0

It seems a bit drafty...

Posted by Alex W.C. on 1:50 PM
In the first major event of the WNBA 2011 season, the Draft this year was not so much full of surprises, but quite full of talent. After major upsets of the three dominant women’s basketball programs, Tennesee, Stanford and UConn, choosing a rookie got a little tougher after the championship game, where A&M’s Aggies took home the trophy for the first time. Many a team threw around names, but nothing could be confirmed until draft day, even the quite inevitable #1 pick of UConn superstar Maya Moore.

Now, the Draft is over, players have been chosen and several trades have been made. The WNBA season is still several weeks away, but a lot can happen before the season tips off. Training camp rosters are swelling with talent, but in the next few weeks, difficult choices will have to be made as to whose name will be on the permanent roster. Even contracted players could be traded; nothing we haven’t seen before.

I’m not quite sure what I anticipate more; the Draft itself, or the aftermath that follows. Both can be equally entertaining.

As the Draft came in three lengthy rounds, I’m mainly going to focus on the top 12 picks. Each pick will be listed with multiple links to interviews, and other post draft day hoopla.

Number one – Maya Moore to the Minnesota Lynx.
Absolutely. No. Surprise.
Just as in years past, the Sparks picked Candace Parker, the Mercury picked Diana Taurasi, and the Storm picked Lauren Jackson, Maya Moore at the number one pick was inevitable. Yes, coach Cheryl Reeve hinted, teased and even at times taunted the media with what she already knew was going to happen, but that’s one of the fun privileges of being a coach, no? Maya even got a tour of the Target Center in Minnesota prior to the Draft, courtesy of Minnesota Timberwolves resident double-double king, Kevin Love.

Lynx Pick Maya Moore
Maya Moore post draft video
One Day with Maya Moore

You think they talked about basketball?

Number two – Liz Cambage to the Tulsa Shock.
As this was not a stunner as well, there was a bit of speculation leading up to the Draft. As I reported on my previous blog posts, Liz was quoted as not having the desire to play in Tulsa. However, closer to Draft day, she explained how she felt misquoted, and would be happy to go anywhere she was Drafted. Following the Draft, she exchanged signed jerseys with Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant.

Hmm, two Kevin’s welcoming in the top two picks? What are the odds?

Liz Cambage meets the press in Tulsa.
Liz Cambage meets OKC Thunder Kevin Durant
Liz Cambage draft day diary.
Liz Cambage post draft video

Number three – Courtney Vandersloot to the Chicago Sky.
This was a bit of a surprise to many, but also one that did make sense. Vandersloot proved her value to her Zags, showcasing her superior point guard abilities of passing and scoring in the NCAA 2011 tournament. Having her come off the bench can increase the chances of success for the Sky, while she plays alongside standouts Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince, It would seem that new coach Pokey Chatman has a plan for her team this season.

But actually, Vandersloot being selected at number three made more than just Chicago happy.

Getting to know Courtney Vandersloot
Coutrney Vandersloot post draft video
Courtney Vandersloot's draft day blog
Q&A with Courtney Vandersloot

Number four – Amber Harris to the Minnesota Lynx.
Many predicted that Amber Harris would go to the Sky with the number three pick, but when Vandersloot was chosen, it was a bit of a game changer. I heard that when Chicago made their pick, there was much excitement in the Minnesota Lynx war room, as the number four pick became a much easier selection. Needless to say it was unexpected, but the Lynx didn’t seem to mind one bit.

Amber Harris post draft video
Lynx press release: Amber Harris
Amber Harris dunk!

Number five - Jantel Lavender to the Los Angeles Sparks.
This 6’4” center was predicted to be gone by the time the Sparks had their pick, even though many also pointed out how she would work well into the team. With Harris and Vandersloot being taken of the board, that left Lavender available, and L.A. was quick to grab her.

