Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kill the WNBA draft and the lottery will follow

Brittney Griner
Once again we see that in the WNBA, it's better to be lucky than bad.

But we're not upset with Phoenix for winning the league's draft lottery Wednesday night. Our frustration is that the WNBA hinges the fate of its franchises on random ping-pong balls in the first place. Or for that matter, that the league even has a draft at all.

Not sure why the league ever instituted a draft to start with, beyond, "well, the other leagues have it." So here's hoping the WNBA becomes the first league smart enough to abolish it. Because, simply put, most drafts no longer work as intended.

A draft is actually an antiquated idea for any league that has a salary cap. The draft was originally designed as a competitive balance tool in an era when the deep-pocketed teams - the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears in the NFL; the New York Yankees in MLB - would routinely outspend everyone else and stockpile top talent.

In the WNBA, everyone has the same rigidly-set players budget. No one can outspend anyone.

Nor does the draft, when combined with the goofy lottery, function as an effective means to help the league's weakest teams get off their knees. Thanks to the lottery, Washington, the worst team in the 2012 season, will pick fourth in next season's draft. Most agree there will be only three elite prospects available (Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins).

In 2011, Tulsa, after stumbling through arguably the worst season in WNBA history, was also relegated to picking fourth in the draft. The third pick went to WNBA champion Minnesota, which was coming off one of the best seasons in league history.

Meanwhile, Phoenix - leaving aside allegations the Mercury orchestrated a disastrous season for this discussion - is now in position to acquire potentially the most dominant player ever (Griner) not because of smarts, recruiting prowess or even because the Mercury were the worst team, but because of pure dumb luck.

Are we the only ones scratching our heads over this?
Now imagine if, instead of a draft, college players could sign with any team that wanted them (and could fit them under its cap). You know, like how virtually every other business operates in the real world?

For starters, it would take luck completely out of the process. No more worrying about how many ping-pong balls a team has in the bin - or which team may or may not be "tanking" to get those ping-pong balls. Regular-season results would have no bearing on a team's ability to sign players for the next season.

It would also inject all kinds of excitement and intrigue into the player procurement process (and we all know the WNBA could use all the excitement and intrigue it can get). As it stands now, while the actual draft won't be held until April, the league used up most of the drama surrounding the process Wednesday night. Barring any head-spinning developments, we pretty much know how things are going to shake out.

But if every college senior was available to every WNBA team, folks would spend the seven months wondering, debating and praying about which star, or stars, their team might line up. And every team would be involved in the process, not just the weakest handful. Then, instead of a draft day, we could have a Decision Day when the players would reveal which teams they've chosen. I haven't worried too much about missing a WNBA draft in past years. There's no way I'd miss Decision Day.

Beyond boosting interest, this new system could actually help competitive balance. Instead of having to wait its turn before selecting one player, a talented-starved team like Washington or Tulsa could go after three or four first-round caliber rookies and try to rebuild itself overnight.

For this system to work best, the league should remove its cap on rookie salaries and allow teams to spend up to the veteran's maximum on incoming players if it so chooses. The vast majority of rookies would still wind up being offered something close to the minimum. But each year the colleges send out one or two (or in this case, three) potentially franchise-changing talents that everyone wants. Why shouldn't these players be able to cash in on this status?

More importantly, eliminating the rookie wage limit would likely give the weaker team an easier time freeing up cap space for an impact newcomer. Established teams might have to jettison an established star or two to fit a star rookie under its cap - or offer less money.

Other tweaks, such as scaling the maximum rookie salary to won-loss record so that the weakest teams in a given year are allowed to offer a few thousand more, could be introduced to give the leagues lesser lights a fighting chance. But the fewer of these tweaks the better. Because the less regulation involved, the more talent evaluation, vision and cap management will replace luck and circumstance as factors in building a basketball team.

Again, a free market approach works in the real world every day. It would work just as well in the WNBA - especially compared to the alternative.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Top 100 forward Camille Calhoun chooses VCU

VCU is racking up 2013 verbal commitments so quickly we can barely keep track of them. And the Rams' latest might be its biggest get yet - ESPN Top 100 forward Camille Calhoun of Archbishop Spalding in Maryland. Here's what she had to say about becoming a Ram, getting taller (fingers crossed) and just being "Mille."

First of all, you have exactly 12 Twitter followers. What's up with that?

