Training Camp

Top 6 2012 Draft Class preseason update

May 15, 2012 12:35pm
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Pick 2012 WNBA DRAFT – ROUND 1
1 Los Angeles — Nnemkadi Ogwumike
2 Seattle — Shekinna Stricklen
3 Minnesota — Devereaux Peters
4 Tulsa — Glory Johnson
5 San Antonio — Shenise Johnson
6 Phoenix — Samantha Prahalis

A quick update on top 6 draft picks in this year’s 2012 WNBA draft and how they might factor into their respective teams this season.

1. Nnemkadi Ogwumike: The consensus top player on every team’s draft board moves down the California coast from Silicon Valley to Hollywood. Although WNBA training camps are brief, Candace Parker has already declared Ogwumike “one of the most athletic players I’ve played with or against in my entire career.” After the Sparks preseason game against Japan coach Carol Ross said, “Nneka is playing with a lot of energy and really uses her athleticism. She brings a real spark to the team.” This new Spark has now lead them in scoring in 2 of their 3 preseason games and logged the most game minutes. If she’s not starting by mid season I’d still imagine Ogwumike logging starters minutes and being on the floor in crunch time very early in the season.

2. Shekinna Stricklen: After missing the Storm’s first preseason game due to her commencement ceremony at the University of Tennesee, Stricklen came back to score a game high 15 points and play a game high 30 min in the Storm’s win over Los Angeles in their 2nd preseason game. While Stricklen won’t have the impact of Ogwumike, she will be expected to contribute right away with a very different Seattle roster this season. Don’t count out what playing for coach Brian Agler and with PG Sue Bird can do for a young player like Stricklen. Read more »

To the point, Part 5 (Chicago Sky)

May 27, 2011 7:20am
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A perennial lottery team, the Chicago Sky brought in a new coach/GM in former LSU head coach Pokey Chatman. Chatman, who had spent the previous two years coaching Euroleague giant Spartak, brings with her valuable professional basketball knowledge (she is a WNBA novice). That said, Pokey continued the draft trend set by her predecessor (Steven Key) by selecting a point guard prospect with the team’s lottery pick. Courtney Vandersloot, the darling of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, is the only player in college basketball history to record 2000 points and 1000 assists. The highly-decorated PG is the latest highly-decorated PG prospect to be drafted by the Sky, as the team selected Maryland’s Kristi Toliver (2006 NCAA champion and 2009 ACC POY) in 2009 with its lottery pick and Epiphanny Prince (3rd team AA in 2009; played in Turkey in lieu of senior season) in 2010. Toliver was traded after one season to the LA Sparks while Prince, who did not look comfortable playing PG for the first time in her career, slides over to SG this season. It should be noted that neither Toliver nor Prince started a game at PG for the Sky.

Will that trend continue in Chicago? Seems unlikely, as the new coaching staff has a vested interest in having the three-time WCC POY start at lead guard sooner rather than later (and you would, too, if your only alternative–Dominique Canty–has not been able to lead this team to the playoffs and isn’t a true PG herself). But patience has to be exercised by the fans and the coaching staff with respect to Vandersloot’s development, as evidenced by her up and down performances this week in her first taste of WNBA action. While she’s not the next Sue Bird, it doesn’t mean that Vandersloot isn’t a valuable asset to the Sky. Like most valuable assets, however, she needs time to mature. In saying that, it would make sense for the Sky to continue to start Canty at the PG position and ease Vandersloot in as her play warrants more minutes.

To the point, Part 4 (Connecticut Sun)

May 26, 2011 9:37am
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Having spent the past two seasons out of the playoffs, the Connecticut Sun will look to return in 2011. Part of the reason why the Sun have their sights set on a return to the playoffs is due to the expected maturation of third-year PG Renee Montgomery. Montgomery, who is in her second season with the team, averaged 13.3ppg and 4.1apg as a second-year player, which would give the indication that she is a good young player. However, her decision-making ability has been questioned throughout her professional career (WNBA and overseas) and will likely continue to be questioned after last night’s subpar performance in an embarrassing 80-56 loss at home to the San Antonio Silver Stars. Still, preseason games are to be taken with a grain of salt, so there’s no need for Sun fans to panic just yet.  Unlike most young point guards, Montgomery is a leader with an impressive pedigree.  She’s a very good athlete at the point guard position and is equipped with a scoring mentality as well as a strong will to win.  One should count on Montgomery being the starting PG all season barring injuries.

That said, veteran Kara Lawson, who split time at the point last season with Montgomery, is a viable option at starting PG should Montgomery struggle as the main lead guard this season. Lawson won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 as the back-up PG to Seattle Storm star PG Sue Bird.

To the point, Part 3 (Indiana Fever)

May 24, 2011 6:53am
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The Indiana Fever once again made the playoffs in 2010, but their season did not turn out as planned. An early start to training camp (with several starters battling for the Turkish League title), injuries, lack of rebounding, and an improved Eastern Conference meant that the then defending Eastern Conference champions would have to protect their title without home court advantage (which didn’t happen thanks to the Liberty). A major reason for Indy’s decline in 2010 had to do with point guard instability.

