Saturday, April 09, 2011

Mystics Acquire All-Star Nicky Anosike

Washington Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Trudi Lacey announced today that the team has acquired All-Star Nicky Anosike from the Minnesota Lynx. The Lynx will receive the Mystics' first round pick in the 2012 WNBA draft.

"We are thrilled to sign a player of Nicky's caliber," said Lacey. "She will be an excellent addition to our team and give us the low post presence we have been missing. Nicky's experience both at the collegiate and professional levels as well her skill set brings a dimension to our team that is unprecedented. "

A 6-3 forward/center, Anosike was drafted in the second round (16th overall) of the 2008 WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx. Last season, she played 31 games and averaged 9.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The 2009 season was a stellar year for Anosike, as she led the Lynx in scoring (13.2 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg), assists (2.7 apg), steals (2.7 spg) and blocked shots (.93 bpg) to become one of only two late round draft picks to be named to the All-Star team since 2001.

A standout player from the University of Tennessee, Anosike won back-to-back National Championships (2007 & 2008) and was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Teams. In addition to earning All-American and All-SEC honors throughout her collegiate career, Anosike was named the 2008 NCAA Woman of the Year for her dedication to her community and her studies.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Tennessee's Pat Summitt gets head start on 2011-12

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is getting a head start on next season.

Summitt and her Lady Volunteers program didn't reach the Final Four for a third straight year, the longest drought in nearly two decades. To make sure her current junior class doesn't become the first in Tennessee history to never make a national semifinals appearance, Summitt has been making a few changes and imposing extra demands on her players.

"I'm still not over it," Summitt said on Wednesday, more than a week after Tennessee's 73-59 loss to Notre Dame in the regional finals in Dayton, Ohio. "I just felt like we didn't come ready to play at the highest level. You've got to bring your 'A' game."

Only those players who do bring their 'A' game will be playing next year, Summitt said, promising to shorten the deep rotation that was the hallmark of Tennessee's 34-3 season and undefeated Southeastern Conference run if necessary.

At the core of Summitt's disappointment was the team's lack of commitment to defense and some players' desire to improve their game. She's already named forwards Glory Johnson and Alicia Manning and guard Taber Spani as team captains for next season, hoping that their emphasis on defense and putting extra hours in the gym will inspire their teammates to do on the same.

"I think the thing that I've realized with this particular team is we have a lot of players that are very skilled offensively, but we just don't have the defensive mentality across the board, and I think the defense and board play is going to be without a question a point of emphasis for us."

Summitt has had them in the gym twice since their season ended on March 28 — once to watch film of their NCAA loss and once to practice their defense — but it's the extra time the players invest trying to rid their game of weaknesses during the offseason that will convince her they need to stay in the playing rotation.

The Lady Vols can also count on contending with a fresh set of faces in the fall. Summitt has signed top forward prospect Cierra Burdick, top point guard prospect Ariel Massengale and the state of Tennessee's top prospect, forward Isabelle Harrison.

But with the decisions of center Kelley Cain and point guard Lauren Avant to leave the program, Summitt has plans of adding even more new players, either by signing incoming freshmen or bringing in junior college players.

"We've been looking, you don't have to worry about that," Summitt said. "We'll just say everything's open right now, but we will have more players."

Massengale is all but guaranteed a starting role if she's healthy upon arrival, which could help Tennessee at a position that's been a sore spot for Summitt. Forward Shekinna Stricklen and shooting guard Meighan Simmons adjusted their play to fill in at the position for the past three seasons.

"I've watched (Massengale) play. I just think she's a real special guard. Cierra Burdick — the two of them played really well together (in the McDonald's high school all-American game). I feel good about that, but I also think we'll have some good guards coming in as well."

In the mean time, it's up to the current Lady Vols to decide how much they're willing to do to make sure next year's season outcome changes.

"I think they understand the sense of urgency for each individual to step up," Summitt said. "We all understand that we can get better in all aspects. That's why I keep going back and saying take ownership of your team, invest in this program, do the things you have to do on a daily basis to get better."

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Lauren Avant leaving Lady Vols

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has announced that freshman guard Lauren Avant will not return to play for the Lady Vols next season.

The Avant announcement came a day after redshirt junior center Kelley Cain said that she would forgo her final season of eligibility because of her history of injuries. Summitt said that wasn't expecting any more attrition. But Avant, who also dealt with a multitude of injuries, came to her on Tuesday and said that she wanted to transfer to a smaller school.

"I think with the injuries and I think also thinking about being closer to home and not having the pressure of Division I here, you know, at Tennessee,'' said Summitt, listing the reasoning behind Avant's decision. "She said she wants a smaller school."

Avant, who is from Memphis, would be eligible to play next season if she transferred to a Division II or Division III school.

With two scholarships suddenly available, Summitt indicated that Tennessee will be adding at least one player in the spring signing period.

Baylor, Notre Dame lead first look at preseason Top 10 for 2011-12

The defending champion is Texas A&M, and Maya Moore is soon to be a member of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. Indeed, we're entering a new era in women's college basketball. While we reserve the right to change these picks come next November, here's's way-too-early preseason Top 10 for 2011-12 ...