Janel Lavender: Five questions
Janel Lavender - Draft highlights
Janel Lavender post draft video

Number six – Danielle Robinson to the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Touted as one of the top point guards in this draft, mainly because of her speed and passing ability, Danielle joins a team heavy with veteran presence. With two notable team members with point guard experience (Becky Hammon and Tully Bevilaqua), Robinson has a great opportunity to thrive under coach Dan Huges.

Danielle Robinson post draft video
One-on-One with Danielle Robinson
Robinson going to San Antonio

Number seven - Kayla Pedersen to the Tulsa Shock.
Versatility; it’s what the Shock got with their second pick in the draft. Even though she will likely play the three or the four spot, she can easily be moved around. Perimeter or post – pick your poison.

Shock select Kayla Pedersen
Kayla Pedersen post draft video
Kayla Pedersen - The next "Larry Bird" for the Tulsa Shock?

Number eight - Ta'Shia Phillips to the Atlanta Dream.
It’s not like the Dream are lacking in the size area, with Bales, de Souza and Leuchanka on the roster. However, adding a 6’6” rookie to come off the bench is not a bad thing either. No doubt, picking her up means the focus is on rebounding and defense. Well, that’s what it seemed to be...until...(what would a draft day be without a trade?)

Phillips heads to Washington
Ta'Shia Phillips post draft video
Ta'Shia Phillips traded to Mystics

Number nine - Jeanette Pohlen to the Indiana Fever.
What is it about Standford players that make them so versatile? Much like her former teammate Pedersen, Pohlen will be a welcomed backup to either point guard January or shooting guard Douglas. With her size and shooting ability, there aren't many areas on the court where she won’t contribute.

Jeanette Pohlen post draft video
Fever Otps for Versatility in Pohlen
Pohlen Selected in First Round

Number ten - Alex Montgomery to the New York Liberty.

Quick and defensive; that is what new Liberty head coach John Whisenant wanted. This 6’1” guard named to the 2011 ACC All-Defensive Team might be exactly what he was looking for.

Alex Montgomery stats
Georgia Tech routs Washington
2011 draft prospects

Number eleven - Victoria Dunlap to the Washington Mystics.
With Monique Curry possibly out for the season, the Mystics needed some depth on the bench. This SEC Overall player and Defensive player of the year is looking to do just that. With a healthy Alana Beard coming back, the Mystics are obviously looking for players to help them find redemption this post season.

Victoria Dunlap post draft video
Trudi Lacey on Dunlap
John Wall on Dunlap

Number twelve - Jasmine Thomas to the Seattle Storm.
Playing both the point and two guard spot with ease, Thomas is likely to nicely compliment the Bird/Jackson/Cash trio in Seattle. Coach Agler was not intending to pick Thomas, thinking that she would no longer be available at the number twelve spot. Careful what you wish for, right?

Storm Reunites Thomases in Draft
Jasmine Thomas on the Storm roster
Storm selects Duke guard

But what would a draft day be without a few trades?

Most noteworthy would be the draft day trade of Lindsey Harding & a 2012 second round draft pick to the Atlanta Dream in exchange for the Ta’Shia Phillips, Kelly Miller & a 2012 first round draft pick. Nothing like getting drafted then getting traded before you can even try on your draft day jersey, eh Ta'Shia?

The Liberty were also busy making trades, one for the Lynx's Jessica Breland in exchange for Angel Robinson & a second round pick - then a second for the Sun's Sydney Colson in exchange for Kalana Greene.

Since draft day there have been over a dozen transactions, check them out here.

Training camp for most teams starts within a few weeks, giving little time to players on training camp contracts to prove themselves and get a spot on a permanent roster. The WNBA currently has thirteen pre-season games scheduled.

What will be will be...on June 3rd.

On another note - I will be on hiatus for a few weeks as I finish my book 13 teams; One Man's Journey with the WNBA. Due out in June - stay tuned!!

