Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween from LadySwish (and the Tribe)!!


We wanted to wish you a ghoulishly wonderful day, but even better, the William and Mary Tribe, all decked out for the occasion, wishes you a Happy Halloween!

On the left, that's Janine Aldridge, Taylor Hilton, Kat DeHenzel, Kaitlyn Mathieu, Molly Kaye, Victoria Willems, Chanel Murchison, Courtney Anne Flynn, Tori Ford, Taysha Pye, Jazmen Boone and Emily Correal. Below, the best costumes of the night: Taysha Pye as Mario and Emily Correal as Princess Peach. (We're partial to Chanel's mime, frankly). Photos courtesy of Emily. Thanks for letting us share.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Inside the AP Top 25 poll

Some quick impressions on the just-released Associated Press Top 25 poll:

- As expected, no teams from Virginia received even one vote. We'd like to argue, but at this point, we really can't.

- The ACC has five schools in the poll; only the Big East (7) has more. Miami (7), Duke (8), Maryland (11) and Georgia Tech (14) are all among the Top 14.

- No disrespect to North Carolina (No. 20) and Texas (24), but we're not sure these schools didn't make this cut more because of habit than actual merit.

- Same with UCLA, which lost its leading rebounder and second-leading scorer to a ruptured Achilles tendon, is adjusting to a new coach and was picked to finish fourth in its own conference. Yet the Bruins still check in at No. 22 in this poll, second to Stanford among Pac-12 teams.

- All 25 teams are from BCS conferences. The first of the so-called mid-majors among others receiving votes is Gonzaga, followed by Green Bay, Xavier, Dayton, Marist, Temple, Oral Roberts and Delaware. Not sure why Xavier is in there - the Musketeers were picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 but received more support in this poll than any other team in the conference.

- Delaware's lone nod was a No. 25 pick from Deb Antonelli of Fox Sports. The Blue Hens are the only CAA team to receive a mention.

- The lone AP voter from Virginia is Katrina Waugh of the Roanoke Times. Her preseason ballot is as follows:

1. Notre Dame; 2. UConn; 3. Baylor; 4. Stanford; 5. Texas A&M; 6. Tennessee; 7. Miami; 8. Duke; 9. DePaul; 10. Georgetown; 11. Maryland; 12. Rutgers; 13. Gonzaga; 14. Green Bay; 15. North Carolina; 16. UCLA; 17. Oklahoma; 18. Ohio State; 19. Michigan State; 20. Louisville; 21. Florida State; 22. St. John's; 23. Kentucky; 24. Georgia; 25. Penn State.

- Use this link to follow the ballots of all AP voters throughout the season.


Friday, October 28, 2011

The LadySwish preseason state rankings

VCU's Courtney Hurt
The Associated Press women's basketball Top 25 poll comes out Saturday, and we're pretty sure there won't be a single Virginia team on the list.

So, who needs that poll? We've got our own list and it's all Virginia schools, neatly ranked for your enjoyment, amusement and/or annoyance. Understand that these rankings are meant to reflect how teams look right now, not necessarily how we think they'll wind up in March. Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns at this point. But that's part of the fun.

Finally, the rankings are unveiled in reverse order. We admit it's kind of a cheesy way of getting you to scroll through the entire post. But honestly, that's not why we did it. We just figured that if we're going to pick someone last, at least we ought to have the decency to write about them first.

Now, onto the rankings....

13. Longwood

What's to like: Quality performers Chelsea Coward and Brittanni Billups...a breakout star candidate in Mina Jovanovic...A full offseason of preparation for the systems of coach Bill Reinson, who took over last December...Stability - Reinson was an interim coach last year. Interestingly, Billups, Jovanovic and guard/forward Brittany Jones were on the committee that recommended Reinson's approval for the full-time job. In other words, these players wanted to play for this guy. That ought to count for something.

So why only 13th? - Someone has to be. And while we think the Lancers certainly have the ability to climb out of this spot, we're leery of their 3-33 record away from home the last two years, especially since that's where they'll be playing 21 of their 30 games this season. Reinson has a plan for more road success, and it certainly makes sense to us. But until we actually see it work...well, like we said, somebody has to be 13th.

12. Norfolk State

What's to like: Four returning starters, including exciting MEAC all-rookie guard Rae Corbo...the significant upside of sophomore Rachel Gordon...the quality preseason work put in by guard Whitney Long.

So why only 12th? - Someone has to...wait, we did that already. Seriously, we can't forget about how the wheels came off for NSU over the second half of the season (3-15 over their last 18 games). More seasoned leadership and the general improvement throughout the roster should help the Spartans avoid a repeat performance. And if they can play the entire 2011-12 season the way they played the first half of 2010-11, the Spartans will be just fine.

11. George Mason
Amber Easter
What's to like: Dynamic guard Taleia Moton and underrated forward Amber Easter...The pattern of improvement under coach Jeri Porter - the Patriots went 4-26 in her first season, 10-20 in her second and were 13-17 last year. So...this means the Pats will surely be .500 or better this season, right?

So why only 11th? - Moton and Easter are the only returning starters, so a bunch of Patriots will need to produce a lot more than they have previously for this thing to work. Not saying they can't, and Porter seems to really like what she has. We'd just like to see it for ourselves.

 10. Radford

What's to like: Big South blue-chipper Da' Naria Erwin Spencer leading a group of talented returners...pesky, the-basketball-or-your-life interesting batch of recruits.

So why only 10th? - Over the last three seasons, the Highlanders have won 30 games. Twenty-five of those victories have come against teams in the Big South. Now, conference wins are important, no doubt. But with so little out-of-conference success, it's hard to gauge where Radford fits in with the rest of the world. Last year, one of Radford's non-conference wins came at George Mason, which explains why the Highlanders are here and the Patriots are up there. But we'd like to see a few more non-league wins before we move these guys past anyone else.

9. Virginia Tech

What's to like: A quality sophomore class led by Monet Tellier and Nia Evans that think might really blossom in 2011-12...the return from injury of 6-3 redshirt sophomore Porschia Hadley, who played in just 9 games last season before suffering an ACL injury...the steady all-around play of Alyssa Fenyn.

So why only 9th? - With no seniors and only nine scholarship players having to adjust to a new system and an entire new coaching staff, this is hardly the time to be making any bold proclamations about how good Tech is right now. No one's saying new coach Dennis Wolff and his staff can't eventually produce a quality ACC outfit. We're just figuring it's going to take some time.

8. William and Mary

Emily Correal 
What's to like: Take the names off the front of all the team's jerseys. Now suppose we told you that one of the groups had eight returners with starting experience, five players 6-2 or taller, three former conference all-rookie team members, one of the league's 10 best players (Taysha Pye), another who was one of ESPN's Top 100 recruits (Emily Correal) and another who spent time on ESPN's list (Anna Kestler) and headlines an intriguing four-player recruiting class. Be honest, when you hear all of that, you're not thinking William and Mary, right? Well, that's William and Mary.