Hey, I just started like four days ago, so don't hold me to that. You know, you can shout me out if you want and maybe I'll get some more.

No problem. Hey VCU fans, head over to @im_mille and hook the young lady up. Now, why VCU?

I went on my visit and I liked what the coaches had to say. They already had players in my class that were highly recruited. The school had my major (sports medicine/athletic training). I loved the coaches. So it was all there.

Your impressions of Marlene Stollings?

Very offensive-minded. Her thing is score, score, score, score, score. That lady, well, first of all she loves to win. But she loves putting points on the board, too.

Is there an assistant you had a particular bond with?

I liked all the coaches, but I guess you could say Niki Dawkins. That lady is hilarious, and she can talk to anyone and make them feel like a normal person.

What schools did VCU beat out?

College of Charleston, Delaware and Pitt.

What kind of player is VCU getting?

I think I'm a very versatile player. I'm 5-10, but I'm hoping I can grow. I mean I've got big feet and big hands, so I praying.... I was always the tall girl so I developed a lot of low-post moves. But I play the three so my face-up game is pretty good. I've been working on the (3-point shot) so I'll be able to add that. But I can also take people to the hoop. So I'm pretty versatile.

Best player you've ever played against?

Jonquel Jones (former Riverdale Baptist star who is now a freshman at Clemson).

Favorite player?

Alana Beard. I play for her Future (AAU) team, but it's more about her demeanor. You might think she would be cocky, but this lady is so humble. That's kind of how I want to be.

Give us a self-portrait of Camille Calhoun.

I can be kind of shy if I don't know you. But once I feel we've clicked I'm a totally different person. And I like to make people laugh. And as you can probably tell, I'm very confident.


I've played the bass violin since seventh grade. Before that I played the violin.

And when you're not playing basketball or the bass violin?

I like to shop.

We get that a lot. For any particular item, like shoes?

Yeah, I love shoes, trust me.

And we love the fact that you're honest about your height. A lot of people add a couple of inches just for the heck of it.

I've seen everything from 5-9 to 6-2. But I'm 5-10 and a half. You can say 5-11 if you want. But I wear a size 13 men's shoe, so hopefully I'm still growing.

Finally, tell us one more interesting thing about you.

Every year since the seventh grade I've been in a championship game.

Cool. And I'm sure VCU is rooting for you to keep that tradition going, through this year and the next four.

Me, too.

Click here to see the verbal commitments of all the schools in Virginia.

One on one with Wann: Becca on winning gold, Hiroshima and hoops!

We love Becca Wann. Richmond's full-time soccer player, full-time basketball player and full-time student shared her recent experience of winning a gold medal in the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Japan with both Spider TV in this interview and with LadySwish after.

Some thoughts from Becca, who happens to be the Spiders' leading scorer in soccer with four goals in her last two games. (We even got her talking a little hoops.)

Becca on.....

Making the U-20 national team roster after late-summer camps in California and Florida: Four months ago, even making the roster let alone winning a gold medal wasn't in my mind. I honestly didn't think there was a possibility of my making the roster until the last day of the last camp in July. They had some injuries to the team, and I got a call to see if I could come to a camp at the end of July, the final camp before they left. I found out the last day of the camp. 

On the royal treatment in Japan: Japan was incredible. All the people there were so thoughtful. We were really treated like royalty. We had a liaison with us. She was our translator. She went everywhere with us. She was honestly something like 90 pounds, 5-foot-1. We would have all this gear with us when we went to practice. There would be two of us carrying a cooler of water off the bus to get to practice and she would run up to us and take the cooler and not let us carry it the rest of the way. Random people would come up to us and help us carry our stuff -- they were  just so thoughtful there. That made it awesome.

On touring Japan: We were in four different cities. Each one was like a different way you would think of Japan. We were in Tokyo for the semifinals and final, and that was busy, lots of lights, lots of stores. My favorite city was Hiroshima. It was really clean, really nice, not that crowded. We went to Miyagi. It was more rural farmland. 

In Hiroshima we went to Peace Park, where the memorial is for where we dropped the bomb. When we were in Miyagi we went to the coast that got hit by the tsunami.  Then in Tokyo we went to the U.S. ambassador's house, and we played soccer with middle school kids in his backyard.

