Monday, October 30, 2006

It was Halloween Eve 2006. A successful, middle-aged sports executive was spending the night alone at her beautiful --- but remote --- farm in Middleburg, Virginia. She was expecting a phone call from her husband, who was out of town at a judicial conference.

The phone rang. She answered...”Hi, honey,” she said, recognizing the caller-ID. Silence.
Puzzled, she hung up. The phone rang again. She answered: “Honey, did you just call...?” A low, almost growling voice, interrupted her: “I am NOT your Honey.” The voice sounded vaguely familiar, but she didn’t know why. “Who are you?” she asked nervously. “I am the Ghost of Mascots Past,” the voice answered.

Just then all the lights dimmed throughout the house, and her state of the art security system screeched into full alarm! For just a moment the lights flicked back on --- before going out completely. In that split second when the room was lit, she thought she saw the outline of a large, dark, fur-covered creature standing upright outside her glass patio door. In the darkness she couldn’t make out any features of its head or its was almost like the creature was headless.

She screamed! She grabbed her keys from the table by the door, raced through the door and ran in the opposite direction from the patio, towards the garage. She made it to her Lexus, relieved to know it had keyless entry, so she just pulled on the door handle and jumped behind the wheel. Immediately, she locked the car doors behind her.

And then, as she reached for the shift lever to put the car in gear, she saw it: A plain brown cardboard box --- bigger than a box for a basketball, but not by much. She didn’t remember leaving anything there. She lifted a flap. She looked down into the box. On that clear October night, they say her screams could be heard all the way to the Verizon Center.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"They're Baaack." So starts the preseason video of the Terps on the ACC's website. The ACC is gearing up for the new season with videos of every conference team, posted daily in alphabetical order since October 19. The Maryland video went up today. Not that anyone in the conference is likely to have forgotten this, but it's a nice little reminder that Maryland has returned all five starters from the National Championship team, and then some. So take a few minutes and enjoy all the videos.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pop Up Brenda??!!! I have to confess I've been really worried about BasketCase Judith of late. I think it was last Thursday that she called me at work to say that Brenda Frese just "popped up" on her computer screen . . . and talked to her! When I asked (as was only natural) what exactly "pop up Brenda" had to say, BC Judith told me that Brenda asked her to buy season tickets (as if we didn't have them already!). Judith said she "heard" Brenda's voice a few seconds after clicking on the Terps' website and when she scrolled over, there in the bottom right section of the page was Brenda, holding the Natty --- and talking to her!

So, of course, I did what any Maryland fan would do, I immediately clicked the link in my Favorites --- that took maybe one second --- and lo and behold . . . NOTHING! Well, not exactly nothing. The Terps' website was still there in all its glory. There was an article about Coach Frese being selected as Nike Coach of the Year (cool!); there were pictures of players (also cool!); the multi-media screen with its selection of features was still there (very cool!); in other words, all the usual stuff was right there where it was supposed to be. But a poppin'-up-Natty-cradling-ticket-talkin' Brenda? No, she was decidedly absent!

So, I tried it again. No Brenda! And again . . . still no Brenda! To make a long story slightly less-long, I tried for days (including all weekend from home --- just in case my office computer was somehow equipped with a special Brenda-Blocker!), but no matter how many times I tried . . . NO BRENDA! Meanwhile, BC Judith called me several times to say "Brenda's back . . . she popped up again!" So, now you can understand why I've been worried about Judith. To be honest, though I'm a BasketCase myself and I always knew Judith was one, still, this new now you see her, now you don't Brenda of Judith's was starting to creep me out. I was beginning to think we might have to rename the blog, the DCStraightJackets if Judith continued receiving virtual visits from basketball personalities.

But then, at 9:37 AM this morning, the most amazing thing happened --- Brenda popped up! She really did! I clicked on the Terps in my Favorites and all of a sudden I hear a voice. So I turn up the volume and scroll over, and sure enough, there's Brenda (in a red Maryland polo shirt) holding the Natty and talking about season tickets! Wow! So it's true. BC Judith really isn't crazy --- well, actually she is crazy, just not in that hallucinating-imaginary-friend kind of way! What a relief!

So loyal blog readers, feel free to check it out for yourself . . . visit the Maryland website and see if Coach B makes an appearance as your very own pop up pal! (And, feel free to report all sightings back to the BasketCases --- just to prove we're not the only ones who see her!)

