Monday, October 19, 2009

In the Summer of 1998, the WNBA welcomed two expansion teams to its ranks, one named the Washington Mystics and the other the Detroit Shock.

Now only one remains. Early this morning, the news broke on the RebKell WNBA message board that the Shock were leaving Detroit and heading to Oklahoma. By this evening, ESPN was also reporting that a group from Tulsa had indeed bought the Detroit franchise.

While the Shock players will still have jobs -- albeit in another city -- their fans in Detroit will no longer have a team. And Coach Mahorn and his staff, well, they apparently are not part of the deal. Tulsa has already hired former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson. We also suspect that the Shock's name, so fitting for Detroit, will not fit quite as well in Tulsa.

The BasketCases find all of this very sad. We hate it when WNBA teams fail. We hate it for the sport of women's professional basketball, but we hate it most for the fans of the failed team. No doubt there are fans in the Motor City who feel as passionately about their (former) team as the BasketCases and so many others in D.C. feel about the Mystics. We know there are . . . we've met some of them. And what's particularly sad is that the Shock failed at the box office . . . certainly not on the court. They own 3 WNBA Championship trophies. In fact, they are the only team in the Eastern Conference to have won the big one, and they did it not once, not twice, but three times in their 12-year history. Pretty damn good.

But Detroit's paid attendance has struggled for years, and the economic meltdown that absolutely clobbered the city may have been the final blow. So are we shocked that the franchise was sold? No, not really. But just because many of us saw the writing on the wall doesn't mean that the reality of it really and truly sucks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Look, New Faces, New Terrapins!

The Terps' booster club (aka The Rebounders) got our first look at Maryland's new operating system this afternoon when we were invited to watch the team's full (intense!) 3-hour practice. Windows 7 may be replacing Vista this week, but that overhaul is nothin' compared to the challenge facing Coach B and her staff this season. Her team consists of 1 returning starter, a few sophomores who saw modest playing time, 1 senior/grad student transfer, and 4 talented -- but raw -- young freshmen. So this year's team is a totally new look with plenty of new faces. And as much as we still love those stars of yesteryears, the BasketCases have to admit that seeing all these new and young players was very exciting!

The roster wasn't the only thing that got a makeover. Rebounders were treated to a behind-the scenes tour of the newly refurbished Team Room. We definitely approve of the new lighter color scheme and new photos. Looks great!

And a new mantra above the locker room door.

The four completely new additions: (left to right) Freshmen Tianna Hawkins, Essence Townsend (who, btw, makes DeWanna Bonner look buff), Dara Taylor (lightning fast!), and the Terp who traveled the farthest (France to College Park), Diandra Tchatchouang.

New Assistant Coach Dave Adkins putting the team through defensive drills.

A little half-court work against the (also new!) Scout Team.

Coach B huddles with her team and coaches.

Despite an exhausting 3 hours of work, work, work . . . afterwards, the players graciously mingled with the Rebounders. The players (and a couple of the coaches) may be new, but the Terps fans aren't. There's no doubt -- judging from all the cheering coming from the stands during today's practice -- that "the team behind the team" will be there again this season, helping to encourage this young group to achieve great things. Go Terps!

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Sunday, October 11, 2009

***Warning: Totally Off Topic Post!***

The BasketCases have attended every Gay Rights march held in our Nation's Capital since the very first one in 1979. Though one of us spent her day in the office (thank you IRS! pffft!), the other made sure that the streak remained unbroken. And so today the BasketCases were well represented at the National Equality March.

Unlike the earlier ones, this March was a mostly grassroots effort. There was definitely some pre-March concern that the turnout would be poor. To our wonderful surprise, it was not! The West Lawn of the Capitol, where the post-March rally took place, was so crowded by the 2PM start that police were already directing people away from the main viewing area toward the side lawns. The thing that struck us the most about today's event was the presence of so many young people! Young and gay, or young and gay-friendly, people who want a different world . . .AND WANT IT NOW! For us "mature" types . . . that was truly inspiring.

Our favorite sign (to quote the Energizer bunny. . . still waiting) .

One of the biggest stars at today's March . . . Lady Gaga! (The BasketCases confess . . . prior to this weekend, we had never heard of Lady Gaga. Not true for most of the folks on the West Lawn. In fact, it would be an understatement to say that the crowd went wild when Lady Gaga appeared.) We became immediate fans when when she told those assembled that this was the most important day of her career.

"Sex and the City's" Cynthia Nixon also drew loud applause for her speech insisting on equal rights for gay and lesbian families. ( . . . still younger than the BCs, but at least someone we know and like!).

The afternoon drew to a close with a rousing performance of "Let the Sunshine In" by the Broadway cast of "Hair." The many thousands of people on the Lawn swayed with the music and many sang along. Speaking of sunshine, you couldn't have asked for a sunnier or more beautiful fall day in Washington. What a great day for a March! We were happy that so many people from out-of-town came to our city today to participate in this wonderful event. And we hope that every one of them returns home energized to continue the work for full equality.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Oh, This is Terrible News!

The BasketCases have received an unconfirmed (but reliable) report that the Terps' 2009-10 season has been cancelled! Why? Apparently, with the exception of Lynetta Kizer and Emery Wallace, the entire roster of the Maryland women's basketball team has decided to play Beach Volleyball!

The first-ever University of Maryland women's Beach Volleyball squad posing in the sand.

Founding Members of the Terrapins' Beach Volleyball team in action.