So why only 8th? - Last year's 3-26 record gives us pause. Injuries can wreck any team's season, and the 2011-12 Tribe certainly had its share of those. So we'll buy that. But right now, we see a group that should at least contend for a CAA title (That's right, we said it). Heck, if we had any guts we'd rank the Tribe a lot higher than this. But Show us something, guys, because the talent's in place to be much, much, much better than that.

7. Old Dominion

What's to like: A big-time talent in redshirt senior Tia Lewis...the fresh energy and enthusiasm of new coach Karen Barefoot and what appears to be a crack staff of assistants...The return of forward Mairi Buchan, who missed all of last season with foot problems...Portuguese newcomer Michelle Brandao, who appears poised to step right in at point guard.

So why only 7th? - Four senior starters are gone, and while last season didn't end the way any Lady Monarch fan wanted, let's not forget that those players fueled a group that won 20 games and snagged the No. 2 seed in the CAA Tournament. The signs are positive for an eventual ODU resurgence, and it may happen sooner than later. Like Virginia Tech, though, it's not really fair to expect too much right away.

6. Liberty

Devon Brown
What's to like: The Lady Flames' usual rebounding mastery, which should be enhanced this year by the addition of three freshmen 6-foot-4 or taller...Two Big South Players of the Year contenders in Pan Am Games girl Avery Warley and Devon Brown...The team's motivation level, which should be high after having to watch Gardner-Webb snatch away a Big South tournament title the Lady Flames had pretty much owned the past 15 years.

So why only 6th: Turnovers killed this team last year, and it'll be up to more or less the same cast of characters - minus the gifted Jelena Antic - to reign those mistakes in. If they do, look out. If they don't, well....

5. Richmond

What's to like: Preseason second-team All-Atlantic 10 guard Abby Oliver (when you're one of the 10 best players in a 14-team league, you're pretty good)...Healthy Bilney twins (for once, and forever we hope)...talented sophomores, promising freshmen.

So why only 5th? - Let's senior and 11 freshmen and sophomores...sounds like a recipe of inconsistency to us. Honestly, we have less of a feel for these Spiders than any of the teams on this list. We love the talent, though, so I guess we're trusting Michael Shafer to figure it all out.

4. James Madison

What's to like: Championship pedigree (times two, actually)...A player coach Kenny Brooks is promoting as the Dukes' next big star in Tarik Hislop...A more conventional, balanced approach post-Dawn Evans, and the talent to pull it off.

So why only 4th? - No team lost more starting unit firepower than these Dukes, and we can't just ignore that and just elevate them to the top spot out of habit. Have to hand it to the Dukes, though. Their slogan's not "Rebuild" or "Let's See What Happens." It's "Encore." In other words, regardless of what anyone else thinks, they're putting that championship carrot right back out there.

3. Hampton

Jericka Jenkins
What's to like: Honorable mention All-American guard Jericka Jenkins, the Peyton Manning of the Lady Pirates (With Jenkins in the lineup last season, Hampton played like last year's Colts. When she sat out, Hampton looked like this year's Colts)...Older, wiser former high school star Alyssa Bennett...Coach David Six's proven blueprint for success.

So why only 3rd? - Two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Quanneisha Perry and Laura Lewis may not have had overwhelming statistics. But few teams in the country had better chemistry within its starting five than the Lady Pirates, who used these intangibles to achieve things that, on paper, many didn't believe possible. With Perry and Lewis now gone, can the Lady Pirates' new pieces blend in so seamlessly? Player for player, this is the best roster Six has had in his three seasons. But with so many newcomers, no one should expect this team to just pick up where last year's left off.

2. Virginia

China Crosby
What's to like: No, the Cavaliers didn't have a first-, second- or third-team All-ACC player for the first time in league history. Still, there are a lot of really fine players on this team, and relative to the rest of this state, this Virginia team is loaded...New coach Joanne Boyle's track record for putting teams together, and the fact that these players appear to be embracing her teachings.

So why only 2nd? - Boyle has taken this group back to the basics, and she freely admits there's an "under construction" sign over Cavaliers practices. Even an in-transition Virginia team is pretty close to the class of this state, but since this is a preseason poll, we're going to give the No. 1 nod to a team that will open the year more defined, with considerably less variables. A team like....

1. VCU

Andrea Barbour
What's to like: Four senior starters - honorable mention All-American Courtney Hurt (23.6 ppg and a Division I-leading 12.4 rpg, elite scoring guard Andrea Barbour, fourth-year starting point guard Jennifer Lane and 6-6 center Chelsea Snyder...A solid mix of returners and newcomers behind the "Big Four."

Why they're No. 1 - One of the differences between the top BCS conference schools and quality mid-majors is the BCS schools can recruit at a level to where they're really good every year, while the mid-majors often need to build for a couple of years towards a peak season. For VCU, this should be one of those seasons. So we're setting the bar high because, with Hurt, Barbour and Co. in their final season, that's where the bar should be.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twin on Twin: Richmond's Bilney on Bilney


Who knows Rachael Bilney better than Sam Biley, and who knows Sam Bilney better than Rachael?

No one, we figured, so in addition to asking each Richmond twin to talk about herself, we asked her for some insight on the other (after all, they're are roommates whose cell phone numbers are a digit apart and they're finally going to be real teammates -- you know the kind that play on the floor at the same time? You see for the first time since the beginning of their freshman year, both redshirt juniors are healthy.

Is that sound Spiders coach Michael Shafer knocking on wood?

Sam: Rachael and I have played on the same team since we were 7 (they hail from Mill Valley, Calif). The whole point of getting recruited together was to play together. It's awesome to have that dream fulfilled and really start moving into playing together. I'm so excited. I've really been looking forward to it for a long time. The past couple of seasons, it's been heartbreaking.

Can we tell you apart? Well, yeah, they're fraternal (born May 24, 1990)....

Sam: She has straight brown hair and brown eyes and I'm a bit taller. (Sam, a blond, stands 6-foot. Rachael is 5-10).

When they argue ..... which is hardly ever by the way ....

Sam: I'm no good. I would lose everything. We've got an uncle and a grandpa, and they're lawyers. Rachael's got the passion to give a really good closing. I'm no good to argue with.

Sam on Rachael's favorite color: She's pink and I'm blue.

Sam on Rachael's favorite collectible: Purses. Last year in the room we shared, we decorated the walls with purses.We went to the outlets and found a great deal on a Coach. I don't know how many (purses) she has. Technically I have three, but only ever use two.

Sam on growing up Bilney: We're the only two kids in our family. We played a lot of dress up. We played with Beanie Babies, general store, pet store games. Our parents were really good about having us go outside and use our imagination.