--BC Eileen

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: "Overtime Is Our Time!" Okay, loyal blog readers, it's finally here: the BasketCases' first ever book review! Yes, the rumors are true, besides watching women's basketball at every chance we get, we actually DO read books! Well, at least books about women's basketball! And what better book to read right now as the college season approaches than Brenda Frese's just-released "Overtime Is Our Time: The Inside Story of the Maryland Terps' 2006 National Championship." (We hope the subtitle didn't spoil the ending for you.)

While we're sure that Brenda can write (indeed, her Acknowledgments page at the beginning of the book is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt things about it), the book was actually written by sportswriter Chris King, currently a writer for the Terrapin Times, the magazine of the Maryland Terrapin Club. King, already familiar with the Terps from his day job, obviously had extensive access to the team for the writing of this "inside story." And indeed, the best reason to read this book is to learn more of those behind-the-scenes, never-before-told or little-discussed factoids and tidbits that basketball junkies like us live and die for. For example, it was pretty frightening to learn how close Maryland came to losing high school recruit Marissa Coleman to Florida (not that we have anything against Carolyn Peck, but come on now, she already has a Natty). Or how easily Kristi Toliver might have ended up at UConn. (Eat your heart out, Geno.)

As the subtitle suggests, the book covers the many highs (and the few lows) of last season. Indeed, for rabid Terps fans, particularly those who have watched "Under the Shell," much, if not most, of the content of the book will be quite familiar. (We certainly all know how close the virus-plagued Maryland team came to ending its NCAA tourney hunched over toilets in Albuquerque. And who hasn't heard the Brenda-drove-through-a-whiteout-blizzard-over-a-recruit story?) But there is additional biographical detail, not just about Brenda, but also about her coaching staff, that adds another layer of interest to the story of how this particular team, coached by these particular people, came together at this particular time, to win a national championship.

Now admittedly, the BasketCases are homers (you hadn't noticed?), but even we have to point out a few weaknesses of this book lest we lose all credibility. First, and while it pains us to say this, Chris King's writing is rather pedestrian and sometimes hard to follow. ("Maryland blasted Xavier 93-68 in its home opener." Uh, Chris, was that Maryland's home opener or were the teams playing in Cincinnati?) Also, a bit more fact checking would have been a good idea. King proclaims that Kristi Toliver's game-tying shot at the end of regulation in the National Championship "is arguably the second-most memorable in tournament history, ranking only behind the buzzer-beating jumper by North Carolina's Charlotte Jones that propelled the Tar Heels to a 60-59 win against Louisiana Tech in the 1994 title game." Charlotte Who? Apart from the fact that the Charlotte Smith who famously sank that winning shot went on to play in the WNBA (including right here in DC for the Mystics), she's been an Assistant Coach at Carolina for years. Which makes us wonder how "extensively" King really has covered women's college basketball, as claimed on the book jacket.

The book is choppy and segmented, and though it retells the story of what Brenda so correctly calls a "glorious ride," it does not succeed in truly capturing the magic of last season. Readers who followed the Terps on that thrill ride will often have to supply the emotions of the games for themselves. And while King recounts various anecdotes about particular players, there's little sense of how the players themselves were reacting as the season progressed and Maryland rose ever higher in the rankings. At times it's almost as though King is writing as a reporter or as an observer, rather than telling Brenda's story with a real sense of the emotions being experienced by the coaches and players (and even the fans) who lived it.

But when all is said and done, if you are a Terps fan, of course you must buy this book. And what could be more perfect as a holiday gift for all your friends and relatives? In the BasketCases' opinion, that's one of the best things about this book . . . our holiday shopping is done!

You can order the book online at this site.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Apology Accepted . . .but overdue. This past Spring, Clay Kallam, the publisher of the generally very well-regarded on-line Full Court Press: The Women's Basketball Journal ("FCP") published what could only be described by these two Maryland fans as a real hatchet job on Brenda Frese and her alleged "unethical" recruiting practices. He stated that Maryland was likely to be put on probation by the NCAA for recruiting violations. This, in the BasketCases' opinion, was far worse than the rumors repeated by some other journalists, because it not only accused Coach Frese of unspecified violations, but it convicted and sentenced her! Well, guess what? Today the lead story on FCP is titled "Maryland and Frese Were Wronged By FCP"

When a reputable publication like FCP states that a college program is likely to be put on probation, who knows what ripple effect this could have? In his apology, Clay says of his accusation that "it seems it had no impact on Maryland's ability to recruit." Frankly, the BasketCases aren't sure how Clay can know that with any certainty. No doubt Clay hopes it's true for the sake of his conscience, as do we for other reasons altogether. But really, who knows?

