two of the significant pieces are junior Shanel Harrison and freshman Monet Tellier. We particularly like Tellier's upside, especially if she can cut down on turnovers; no other Hokie had more last season.

Change will be anything but quick. Wolff has been candid about expectations, and we can't help but look at programs including Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami and wonder how the Hokies can making any inroads in that mix. Henrickson produced the kind of ball Tech fans would love to return to, but seven years later, the conference might be even deeper given the emergence of the Hurricanes and Seminoles. Nor can we overlook Virginia under savvy recruiter and new head coach Joanne Boyle and NC State under impressive Kellie Harper. A tough task indeed is ahead of Wolff and staff, and we await what he's got in the works.

Don't expect miracles for 2011-12, Hokie fans. But in the words of the Black Eyed Peas, "Let's Get it Started."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New rules changes on tap for women's BB

Two good rules changes - in other words, two we agree with - appear on the way as the NCAA Women's Basketball Committee has recommended moving the 3-point line back to the men's distance of 20 feet, 9 inches and adopting a 10-second backcourt rule for exhibitions and closed scrimmages.

The committee also recommended adding a restricted area arc located three feet from the center of the basket in which a secondary defender cannot legally take a charge, something the NBA has had for years. All recommendations must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to meet via conference call June 9. 

The move to a deeper 3-point shot is based on hard data. During exhibitions and scrimmages last season, it was discovered that players actually shot a higher percentage from 20-9 than from the standard 19-9. In other words, the longer the shot, the less likely people with no business shooting from distance will jack one up. At leas that's what we hope it means.

As for the 10-second backcourt rule, we've been begging for that for years. Detractors are concerned that adopting this would lead to more turnovers, and Lord knows women's basketball doesn't need more of those. But we think the ability to extend the defense would speed up play and bring an exciting tactical element to the game, and most coaches we've talked to seem excited about the possibility.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Maya, is that you? Nah, just Hampton's latest addition

The cherry on top of Hampton's gotta-have-it-sized recruiting sundae is a 6-1 scoring machine about whom Lady Pirates coach David Six gushes so much, you'd think he'd just inked Maya Moore.

"She's a flat-out scorer," Six said of Jasmine Lytle, who blew up at New Jersey's New Brunswick High as a senior with 21.5 points and 17.5 rebounds per game. "A tremendous athlete. Great shot-blocker. And her best attribute is she's a great defender. We're definitely fortunate to be able to get her."

Maya, is that you?

Even before the addition of Lytle (pronounced lie-TELL), Six was touting his six-player incoming class as perhaps Hampton's best ever. Now that Lytle has made it a Magnificent Seven, "this sends it through the roof," Six said.

That a player with Lytle's apparent upside was still available in April of her senior year was due in part to a bit of misinformation according to John Stone, Lytle's AAU coach with the New Jersey-based FBC Defenders. Stone said that last summer, after Lytle suffered a sprained knee, "somebody somewhere said it was a (torn) ACL.'' The false report threw several schools off Lytle's scent, the coach said.

Lytle wound up visiting four schools - St. Peter's, Mount St. Mary's and Maryland-Eastern Shore in addition to Hampton - and thought long and hard about UMES before making Six's day.

Stone said that in addition to Lytle's physical attributes, the soon-to-be Lady Pirates comes with significant intangibles. One of those is loyalty - when Lytle began to develop she was frequently wooed by higher-profile AAU outfits but chose to remain with the tiny FBC Defenders and the coach that had mentored her since eighth grade.

The coach also raved about Lytle's infectious personality.

"When she walks into a room, everybody notices her," Stone said. "Her leadership qualities are just natural."

Former UVa. assistant Elderkin surfaces at LSU

Former Virginia assistant coach Angel Elderkin has joined Nikki Caldwell's new staff at LSU. Elderkin, who spent four years with the Cavaliers under Debbie Ryan, will be LSU's director of video operations. The Lady Tigers' three assistant coaches, Tasha Butts, Tony Perotti and Jon Silver, held the same positions with Caldwell at UCLA.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reflection: Virginia

Top scorer Ariana Moorer
2010-11 season: 19-16 overall, 5-9 ACC; Lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament (Wake Forest , 74-68), Lost in the quarterfinals of the WNIT to Charlotte, 79-74

Who's leaving: Paulisha Kellum (6.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg); Jayna Hartig (0.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg) Debbie Ryan (retired after 34 seasons); assistant Wendy Palmer (now head coach at UNC Greensboro)

Who's coming: Sarah Imovbioh, 6-2 forward, St. Anne's-Belfield (Va.): Ranked 56th nationally by ESPN. Absolutely towered over the private school competition as she averaged 29 points and 22.6 rebounds per game. Led the Saints to a 21-2 record and the VISAA Division II state title game where they fell to Cape Henry 70-58 despite Imovbioh's 31-point, 25-rebound effort. Named the VISAA Division II Player of the Year.