Sam on Rachael's perfect day: She'd probably relax, take a breath. She likes outdoors and sunshine. We're both beach people.

Sam on the future: "We're not the freaky twins who have to be together all the time. Once we graduate we'll pursue opportunities we each want. We joke one day we'll be neighbors. I'm a marketing major. I'd love to work in an ad agency as an account executive.

Rachael on Sam: Sam's the cool, patient one. I'm the emotional hothead. Sam is definitely the responsible one. When I know I mess up, she gives me one of those looks and I usually don't handle it so well.

Rachael on Sam's sense of humor: She laughs at everything you say.

Rachael on Sam's favorite food (Sam couldn't tell us Rachael's): I wouldn't be able to tell you my favorite food, either. She loves ho tdogs; I know that.

Rachael on Sam's perfect day: That would have to be at our grandparents' lake house up in Michigan.

That's Rachael
Rachael on Sam the player: We're both long and lanky and we've played together so long and been coached by the same people so long, our basketball IQ and our fundamentals are similar. Sam is much more the type of player who is the glue to the team. You're not necessarily going to see her score 16 points. But you go watch the tape and look at the stats and see she's all over. .... Who knows how I play? I haven't played in a while. I'm more of a shooter. That's usually the first thing that comes out of people's mouths.

That's Sam
Rachael on playing together .... after so long: Sam and I haven't talked about it. We're not talking about it, not jinxing it. We're just want to have fun. The whole point of coming here was to get a great education and to play basketball together. In three yeas we've played very few games together. Sam has torn her ACL four times. She shouldn't be walking. She's had five major surgeries since our sophomore year of high school.

Rachael on her own ACL tear last fall: I learned watching Sam deal with it. She's just relentless. She's persistent, determined.

Rachael on her future: I'm a double major journalism and communication. I 've had two internships with TV stations and worked at the speech center at our school. I'm interested in public relations. Grad school is something probably in the books for both of us.

Rachael on other cool twins: Ashley and Courtney Paris. They're the nicest best girls. They made it playing together their whole lives and they're been best friends the whole way. I can't remember if it was Courtney or Ashley who used to joke around with us about having our own network on TV called "Twin Vision."

We'd tune in. Thanks, Bilneys. Can't wait to see both of you on the court for the Spiders, who open 11/11/11 at Navy.

The Ladyswish latte

Who needs coffee? Get your morning started with a few basketball musings....

Stopped by Hampton Wednesday night for the Pirates' "Midnight Madness" and got another reminder of why coaches hate these events. On three different occasions, Lady Pirates coach David Six cautioned his players "Don't get hurt!" - and this was before they even threw the ball up. The Lady Pirates' "scrimmage" lasted just five minutes - with a running time - and none of the players even thought about playing defense. Still, Six didn't exhale until the final horn and all players left the court in the same condition in which they took it. 

In the works

- Who's got the best Division I team in Virginia? Beats us. But that's never stopped us from weighing in on the topic, so look for our preseason state rankings soon. Really soon. 

- Hampton All-American Jericka Jenkins talks about dancing, her funny teammates and when she might get her first tattoo. Oh, and a little bit about surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Once one of the top high school players in the country, Alyssa Bennett set off on an arduous two-year journey - only to wind up right back in her hometown. 

We're shouting out....

- Avery Warley, the Liberty star who returned to Lynchburg Wednesday after a stint with the United States squad in the Pan Am Games. Like Team USA itself, Warley got better as the tournament progressed and did her school and all of Virginia women's hoops proud. Still, Avery, we were just there any way you could have packed Breanna Stewart's jump hook for the trip home? That kid is a stud.

- Rachael Ross, a rising senior from Illinois who verbally committed to Radford earlier this week. In addition to being a fine alliteration teammate for current Highlanders freshman Ayana Avery, the 6-3 Ross will add size to a Radford squad starved for bigs. (Click here to see all the Division I verbal commitments in the state.)

 - Eric Bohannon, who settles into Dustin Semonavick's seat as Old Dominion's women's basketball information man. We haven't seen the last of Semonavick, though - he's now handling men's basketball at Towson.

Last-second shots

- We too will really miss Sue Donohoe. Huge loss for the women's game.

- Xavier seventh in the Atlantic 10? Tough league.

- Cardinals 4, Rangers 2. Pujols goes deep. Bring on Game Seven.

- Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Wiedersehen, folks.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Inside ACC Media Day with Debbie Antonelli

Read what our buddy Debbie Antonelli has to say about ACC media day. We'll give you her nugget on Virginia.

UVA’s new boss is former Duke player and assistant coach Joanne Boyle.  Virginia is implementing a motion offense which requires a read-and- react offensive mind set.  According to Chelsea Shine, Senior post player, setting good screens will be a defining detail of their new offense

Which team reminds her of Archie Griffin? Check out her post.

Sleeping with the Lady Monarchs ....

Admit it. We got you with the headline.

Actually, it's not that far-fetched. The Lady Monarchs will be holding a sleepover at the Constant Center following their season opener against Virginia Tech on Nov. 11.

A "Night With the Lady Monarchs" starts at 6 p.m. with arrival, check in and bag drop-off. The game against the Hokies is at 7 p.m. followed with a meet and greet with the players after the game.

After the meet and greet is troop time followed by a 10:30 p.m. showing of  the Disney movie "Tangled," which will be on the video board.

The following morning there will be breakfast at 7 a.m. with pickup at 7:30 a.m.

The event is $25 per person which includes a game ticket, craft, snack and breakfast. To register, visit or email Theresa Perry at

Deadline to order tickets is Nov. 1.

Just one question. Do we need slippers on can we go Barefoot?

Warley, U.S. finish 7th at Pan Am Games

Can we start the Pan Am Games women's basketball tournament over?

Good luck with that, of course. But that's a shame for Team USA. Because after showing up in Mexico with less than a week of practice and struggling early, the Americans finished play looking like a team finally ready to deal.

On Monday, the U.S. throttled Jamaica 87-41 in the 7th-place game, less than 24 hours after dismantling Mexico 87-58. That's two victories by a combined 75 points - the kind of blowouts we've become accustomed to seeing Team USA squad engineer.

The problem was, it took a while for a group of players thrown together in the middle of their college preseasons to come together. The U.S. opened with narrow losses to Argentina and Puerto Rico, setbacks that cost the team a chance to play for a medal.

Seventh place would normally be unacceptable for a United States squad, particularly in an eight-team tournament. But we can accept what went down in Guadalajara - especially after the team closed by showing what it was truly capable of.

Liberty's Avery Warley had her best game of the tournament against Jamaica, contributing 6 points and 10 rebounds (tied for the team high) in 17 minutes. Hofstra's Shante Evans continued her strong inside play and finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Former ODU coach Stanley talks about "The Mighty Macs"

Nice story from our buddy Vic Dorr at the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Marianne Stanley's impressions of the movie "The Mighty Macs."

