Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The transfer game in WBB: Let's all play by the same rules

Felgemacher: from JMU to Radford

We have a confession to make and it's a doozy -- so much so that we hope you'll keep reading this blog after we come clean.

Ready? Ahem; here goes. We two LadySwish scribes, both of us I'm saying, gulp, gulp . . . oh, we shiver before we write this. . . .

We transferred when we were in college.

The testosterone one of us traded in Texas Christian University for sunny Santa Clara; despite loving the Lone Star state the Division I tennis athlete in him wanted more playing time, which the Broncos offered it. The prettier in pink one of us thought she wanted an adventure when she signed up for life in West Lafayette, Indiana's Purdue University coming all the way from Washington, D.C. But with Mom and Dad a plane ride away and collect calls a fortune (we had no cell phones back then, kids), homesickness won. She graduated with honors from George Washington, an adjustment that prepared her well for graduate school at Mizzou.

Where's the scandal, you ask? Didn't you hear us? We transferred. What's that? So what? You did, too, maybe? What's the big deal, we ask?

In fact, take a look at our schools and you'll find Jennie Simms transferred to Old Dominion. So did Shae Kelley, who then transferred again to Minnesota. Kelly Loftus transferred from Hofstra to ODU.

Ashley Perez left St. John's for James Madison. Kelly Koshuta left Virginia Tech for JMU; Amber Porter jumped ship in Stetson for the Dukes.

Savannah Felgemacher just left JMU for Radford. VCU just added St. John's Jordan Agustus. Tuuli Menna recently left Richmond for Manhattan. Khadedra Crocker is no longer a Hokie; she's at Norfolk State. George Mason? Where do we start? Nyla Milleson has brought in a plethora of kids who pledged their allegiance to other schools and recently landed Natalie Butler from UConn.

Loftus: From Hofstra to ODU
We could keep going, but instead we pause and ask again, what's the problem? There isn't one to us. If you wanna go somewhere else, by all means, go somewhere else. Isn't that what Marlene Stollings did, leaving VCU after two years to become coach at Minnesota? Kenny Brooks moved from Harrisonburg to Blacksburg.

 There's something called a coaching carousel in women's basketball circles; assistants come and go all the time as do head coaches (welcome to Norfolk, Nikki McCray-Penson).

But when a player wants to make the best choice for her? Egads!

Need we remind you of the whole saga surrounding Leticia Romero?

Coaches do what's best for them and nobody bats a lash. But players? We share Sherri Coale's recent remarks on transfers:

"It's hard to let them go because when you invest so deeply in something, it's really hard to walk away from it."

And later: "It's parasitic in that when players leave, they create holes in rosters."

Anne Donovan noted this last year about transfers, "It is freedom of choice; that is what we are known for in America, but it is a little bit disturbing. Nobody is safe."

We knock neither coach for her opinion, but we wanted to share ours. You only get four years to play and lots can happen in that period. The coach who recruited you could get fired or change jobs. The assistant you saw as a mentor could get fired or change jobs. You could get hurt. You could miss Mom and Dad more than you thought. You simply might change your mind. Maybe you want a different major. Maybe campus life wasn't what you thought it would be. Maybe the school is too big. Maybe  it's too small.

Maybe you hate the weather. Maybe things aren't as they appeared on the recruiting visit.

Yes, maybe you don't like the coach or maybe the coach runs you off. Let's not pretend that doesn't  happen.

Maybe the decision you made when you were 17 or 18 years old wasn't the right fit for you for a variety of reasons. We speak from experience. Remember, we transferred. It's hard to know exactly what you're getting into until you actually do it.

You see, transferring isn't some epidemic in the game stemming from today's entitled kids. It's a fact of life rooted in a variety of reasons and circumstances specific to the athlete.

That's why we'll take this a step further. Why penalize anyone for her choice? You have to sit out a whole year in women's basketball simply because you change your mind. Yet when a coach changes his or her mind, that's OK, accepted, part of the deal. Sports is a business for the coach, but when an athlete treats it as such, look out.

Division I athletes in football, baseball and men and women's basketball cannot play for a full year after transferring due to NCAA rules. They must sit out, we're told, because of the fear that schools will attempt to poach players and players might shift on a whim.

To us, this seems like a policy that benefits the school and the coach over the athlete. If a player doesn't get her release, she can be in a ridiculous holding pattern (exhibit A, Florida State's Romero; exhibit B from our state, Amanda Fioravanti. Virginia did not grant the release of a player who averaged 1.5 ppg and 1.1 rpg who left in spring 2014. Fioravanti had to sit out that semester and all of 2014-15 when she moved to St. Joseph's.)