On the visit to Hiroshima: It's a very important piece of history for them and for us. It's was a very somber time. We took pictures, but no goofing around.  We visited the museum and as a team, we left a wreath and had a moment of silence. It was really cool to learn about it. It says so much about the Japanese people as a whole.  I think the way we approached it was being respectful. There's a wall in the museum that is letters of protest. Every time a country sets off a test of a nuclear bomb, they send a letter to the president or the leader saying, "Please don't do this. Look what it's done." 

On the crowds: It was more people than I had ever played soccer in front of. There were probably a couple thousand in our group games. They love the U.S. team. Once we got to Tokyo to the stadium for the final, Japan played before us, so that game was packed and our game was packed as well.

A learning experience: I learned so much while I was over there. My biggest takeaway was I learned how to be a better teammate because that role was a different role on a team than I have ever had. I learned how to come up alongside one of my teammates who was maybe tired at halftime or was having a bad day at practice. That was really important for me.

And obviously, playing against the best players in the country in practice. ... I loved going to practice every day because I knew I was going to be playing against the top backs in the country, and I knew they would push me. I honestly feel like after the camps and after this month, I came back a completely different player.

Where's the gold? It's in my backpack because I have teammates and coaches who want to see it. Its permanent home is going to be with one of my jerseys signed by the whole team. I'm going to get all of it framed and put the gold medal in it. 

Your favorite moment? Other than winning gold?

OK, second favorite? My second favorite part was the team and being with the girls. I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming they were to me. They had been together for a year and half. They had players come in and out of camps. Overall, they looked at 70 players for the team. But there was 18 who had been together for a year and a half. From my first camp, they were so welcoming. They treated me like a member of the team. I absolutely loved hanging out with them on the field and off the field. I definitely made some great friendships that I have today and will have in the future.

Thought about hoops? I have been going to our team workouts. I put on some basketball shorts for the first time in about six months and went in and shot the basketball. My shoulder was a little sore afterward, nothing big, but it was nice to be back on the hardwood. I'm focused on soccer right now, but I'm really excited for how our basketball team looks as well. I'm excited to jump back into that once soccer is over.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Recollections of Ticha and a magical career

I didn't see Lieberman, Donovan or Nissen play the game.

But I saw Ticha. Old Dominion's No. 21 was a show you didn't want to miss at the Field House. Blink and her sleight-of-hand with the basketball might escape you. She made the  no-look routine and did such amazing stunts with the ball that I'd often turn to my Times-Dispatch buddy Vic Dorr and ask, "How did she do that?"

Ticha Penicheiro -- who retired on Wednesday after a stellar, 15-year professional career -- rarely disappointed

The Lady Monarchs won 119 games during her four years and lost 14. During her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, they lost eight games.

They beat a No.1-ranked Georgia team and a top-ranked Stanford team. They beat Tennessee and Texas Tech and Virginia and Rutgers and Purdue and LSU and Louisville and Vanderbilt and Duke. Texas coach Jody Conradt once had to call two timeouts within a minute because Ticha flustered her defense so thoroughly.

During the Ticha years, ODU didn't just win the CAA, the Lady Monarchs chewed it into mincemeat. Ticha towered over opposing point guards, turning easy thefts into fast-break points. Winning was never in doubt.

Those were the days if you wore the slate blue and white.

Ticha yearned for a championship. It escaped her at ODU by nine points in the NCAA 1997 title game. She finally got one for those other Monarchs, the ones with Sacramento in front of their name, in 2005.

I was lucky enough to visit her hometown, Figueira da Foz, Portugal, a place where the view is reminiscent of California's Pacific Highway, where olives trees are plentiful, where glitzy casinos line the streets and where ODU assistant coach Allison Greene joked she found the best souvenir of all: a 14-year-old kid named Ticha with a gift for the game.

Back when the days when newspapers spent money, I traveled with the Lady Monarchs to Europe -- Paris first and then Portugal, Ticha's favorite spot on Earth, she said. Deplaning in Lisbon, she didn't understand who the bright lights were for.

"What big soccer star is here?" she wondered with her typical giddy enthusiasm.

The cameras were on her.

Ticha never met a microphone she didn't like. While her buds Clarisse Machanguana and Mery Andrade shied away from the spotlight despite being eloquent speakers, Ticha basked in it, quipping one-liners and speaking beyond the traditional cliche. Ticha never once uttered sentences such as, "I need to step up. I need to focus."

"This will be our final exam," she said prior to Tennessee visiting Norfolk. Wendy Larry shot her a rolled-eyes look. "OK, midterm," Ticha shrugged.

