Monday, June 13, 2011

True Champion: Brandon Braun

Sports can be so many things to so many different people, entertainment, socialization, an escape, health...but for some it has even more value, a value I hope most of us do not ever have to experience.

Despite the fact that some may consider professional sports and the athletes who play them to be rather frivolous in the larger scheme of things, and they likely have a very good point. Yet, regularly, the biggest wish that terminally ill children have is to meet their sports idols in person. There may be something about the ability to focus on something other than their own battles that let's them just be a kid for an hour so, or perhaps feel an odd sort of kinship with these athletes pushing their bodies to achieve goals most people cannot hope to attain.

I don't have an answer for what the connection is, or why is as common and powerful as it has shown itself to be.

A little over a year ago, six days after his 11th birthday, Seattle Storm fan, Brandon Brauns lost his seven year battle with brain cancer. Brandon was a season ticket holder for the Storm, served as honorary captain and had the opportunity to meet with many of the Storm players over the years.

The strength and selflessness of this child had him organizing fund raisers from his hospital bed and creating a toy drive for Seattle Children's Hospital at Christmas only months before his final passing.

His family have continued in their son's tradition, turning their grief and love into hope for other children and families facing similar battles.

Most of us will not have to face the trials, the pain, and be required to show the strength and capacity for hope and love that Brandon and his family have shown. We can however honor that courage, strength and hope.

Brandon's family have created the Brandon's Goal Foundation and they are joining with the Seattle Storm to raise money for Brandon's Goal Foundation on the July 9th Storm game against the LA Sparks. You purchase single tickets for the game or purchase a four pack of tickets which comes with t-shirts and wrist bands.

I am inspired by this young man and his family and encourage everyone to support them.

Prior to the start of the season, Jayda Evans at the Seattle time asked each player to finish the sentence, "A champion is...." I look no further than Brandon and his mother to find my answer to that question.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Lynx @ Sparks 3 June, 2011

I caught this game last night on my DVR after taking four twelve year old boys to see the movie Thor.

At times Candace Parker and Maya Moore seemed a bit like the Asgardians in the movie as single warriors easily defeated dozens of frost giants apiece. Those two, offensively, are just so much better than everyone else on the floor. They both hit shots that no one else was going to hit, scored any way they wanted and just existed in a realm different than that of other players.

Those other players weren't slouches, mind you.

For Minnesota, Brunson rebounded the ball and scored baskets regularly, Lindsay Whalen muscled her way into the paint repeatedly, Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored inside and out while all ten players that saw game time scored. For the first half, it actually looked like the Lynx were going to win the game and they fought until the final minutes.

For LA, Thompson played as she has for the past 15 years, Noelle Quinn, Jenna O'Hea and Kristi Toliver caught fire in the second half, Ebony Hoffman fought for every rebound and every player in the game scored except Ticha Penicheiro. The veteran guard really struggled against the Lynx and the team looked better with both Natasha Lacy and Kristi Toliver manning the point. The Sparks made a big comeback with most of their starters on the bench and never relenquished their lead from that point on. Coach Gillom said her team was "11 deep" before the game and she played everybody except Jantel Lavender decent minutes. In fact with the exception of Lavender and Lacy, every player put in at least 16 minutes last night.

Maya Moore looked quite good and showed that she can score in the WNBA. Her percentages weren't that great, 41% from the field and 36% from deep, and I thought she took a number of poor shots, but she still put up 21 points in 29 minutes mixed with four assists, four rebounds and only two turnovers. I expect she will just get better from here as she learns how to play with her new team. The Lynx do need to figure out how to get their guards going, as Augustus, Wiggins and Wright are all better players than they showed last night. The talent glut at that spot and the clear emphasis on Moore may be causing these three talented players some mental challenges. The defensive breakdowns in the second half (a carry over from last season) and the struggle to score down the stretch made this promising team look less exciting in terms of potential success, though they will be fun to watch.

The Sparks would have lost this game were it not for the outside shooting spree the bench went off with in the second half. For a while there it looked like Quinn, Toliver and O'Hea could chuck the ball up from anywhere and hit the three. It gave them the W, but that shot won't be there for all three players every night. As improved as the Sparks look with regards to depth and the health of CP3, they still have a ways to go to make waves in the Western Conference.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Who is Lauren Prochaska?