While many of us were already looking forward to the arrival of the Fab Five (incoming freshmen) for the 2010-11 season, nevertheless we were even more excited about the soon-to-begin 2009-10 season.

But now this! No players, no team, no season! We don't know about you, but the BasketCases -- as much as we like Beach Volleyball -- are absolutely devastated about this latest development. We are soooo depressed.

Photo Credit: David Adkins

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Another Mountain Stater!

West Virginia has been very kind to the University of Maryland, giving the Terps the legendary Vicky Bullett. And now word is swirling around College Park that another future star from West Virginia, 6'2" Power Forward Whitney Bays, verbally committed to Maryland last night.

The highly-sought after Bays, ranked #13 in the Nation by HoopGurlz, was last season's West Virginia player of the year! Whitney's decision to attend Maryland is another HUGE get for Coach B and the Terps' Class of 2010.

Welcome -- and congratulations -- Whitney! We're looking forward to seeing you play at Comcast!

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More about Whitney from Matt Bracken, here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Future Is Now

How lucky are we?!! The USA Basketball Women's National Team convened its first training camp this week (since the last Olympics) right here in Washington, D.C., at -- appropriately enough -- American University. Today the team held an open practice, and those of us who passed up the glorious fall day outside to spend several hours indoors at Bender Arena made an excellent choice. To say that we saw a group of All Stars would be understatement. What we saw this afternoon were some of the best women's basketball players on the planet -- including representatives of the past, the present, and the future, of USA Basketball.

Absent, of course, were several key members of the team (like Beijing Gold Medalists Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings and Cappie Pondexter) who were busy playing for a WNBA Championship. And several members of the team (like Gold Medalist Kara Lawson and Mystics All Star Alana Beard) were present but sidelined from practicing due to injury. Even so, the level of talent on the court was amazing! And while it's always fun to watch the WNBA's annual All Star Game, this concentration of All Star talent -- practicing and competing for something very near and dear to the hearts of all the players present -- was far more exciting and interesting! Indeed, this was serious business, as the players are fighting first for roster spots on the USA team headed to Russia on Tuesday, as well as for spots on the World Championship team next year, and the ultimate prize, a place on the 2012 Olympic Team.

And in that respect, what we saw today was also a bit of a changing of the guard. Gone are Team USA veterans like Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson; but on the court this afternoon were several young players, including the oh-so-impressive Maya Moore, who is still in college, and young pros like the Mystics' Lindsey Harding and Crystal Langhorne, and WNBA rookies like Angel McCoughtry and Renee Montgomery. As we watched the young players go head-to-head against seasoned pros like Sue Bird, it was clear that the future for Team USA is very bright indeed.

Before things got going, the players warmed up and stretched . . .

. . . and did a little chatting along with the stretching . . . Seimone Augustus, Candace Parker, Crystal Langhorne, and Lindsay Whalen

The Mystics' own Lindsey Harding, waiting to take the floor.

"Whoa, Lindsay, these kids are good!"

The five injured players: Seimone Augustus, Alana Beard, Jayne Appel, Lindsay Whalen, and Kara Lawson.
Team USA's coaches were formally introduced: Head Coach Geno Auriemma and his Assistants, Jen Gillom and Doug Bruno

Geno took the team through two hours of drills as well as half-court and full-court intra-squad scrimmages.

Even when not playing, the players were still paying very close attention.

Geno was everywhere, teaching and coaching. Here, he wasn't particularly happy that Big Syl did not have a hand in Candace Parker's face, and so . . .

. . . he showed Big Syl exactly what he wanted , and Big Syl did exactly as Coach instructed!

Coach Auriemma delivers a little "hands on" instruction to Shameka Christon, as this season's WNBA Rookie of the Year Angel McCoughtry (and a likely future ROY, Maya Moore) look on.

There is so much talent on this team that the players were able to split into three teams -- red, white, and blue (what else?). Each was probably good enough to beat most WNBA teams!

The players were finally allowed to sit down about two hours in.

After practice, Lang made an unscheduled trip into the stands to say hello to the many Mystics and Terps fans she recognized in the house. Just another reason why we love this young lady!

This afternoon's official host was American University Women's Basketball Head Coach Matt Corkery, who could not have been more gracious. The BasketCases were very pleased to meet him.

Coach Corkery took a moment to introduce his team, the Eagles, to the crowd. He not only invited everyone to return for a game this season, but he gave a money back guarantee -- if you don't have fun, Coach Corkery will personally refund the price of your ticket. Now, that's an offer you can't refuse!

Also in the house today was Mystics GM Angela Taylor, who eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. Here she is getting an early start recruiting a future free agent.

When the practice was over, Geno took questions from the crowd, as the players got ready for an autograph session.

The players were split among four table for the autographs. This one had the longest line. We think it's because Alana Beard and Virginia native Kara Lawson were there.

Well . . . okay, we confess, Candace Parker was at this table too

Lindsey Harding and Tina Charles signing away.

A couple of former Huskies, Renee Montgomery and Swin Cash, strictly following the Funnel Cake diet. (We don't recommend it!)

Lang, Big Syl, Candice Wiggins, and Seimone. (In the background is Women's Basketball Hall of Famer and Philadelphia Inquirer Sportswriter Mel Greenberg, who made the trek from Philly to take in the action.)

Next Stop Russia!! Tomorrow, USA Basketball will announce the roster for the team that will be heading over to play this week in Ekaterinburg. Good luck to all!

Photo Credits: DCBasketCases