Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I will run numbers on the new Stormies and I will take a stab at pre-season predictions, though I don't believe I have ventured into that territory before.
I am busy here in St. Thomas...I am now a certified Wreck Diver, having spent two days diving a number of wrecks here in the USVI.
While I was under water, the Storm re-signed Ashley Robinson just in time for Media Day. Catch up with all the training camp data via Kevin Pelton at http://storm.wnba.com.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
One of our poll participants got their wish as Coach Agler drafted shooting/combo guard Allie Quigley from DePaul with the 22nd pick. Most of the top guards were gone by that point as Bobbitt, White and Swanier all went right before the Storm picked.
I am not sure why Sharnee Zoll fell so far in the draft. She was one of the top 20 invitees to the draft room, but she fell to the third round. I wonder if she did not have a good pre-draft combine...it would interesting to hear from the GM's and analysts what caused her fall. She was never a scorer at UVa, she has been tagged as more of a "true" or "traditional" point guard, and with Agler's leanings (see below) towards combo guards, she just may not have fit in his system.
Zoll was gone by the Storm's 36th pick so they picked up what appears to be a strong defender at the point guard spot in Kimberly Peck. She appeared capable offensively in her conference as well, but her defense is so strong I suspect it will translate into the WNBA. Of course, Tanisha Wright has never been the defensive professional after her stellar college career on defense, so we will have to see how things play out. Coach said in his post-draft interview that he liked Peck's combine performance.
There are a number of competitive spots at this point heading into training camp.
Assuming JB signs her contract, Coach will have to settle on a starter and a rotation at the center position with JB and Yolanda Griffith. He also needs one more post at the bare minimum to round out his lineup. However, he has the benefit that three players can all play lots of minutes regardless of who starts. He has to expect an injury at some point, so he needs a fourth post to round out the rotation. A-Rob is still available but if she gets an offer better than the minimum, Agler may choose to pass and go for a big rookie from the waiver wire or out of camp.
There is a lot of competition for the guard spots. Based on interviews, it appears that Coach Agler wants combo guards that can shoot and handle the ball so that he can move Sue Bird around between the point and the shooting guard to take advantage of screens off the ball. The league has scouted the Bird/Jackson pick and roll pretty well, though they still get what they want most of the time with that play. If they can have a second guard on the floor with ball handling and passing skills, then they have the flexibility to let Sue run around off screens like Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith do in Detroit. It gives him more options to make the opponents defense less sure of the coming plays. Last year we found that opposing teams could lock the Storm's go to plays down in the final quarter...and I felt that in-game adjustments were not Coach Donovan's greatest strength. Opening up the offense by using the new players and different combinations will allow the Storm to close out games more effectively. That killer Bird/LJ pick and roll is going to be a lot harder to guard when you haven't been guarding it all night long.
Coach Agler is looking at his two draft picks as well as last year's pick, Brandi Hoskins who has been playing overseas since recovering from her 2007 injury. He also has a few vets and camp invitees to review including Wright, Gearlds, Ely, both Hodges sisters, and former Husky O'Neil.
I am very excited for the pre-season events and the exhibition game on May 11th. I just hope they don't schedule everything while I am out of town the next two weeks.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
I guess defense and rebounding DO win championships...we should have listened to you Pat Summitt. Tennessee crushed Stanford last night, though I was forced to miss the game due to business meetings. I hoped to see that fluid Stanford offense pick apart another defensive team, but in the end it looks like they choked when faced with the determination and experience of the defending champion. Parker cements her legacy with the Lady Vols and Pat Summitt thinks about how to rebuild with her five starters graduating this year.
Brian Agler continues the trend of pleasing me, he picks up three all star players with strong defensive skills and veteran leadership and then says he intends to bolster the backcourt in the draft with a point guard. He also says that he has plenty of money. He wants JB and Ashley back, but A-Rob is looking at offers "from other teams." We suspect the Mystics are one of those teams. Kevin Pelton reports that A-Rob has turned down some offers already but today's draft could affect whether A-Rob stays or goes. He also says Coach Agler is NOT likely to trade up today, though it has been discussed. If he were to trade up JB could be a part of that deal meaning A-Rob's importance to the Storm rises. You can listen to Yo talk on the Storm site.
The big question today is who will be available when pick number 22 rolls around? Did Ketia Swanier raise her standing with her solid tournament play to become a top 20 pick? Does anyone decide that Zoll is a top 20 pick? I hope that second round point guard hunters look to 2 time NCAA champion Shannon Bobbitt first since her height puts her lower on my list.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
I leave on my next trip Friday.
I don't have much time to write today...but I will have a lot to say when I get the chance.