4

On the Marquee: (Insert team name here)

Posted by Alex W.C. on 10:12 AM
Before the blog post, let's dispense with today's big news! The 2011 WNBA draft was held at ESPN today, and here's how the first round went down:

1 Minnesota Lynx - Maya Moore (No surprise there)
2 Tulsa Shock - Liz Cambage (Again, what was predicted)
3 Chicago Sky - Courtney Vandersloot (Not so expected, but a good fit)
4 Minnesota Lynx - Amber Harris (Minnesota was VERY happy with this)
5 Los Angeles Sparks - Jantel Lavender (As Rebecca Lobo said, youth on an older team)
6 San Antonio Silver Stars - Danielle Robinson (Stars got guards-a-plenty)
7 Tulsa Shock - Kayla Pederson (A good fit for any team)
8 Atlanta Dream - Ta'Shia Phillips (Gives the Dream a LOT of size now)
9 Indiana Fever - Jeanette Pohlen (Versatile guard, nice addition)
10 New York Liberty - Alex Montgomery (Good shooter & scorer)
11 Washington Mystics - Victoria Dunlap (Skilled defensive player)
12 Seattle Storm - Jasmine Thomas (PG backup, nice to have)


Check out the WNBA Draft site for all the details.

Next Monday's blog post will center more on the draft & season predictions once all the reactions have made their way out over the next week. Stay Tuned!

********

With the Washington Mystics being the fifth team in the WNBA to sign with a Marquee sponsor, (i.e. A sponsor who's name is featured on the front of the jersey.) it seems that the trend that the Phoeinx Mercury started just two short years ago has caught on quite quickly. Some say it is only a matter of time before this becomes standard practice in the league, as it provides much needed financial stability for a team.

However, not everyone seems to be happy with these changes.

Before we start talking opinions of said deals, let's go back to where it started.

On June 1st 2009, the Phoenix Mercury made history as the first team to sign with a Marquee sponsor; the Phoenix based company, Lifelock. The words "Phoenix" and "Mercury" were promptly replaced with the Lifelock brand on the uniforms and warm up jerseys as part of the agreement. In return, the Mercury received a guaranteed source of revenue for the next three years.



Not soon after, the Los Angeles Sparks followed suit with a similar agreement with Farmers Insurance. The following season, the Seattle Storm closed a deal with Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, followed by the New York Liberty swapping their team name for Foxwoods, a nearby casino. As stated before, the Washington Mystics, just a few days prior to the WNBA draft, signed with Inova Health System.

Two years and five teams later, the WNBA is just one team shy of having half the league in a Marquee partnership. Some say this is a good sign, while others are fighting fiercely against it.

I remember when this all went down in 2009, and many fans, myself included, were not happy to see the team name to be removed from the jersey. This unhappiness could come from a number of different places, most likely the public’s fear of corporate involvement. During a Q & A for season ticket holders, many of the fans expressed their dislike to the change in a series of quite heated comments. That is when Mercury GM Ann Meyers Drysdale, took the mic and gave a speech defending the deal, and speaking very highly of the benefits from partnering with Lifelock.

But I heard something different. I heard Ann give a speech that reflected her love, passion, and unwavering commitment for this team. When she began with, “I’m someone who knows about facing change…” she was all to right. Ann, of all people, wants many good things for the Phoenix Mercury, but above all else, she wants them to have an opportunity to play.

At that point, my mind was changed. I embraced the relationship between Lifelock and the Phoenix Mercury. I knew if I wanted to see my team continue to play, they would need all the support they could get.

So, how is a marquee sponsorship significant to a team, and to the league?

Revenue. In today’s economy, the stability of any business comes down to the money it makes and spends.

Many of the teams in the league operate at a loss, which means no profit at the end of the season. To this day, the only team to ever report a profit is the Connecticut Sun, albeit a moderate one. Businesses can only operate in the red for so long, as we’ve seen evidence of with several teams in the WNBA folding for financial reasons. A marquee sponsorship gives a financial shot-in-the-arm to a team, allowing them to have a stable source of revenue for the duration of the deal.