Lauren Prochaska is an undrafted, rookie guard out of Bowling Green University in Ohio. She was recently ranked #26 on the list of the 50 best high school athletes in Ohio in the past decade. She was a four time All-Ohio selection out of Johnathan Alder High School in Plain City, Ohio where she ranked sixth all time in the state for scoring and holds the state career record for made free throws. At Bowling Green she was named Mid-Atlantic Conference player of the year and named on the MAC all-conference first team two years in a row. She is a well rounded player, leading her team in scoring and placing second in rebounding, assists, blocks and steals for her senior season. For that senior season she shot 40% overall, 38% from three and 91% from the free throw line.

My opinion: While her shooting may be impressive, I believe Prochaska will also be one of the first cuts made this week clearing room for the return of Sue Bird and Swin Cash to camp. The Storm are strongest at the guard position, and I don't believe that Lauren offers enough height at 5'11" to fit the mold of a swing player at the forward position where the Storm are currently thin.

Who is Courtney Ward?

Courtney Ward is an undrafted, rookie guard from Florida State. Ward was a key player at Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, Alabama winning a state championship in her final year. She was a top 100 ranked player coming out of high school and had a solid career at FSU, taking ownership of the starting position midway through her sophomore season and serving as team captain in this past season as a senior. She played particularly well in the the last two NCAA tournaments. She led the ACC in assists in 2009-2010. She has solid shooting range and actually shot better from distance (40%) than she did overall (38%) her senior year at FSU.

My opinion: Ward will be among the first players cut this week. Whether she performs well or not, the Storm are very strong at the guard position with Bird, Wright, and Smith with Cash able to play the two guard in a bigger lineup as well. The Storm are in much greater need of strong swing players to back up Swin Cash, and Coach Agler has shown a preference for swing forwards that can play both forward positions.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Who is Aneika Henry?

I know I have been gone for a quite a while, but as WNBA camps begin to open, and my workload is starting to level out, I find myself with a little bit of time and a lot of passion about basketball. This post is the first in a series looking at the new faces rolling into camp next week. Cuts will need to be made quickly as camp rosters are limited 15 players. With the late start to the season, the starters will be available earlier in camp than in the past. With 17 players on the roster, the first two cuts should happen in the first week.

Aneika Henry is an undrafted rookie who graduated from Florida in 2009. While she is Jamaican, she played high school basketball in Coral Gables, playing basketball for the very first time as a freshman. Her athleticism, length and wingspan weren't enough to earn her college recruitment and she attended junior college at Seminole Community College through 2007. She played for their team in her sophomore year. She played in every game in her two years as a gator, but she came off the bench and averaged less than 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in about 13 minutes per game.

She has moved on to play in Europe, and had quite a successful season playing for Mann Filter Zaragoza averaging 9 points, 7 rebounds and a block across the Spanish league play and 11 points and 8.5 rebounds in Eurocup play. She had a bit of a mix with regards to performance, but had a number of strong games in both seasons. She struggled scoring and rebounding against WNBA caliber players such as Rebekah Brunson and Michelle Snow, but did quite well against the majority of the Europeans and quite well against former Oklahoma star, Courtney Paris. She was the first woman to dunk in a Spanish league game.

My pre-camp opinion: Aneika will need to play exceptionally well on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor in order to displace the veteran bench fixture, Ashley Robinson. Ashley has a reputation with the coaching staff for consistent commitment and effort in practice (though she sees little time in games) and has been lauded for her positive impacts on team chemistry. Filling the last post position for the Storm and overcoming the history and experience of a well liked veteran will be an uphill battle for this rookie despite the appeal of her rookie scale salary.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Temporary Refocus

I have been offline blogging for several months. I took a recent promotion at work and my free time has been entirely absorbed by both work and training as I recently completed my first half marathon and have my first marathon scheduled.

I hope to finish putting my team together and find more free time in coming months as I get a better handle on efficiency with my new responsibilities.

I will be doing a mid-season and pre draft analysis of college seniors, but will be unable to track the weekly stats as I have done in previous years.