Let's stop acting like transferring is a transgression. Consider it a fact of life. Nobody should be punished for it. Schools certainly don't have a problem when a high-profile transfer comes their way.

Sometimes transferring works out for everybody involved. Penalizing anybody for it is hardly synonymous with an NCAA that puts the student-athlete first and foremost in its mission statement.

We did it and maybe so did you. What's the big deal?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Meet William and Mary guard Misha Jones, also a scribe like us!

Jones chatting with Jennie Simms
The Washington Mystics played at home on Sunday.

You know what that means?  Misha Jones was at work.

Nope, the William and Mary guard isn't in the pros yet. But she writes professionally for Women's Hoops World, an online site that focuses on college and pro WBB. (Here's her Sunday story.)

A little bit on Jones. She had her pick of schools given her strong academics from Battlefield High in Manassas Park. She considered Princeton, but preferred staying closer to home and liked the idea of joining Ed Swanson's up-and-coming program in Williamsburg. Another plus was that her AAU teammates from the Fairfax Stars, Bianca Boggs and Chandler Smith, had also signed on with the Tribe.

On the court, it's been a rough go. Jones has been in rehab essentially since 2015 after two surgeries (she had never been hurt prior to college). She tore the labium in her shoulder (ouch) and then (super ouch) her Achilles and is working to get back in shape in hopes of contributing this season.

The film and media studies major loves to write -- something we rarely hear in this 14-character world. Color commentary and sideline reporting appeal to her, too. But basketball consumed her high school life along with academics (4.2 GPA), so beyond the classroom she had never attempted to do any serious writing.

"All I've ever really done is taking writing-intensive classes," she said. "But I never did writing for a
newspaper or writing for a journal."

Not lots of millennials read newspaper let alone write for them. Jones grew up reading Sports Illustrated, loves author Dan Brown ("Angels & Demons" is a fave)), and no surprise: She's a Harry Potter buff.

A tweet soliciting writers from Sue Favor's women's hoops site piqued Jones' interest in sports writing. Jones sent a sample and was delighted to receive a positive response. A college beat didn't work for her, but the idea of being a Mystics beat writer during her offseason? Now that was appealing.

She got the thumbs up from Favor, and next thing you know she's at media day for the Mystics and sitting on press row alongside Mel Greenberg, the Washington Post and hey, LadySwish!

"It was really that simple and amazing," Jones said. "I was ecstatic for a really long time."

Jones wrote Mystics preview material and covers home games for the revamped Washington team that acquired Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver offseason. Bonus: ODU's Jennie Simms is a rookie on the team, someone Jones knows from college.

She loves all the work entails.

Young writers often cringe at the thought of editing. Jones embraces it, taking the same approach to it as basketball.

"You're not always going to be right on the court, either," she said.

Interviewing remains a challenge. Jones had been interviewed prior to us chatting with her, but when she became the interviewer, whole different ballgame. Her first stab at it was talking with Ivory Latta and Tianna Hawkins by phone.

"Those went pretty well," she said. "On the phone, you don't have to have that presence."

She went one-on-one with Latta during Washington's media day, still figuring out the dynamics of it all. While college teams set up formal press conferences for reporters regularly, trust us: Covering a pro team is a bigger challenge, especially for a young writer. You learn to be bold -- grabbing players before they warm up prior to the game is allowed, something that would cause a college coach to have a coronary. The locker room is open afterward, another logistical hurdle. The player you want to talk to might bolt as you're chatting with another.

"Going into the locker room to get quotes is so exciting and so terrifying at the same time," Jones said. "I like being able to ask questions and see where it goes. I like telling a different story than everyone else is trying to tell."

It just so happens Toliver is her absolute favorite player to watch, as Jones was all about the Terps as a youngster. She describes herself as a "mess" when Maryland won the NCAA title in 2006 -- Toliver's famous shot over Duke's Alison Bales that forced overtime of the national championship is a sacred clip. A framed Toliver jersey hangs in Jones' bedroom at home,

She awaits her first chat with Toliver, understanding she's not a fan anymore. She's a reporter.

"I've always been taught not to get starstruck because people are just people," she said. "But I'm human."

Kristi aside, Jones looks forward to interviewing Dee (that's Diana Taurasi) and she loves the idea of conversing with Tina Charles.

"The way she carries herself and what she does for her foundation and the passion she plays with -- it's very refreshing to see how authentically connected she is to what she does. I think she would be a great interview."

On July 2, the landscape changes. Jones returns to William and Mary to start the grind for next season (our words, not hers)  but is hoping to still cover Mystics games that fall on the weekends.

"I'm going to do it as long as I can," she said. "This is experience that is priceless."

Check out her stuff via her professional Twitter handle, too, @mishthejrnalist