In that one, ODU down by 10 at the half, rallied to win against the Lady Vols -- a memorable night for anybody wedged inside the Field House. Hard to forget Ticha's career-high of 25 points to go with 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. When I asked Pat Summitt for her Field House memory when ODU played its last game there, she picked out that night.

"We lost 83-72," Summitt recalled at the time. "Obviously, I have vivid memories of what went on at the court, but I remember being in the dressing room. The reason I remember that is it helped us refocus to win the national championship. When I think about Tennessee-Old Dominion at that Field House, that's what stands out."

ODU fans would love to erase the second part of that Summitt recollection, the nine-point loss in Cincinnati.

Ticha was brutally honest when recalling it as perhaps the most painful game of her career. ODU had come into Riverfront Coliseum game winners of 33 straight. Not winning it all never entered the Lady Monarchs' minds. I asked Ticha at precisely what moment she realized there would be no national title for ODU.

"They brought in Milligan," she said, reliving it in her head.

Tennessee was at the free-throw line in the waning seconds of the loss. Laurie Milligan had been too injured to play, but Pat Summitt inserted her into the lineup so her name would appear in the box score.

"She could barely walk," Ticha recalled.

Writers aren't supposed to root. Inside that night I did -- for Ticha, for ODU to get what seemed as if it should belong to them rather than being another for the Lady Vols trophy case.

I followed Ticha's career, sat next to her on the flight to Newark, where I watched up close as she got drafted second overall by the Sacramento Monarchs in 1998. How I wanted her to go to the Mystics, so she'd be a mere three-hour drive away. She was a writer's dream, not just for her style of play but for her wittiness and candor and humbleness that distinguished her throughout a decorated professional career.

I remember her first game as a pro. I sat courtside in Sacramento when she got her first WNBA assist. She's had 2,596 since  -- more than any other player.

She's 38 now, ready to call it a career. It's been a great one.

She used to say she'd play ball as a kid in Figueira da Foz until the moon replaced the sun.

I know she'll always be playing, whether it's on a court or in her heart.

It's been our pleasure, Ticha.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tweet, tweet, tweet for Ticha

On Tuesday, we wished Ticha a happy birthday.  On Wednesday, our sport bid her adieu as she announced her retirement from the WNBA after a stellar, 15-year career. Read her retirement letter here along with a sampling of farewell tweets. We'll add our personal goodbye to the former Old Dominion star in a Thursday post.

S/O to a   you've done so much for the game! There will never be another PG like u. Stay swaggy!

I was the luckiest young point guard ever. Having you as an exemple for a season was like going to Harvard! Learned a lot
Sad 2 c  retire. Your talent made u successful but your heart made u a legend. I know ul be AMAZING at w/e is next! Hugs!

The reason I wanted to be #21 and ironically the reason I had to change to #3.. Thanks for being a great teammate and idol

RT  We love you Ticha! Thanks for being such a great player and role model to look up to! > Thank you Sky!! ☺

Show some love to  fam... She announced today, she'll be retiring after the  season. Tr 

 sad 2 c  retire! No one else can pass like Magic w/ a portuguese flare! Iconic PG, great teammate & unbelievable person

 You were the sole reason I watched women's hoops. ODU legend, Thank you for showing me how a true pg is supposed to play.

 You are the Walt "Clyde" Frazier of women's basketball. Your hustle, love of the game, and fashion style will be missed!

Former ODU megastar Ticha Penicheiro says the 2012 WNBA season will be her last. Sad, sad news for anyone who ever watched her play.

Ticha Penicheiro In 2008 Became The First Player In The WNBA To Record 2,000 Assists And Became The WNBA All -Time Leader In Steals!

Anne Donovan on Ticha in '98: "She is the best player in the country...She loves to play and loves to win."  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Odegua Oigbokie: "ODU wanted me first"

Odegua Oigbokie
Initially, we weren't sure how to start a conversation with the latest player to verbally commit to Old Dominion for the Class of 2013.

We certainly didn't want to open by pronouncing the young lady's name wrong. But when that name is Odegua Oigbokie, odds are we were about to do just that.

Fortunately for us, Oigbokie tossed us a lifeline.

"O-day-gwah Oy-boo-key," Oigbokie phoneticized. "The (second) 'G' is silent."

Once the hard part was out of the way, it became pretty easy to get to know the 6-1 pride of Ridgeway High in Memphis, Tenn.