Though anointed the starter at the beginning of the season, Briann January would once again lose her spot to veteran Tully Bevilaqua, whose style of play meshed better with the ball-dominant superstar wing duo in Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas. This season, however, it appears that the point guard position will be more of an open competition between the 24-year-old January and Australian national team member and Euroleague star Erin Phillips, who is only 26.  Regardless of who starts at the point, the starter will be at least a decade younger than the seasoned vet Bevilaqua (who now plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars).  Will the Fever’s championship aspirations receive a boost thanks to more youth at the point or will they stumble due to [relative] inexperience?  Stay tuned!

Indiana will play its first game of the preseason against the Minnesota Lynx at 12pm central time in St. Paul, Minnesota (Concordia University).

To the point, Part 2 (New York Liberty)

May 21, 2011 11:51am
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The New York Liberty open up the 2011 season with a new coach and a new home.  Head coach and general manager John Whisenant brings to New York (er…New Jersey) a winning pedigree, drawing upon his experiences as a WNBA champion in 2005 and league runner-up in 2006 with the Sacramento Monarchs. The biggest issue surrounding the Liberty outside of the height issue is the issue of point guard play. Though 2010 WNBA Most Improved Player Leilani Mitchell returns this year, there are concerns about her lack of size (Whisenant is used to coaching taller guards in his system), which leads to questions about her ability to defend in the White Line system and ability to create offense for shooters like Cappie Pondexter and Nicole Powell (both likely starters). MVP candidate Cappie Pondexter, who can play point guard and actually led the team in assists last season with nearly five a game, is a viable option at the point for the Liberty assuming that fourth-year pro Essence Carson, a 6-0 guard, starts at SG. The Liberty have also brought in second year guard Whitney Boddie and 2nd round draft pick Sydney Colson to get more looks at possible PGs. For now, though, it appears that the position is Mitchell’s to lose. Unlike in years past, there are plenty of other options available.

Good Insight from Two Training Camp Journals

May 20, 2011 3:00pm
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With training camps in full swing, WNBA teams are trying to narrow down their rosters in anticipation for the start of the regular season. Here are two training camp journals that provide some very interesting first-hand insight into the what goes on in a preseason WNBA training camp.

Minnesota Lynx Training Camp: Taj McWilliams-Franklin of the Minnesota Lynx writes about her training camp experiences on Facebook at The Taj 11 Fan Page. She has named her blog ”Training for a Title: The journey of the Minnesota Lynx”

San Antonio Silver Stars Training Camp: Alysha Clark, who was released by the Silver Stars last season, is back in camp trying to make the team this season. She is writing about her training camp experiences at Swish Appeal. Here is her latest entry from Friday, May 20th.

To the point, Part 1 (Washington Mystics)

May 18, 2011 2:08pm
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After an eventful off-season that resulted in All-Star point guard Lindsey Harding being traded to conference-rival Atlanta (Harding traded to the Dream), the new-look Mystics, headed by new head coach/GM Trudi Lacey, will have to use their training camp sessions to find a new starting point guard. According to an interview with Dishin’ & Swishin’ (aired May 18), Lacey is counting on Kelly Miller to take over (Dishin\’ & Swishin\’ interview with Washington Mystics head coach Trudi Lacey), with Lacey pointing to Miller’s experiences as a championship-winning point guard for Phoenix in 2007 as a reason to believe Kelly will win the job. Several players were listed as possible back-ups, including perennial All-Star wing Alana Beard (who returns this season after missing all of 2010 to recover from arthroscopic tendon repair surgery on her ankle).

WNBA Notes from their Opening Training Sessions

May 17, 2011 10:36am
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Los Angeles Sparks: Notes from Melissa Rohlin of the Los Angeles Times. “Last year you pretty much knew who your starters would be,” she (coach Jennifer Gillom) said. “This year, it’s not that way.” After a long pause, she added, “Those are great problems to have.”

Phoenix Mercury: Notes from Odeen Domingo of Azcentral.com. Taurasi is not the only Mercury player with fresh legs. The rest of the team’s key players took some time off after finishing their seasons in Europe. And every player on the Mercury’s roster was present at their first practice of the season for the first time since 2009, when the Mercury last won a WNBA championship.

Seattle Storm: Notes from Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times. The Storm was the last team to close the opening day of WNBA training camp Sunday. “It’s basically because we only have less than three weeks before we play our first game, we don’t have a lot of time,” said Agler of the WNBA pushing training camp back to accommodate players’ year-round schedules but starting the season June 3. “And we need to get our numbers down so we can prepare.”

Washington Mystics: Notes from Andrew Rosen at WNBA.com. “I don’t want anybody thinking they can come into camp with the mindset that ‘I can coast and I’m going to start and play’. You are going to have to earn it. That just sets the tone for the season. Everything that we accomplish we are going to have to earn it. So we have to go into camp with that mentality,’ said Lacey.”

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