1. Baylor (34-3)
Starters Returning: Four
Key Players: Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims and Destiny Williams
The Skinny: Look for point guard Sims -- the freshman of the year -- to make a huge leap as a sophomore. Remember, she was expected to back up Kelli Griffin this year before Griffin shockingly left the Lady Bears before the opening game. The junior-to-be Griner will use the loss to Texas A&M in the Dallas Regional final as motivation to get stronger.
Quotable: "I harp on this, but truthfully, when you look out on that floor, I have one senior and a bunch of sophomores and one freshman who get the majority of the minutes." -- Baylor coach Kim Mulkey on her inexperience this season.

2. Notre Dame (30-8)
Starters Returning: Four
Key Players: Skylar Diggins, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters
The Skinny: The deepest team in the country (they lost only one player) will be led by Diggins and Novosel. Redshirt senior guard Brittany Mallory has one more year of eligibility and will make her decision on whether she's coming back later in the summer. Most expected Notre Dame to make its big run in 2012, and they exceeded expectations by losing in a tight championship game. The Irish are the co-favorites with the Lady Bears.
Quotable: "I think there's definitely a little carry over, but you're just not guaranteed anything. Getting here this year doesn't mean that because we have everybody back but Becca (Bruszewski) that we're going to be back here next year. And that's something we'll have to guard against after the season. We can't get complacent. We know how hard we worked to get here. This was an unbelievable effort by everybody to get here."-- Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.

3. Tennessee (34-3)
Starters Returning: Four
Key Players: Meighan Simmons, Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson
The Skinny: Pat Summitt has a deep and athletic team returning, but the best news of all is incoming point guard Ariel Massengale, a big-time talent who will likely start as a freshman. That means Simmons moves to the wing, where she'll be even more deadly. Tennessee also adds another major recruit in forward Cierra Burdick.
Quotable: "I am very disappointed in our basketball team. I don't think we came here with the focus and don't ask me why. I look at this junior class and Angie [Bjorklund] as a senior and I am kind of lost for words as to why they wouldn't come in and already know what they were going to do. I hate this for our program, our administration. I hope our players will learn from it because we have a way to go. We were exposed today." -- Summitt, following her team's loss to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.

4. UConn (36-2)
Starters Returning: Four
Key Players: Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Farris and Caroline Doty
The Skinny: Moore is gone, but UConn isn't going away from the national stage with the core above and a great freshman class led by wing player Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the WBCA national high school player of the year. The 6-foot-3 forward-center recruit Kiah Stokes also has promise.
Quotable: "What Maya and Lorin [Dixon] experienced in the two years between their loss in the Final Four and the loss against Notre Dame, that's what I'm going to choose to focus on when I think about those two, especially Maya. I'm going to think more about the best player in the history of the Big East and maybe the best student-athlete in the history of college basketball." -- Coach Geno Auriemma, after the loss to Notre Dame in the national semifinals.

5. Louisville (22-13)
Starters Returning: Five
Key Players: Shoni Schimmel, Monique Reid, Tia Gibbs
The Skinny: Schimmel (15.1 points), a Magic Johnson-like point guard who ranked second in the Big East with 4.9 assists per game, had a fantastic freshman year. If not for Reid suffering a right groin strain early against Gonzaga, Louisville might have faced Stanford in the Elite Eight. This team has every starter back, and the Cardinal also add a big-time recruit in forward Sarah Hammond.
Quotable: "We have to have some kids that want to put in some time to become better basketball players. We need children that didn't play as much to be hungry and want to be in the gym. I'm excited about the future of this program, but we can't stop working." -- Louisville coach Jeff Waltz, to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

6. Stanford (33-3)
The Skinny: The Ogumwike sisters (All-America senior forward Necka and sophomore forward Chinay) are back, but Stanford will have trouble replacing the scoring from graduating seniors Melanie Murphy, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen. Incoming point guard Amber Orrange has plenty of promise.

7. Texas A&M (33-5)
The Skinny: The champs lose leading scoring Danielle Adams and inspirational point guard Sydney Colson, but senior guard Sydney Carter and senior forward and NCAA hero Tyra White can fill it up. Coach Gary Blair gets an impact transfer in center Kelsey Bone, who has star potential.

8. Duke (32-4)
The Skinny: The vaunted freshman class -- led by Chelsea Gray -- now takes ownership of this team with the departures of Jasmine Thomas, Krystal Thomas and Karima Christmas. Incoming post Elizabeth Williams and forward Amber Hanson (sister of North Carolina's John) will be impact recruits.

9. Georgetown (24-11)
The Skinny: The Hoyas have a fabulous point guard in Sugar Rogers and return four starters (sans Monica McNutt). Their defense will keep them in every game.