How often would you say your name is mispronounced?

Probably about half the time. (Odegua) means "The Right One." My dad's mother named me. My dad is from Nigeria.

So, why Old Dominion?

Because ODU wanted me first, and they seemed like they really, really wanted me. They treated me like I was their No. 1 person. It made me feel so special.

In one word, ODU coach Karen Barefoot is ...


That was too easy. Hit us up with a few more words.

She's very loving, a good coach, and someone who really cares about the game of basketball.

Assistants do a lot of the heavy lifting in recruiting. Which ODU assistant did you make the best connection with?

Coach Mox (Amaka Agugua). She's cool, and she really tried to get to know me first. She helped me go through the recruiting process. I feel like I can go to her for anything.

You visited ODU last weekend. Your impressions?

It was perfect. Great weather, the campus was nice... I loved everything.

You weren't here long, but compare Memphis and Norfolk.

Big difference. Down here, it's not so diverse. There's a lot more things to do in Virginia. In Memphis, everything's been taken away or closed down. There's definitely more opportunities in Virginia than Memphis.

Sounds like you're ready to come right now. We've obviously never seen you play. Is there an NBA/WNBA player people tell you your game reminds them of?

Not really. Sometimes people say the Ogwumikes, because of my name and a little in how I play.

Is there a part of your game you feel is college-ready right now?

Probably rebounding and getting the putbacks, the and-ones.

Sure sounds like an Ogwumike. Who are your personal favorite players?

Candace Parker and Kevin Durant.

What will you be working really hard on to get ready for ODU?

My outside game, dribbling, learning to shoot faster.

You're also on the volleyball team at Ridgeway. Does that help your basketball?

Definitely, with my timing, jumping, footwork.

Finally, since your name gets mangled so much, do you have a nickname?

Not really. Sometimes people call me O, or Big O, or O-day, or Day-Day. But not really just one.

Don't worry. We'll get Lady Monarchs Nation to work on that.

VCU, JMU and NSU collect verbals

VCU's big recruiting haul got a little bigger, James Madison continued to solidify its future, and Norfolk State got on the incoming player board in this latest batch of verbal commitments.

 According to All-Star Girls Report and her own Twitter page, Monnazjea Finney-Smith of Portsmouth's Wilson High and Boo Williams AAU squad, has become the fourth player to pledge to VCU for 2013 (Click here for more on VCU's class and all the other verbal commitments to date). A 6-1 shooting guard, Finney-Smith is also the fourth member of the Fabulous Finney basketball family in line for a Division I scholarship. Her brother, Ben, starred at Old Dominion; another brother, Dorian, played for Virginia Tech last season before transferring to Florida, and sister Sha-kiyla made the MEAC Commissioner's All-Academic team last season as a sophomore at Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Finney Smith averaged 16.5 points at Wilson last season and was a second-team All-Eastern Region pick. Check out this You Tube video on her from Wilson coach Roger Smith.

Meanwhile, JMU lined up a 2014 commitment from 6-0 forward Carley Brew of Wilson High (Pa.) and the Philadelphia Belles AAU team. Brew becomes the second high school junior to decide on the Dukes, joining guard Chania Ray, who now plays at Riverdale Baptist (Md.). By the way, a week ago we mentioned we didn't know much about Ray. Thanks to an interested observer, we now know a ton. Look for more about Chania in an upcoming post.

Finally, Norfolk State got a thumbs-up from Logan Powell, a 6-0 forward from Marion County High in Kentucky. Powell was a strong rebounder and key contributor for a loaded high school team that went 34-5 last season. The squad includes Top-100 prospects Kyvin Goodin-Rodgers and Makayla Epps, both of whom decommitted from Louisville and pledged to Kentucky.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Verbal commitments: Virginia, W&M, VCU cleaning up

Trying to keep track of verbal commitments is tricky business. After all, although letters-of-intent are signed, everyone's still technically in play. These kids could change their minds tomorrow. Schools can, too. Furthermore, since schools can't say anything about these players - an antiquated NCAA rule that's really kind of silly in 2012 - it's a challenge to nail some of these commitments down.

