Team USA's juniors took one step closer to the gold medal in the FIBA U19 Women's World Championships, currently underway in Puerto Montt, Chile, but theirs has not been the easy path to the podium many would have predicted. Just two days after suffering a 52-64 upset by North American neighbor Canada, France took the American teens to the limit, before subsiding, 64-70, in the sudden-death quarterfinals.
With the win, the U.S. moves on to the semifinals, where they will face Brazil, who outlasted Russia, 73-71, in the nightcap of Friday's quarterfinal play.
The U.S., led by Connecticut signee Breanna Stewart's double-double of 21 points and 13 boards, had to spend the rest of the game digging themselves out of a double-digit hole they dug for themselves in the opening period, which ended with the French on top, 23-11. For the second game in a row, the Americans suffered from poor ball-handling and ice-cold shooting, especially in the opening period, when they managed to net just four of their 16 attempts from the field, the misses including more than a few chippies deep in the paint. Meanwhile, the French shot a blistering 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) from the field in the first quarter, including three-for-five from beyond the arc.
In the highlight of the 2011 WNBA All-Star weekend activities, the league revealed the Top 15 players of all time in a special halftime ceremony at Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game in San Antonio, Texas. The 15 players honored were selected by a vote of fans, media, current players and coaches and represented a cross-section of veterans who had helped to establish the league and younger stars who are still carrying on the tradition.
SAN ANTONIO The last time the WNBA All-Star weekend featured an East vs. West contest was in 2009 at Mohegan Sun Arena. The West won that contest, 130-118, but this year the East got revenge. Led by New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter who scored 17 points, the East All-Stars defeated the West All-Stars, 118-113, in a game typical of the annual event with a lighthearted yet competitive contest between the leagues top players.
Since the WNBA All-Star Game, as always, is all but unwatchable to those who, like me, demand at least a modicum of defense, its a good time to take a look at whats gone on in the first half of the season
As the attention of the league turns to San Antonio, as the Silver Stars play host to the WNBA All-Star Game, we pause to take a look at a team that has surprised and impressed many with their performance to the midpoint of the season.
Silver Stars general manager Dan Hughes would be a lock for WNBA Executive of the Year (if such an award officially existed). Having been asked to return to the bench after the dismissal of first-year head coach Sandy Brondello (now a Sparks assistant), he may turn out to be Coach of the Year as well, if his team continues to perform as it has to start the season.
Hughes takes a cautious approach to where his team stands. There is a lot of evidence yet to be played out," Hughes stated. Still, acknowledging that his team had a better start than many -- the Silver Stars went 4-0 to start the regular season and stood atop the West with a 7-1 record at the end of June before dropping three in a row in early July -- Hughes expressed his pleasure with his team's unexpectedly strong performance this season: "There is a good energy [and] a bench that has not always been part of the Silver Stars," Hughes stated.
As the league heads into the All-Star break, San Antonio now stands in third place in the West, exactly where they finished the regular season last year. But last season, the Silver Stars did not even pass the .500 mark, finishing the season with a 14-20 record. This year, in contrast, the Silver Stars have been solidly in the black all season and are just one game out of first place in the West with a 9-5 record at this point.
Just how did Hughes and his addition of six new players to the roster accomplish this impressive infusion of vitality? Let's take a look -- but first, a bit of Silver Stars' trivia:
Full Court Press Trivia Question: Two current WNBA players attended and played at the same high school as San Antonios Scholanda Robinson, though not all of them at the same time. Who are they, and which high school did the three attend? (Answer at end of article)
NEW YORK -- Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings led all players with 32,706 votes in the 2011 WNBA All-Star Balloting, the league announced Thursday. Catchings received the most votes for the third time in her career, having also led the voting in 2006 and 2009. Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (25,077), the second leading vote-getter, paced the Western Conference.
Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (21,379), the first overall selection in the 2011 WNBA Draft presented by adidas, is the first rookie voted to start in the WNBA All-Star game since Catchings and Bird in 2002.
With 19,376 votes, Los Angeles Sparks forward/center Candace Parker also earned a spot in the West's starting line-up based on fan votes, but will be unable to play after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Parker's replacement will be named by WNBA president Laurel Richie, while the remaining All-Star reserves will be announced on July 19 following a vote by the league's coaches.
Surprisingly, last year's MVP, Seattle's Lauren Jackson, who is also injured and likely out for the remainder of the season due to a hip injury sustained just a few days before Parker went down, did not make the cut, as Seattle fans apparently shifted their votes to name Storm forward Swin Cash (14,907 votes) to the starting line-up alongside Bird.
The 2011 WNBA All-Star Game will be nationally broadcast on ABC, Saturday, July 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. CT) from San Antonio. It is the first time the San Antonio Silver Stars are hosting the WNBAs midseason showcase.
The received wisdom from WNBA HQ has been that there are a lot of "good" players who fail to make rosters every year. Thus, there is always room for expansion to give these players their place in the league. If so, somebody in New York needs to get on the horn and fill in the Tulsa Shock's management on exactly who those players, are so they can be added to the roster of this struggling squad.
The rough starts suffered by most WNBA expansion teams are well documented. So when the Shock moved last year from Detroit, where they had made the playoffs in eight of their 12 seasons in existence, winning four WNBA Eastern Conference titles (2003, 2006, 2007, 2008) and three WNBA league championships (2003, 2006, 2008) in the process, many thought that the acquisition of an existing team with winning pedigree would give this squad a jump up as compared to other expansion teams in this league's history.
All too quickly for Tulsa's underwriters, that dream began to unravel. Several of Detroit's stars declined to make the move to Oklahoma, while others soon decamped, until in the midst of Tulsa's first season, all of the remaining Detroit players were gone, essentially leaving this new version of the Shock as an expansion team which the Tulsa front office had no meaningful role in putting together. The results were fairly predictable: They were a month into the season before they picked up their first win, a 94-82 victory over a struggling Minnesota Lynx franchise whose two stars -- Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins -- were sidelined by surgery. Victories would remain few and far between over the rest of the season, as the Shock finished a league-worst 6-28 in their first year in Tulsa.
But for Tulsa there was a silver-lining in that cloud-covered first season: A place at the WNBA Draft Lottery table where through a combination of luck and trades Tulsa came out of the fray with not one but two first-round picks, including the No. 2 overall selection, which they used to add one of the best young players in the world, 6-8 center Elizabeth Cambage of Australia, to the roster.
How can it be then, that the Shock are, if anything, worse this year than they were the last? How can it possibly be that with Cambage holding down the middle, other key personnel moves including the addition of veteran floor leadership from three-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time WNBA champion Sheryl Swoopes, and another year for GM and Head Coach Nolan Richardson to attempt to install his infamous "40 Minutes of Hell" system on his women's professional team, the Shock are still mired in the basement at 1-9?
The Shock's only win this season was at home against the Washington Mystics, a team that this season is even more injury-addled than the Lynx were last year. Even so, the Shock gave that 77-59 "W" back eight days later in D.C., where the Mystics exacted an 83-63 revenge.
Perhaps all the teams whom the Shock have played (with the possible exception of the injury-ravaged Mystics) have taken a big step forward this year. Otherwise, though the season is yet young, one is almost forced to conclude that despite the improvements on paper, Richardsons club has taken a big step backward in year two in Tulsa. Let's take a closer look at this beleaguered franchise.
Two injuries shifted the landscape of the WNBA West, with former MVPs Candace Parker and Lauren Jackson both going down. Though Parker is expected to come back late in the season, Jacksons return is much less probable, and either way, the impact on the conference will be profound.