Though Clay never identified the source of the accusations against the Maryland program, famous coaches of long-established women's programs were most frequently mentioned in message board chatter as the culprits. It must be hard for the old guard to adjust to today's new, more level playing field . . . where talented players might affirmatively choose to play for a young charismatic coach --- like Sherri Coale of Oklahoma for instance, or like Brenda Frese of our own Maryland --- instead of for one of the handful of programs with long-standing, "proven" track records. Well, it's a new world. And thank goodness it is.

To Clay Kallam: the BasketCases say "apology accepted."

To those coaches who may have been the source of untoward and unwarranted accusations: "Get over yourselves!"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect. On Sunday afternoon, Coach Frese and the National Champions graciously opened their three-hour practice to the Rebounders (we told you to join, didn't we?). It was a real practice; there was no acknowledgment before or during the practice that there were any observers. The Terps were there for one reason only: to start getting themselves ready for another season, a season in which they will have a target on their backs.

With the entire three hours divided into timed segments, Brenda and her staff put the Champs through their paces, in several instances having them scrimmage with male practice players or among themselves. Every scrimmage was scored, and the losers got to run the floor. For part of the time, Coach Walz worked on one end of the floor with the guards, while Coach Floyd and Mark Pearson worked with the post players at the other end. The practice concluded with every Terp having to make a free throw. Each time someone missed, the entire team had to run the floor. Some hit their first free throws (you can probably guess who), but no one who missed the first one missed the second. It was special to see the team in action again, and wonderful to see Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and Christie Marrone on the court as Terps.

After practice, Brenda addressed the several dozen of us who were there and had everyone on the team introduce herself and take questions. Brenda stated that the players had set high goals for themselves and that she had never seen a team with such chemistry. That surely appeared to be the case, as it was last year. And indeed, with small exception, we were looking at the very same team that won the Natty. And so it begins . . .

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Live from Maryland Practice

It's day two of official practices, and the Terps (aka Reigning Nat'l Champs) have invited the Rebounders to watch their practice today. How neat is that? More later.

(P.S. We have no idea why the floor looks green. Blame it on Verizon Wireless.)

DC BasketCases Mobile Blogging

Friday, October 13, 2006

Return from Madness. Division I schools across the country held Madness events tonight, but at only one did the coach get to enter the arena carrying the 2006 NCAA National Championship trophy. At Comcast in College Park, Brenda Frese emerged from the smoke and lasers holding the Natty high above her head as Queen's "We Are The Champions" blared from the sound system, and walked the Natty around the arena much as Wimbledon champions carry their trophy around Center Court. The BasketCases don't know exactly how they celebrated Basketball Madness tonight in Raleigh, Durham, Knoxville, or Storrs, but we do know that's the one thing the coaches in those towns didn't get to do.

Cram Comcast. Coach Frese announced a new goal tonight, not for the team, but for the fans. Noting that Maryland finished last season second in attendance in the ACC behind Duke (eliciting boos, of course!), Brenda proclaimed, "We want to beat Duke, not just on the court, but in the stands!"

Be Careful What You Wish For. Mel Greenberg , the Guru of women's hoops writers, was in Philly at Temple's Madness (and no, Coach Staley did not enter the Liacouras Center carrying the Natty) and reports in his latest blog that when asked during a Q&A about her team's upcoming out-of-conference game against Maryland, Dawn (never one to shy away from a little friendly trash talkin') answered "Bring 'em on."

Congratulations! Noticeably absent tonight was Assistant Coach Joanna Bernabei. She had a pretty good reason though -- she gave birth yesterday to a baby boy. Coach J, we're told, wanted a point guard, while her husband, Joe, wanted a left-handed pitcher. No word yet on that, but we hear that mom and the little Terp are both doing well.

Photo Credit: The Diamondback

Live from Madness

With the festivities at Comcast soon to kick off, Brenda Frese is signing her new book, Overtime is Our Time. More later....

[btw, in case you don't recognize him, the good-looking guy sitting next to Brenda . . . that's her husband, Mark Thomas (aka Mr. Brenda Frese)].

DC BasketCases Mobile Blogging

Imminent Madness. A nice article in today's Diamondback about how the Maryland women are set to steal the show tonight at Comcast. We're getting excited just thinking about the season highlight video they are planning to show. After all, how can you get tired of watching Kristi hit "The Shot?""