With that in mind, here's what we know - or think we know - about what Virginia's Division I schools have to look forward to in 2013. Three schools, Virginia, VCU and  William and Mary, appear to be stockpiling the prospects, so we'll deal with them first:

The Cavaliers spend a great deal of money on women's basketball, but with four star-studded recruits having given verbal pledges - along with the possibility the Cavs aren't finished yet - coach Joanne Boyle has UVa. poised for a significant on-court return on its investment. In late July, ESPN ranked Virginia's 2013 class the third-best in Division I. Now, a lot of top-ranked players remain undecided so that ranking might slide a bit after November's early signing period. But we've already seen enough to conclude that Boyle's reputation as an elite recruiter is every bit as strong as advertised.
The players
Virginia-bound Tiffany Suarez
Breyana Mason, 5-9 G, Forest Park - Ranked No. 51 in ESPN's Top 100. Has been a Virginia commit since last December. Averaged 24 ppg last season
Tiffany Suarez, 5-11 G/F, Lourdes Academy (Fla.). - Four-star combo guard (ESPN) who averaged 14 ppg and earned All-Dade County honors.
Amanda Fioravanti, 6-1 F, Good Counsel (Md.) - Ranked No. 93 in ESPN's Top 100. First-team All-Met performer (Washington Post) and a high school teammate of Faith Randolph, who is now a Cavaliers freshman.
Sydney Umeri, 6-1 F, The Lovette School (Ga.) - Ranked No. 29 in ESPN's Top 100. Played on the 2011 USA Basketball U16 national team.

Given her late arrival, new coach Marlene Stollings probably had to hit the recruiting trail about 10 minutes after her introductory press conference. But with the help of an aggressive staff, the Rams are still making recruiting hay. Then again, they need to, as graduation/transfers leave VCU with plenty of openings to fill. The program's move to the upwardly mobile Atlantic 10 no doubt has helped the wooing process.
The players
Keira Robinson, 5-8 G, Keenan (S.C.) - A 2A all-state pick by the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association who combines quickness and size at point guard.
Ashlee Mitchell, 5-7 G, Tennessee (Tenn) - Was also recruited by Stollings at Winthrop. "I knew I could trust her," Mitchell told about Stollings.
Isis Thorpe, 5-8 G, Reading (Pa.) - Also starred for the (Fabulous) Philadelphia Belles AAU squad. Averaged 20.2 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks for a Reading team that went 23-3. Thorpe was an all-state AAAA Player in Pennsylvania and Player of the Year in Berks County. She has already surpassed the 1,000-point mark.
Monnazjea Finney-Smith, 5-10 G, Wilson
Briana DuBose, 5-10 G, Bishop McNamara (Md.)
Camille Calhoun, 5-10 F, Archbishop Spalding (Md.)

NOTE: In April - prior to VCU's coaching change - the Rams also secured a commitment from Shanese Harris, a 5-9 guard from Chesapeake's Western Branch High. Harris has since re-opened her recruitment.

W&M recruit Marlena Tremba
William and Mary
Three years ago, Tribe coach Debbie Taylor was so smitten with her recruits she said the group "restored my faith in this generation." Taylor was talking about them as people, but it turns out Emily Correal, Jaclyn McKenna and Taylor Hilton can really ball, too. In fact, we keep insisting there's an 18-20-win team in there somewhere, and we're going to keep projecting this for the Tribe until they prove us right (although given they're all seniors now, we're running out of time). Anyway, Taylor needs a big class to replace these generation-savers, and it looks like she's putting one together.
The players
Latrice Hunter, 5-6 G, Norfolk Christian - Averaged a conference-leading 20.7 ppg last season and is her school's all-time leading scorer.
Marlena Tremba, 5-9 G, Paul VI Catholic - 3-point shooter deluxe and a first-team All-Washington Catholic Athletic Association pick who averaged about 18 ppg and helped her school win a sixth straight Virginia independent schools state title.
Kasey Curtis, 6-2 C, Paul VI Catholic - Her strong upside was noticed by ESPN in this talent showcase report.
Alexis Hofstaedter, 5-8 G, Council Rock South (Pa.) - Heady point guard who helped her team reach the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) state quarterfinals for the first time in school history.

Other schools, other verbals....

Virginia Tech
Breanna Brown, 6-3 C, Bishop O'Dowd (Calif.)

George Mason
Chardell Dunnigan, 6-2 C Twinsburg (Ohio)
Brittany Jackson, 5-8 G The Bullis School (Md.)
Denisha Petty-Evans, 5-9 G, Bridgewater Raritan (N.J.)