Monday, April 07, 2008
I haven't seen confirmation from a known journalist yet, but according to the internet chatter the Storm are adding a new player who has won a WNBA MVP award.
The ever knowledgeable pilight has indicated that there are three unsigned former league MVP's.
Cooper is retired and an unlikely coaching addition given the prior history with Swoopes. Leslie will never play anywhere other than LA.
That leaves us with Yolanda Griffith in her retirement season.
We'll see how it ends up tomorrow.
Mr. P has his Power Forward break down complete and his mock draft. This is the position with real depth in the draft this year. Three solid players at the top of the list.
In the second game of the night, it was Sylvia Fowles who was the star, but she couldn't lead her team to advance past the Final Four. Fowles had 24 points, 20 rebounds, and 5 blocks, but no other Lady Tiger reached double figures. Fowles played all 40 minutes of the game and she was in obvious pain in the waning seconds. Cramps seemed the likely suspect, but she continued to fight through it. LSU's defense was stifling but no one could score a basket. Tennessee on the other hand found a way to get the ball in the hoop when they needed that score. In the end Alexis Hornbuckly almost blew the game fowling Erica White on the last possession. White hit both free throws to put the Tigers up by one. On the next possession, with no time left on the clock, Fowles AGAIN stopped Parker in the lane, Anosike missed the open layup but Hornbuckle redeemed herself with the game winning tip. This felt like it was the championship game already, and I am not sure Tennessee has enough gas left in their tank to stop Wiggins and the rest of her Stanford team.
Tuesday will be a crazy night.
On a side note, Katie Gearlds got some clips and a mention in the NCAA three point competition. Eventual winner Chioma Nnamaka from Georgia Tech was compared as being strong just like Katie Gearlds last year. She let herself get intimidated by men's winner Darnell Harris and she broke the streak of the women's champion beating the men that was two years running.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
The man, Mr. KP, puts out his small forward list...let's see...there is Essence Carson and....and...some other people. The distance between the first and second SF picks in the draft should be sizeable or I have learned nothing about WNBA basketball in the past five years.
Tomorrow is the big day folks. Who comes out on top? Do we get two days of Pat hates Geno stories in every major tournament article and TV special? I am looking forward to watching more of Fowles and Wiggins...I have seen enough of Parker to know she is special...these other two are real treats for me. Thinking about how good Maya Moore is now and what that will mean in her Senior year and how good the draft will be then, and the fact that thanks to Force 10 Hoops KNOW the WNBA will be here in Seattle and I will be able to watch the first two rounds of NCAA play for the next two years if I can get tickets....(that was a lot of ands)....has me really happy.
Cheers and enjoy the games!
Friday, April 04, 2008
The Storm hired former Liberty head coach, Nancy Droche, who has also coached with the Mystics and the Lynx as well as in the College ranks, most recently in Boston. I am not excited, and while many over at Rebkell are quite down on her, I am not worried. Assistant coaches are brought in to round out a system...to bring a specialty knowledge or a communications skill into the picture. I trust that Agler wanted Droche for something he felt would compliment what he plans to do with the team.
Jayda Evans says that Agler is putting the finishing touches on Janell Burse's contract so we should be hearing about that in the coming days.
The buzz at Rebkell's is that the Mystics have given an offer sheet to Ashley Robinson. If the rumor is true, then the Storm have five days to match the offer. According to the current CBA, an offer sheet to a Restricted Free Agent, like Ashley, must be for a term greater than one year. We will have to see how this one plays out. I am glad that someone has officially set her market value so we can close out one more open item.
Mr. Pelton has put up his list of two guards for the draft...I look for three of them, at least, to go in the first round.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Former Husky Kristin O'Neil and returning guard Doneeka Lewis head the list of four which also includes Mercury cast off Leah Rush and Comets discarded 2001 first round pick Dee Davis.
O'Neil played out of position her last year at the UW and more than half of her shots were three pointers with a dreadful 28% success rate. She didn't fare much better in prior years, with her first year offering a dismal 34% with around half her shots from that range. She has good size for a point guard prospect at 6'1", but I don't see her sticking unless her shot selection and shooting percentage has improved.
Lewis will be competing with her twin sister Roneeka but I don't see Doneeka making the roster either.
I couldn't even be inspired to run the numbers for Rush and Davis who have barely played in the W. If Rush couldn't make the Comet's roster last year I don't see her lasting in the Storm camp. They might be candidates for midseason injury replacement.
Mr. Pelton puts himself in front of the camera with new Storm member Sheryl Swoopes and writes a nice piece on her community visits made last week.