“Bottom line, we aren't profitable (we're close), but until we are, finding sponsors and new season ticket holders is priority number one.” Says Amber Cox, Phoenix Mercury COO. “The viability of our team and this league depends on us finding new, innovative revenue streams.”

This added revenue has many benefits: It gives the players job stability, helps offset the operating costs, and with money in the bank, teams can focus on the one reason why many of us love this league; Quality Basketball. In addition, it also allows teams to support community events, such as youth camps, and other local organizations.

One group of people not complaining are the players. I would figure that if anyone had a right to have a differing opinion, it would be the ones who have to wear the jerseys to work. Basketball is their job after all. Yet, after several seasons overseas where marquee sponsorships are common, many of the WNBA players reactions have been along the lines of, It’s about time.

I think it's very important," Taurasi told The Associated Press in 2009 when Phoenix was the first to seal the deal.

There is something much more noteworthy here, not just the money it self, but who is choosing to invest in a WNBA team. Lifelock, Farmers, Bing, Foxwoods and Inova Health System all have one thing in common; they are multi-million dollar companies with hefty advertising budgets. It cannot be ignored that when these companies put their advertising dollars in the WNBA, it is a sign of a growing support for women’s basketball.

“Finding companies who believe enough in the Mercury to spend substantial dollars is not an easy task.” Says Cox

They could always take their money elsewhere; I’m just saying.

Yet, still, I see too many still take a negative view of the marquee sponsorships.

To those who do, I ask this question: What would you rather have – corporate branding on a jersey, or no jersey at all? I say no jersey at all, because without financial support, there would be no team. I know that sounds extreme, but it is also reality.

Let’s face it, you can put whatever you want on a uniform, but it does little to change the spirit, heart and skill of the athlete that wears it. Your Favorite Player in any other jersey, is still Your Favorite Player.

The teams still retain their names, and although some still believe different, (I’m looking at you Adena Andrews) they are not known by their corporate sponsors. The Storm are not called the “Bings” and the Sparks are definitely not referred to as the “Farmers”. Kip Helt belts out “Your Phoenix Mercury!” at every game I’ve been to; I’ve never heard him refer to them as the “Lifelocks”.

Although If I were to ever start a band, that would be kind of a cool name…

Not to mention the Marquee sponsors so far have had very little involvement with the team, with regards to selection of coaching staff, players, roster moves, trades, etc. So much for corporate corruption. This really makes sense though; what company would want the added responsibility? So far we have seen no evidence that, other than the branding and it’s placement, sponsors want to have any kind of input with the team - unlike a UConn donor who wanted his three million back because he wasn’t allowed to have any say in who was hired for the coaching staff.

The most important people wearing these jerseys are the players. If they’ll wear them, then I’ll wear them. To support the companies who invest millions in the WNBA, is supporting the WNBA itself. It takes a lot of work to secure deals like this, and fans of the WNBA, in my humble opinion, should be happy that teams are doing so.

Want to support other buisness that support the WNBA? Then head on over to Jamba Juice to find a location near you. Last year, Jamba Juice signed a multi year sponsorship deal with the WNBA. These are the kinds of big sponsorships that are important to the league. C'mon, in the summer, who doesn't love a smoothie?

So, the next time you are at a game, look around to see the signage of the businesses who buy advertising space. If you ever happen to find yourself at said business, mention to them that you appreciate their support of the WNBA. The more they know that their investment is making a difference, the more they'll likely be to give more support in the future. Not to mention that other businesses may take notice.

If you still are against this, this is a free country, and you are entitled to your opinion. However, you may find yourself wearing your teams jersey with the team name prominently across the front...and no game to go to.

This blog was not brought to you by any sponsor, but hey, if there is anyone out there interested...

Here are some other pics of newly redesigned jerseys with the Marquee sponsor name.




0

We're number 2! We're number 2!

Posted by Alex W.C. on 11:51 AM in
Quite the fitting chant, considering the outcome of yesterday's games. Even though Stanford and Connecticut were favored to be in the mix for the championship, not everyone put them in that spot of their bracket. Just goes to show, sometimes being counted out is all you need to push ahead.