We're planning to catch the flick this weekend and we'll give you our thoughts.

LadySwish mailbag

Got a question for LadySwish? We've got the answers (or at least we'll try to find them). Keep 'em coming.

Q: I have a question for Ladyswish.  Norfolk State opens its season on Nov. 11 at Texas Southern at 11:00 AM (Central time). Do you know if there is any way to find out if our game is the first official game of the 2011-12 Women’s Division I College Basketball season?

A: Actually the Texas Southern opener starts at 11 central time, which of course is noon eastern time. It appears that two games - Fairleigh Dickinson at Boston College and North Carolina A&T at Iona - start at 11 eastern time. In other words, those four teams will be about a hour into their games when you tip off. At noon eastern, five other games commence, including yours.
Hope this helps!

A tall order for Warley, U.S. Pan Ams team

Caught a bit of Friday's Team USA loss to Argentina at the Pan Am Games, and it struck me just how much the deck is stacked against this U.S. squad.

Think about it. Exactly one week ago, these players - Liberty's Avery Warley and Hofstra's Shante Evans among them - were meeting each other, and their coaches, for the first time. After three days of practice, they left for Mexico. Two practice days later, they were playing games that count.

So let's see. Different coaches, different teammates, different country, different (international) rules, different ball.... Quite a bit to process in less than a week.

Of course, all Argentina saw was the "USA" on the front of the uniform. The United States is No. 1 in FIBA's world rankings, and deservedly so - when led by the Taurasis, Parkers and Catchings of the world. Now, Warley, Evans and their Pan Am teammates are all terrific college players that are thrilled to be representing their country. It's great that these "hidden jewels" are getting this experience. But let's face it, these guys ain't those guys.

That didn't matter to the Argentinians, who celebrated their 58-55 victory as though they'd just won the whole tournament. And why not? After all, they'd just beaten "the best team in the world."

This doesn't mean America's Pan Am Games team still can't succeed. While they're obviously still having to adjust on the fly - and time is running out - this group figures to get better as the tournament goes on. Even a U.S. team such as this one, without the usual All-Americans and WNBA all-stars, is extremely talent-rich by the rest of the world's standards. And most of the other world powers - Australia, Spain, Russia, the Czech Republic - aren't in this tournament.

So we'll not ruling anything out. We just hope people realize, under the circumstances, what a huge ask it is to expect too much from a group of players that, as recently as a few weeks ago, never even dreamed they'd be in this position.

Team USA will resume action Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Congrats to Hall-of-Famer Wendy Larry

Congrats to ODU coach Wendy Larry was inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday. She is pictured here with Felecia Allen and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba.

Maiga-Ba and new baby in Norfolk to honor Wendy

Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, who was inducted into Old Dominion's Hall of Fame over the weekend, was at Scope on Tuesday night watching her former coach Wendy Larry get inducted into another Hall of Fame. Larry was inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame. Maiga-Ba will fly home to Sacramento this week.

The former Olympian who was CAA Player of the Year in 2001 brought along her new son, Mamadou, born May 19. Baby is just adorable and Mama looks sensational!

25 things about...ODU's Michelle Brandao

First of all, we like to offer a sincere apology to Old Dominion's Michelle Brandao, who was gracious enough to grant us an interview nearly three weeks ago after the Lady Monarchs' first practice. It's not her fault we lost the notes.

Fortunately, we never actually throw stuff out here at LadySwish Central, so we figured those notes would turn up one of these days. Today is that day. So without further adieu, our much-delayed introduction to the Lady Monarchs' freshest face begins in...




- Brandao hails from Freixo Ponte de Lima, Portgual, which is one beautifully-sounding mouthful if we've ever heard one.

- Prior to the interview, she cautioned us that she wasn't that great with the English language.

- We understood every word she said - easily - and absolutely loved her charming accent. Reminded us of one of those European women's pro tennis players.

- Brandao is picking up slang expressions from, among others, freshman teammate Queen Tiye Jackson.

- An example:"When you do a good thing, Queen said, just say, "Sweat," Brandao explained.

- Our first instinct was to ask Jackson what the heck she was talking about. But we decided against it - we don't believe it's a good idea to question royalty.

- Asked about her favorite place to visit in Norfolk, Brandao smiled and thrust out her arms at the expanse of the Constant Center. "This," she said. "I can't wait to see it when the (fans) get here."

- Lady Monarchs coach Karen Barefoot said Brandao is such a gym rat she sometimes has to throw her out of the building.

- We didn't know Barefoot was that strong.

- The day we visited practice, Brandao stayed behind after the workout and launched roughly 100 3-pointers.

- Made about 80 of 'em.

- So did Jackie Cook, who incidentally was sporting one of the most incredible tans we've ever seen.

- Despite Brandao's shooting exhibition, she didn't hesitate when asked about her favorite part of basketball. "I like to pass," she said.

- Not surprisingly, Brandao's favorite players are Ticha Penicheiro, Sue Bird and Rajon Rondo - point guards all.

- Brandao said she was 14 when she first head about Ticha. "Lots of people talk about her," Brandao said. "She big in Portugal."

- Ticha's pretty big in Norfolk, too. And Sacramento. And Los Angeles....

- Brandao turns 21 on Jan. 4, the same day the Lady Monarchs host Georgia State.

- Now we know what her teammates can get her for her birthday.

- Although she's no longer a teenager, the fact that Brandao has a mouthful of braces gives her the youthful visage of a 16-year-old.

- The braces come off in one year.

- One look at Brandao's slender arms and it seems clear that Portugal's practice regimen does not include a lot of weightlifting. Paul Helsel, she's all yours.

- Then again, Old Dominion did not sign her for its bodybuilding team.

- If you have Brandao over for dinner and want to make sure she enjoys the meal, whip up a batch of Massa รก Bolonhesa. We're not exactly sure what that means, but Brandao sure does - it's her favorite dish.

- Brandao acknowledged she sometimes misses the Portuguese food, as well as her family, friends and coaches back home.

- "But it's OK," she said. "I'm fine here."

One ACC Blue Ribbon ballot unveiled

For the second year in a row, we are honored to be on the ACC's Blue Ribbon Panel of local and national media that weighed in on the ACC preseason selections. And at Tuesday's conference media day, we learned that at this stage, most of the 40 panelists are of like minds. The ballot we turned in was almost identical to the consensus the league released:

ACC preseason rankings

LadySwish: 1. Miami; 2. Duke; 3. Maryland; 4. Florida State; 5. Georgia Tech; 6. North Carolina; 7. N.C. State; 8. Virginia; 9. Wake Forest; 10. Boston College; 11. Clemson; 12. Virginia Tech

Blue Ribbon: 1. Miami; 2. Duke; 3. Maryland; 4. Florida State; 5. Georgia Tech; 6. North Carolina; 7. N.C. State; 8. Virginia; 9. Wake Forest; 10. Boston College; 11. Clemson; 12. Virginia Tech

Flip-flop Wake and BC at 9-10 and you have the exact same ballot. We're not surprised, though. For while any team can do better - or worse - than expected, we think any objective ranking of these teams heading into the 2011-12 season should look something like this.