Most importantly, he starts his draft review with the position I am most interested in, (the same one I have been asking to be covered for the past three drafts) point guard. He looks at three of the guards I talked about last week, Swanier, Bobbitt and Zoll, but points us towards two others I haven't seen, Angela Tinsdale from Baylor and Erica White from LSU. Oh, wait...I did see White and will get to see her again on Sunday. Maybe this time I will notice her. It was hard to pay attention to anyone but Fowles in that game. The consensus #2 pick is just such a passionate force down low that I don't know who else plays on that team. Van does favor a star focused system (remember Houston folks) but I really don't remember anyone but Fowles in that elite eight game. Besides, like Bobbitt, I think White is just too small for the WNBA, and without a three point shot I don't think she fits the Storm roster. I still like Zoll first and Swanier as a fall back if Zoll is not on the boards. A'Quonesia Franklin from Texas A&M played well in the tournament, but I don't see her stock rising in the draft.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
I love this picture of Candice Wiggins, Renee Montgomery, (not Maya Moore as I assumed), Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles on the front page of the MAIN ESPN site. These four women have led their teams to the final four with just the kind of passion shown in the image. For a few minutes in both games last night it looked like it could be all #2 seeds in the final four.
After Candace Parker was forced to leave the game after two dislocations of her shoulder, Texas A&M had the opportunity to make a run. They were only down 2 points at the half and Parker was gone for more than 7 minutes to start the second half, but Texas A&M failed to pull away. Parker returned and even with her at 50%, the Lady Vols started playing like defending champions again. Alexis Hornbuckle hit a ridiculous shot (one she probably shouldn't have take) from back in Tennessee that gave them a five point cushion. Pat Summit leapt in the air (as did most of the bench) pumping her fist. You could tell after the game that it was one of those coach "No, no, no, YES!" moments for her. Though Alexis had struggled with her shooting for most of the game, she had the senior, clutch moment at the right time. Tennesse was all Parker (26 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals and an assist) and Hornbuckle (14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals) with a little Shannon Bobbit (9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and an assist) thrown in for good measure. Neither team got anything from their bench, but the Aggies managed to get three starters in double figures (Starks 12, Franklin 11 and Gant 10).
In the second game of the night, Rutgers came out with a mission and looked for a while like they might run away with the game. Rutgers defense simply blanketed Maya Moore with a modified box and one style defense. Two of her three baskets came off uncontested layups made from two of her five steals. She only got seven shots for the entire game. For Geno's Huskies, the scoring had to come from somewher else and Ketia Swanier (15 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists) and Renee Montgomery (15 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block) stepped up their game. Rutgers didn't have much more luck from their scorers, sophomore Epiphany Prince (remember her 100 point HS game from two years ago?) only managed 7 and senior Essence Carson was held to 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 steals. Rutgers went small and fast, which helped them at the start of the game, but hurt them in the long run...they did not have a single block in the game. Carson played well and will be a nice draft pick for some WNBA team on Wednesday.
The Final Four kicks off at 4 PM PDT on ESPN this Sunday.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Seattle based advertising firm WongDoody has scheduled an 11am EDT press conference to annouce a 100% privately funded arena in the Seattle area that could be used to support basketball. It likely won't save the Sonics, but it could be an option for the Storm and a future NBA team. It will boil down to whether the city wants to keep Key Arena viable or not. If this arena gets built with private funds, it will compete directly with Key Arena.
Both number 2 seeds advanced to the final four last night. The stars were shining and we got to see a lot of the first round of the WNBA draft in action.
Projected #2 pick Sylvia Fowles led her Van Chancellor coached team to victory over North Carolina with 21 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, a steal, an assist, and four turnovers before fouling out after 38 minutes. The Tar Heels had solid performances from their seniors, Erlana Larkins (5 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 assists and 2 turnovers in 37 minutes) and Laurie Pringle (21 points, 11 rebounds, a block, a steal, an assist and 2 turnovers before fouling out after 35 minutes).
Projected top 4 pick Candice Wiggins set a tournament first with her second 40+ game last night. She had 41 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover in 40 minutes. Her post game emotional interview was a perfect example of why I watch this game. My "Dad" instinct took over and I wanted to give her a big hug, hold her hands and jump up and down with her...she was just so darn happy. It was a thing of beauty and much more powerful than the standard post game interview. Maryland star Crystal Langhorne gave a solid final NCAA performance with 13 points, 8 rebounds, an assist and a turnover in 39 minutes. The real star, though was the 35 point, 5 assist performance of junior Kristi Tolliver who was shooting quite well at 66% despite the Cardinal defense. Stanford's offense was overwhelming and effective...they will give their final four competition a run for their money.
Up tonight, can Tennessee and Connecticut hold off their number 2 seeds?