And with that being said, congrats to Texas A&M and Notre Dame on making it to the 2011 NCAA womens championship game. History will once again be made, because not since 1994 has the championship game not been host to a number one seeded team. This will be the first trip for the Aggies, and the second for the Fighting Irish.

May the best team win.

***Update 4/5/2011 - Congrats to Texas A&M on their first championship! You've earned it!***

Following the championship game (see countdown clock above), the WNBA will host the 2011 draft on April 11th, 2011. As It's been said before, Maya Moore is a lock for the number one pick for the Minnesota Lynx.

Lynx fans, say hello to your newest member!

(Click here to see a video tribute to Maya, courtesy of ESPN)

(Click here to see why Maya is arguably the best player in women's college basketball, courtesy of ESPN Sports Science.)

With the number one pick being no mystery, the number two spot could prove to make things interesting. It seems that "2" is the special number, between 2 second seeds in the NCAA Championship game, and the elusive #2 pick giving a hint of unknown.

So, without further a due, here are my top five fave draft prospects, in no particular order:

Liz Cambage - This 6'8" aussie standout has already made things interesting. With Maya at the #1 pick, that leaves Tulsa, who have the #2 pick, with the ability to Draft Cambage. But she has stated that she does not have the desire to play in Tulsa, while the Shock have stated that it will go ahead with it's plans, whatever those plans may be.



Cambage - “I don’t want to play at Tulsa,” Cambage said. “I’ve made that clear. They want to make me a franchise player, but I’m not going to the WNBA for that.

Coach Richardson - “Our situation is very unique, and if that’s the person we will choose and pick, then that’s the person that we will choose,” he said. “Whether or not she decides to play, that would still be her option of what she needs to do. So our position is we’re going to do the things we do regardless of what a player is going to say.”

Others weighing in on the situation:

Ben York, SLAMonline - "It's disappointing to hear, to say the least. I think she would be a great fit on that team. For whatever reason, Tulsa has been unfairly labeled as a place where no one wants to play. I think they have great fans and a lot to look forward to. It will just take some time to get to that point."

David Siegel, Dishin' & Swishin'/ Swish Appeal "I have to think that a lot of her comments are the fact that she is so young, and concerned about the pressure that will be put on her, and the scrutiny she will be under. I thought the comment she will try not to stress about it and will let her agent handle it was an indicator that she will go wherever he tells her to.

If I'm Tulsa, I can't pass on her, regardless of those comments, unless I get knocked over with a superstar deal, which isn't going to be coming."

Amber Harris - A 6'5" forward from Xavier who can score, rebound, and dunk. Brittney who?



Jantel Lavender - This 6'4" center who was big 10 player of the year - for FOUR years - also took the time top rack up a record number of rebounds, 1,422 to be exact.



Courtney Vandersloot - Poised to be the next Sue Bird, her point guard skills have developed tremendously, helping her to lead her Zags to an Elite Eight Appearance.



Kayla Pedersen - Had to give a shout out to a hometown AZ girl, even though she hails from Stanford. This do-it-all player should make a good for just about any team.



I know, I know, there are many I am missing, but these are the ones I've enjoyed to watch during the tournament. For a more complete list of prospects, head on over to the WNBA Draft website.

This draft should play out nicely, but I would expect to see a few surprises too. Don't forget to tune in to the 2011 WNBA Draft on ESPN on April 11th at 3:00pm (EST)

Who do you think is going in the first round? Thoughts?

1 Minnesota Lynx
2 Tulsa Shock
3 Chicago Sky
4 Minnesota Lynx from Connecticut Sun
5 Los Angeles Sparks
6 San Antonio Silver Stars
7 Tulsa Shock from Phoenix Mercury
8 Atlanta Dream
9 Indiana Fever
10 New York Liberty
11 Washington Mystics
12 Seattle Storm

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