Preseason Player of the Year

LadySwish: Shenise Johnson, Miami

Blue Ribbon: Johnson

Bingo. But we're not exactly taking bows for this choice, either. I mean, how much credit is due someone for choosing the reigning Player of the Year at the start of the next season?  

Preseason All-ACC

LadySwish: Cierra Bravard, Florida State; Shenise Johnson, Miami; Alyssa Thomas, Maryland; Lynetta Kizer, Maryland; Riquna Williams, Miami

Blue Ribbon: Bravard, Johnson, Thomas, Kizer, Williams

Five-for-five, with again all fairly obvious choice. We only wish there were six spots so we could have included N.C. State's Bonae Holston. After finishing among the top four in the ACC in scoring and rebounding, Holston deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the first five. 

Newcomer watch list

LadySwish: Pepper Wilson, Miami; Elizabeth Williams, Duke; Amber Henson, Duke; Alyssa Fressle, Boston College; Natiece Ford, Clemson

Blue Ribbon: Williams, Henson, Ford, Brittany Rountree, North Carolina; Sydney Wallace, Georgia Tech

The one area where our ballot didn't line up. The ACC defines newcomers as "freshmen (true and redshirt) and transfers expected to make an immediate impact." The 6-6 Wilson made the Big East All-Rookie team at Pitt, and Fressle was all-rookie in the Big 12. They've already proven they can be impact players. So we'll see. No question this is the hardest category to get one's arms around.

A breakdown of our preseason team choices:

1. Miami - 28-5 team returns two All-ACC first-teamers and a great third fiddle in Stroman. The only thing missing was size, and now they add an experienced center in the 6-6 Wilson.

2. Duke - Huge losses with the departures of Jasmine Thomas, Karima Christmas and Krystal Thomas. Huge gains with the arrival of ESPN's No. 3 recruiting class headlined by Williams. Obviously we think Miami deserves the preseason nod. But we wouldn't argue too much with anyone that believes this will wind up being the league's best team.

3. Maryland - Impressive talent as usual, although recently the Terrapins have tended to wind up less than the sum of their parts.

4. Florida State - If Natasha Howard does indeed take that next step, look out. 

5. Georgia Tech - Alex Montgomery will be tough to replace, but just about everyone else returns.

6. North Carolina - DeGraffenreid, Lucas and Breland are all gone, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt will miss a lot of time after shoulder surgery and the Tar Heels didn't get their usual haul of marquee recruits. We see a lot of goodness here. We don't see greatness. 

7. N.C. State - Led by Holston, Wolfpack have to be better than last year...right?

8. Virginia - New coach and new mindset but essentially the same cast of characters that finished seventh a year ago. 

9. Wake Forest - Finished tied for seventh last year with Virginia and Boston College, so we could certainly see these guys improving on this by a notch or two. But it's awfully tough to crack the Top 6 in this league.

10. Boston College - No more Swords and Murphy, although we do think the cast Sylvia Crawley has on hand is actually better suited to play the uptempo style she prefers.

11. Clemson - Watch out for these guys next year, though, as the Tigers' 2012 recruiting class is the bomb.

12. Virginia Tech - They may be better than this, and as proponents of hoops in the Commonwealth, we certainly hope they are. We're just not sure how anyone can look at their nine-player roster - minus last season's leading scorer and rebounder - and new coaching staff and EXPECT them to be better than this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ACC, CAA - predictions, predictions

Miami is the preseason pick in the ACC in balloting by the league's Blue Ribbon Panel, followed by Duke, Maryland, Florida State and Georgia Tech. Virginia was picked eighth and Virginia Tech last (12th). Miami's Shenise Johnson was chosen preseason player of the year. Read the full poll and the preseason all-conference teams here.

In the CAA, the league's head coaches have chosen Delaware as the top team and Blue Hens star Elena Delle Donne the preseason player of the year. VCU follows the Blue Hens in the poll; two-time defending tournament champion James Madison was third, Hofstra fourth and Drexel and Old Dominion tied for fifth. Read the complete release here.

CAA media day - you are looking live!

CAA fans can follow the league's preseason get-together right now on ESPN3.

Can't watch? Then keep up on the goings-on with our own Vicki L. Friedman's CAA blog.

Monday, October 17, 2011

As Wendy Larry goes into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, we reflect

Wendy Larry will be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday night, and I will be the one inducting her. Though I've never loved speaking in front of large groups, honoring Wendy in this way is something I always wanted to do. And today I am going to write a post I've wanted to write.

I loved covering the Lady Monarchs. I started in 1996 with passing knowledge of women's basketball. It's 2011 and I now co-produce a blog that doesn't make me rich, yet it gives me satisfaction in knowing I support and report about a sport that enriches my life in a way I never thought possible.

I used to write about Old Dominion for a newspaper. That all changed one night when I received an email during senior night, 2007. I was being reassigned to the news department, an editor told me. I was stunned, hurt, angry. I had become an AP Poll voter, a voter for the Wooden Award. My coverage of the sport in the state had elevated the profile of the newspaper in this regard, and my coverage of women's sports had been recognized nationally. And I had relationships -- many, many significant relationships -- with players, coaches and fans that meant the world to me.

None of that mattered. I was to cover the Lady Monarchs until their season ended in 2007.

You are supposed to be objective as a reporter, and despite my many friendships and professional relationships within ODU and the CAA, I never had a problem doing that. But I had a lump in my throat at the JMU Convocation Center that year watching ODU fall for the first time in the CAA Tournament. The loss was to Drexel and I knew what that meant as the final seconds ticked down.

My time was over, too.

The big news, was, of course, that ODU was not going to win the CAA Tournament for the first time in 17 years. I remember pacing outside the press conference room, awaiting Wendy, and thinking about everything covering the Lady Monarchs had meant to me. I saw Okeisha Howard nail a jumper in the corner of the field house to defeat Penn State in overtime. I was there that storied night in 1996 when ODU romped over top-ranked Stanford, and I was there once again to see the Lady Monarchs eliminate the Cardinal in the Final Four. I saw Shareese Grant keep that CAA-Tournament string alive with an amazing performance against Delaware. I had been to Paris to meet Lucienne, been to Portugal to see Ticha's home, been to Knoxville and sat in Pat Summitt's living room. Esther Benjamin had become a friend. So had Ticha, Mery, Clarisse, Nyree, Stacy, Tanty, Max .... Cassie Calwell shared her mother's story with me. So, too, did Lawona Davis. Natalie Diaz picked me up, whirled me around and planted me back down on the floor at Mackey Arena when ODU beat Florida to go to the Final Four. I was closing in on 6 months pregnant at the time.