Bayley Coleman-Cox, 5-10 G, Jordan (N.C.) - The daughter of her high school coach, Coleman-Cox averaged 21 ppg last season and has scored more than 1,200 points in her career. She can really stroke it from 3-point range, draining 68 treys last season. As a junior, Coleman-Cox averaged 21 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.6 apt and 3.6 spg.
Malia Tate-DeFreitas, 5-8 G, Steelton-Highspire (Pa.) - Two-time Class A state player of the year. Averaged 32 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists and and 3.2 steals to lead her Rollers to their second straight PIAA state title.

Da'Lishia Griffin, 6-2 C/F, Western Branch - Double-double machine was a first-team All-Eastern Region pick.
Amani Tatum, 5-6 G, Archbishop Molloy (N.Y.)
Chania Ray (2014), 5-8 G, Riverdale Baptist (Md.)
Carley Brew (2014), 5-11 F, Wilson (Pa.)

Old Dominion
Odegua Oigbokie, 6-1 F, Ridgeway (Tenn.) - Rebounding ace who averaged 18 points and 8 boards last season.
Destinee Young, 5-11 F, Hoffman Estates (Ill.)

DeAnneisha Jackson, 6-2 F, Harnett Central (N.C.) - Will hopefully address the Highlanders' seemingly perpetual search for quality size.

The Spiders don't typically get the players with all the hype, so we always marvel at how the players they do get wind up kicking so much tail. So far they have pledges from Olivia Healy, a 5-10 forward from Reading Memorial (Mass.), Janelle Hubbard, a 5-8 guard from Elizabeth Seton (Md.), and Dazia Hall, a 5-10 guard from The Bullis School. Healy led her team to a 25-0 record and a Massachusetts Division 2 state title. Earlier this week, the Spiders also received a 2014 verbal from Micaela Parson, a 5-7 point guard from Monocan.

Simone Brown, 6-0 G/F, Father Lopez (Fla.) - A rebounding machine commits to what is annually one of the nation's best rebounding programs. Talk about an ideal marriage of player and school.
Mikayla Sanders, 6-0 F, Cary Academy (N.C.)

Norfolk State
Logan Powell, 6-0 F, Marion County (Kent.)

Know of anyone we missed? Let us know at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Notre Dame to the ACC: What it means for our sport

The Irish are coming! The Irish are coming!

By now you know that Notre Dame is ACC-bound, setting in motion a number of possibilities for women's basketball for the Commonwealth. Among them ....

*We're envisioning the ACC as the unquestionable top women's basketball conference in the country. Winners of the 2001 NCAA title, Notre Dame (four Final Fours, 10 Sweet 16s)  is among the premier programs in the nation, and we don't expect that to end when Skylar Diggins graduates this spring (though we admit we're disappointed that the move won't be in time for us to see Diggins in these parts this season). Speaking of, check out this snazzy intro on the Irish site.

Just how many NCAA bids are you envisioning with the Irish, Duke, Maryland, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Georgia State always in the mix and Virginia on the rise? (Ditto for NC State). We anticipate Virginia Tech challenging as well in the not-too-distant future. What we don't imagine is anyone sweeping a conference this loaded, and winning on the road? That's going to get even tougher.

*Could the ACC be even one better? With 15 schools currently in the fold, a 16th school is no doubt on the way. While folks are lamenting the loss of the Notre Dame/UConn rivalry, we're hoping it will continue, thinking just maybe the Huskies will be Sweet No. 16 for the ACC.

Lots of speculation is out there -- with talk of maybe Rutgers or Louisville, also. Until it happens, we'll dream of the possibilities, including the one involving the Huskies.

*What does this mean for recruiting? It's all good (an expression that originated with the NBA, by the way). The ACC schools routinely boast many of the top players in the country and the addition of Notre Dame can only mean more elite high school talent will one-stop shop at an ACC school.

*Welcome back, Beth! Former VCU coach Beth Cunningham is in her first year at her alma mater as the associate head coach. We love that Beth will be back in our state at least once a year. (Beth recalls her VCU days fondly in this video on the ND website.)

*We look forward to the crowds at McGrady Irish Pub and Trinity Irish Pub in Charlottesville and T. Flynn's and Castles Kettle and Pub in Blacksburg when the Irish are in town. After the game, enjoy some Irish stew and a cold one on us!

*New rivalries! What will they be? You tell us!

Welcome to the ACC, Notre Dame!