High point: On Feb. 12, Ariana Moorer's layup at the buzzer made the Cavaliers winners in the longest game in program history, a 94-92 thriller at N.C. State in four overtimes. Three days later, Virginia traveled to College Park and upended then-No. 11 Maryland. Problems? What problems?

Low point: With a 13-point lead and less than four minutes remaining, the Cavaliers appeared set to exact some revenge for a 2010 loss to JMU. Then the Dukes' Dawn Evans got hot - white hot - pouring in 13 of her program-record 42 points in the final 3:59 to shoot down Virginia 82-80. Ouch.

Stock of program: In flux
We said goodbye to Debbie Ryan, whose exit doesn't leave us as puzzled as its timing. Admittedly, we love Ryan, her infectious enthusiasm for the program she built and her manner of priorities, which are ideal for what college athletics is supposed to represent. We've read the message board rumblings the last few years from a restless fan base that has seen Miami, Florida State and Maryland upgrade their programs, surpassing Virginia's at the moment. We saw Monica Wright come and go without making a serious statement in the NCAA Tournament. Yet we would have liked to have seen Ryan leave on her own terms, and given how the events unfolded, we don't believe that was the case. Her departure at a time when Virginia played a brutal nonconference schedule and had marquee recruit (Bria Smith) coming in is curious at best.

So the Joanne Boyle era will begin for Virginia. A thoughtful coaching search by athletic director Craig Littlepage gives Cavaliers fans a recruiting ace with a decorated resume. She led Cal to the postseason in each of the six seasons she was there, including four NCAA Tournament appearances. When Boyle took over at Cal, the school had been unable to produce a winning record for 12 straight seasons.

Prior to Cal, Boyle successfully coached Richmond to three straight winning seasons, including an NCAA Tournament appearance her final year.

She inherits a Virginia team of role players. Since Monica Wright's graduation a year ago, Virginia has been without a go-to who can deliver in the clutch. While coaches love to talk about getting it done by committee, the ACC is full of dominant performers -- Shenise Johnson at Miami, Jessica Breland at North Carolina, Jasmine Thomas at Duke. The state's -- and nation's -- prize recruit Elizabeth Williams would have likely been that, but the Virginia Beach native chose Duke instead.

Losing Smith was a blow. The third-team Parade All-American put her name back into a plethora of schools wanting her when Ryan departed.

So that leaves Boyle with some pieces -- although they're just that. She must find the glue to hold together a program that often doesn't produce the offense to deliver the knockout punch.

Guards Ataira Franklin and China Crosby have huge upsides. Franklin wrapped up a sensational rookie campaign, which included 27 starts,  averaging 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. She was named to the five-player ACC All-Freshmen team and led the league in 3-point field goal percentage (43-for-90, 48 percent). The question about Crosby is can she stay healthy? Crosby suffered a season-ending knee injury in January of her freshman year and re-injured the knee in Virginia's season opener. If Crosby can avoid the injury bug, we might just see why she is was the No. 2 point guard nationally when she signed.

We'd also like to see Simone Egwu develop into a consistent presence for the Cavaliers. The 6-3 center started every game, is the Cavs' top rebounder (5.2 rpg) and touts the highest shooting percentage on the team (.484). But she averaged just 6 points and shot a disappointing 67 percent from the free-throw line. It's time for Egwu to make a move forward and elevate her game to the level of the ACC bigs.

While the future looks bright for Virginia given Boyle's capabilities, the future is likely not the 2011-12 season. It will take some time before Virginia finds itself back in the ACC mix given the depth of talent in that league. But there is no reason the Cavaliers can't join Miami, Florida State, North Carolina, Maryland and Duke in the hunt for the conference title. Virginia has super academics and an inviting campus that includes one of the top facilities in the nation. Now they have Boyle, who has been able to get the job done wherever she has gone. We don't expect it to be any different in Charlottesville.