Those were the thoughts spinning in my head awaiting Wendy and her Lady Monarchs, who were set to come into the postgame press conference to talk about the end of their glorious streak. There would be lots of painful questions for her and the players and no easy answers.

Wendy walked in first and stopped when she saw me. She gave me a warm hug.

I didn't ask a question. I planned to in the locker room. Going to the locker room after the last loss of the season was something I made a point of doing, usually to speak to the seniors. In journalism, you deal with highs and lows, huge extremes in emotions. It's tough for coaches. It's tougher for kids. By the time the Lady Monarchs were seniors, they had become used to sharing the good times and the bad with me, and I always made it a point to tell them how much I appreciated them for that.

On that night I walked into the locker room and there were the players who had been beaten over the head for several months with talk of not wanting to be the class that ended "The Streak." Before I said a word, each one of them gave me a hug. Jessica Canady. Jen Nuzzo. Jazzmin Walters. Mairi Buchan. Sierra Little. Russia. Shadasia Green. Jo Guilford. Tiffany Green. Jasmine Parker. Margaret Harvey. Pryncess Tate-Dublin. Vicki Collier. Many of them thanked me. Then came the hugs from the coaches: Belle, Celeste, Niki.


The Lady Monarchs had just lost for the first time in 17 years in the tournament and they were saying how sorry they were to me.

I react emotionally. Always have. It's never easy when you wear your heart on your sleeve. I never saw it as a negative. I invest in relationships with people and never, ever forget that they don't owe me anything. They share their emotions, their stories, their words and trust that I will not betray them. Sometimes I've had to write things they haven't liked or agreed with, but no one ever accused me of not being  fair.

Thank you for that night, Wendy. You certainly have larger-than-life accomplishments beside your name. Twenty NCAA Tournaments. 17 straight CAA titles. Eight Sweet 16s. The Final Four. Six-hundred and eight coaching victories. WBCA President. USA Basketball. The Buddy Walk. Work with the Kay Yow Foundation.

It's quite a list and growing, too, no doubt, and I am proud to induct you into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame.

Thanks, Wendy, for the small stuff, too. I'll never forget it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

ODU's Nuzzo now an assistant at Christopher Newport

Congrats to former Old Dominion point guard Jen Nuzzo, now an assistant at Christopher Newport University.

Longtime CNU coach Carolyn Hunter resigned on Sept. 2 and was replaced by Jon Waters. Nuzzo, who earned a graduate business degree from Old Dominion, had been working at the ODU ticket office and the YMCA when she got the call from Waters, according to the Daily Press.

"I’ll be able to be an active part in the team's upcoming season and be able to practice with them and offer any insight and teaching that I can provide," Nuzzo told the newspaper.

Nuzzo won the CAA's Dean Ehlers Leadership Award her senior year (2008-09). CNU, which advanced to its first ever Division III Final Four last season, begins play on Nov. 18 against Randolph Macon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The CAA Top 10 - one blog's opinion

In conjunction with next Tuesday's (Oct. 18) media day, the Colonial Athletic Association is conducting a fan poll of the conference's Top 10 players. Actually, they've asked for a ranking of the Top 10 returners, as no freshmen or transfers are among the candidates listed. But hey, it's their poll.

Of course, we love Top 10 lists, so naturally we cast a vote, too. Now, ours isn't as funny as Letterman's. Then again, after reading it, we suspect some of you will think we must be joking.

1. Elena Delle Donne, Delaware
   - The real question is, is Delle Donne the best collegian in the country? In our view, the list of players she's chasing for that honor starts with Brittney Griner, continues with Nneka Ogwumike and perhaps Skylar Diggins and pretty much ends there.

2. Courtney Hurt, VCU
   - Not sure she can match last season's out-of-this-world stats. But after rubbing elbows with the nation's best at the World University Games trials - and fueled by the notion that, as a senior, this is her last go-round - we suspect she'll be an even better player.

3. Shante Evans, Hofstra
   - The conference's "other Evans" has been somewhat overlooked the past two seasons. But USA Basketball found her for the Pan Am Games, and we suspect a whole lot of others will catch on to just how productive this double-double machine really is.

Andrea Barbour
4. Andrea Barbour, VCU
   - Instant scorer - just add basketball. If Delle Donne doesn't win the league's scoring title, Barbour will.

5. Tia Lewis, Old Dominion
   - You know the phrase "runs like a gazelle?" If you changed that to "runs like Tia Lewis," you'd be saying the same thing. But she's not just aesthetically pleasing - we think Lewis has all the tools to step into that Hurt-Evans class of forwards in terms of productivity.

6. Kamile Nacickaite, Drexel
   - This second-team All-CAA performer wasn't just good for 17.6 points and 6.3 boards last season. She also led the Dragons in steals and blocks as well as 3-point percentage.

7. Taysha Pye, William and Mary
   - Quality scorer who gets bonus points for dramatically improving her free-throw shooting. Now, about that assist-turnover ratio....

8. Chan Harris, Georgia State
   - Shook off a knee injury that cost her most of the 2009-10 season to rank third in the conference in rebounding (8.9 rpg), third in blocked shots (49) and 10th in scoring (12.3).

9. Lauren Whitehurst, JMU
   - Key contributor, particularly on defense and in the locker room, on last season's senior-dominated CAA champions. Look for her to carve out a larger role this season.

10. Alisha Andrews, UNC Wilmington
   - We debated this one. But there's no argument that this pint-sized dynamo was a real difference-maker as a freshman for the surprising Seahawks.

Also in the mix:

Emily Correal, William and Mary
   - Birthday girl (Oct. 14) and the best player on arguably the deepest frontcourt in the CAA.

Amber Easter, George Mason
   - All-Rookie team as a freshman and solid as a sophomore, we have a feeler Easter's going to really take off this season.

Taleia Moton, George Mason
   - Radford transfer led the Pats in scoring and assists.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

JMU's "Precious Destiny"

ESPN's Hoopgurlz reports that AAU teammates Precious Hall, a 5-8 guard from Tallahassee, Fla., and Destiny Jones, a 6-0 forward from Miramar, Fla, have both verbally committed to James Madison. This gives the Dukes three verbals for the class of 2012; last month JMU got a commitment from Robert E. Lee guard Angela Mickens. (Click here for a complete rundown on verbals for all Virginia's D-I schools).

To be fair, the Daily News and Record in Harrisonburg apparently had this information first. But since their online stuff is hidden behind a paywall, we're never quite sure what they have, or when they have it. That's no knock on the writers, though, who appear to be doing a good job of keeping the paper's subscribers informed.