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Approaching Madness. Yes, that could describe the BasketCases' mental state (though some would say we're already there), but today it means only one thing: one more day until MARYLAND MADNESS, when the defending National Champions take to the court at Comcast for the first time since Boston. (Oh, the men's team will be there too.) The festivities start at 8 p.m., with the women slated to be introduced at 9:35 p.m; they will then participate in an intra-team scrimmage (we predict Maryland will win!) The full schedule is posted on the Terps' web site. Admission is free, but you need to call for a ticket (and hope they aren't all gone). The event will be webcast live, and also shown on Comcast Sports Net HDTV for those fortunate enough to have it. As an added plus, Coach Frese will be signing her new book, Overtime is Our Time, in the lobby from 7-9. We know what we'll be reading this weekend!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Not A Latta Goings On. Well, loyal blog readers, isn't this just about the worst time of year to be a women's basketball fan? The WNBA season is over, the college season hasn't begun . . . It's a dead zone. A black hole. Yes, sports mags are publishing their college pre-season picks (including the mags that are mathematically challenged), but reading about teams and watching them are very different things if you are a fan! So with very little happening, the BasketCases are going to stoop to a new low expand your horizons, by linking you to an interesting interview with a Maryland rival, Ivory Latta of UNC. Okay, fellow Terps fans, don't shoot us, but we actually enjoy watching Latta play. Really, how can you not? In addition to being incredibly talented, she has a level of enthusiasm for the game that few players have. She turns on a thousand-watt smile and plays with enormous heart, something that cannot be taught. She brings an intangible to the game that doesn't show up on any stat sheet. Is she a drama queen? Yes. Has she done some dirty stuff on the court, particularly at the end of the national semi-final last year as Maryland was ending UNC's dream of another Natty? Yes (and we don't like that stuff). But she's an extraordinary player, and we were really impressed with the respect that she has for the rest of the ACC and the attitude that's reflected in this interview. (We also happen to love the fact that each year that she's been at Carolina, she adds another inch or so to her height in the UNC media guide.)

And, Terps fans, we're in good company. Here's what Brenda Frese had to say about Ivory Latta: "I love the passion. I love the energy. I think it's exciting. It's so much hard work out there, but she makes it look so easy. Her teammates are feeding off of it. That's what you have to have out of your floor general — someone who is energetic and never gets down."

UNC and Maryland play only once during the upcoming regular season, at 7pm on Sunday, January 28, 2007, at Maryland. So put that on your calendar, now!

* * * * * * * * *
A Day Less To Wait. Maryland has just announced that it is moving up its pre-season exhibition game against the LTL All-Stars (whoever they are*) from November 3 to November 2. But we'd be happier if it were next week!!!

*The BasketCases will give a BasketCases T-shirt (well, we would if we had T-shirts) to anyone who can tell us who these folks are. (Employees of the University of Maryland and LTL [whatever that is] are ineligble.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Have We Got A(nother) Deal For You! Okay, loyal blog readers, earlier this year we told you that NBA TV is one of the best things going for women's basketball fans. For a few bucks a month, you get loads of games you wouldn't otherwise be able to see. We know that many of you paid attention to our advice and had a summer of WNBA fun and also got to see all of Team USA's FIBA World Championship games from Brazil.

Well, here's another great deal, particularly for DC-area residents: joining the Rebounders, the Maryland Women's Basketball Booster Club. Or, as we like to call ourselves, "the team behind the team." For $75 per year, you get to support the team while receiving a ton of cool benefits. These include: a Rebounders T-shirt (really, what basketball fan doesn't need another T-shirt?), free bus trips to several away games (which lets you leave the driving to the University's Department of Transportation Services while you party on the bus share the ride with like-minded fans), several post-game socials (the team and coaches typically turn up at least for the season-ender), and other team-related events. For example, Coach Frese has invited the Rebounders to an exclusive team practice this month, with an opportunity to meet and greet the players afterwards. (Priceless!) Last month, Ass't Coach Bernabei (who is about to give birth to a little twerp Terp of her own) and Director of Basketball Operations Mark Pearson held a ninety-minute, informative "Basketball Fundamentals" Q&A for Rebounders . . . and the list goes on. And if there are two or more of you, the $150 "family pack" is a bargain, as up to four family members can join for that price (and get four T-shirts!).

If you are interested in finding out more about the Rebounders, or in joining, call Jen Elkonoh at the Women's Basketball Office, 301-314-1747, or email her at: (Tell her the DC BasketCases sent you!) And no, we don't get anything if you join, just the pleasure of more Terps fans!

Warning! Feel free to visit the Rebounders website (it's even written in LARGE PRINT TYPE . . . very considerate, since many of the boosters are (shall we say) "mature" fans who might have trouble reading fine print, not to mention driving after dark!) But, if you're checking in from work, be forewarned that it automatically launches into an instumental version of the Maryland fight song --- and the BasketCases haven't yet found a way to turn it off --- not that we would want to!