10. LSU (19-13)
The Skinny: New coach Nicki Caldwell built up UCLA very quickly and now heads to LSU where she has returning talent (senior forward LaSondra Barrett and junior guard Adrienne Webb) and a major recruit in 6-foot-4 forward Krystal Forthan. Watch out for this program the next two years.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Kelley Cain passes on senior season

Tennessee redshirt junior Kelley Cain, who is scheduled to graduate this semester with a degree in marketing, will forego her final year of eligibility with the Lady Vols, coach Pat Summitt announced Tuesday.

The 6-foot-6 center from Atlanta was a prolific shot-blocker at Tennessee, totaling 228 in 92 games spanning three seasons. Cain led the Southeastern Conference in blocks for the past two seasons.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2009-10, Cain set a Tennessee single-season record with 113 blocks, including a Lady Vols single-game record of 12 against LSU on Feb. 22, 2010.

Cain redshirted the 2007-08 season after having right knee surgery. She had another procedure on the knee in 2009.

"We appreciate all that Kelley brought to our Lady Vol basketball program," Summitt said in a statement. "It's truly unfortunate that her career was cut short, but her health and well-being must come first. Kelley was a great teammate and oftentimes had to push through a great deal of pain to play.

"She is a winner who concludes her UT career with a degree in hand, and we wish her continued success in life."

For her career, Cain averaged 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and shot 60.6 percent from the field. Her field goal percentage is the third-best in Tennessee history behind Cindy Noble's 62.5 mark set from 1978 to 1981, and Trish Roberts' 1976-77 percentage of 64.7.

"It has been my pleasure and privilege to be a part of the Lady Vols for the past four years," Cain said. "After numerous months of prayer, doctors' visits and treatments, I have accepted the fact that I am currently unable to meet the demands of playing collegiate basketball. My family and I must now focus on my quality of life."

Monday, April 04, 2011

Notre Dame upsets UConn 72-63, heads to title game

It’s not often Maya Moore meets her match. Skylar Diggins was up to the task and Notre Dame will play for a national championship because of it.

The sensational sophomore guard scored 28 points and hot-shooting Notre Dame upset UConn 72-63 on Sunday night, ending the brilliant career of Moore and the Huskies’ quest for a third straight national championship.

Ten years after their last title, the Irish will be playing for another one Tuesday night against Texas A&M, which beat Stanford 63-62 in the first semifinal.

Notre Dame was 0-3 against its Big East rival this season but the Irish had all the answers this time for the Huskies, who lost for just the second time in three seasons. Notre Dame had already beaten Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, ending a 20-game skid against the Volunteers.

Now the Irish (31-7) have knocked out the two-time defending champions.

Moore finished with 36 points, including 12 straight as she tried to rally the Huskies from a 12-point deficit in the final 6 minutes, but it wasn’t enough for UConn (36-2).

The four-time All-American and AP player of the year was overshadowed by Diggins, the South Bend native who felt right at home in Conseco Fieldhouse, where she led her high school to three straight championships.

Calmly directing her offense and fearlessly driving into the lane to create chances for herself and her teammates, Diggins now has a chance to add a NCAA championship to that list.

“We had to be poised, I mean, we had to try to make Maya take tough shots, and I think she did,” Diggins said. “And at the end we said, ‘We have to stay poised on defense and we have to execute on offense.’ We showed a lot more poise than we did in the first three games against Connecticut.”

Trailing 34-26 early in the second half, Diggins’ three-point play started a 15-4 run by the Irish. Devereaux Peters’ added her own three-point play that gave Notre Dame a 38-37 advantage—its first lead since midway through the first half.

Diggins capped the burst with another three-point play that made it 41-38 with 13:17 left and brought the pro-Irish crowd to its feet and left Geno Auriemma’s team reeling.

The Irish extended their lead to 47-40 a few minutes later before UConn cut the deficit to four on Bria Hartley’s 3-pointer.

Brittany Mallory and Natalie Novosel hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it a 12-point game with just over 7 minutes left. Moore did her best to try to rally her young team, but the Huskies fell short.

Moore started her flurry with a three-point play and then a hit a deep 3-pointer. After Novosel hit a layup Moore hit another 3-pointer that made it 63-60 with 2:26 left. That’s as close as the Huskies would get as Diggins and the Irish were too much for them down the stretch.

As the clock ran out, Diggins and the Notre Dame players rushed the floor and danced, knowing they had pulled off the monumental victory.

Notre Dame was making its first trip to the Final Four since winning a national title in 2001 after knocking out UConn in the semifinals that year. The Irish faced a 16-point first half deficit in that game but rallied to the victory.

A half-dozen members of that team were among the 30 former Irish players at the game Sunday night.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw had said leading up to the game that her team would try and draw inspiration from Texas A&M, which lost three games to Baylor in the regular season before beating the Lady Bears in the regional final.

Now the two No. 2 seeds will play with a championship at stake. It’s the first time since 1994 that no top-seed made it to the championship game.

The Irish were the second straight team to play in a Final Four game in their home state. Baylor reached the national semifinals last season in Texas, but also lost to UConn.

UConn and Stanford Both Go Down!

Stanford & UConn going down tonight is the best thing that could've happened for the women's game. Looking forward to ND-Texas A&M final. :)