Hall and Jones were both played for the Essence AAU club, the same outfit the Dukes mined for senior Kiara Francisco. Old Dominion freshman Myeisha Hall and Virginia Tech sophomore Brittni Montgomery are also Essence alums.

Time will tell if either of JMU's new prospective signees will develop into All-CAA candidates. But they're already first-team all-name contenders right out of the box. Can't wait to start putting Precious and Destiny in headlines. The possibilities are endless....

Welcome babies into the Lady Monarch family

Our sincerest congratulations go out to former Old Dominion assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins, who gave birth to twin girl and boy babies, Amani and Isiah, on Sept. 14. Both weighed in at just over 3 pounds, and Amani is due home this week.

Speaking of babies, more LadySwish warm wishes go to former Lady Monarch Evelina (Max) Nhassengo, who gave birth to a baby girl, Maximilliana, on Sept. 26. Word is she and husband Lawrence will call her Millie.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A few minutes with Richmond's Abby Oliver

Throughout her first three seasons at Richmond, Spiders sharpshooter Abby Oliver was content to leave the vocal leadership to the other guys. But now there are no other guys - Although redshirt juniors Sam and Rachael Bilney match her in time in the program, Oliver is the lone senior on a squad with six sophomores and five freshmen. As she gears up for her final season, Oliver talked about Richmond's new breed and her role in getting the newcomers up to speed.

First of all, just want to say that we love your name. Abby Oliver. Great jock name. Really rolls off the tongue. Do you have a nickname?

Not really. Sometimes, Sam Bilney calls me Abigail.

Do you mind?

It's OK. I prefer Abby.

So do we. Now, about being a team leader....

Well, it feels kind of weird being the only senior. But I really just need to lead by example, be someone (the underclassmen) can look up to, someone to show them how things are done. Help them with the concepts. Because we're going to really need to rely on those guys.

It wasn't that long ago that you were a freshman. What do you remember about adjusting?

Well, I played point guard, and when Kara (Powell) got hurt I had to learn to play right away. The hardest thing for me was handling the pressure up front and calling out the play at the same time, timing it so you could get the team into the offense. Wasn't easy.

Let's play word association with the Spiders freshman. I'll name a player, you give me the first word that pops into your head. Start with Liz Brown.


Hmmm... How 'bout Amber Battle?


Yazmean Burgess?


Miah Register?


We'll get back to her. How 'bout Kerri Soppe?

Quiet, but she can surprise you with some of the things she says. She'll just come out of nowhere with something that's funny.

That's way too many words.

OK, funny. Surprisingly funny.

Two words, but we'll take that. Now, back to Miah....

How 'bout "tough."

Perfect. Now you've got to explain that "crazy" for Liz Brown.

She likes to dance and sing...she's just one of those teammates that makes you laugh.

Sounds like a fun group. But how much basketball talent are we talking about?

A lot of talent. Liz has surprised me a lot. She's a great rebounder and will spread the floor. Miah's a good point guard that will be aggressive and attack. Kerri's a really good shooter and knows a lot about the game. Yaz, she has a lot of good post moves and just needs to learn to have more confidence in herself and use those moves. Amber is a post with a great outside shot. Overall, I've been really impressed with them.

OK, now what about you. Is Abby Oliver bringing anything new to the floor this season?

I've been working a lot on attacking off the dribble, trying to get my own shot. I'm working on stepbacks, coming off screens and shooting right away...pump fake, jab step and getting by your defender. Things like that.

Give us one thing Coach (Michael) Shafer says all the time.

This year, he's always saying "We can do more than we think we can do." 

What's your best Richmond basketball memory?

My freshman year, when we went deep into the Atlantic 10 tournament. In the (semifinals) we beat Dayton, came from like 19 down. That was great.

Same thing happened last year at Duquesne. The Spiders have played a lot of exciting games during your time there, and have won more than their share. So how come more fans don't come to see you play?

Good question. If I knew the answer to that.... I'd love to get more fans in here. Especially students.

You've been described as a gym rat, an extremely hard worker who puts a ton of time into hoops. True?


So tell me three things you like to do that have nothing to do with basketball.

Let's see. I like spending time with family and friends. I love watching all sports - basketball, of course, but I also love football. Besides the Richmond Spiders I'm a big UNC fan. My father (Dick Oliver) played there and my brother went there, so I've always liked the Tar Heels. And I love going to the beach.

Still friends with any of your high school teammates from those great Hidden Valley teams?

Oh, yeah. I stay in touch with Abby Redick, Kylee Beecher, Kayla Osborne, Amanda Crotty, Abby Boggs. We had three Abbys on the team my junior year.

Finally, a lot of people on the outside are going to figure Richmond lost Brittani (Shells) and Crystal (Goring) and have all these kids, so it's probably going to be a tough year. You're on the inside. What does it look like from there?

Well, when people talk about inexperience, they see a lot of negatives. To me, I see a lot of positives. We're really talented, and having fresh faces, I think, will be good for us. And just because you're young, it doesn't mean you're going to have a bad year. I remember Rutgers in 2007. They had no seniors and five freshmen and went all the way to the (NCAA) final. I think we're really going to surprise people.

Hampton picked to rule MEAC again

For the second year in a row, the MEAC gave Hampton a high five and Norfolk State the back of its hand.

The Lady Pirates were a repeat choice as the preseason favorite in a poll of the league's coaches and sports information directors. Last year, Hampton rewarded that faith by winning 15 of 16 conference games, sweeping through the league tournament and earning the MEAC's highest NCAA Tournament seed (13) since the advent of the 64-team format. The Lady Pirates then stared down Kentucky before falling in overtime in the NCAA first round. Can't wait to see what they do for an encore (like that word, Kenny Brooks?).

Meanwhile, Norfolk State was picked last (13th) for the second time in as many seasons. Now this result isn't terribly surprising as the Spartans were just 2-14 in the MEAC last year. Still, we figured NSU had a chance to escape the preseason cellar in favor of conference newcomers Savannah State and/or North Carolina Central. The Spartans split two games with Central last year and have beaten Savannah State in each of the past two seasons.

That pounding sound you may hear is Spartans coach Debra Clark tacking this poll to the bulletin board in the NSU locker room....

Howard's Saadia Doyle, the 2011 MEAC Player of the Year, is the preseason choice to win the honor again. Doyle is joined on the first team by Hampton's Jericka Jenkins, Florida A&M's Antonia Bennett and Tameka McKelton and North Carolina A&T's JaQualya Berry.

The poll results

1. Hampton
2. Howard
3. North Carolina A&T
4. Florida A&M
5. Morgan State
6. Coppin State
7. Bethune-Cookman
8. Maryland-Eastern Shore
9. South Carolina State
10. Delaware State
11. Savannah State
12. North Carolina Central
12. Norfolk State

Liberty, Warley top Big South preseason rankings

Death, taxes, Liberty being picked to win the Big South...some things just seem inevitable.

For the 14th time in 15 years, the Lady Flames are the preseason No. 1 in the conference's poll of coaches and selected media. Liberty got 19 of 20 first-place votes; we'd love to know the identity of the one voter who tabbed High Point first. Not that that's a crazy pick. We'd just like to know who it is.

Radford, the No. 2 seed in last year's Big South Tournament, was picked third, followed by 2011 conference tournament champion Gardner-Webb. Big South newcomer Campbell came in sixth.

The poll results

1. Liberty
2. High Point
3. Radford
4. Gardner-Webb
5. Winthrop
6. Campbell
7. Charleston Southern
8. Coastal Carolina
9. Presbyterian
10. UNC Asheville

Meanwhile, Lady Flames star and soon-to-be U.S. Pan Am Games team member Avery Warley was voted Big South Preseason Player of the Year. Warley is joined on the first team by teammate Devon Brown, Radford's Da'Naria Erwin Spencer, High Point's Shamia Brown and Winthrop's Dequesha McClanahan. Warley, Brown and Erwin Spencer were first-team all-league picks last season; McClanahan was the 2011 conference freshman of the year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

VCU's Hurt, Delle Donne on Wooden Award list

Courtney Hurt
VCU's Courtney Hurt's not a secret anymore.

Of course, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne never was.

Both players have cracked the Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 list, which puts them among the "early frontrunners for college basketball's most prestigious honor." Personally, we're not that big on these preseason lists, as we'd prefer awards be based on what players actually do, not what people think they might do. But hey, it's good publicity, and women's basketball can always use more of that.

A year ago at this time, Hurt wasn't making any of these lists. She then went out and led the nation in rebounding and double-doubles and claimed honorable mention All-America honors. In May, she participated in the World University Games trials for Team USA. With those accolades on her resume, Hurt would be the clear favorite for Colonial Athletic Association preseason player of the year honors were it not for....

Delle Donne, who not only tried out for and made that World University Games team but then went on to lead the gold medal-winning U.S. in scoring and rebounding. If Wooden had to trim its preseason list to five, Delle Donne would probably still be on it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A few minutes with Liberty's Avery Warley

It started out as just another day for Liberty star Avery Warley, redshirt senior, voracious rebounder and reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Year. Then she got this phone call. Something about playing in the Pan Am Games....

Tell us about how you found out about making the national team.

I got a call from Coach (Carey) Green and he was like, 'What are you doing?' And I go, 'Doing homework.' And he goes, 'I just got a call from USA Basketball, and you've been selected.... And I'm like, 'hold on, Coach.' And then I screamed and yelled, started crying.

Pretty big deal, huh?

It means a whole lot. But I know what got me there and I know what will keep me in line and that's being the player I am. So I've just been working hard, getting ready and staying humble.

We were almost as excited as you were because, frankly, up until last week we weren't sure USA Basketball even knew you existed.

"I know! I'm like, little ol' me? I'm not at a UConn or one of the big D-I schools. So the fact they knew about me, wow. That's very flattering."

You're from Washington D.C., right?


So how in the world can you be a Dallas Cowboys fan?

I know, but I love the Cowboys! Well, you know it's like the Redskins never win, so that's probably a big part of the reason. When I was little, I probably rooted for them just to be different. But yeah, I've always loved the Cowboys.

With that in mind, we're going to tweak you a little bit. Here's a riddle - What do Tony Romo and the 2010-11 Liberty women's basketball team have in common? Answer - both commit way too many turnovers.

That's not funny. But it's true.

Seriously, what are you guys going to do about that turnover problem? Because when the Lady Flames took care of the ball, you guys were virtually unbeatable.

Coach Green tells us the same thing! Now I can't make any promises, because you never know what's going to happen in a game. But I can say that (minimizing turnovers) has been emphasized more this preseason than in any of my five years here. In practice, (turnovers) simply are not allowed. We've run a whole lot for turnovers.

One thing that's never been a problem for you personally is rebounding. What the biggest secret to hauling down so many boards?

It sounds crazy, but I don't really have a secret. I just do what I do. A key is just knowing where the ball's going to come off. Yeah, anticipation, and just knowing where the ball is at all times. But I don't really have a secret.

What's your best memory of going up against Baylor star Brittney Griner?

Just jumping with her. Usually when I jump in the air, I feel like I'm the only one up there. With her, her arms were there before I even got there.

Do you remember scoring on her?

Yeah, I scored over her, after she blocked my shot twice. So I also got a taste of my own medicine. But yeah, I scored on her, got a couple of rebounds on her, boxed her out a few times, so it was good.

What did you think of her game?

She's an awesome player, with really good touch around the basket. But you know I'd heard that she did all this dunking, and I was kind of expecting her to do like LeBron and drop-step and just dunk on me. And be real physical, like me. She's not really physical at all. But yeah, she's really good.

Who's the funniest player on your team?

LaKendra Washington
The funniest? I'd have to say LaKendra Washington, because of her jokes, her outlook on things and the way she always knows just what to say to make people laugh. So LaKendra would be No. 1, but you know we all have good senses of humor. We're a funny team.

Now for something not funny at all, complete the following sentence - I was so upset about the 67-66 loss to Gardner-Webb in the Big South championship game I ----

Wow. I can't really recall what I did, but I remember the feeling. It was like we'd just lost the national championship. Just watching them celebrate, it was a real reality check on how every possession counts. When you're on the court, everything is going so fast. But when you look at the film, just to know that if we had done one thing better, if I had just done this or that, it wouldn't have been a one-point game. But I know it was God's plan. That's the only thing that's kept me sane.

It's like you and Gardner-Webb have played that same game so many times, and we're so used to seeing you guys find a way at the end. We were shocked when it went the other way.

I think it shocked them, too. And mentally I was so used to us pull through. But this time we didn't, and you can't change any of it. I've watched it over and over. But that only makes me better. I'm over it now.

What one word best describe the Lady Flames' incoming freshmen?

Intelligence. Their IQ is more dominant that any freshman class I've seen. I'm so amazed at how quickly they pick things up and how well they adjust to change. They're so willing to listen and learn.

You're an old hand at this, a highly decorated redshirt senior. What responsibilities come with being the veteran?

Well, grad school comes with that, and all of my classes are online so I'm in the gym a lot. But mostly it's leadership. That's not something that's forced upon me, but it definitely a big part. These last three years, I've mostly led through actions. But this year I need to be more vocal, and that's not really natural for me.

Finally, what can fans expect from the 2011-12 Lady Flames?

We're going to come out this year with a lot of heart. That's the main thing. Being mentally tough and having that extra something. I just think we're going to really bring it.