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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Elena Delle Donne makes herself right at home with Mystics

Courtesy of ESPN:

WASHINGTON — Elena Delle Donne hasn’t attempted her first subway ride in the nation’s capital, the Beltway gives her a headache and her dogs Wrigley and Rasta are only lukewarm to their new digs in northern Virginia.

But just about every other part of the 2015 WNBA MVP’s transition to a new team and new city looks as free and easy as, well, an EDD jump shot.

And plenty of shots hit the mark during a Sunday matinee for the Washington Mystics, who never trailed in breezing past San Antonio 89-74 at the Verizon Center.

Delle Donne, who requested to be traded from the Chicago Sky during the offseason, scored a team-best 24 on 8-of-12 shooting in her debut for a Mystics team that has generated buzz as a possible contender for a first-ever league championship.

“Obviously, you come in and get 24 points in your debut, that probably sets a pretty good tone for things,” said Washington coach Mike Thibault, though conceding he expects a far different look from the Stars when the teams meet later this summer.

“This is exactly what I was hoping for and even more,” said Delle Donne, who, teamed with the league’s top 3-point shooter Emma Meesseman, gives the Mystics one of the more potent frontcourts. “I knew coming here this team had chemistry. But when you get here and you feel it and experience it, it’s even better than I imagined. It’s so fun to play with so much talent and so many options.”

San Antonio played without three starters in Kelsey Plum, the No. 1 pick in last month’s draft who’s out with a right ankle sprain, Moriah Jefferson (right knee soreness), and Kayla McBride (overseas playing in the Turkish League finals). McBride and Jefferson led the Stars in scoring in 2016 and Plum, from the University of Washington, comes in as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer.

The Stars also are coming off rare back-to-back road games, having lost 73-64 to New York on Saturday night in Madison Square Garden. That didn’t stop Monique Currie from amassing 31 points, less than 24 hours after scoring 23.

The Mystics are intact, though they haven’t been for long as Kristi Toliver and Meesseman joined the group midway through last week. While the defense had some lapses, including Delle Donne weathering five fouls, Thibault largely attributed that to the newcomers still figuring out what is familiar to veterans Tayler Hill, Natasha Cloud, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Ivory Latta.

“They’re used to talking to each other and those kinds of things, and it’s going to take a little longer to integrate the newer players.

“[Elena] will get better once she gets used to our defensive system,” he said. “She’ll be able to anticipate some things and get there a little bit quicker. I think a couple of her fouls were just from being a count late.”

That said, Thibault couldn’t have been more pleased with his franchise player, quipping this about her free-throw prowess: “We have a rule that if you violate while she’s shooting the free throw, we’re going to fine you 25 bucks apiece. So we had one almost do it early in the game. They’re all going to fine her for missing a free throw because it’s such a rare thing.”

Delle Donne, who set a Sky record for 97 made free throws her rookie season, sank her first seven from the line and finished 8 of 9.

She’s already a fan favorite, too, though the announced crowd of 6,126 was nearly half of the opening day attendance a year ago in D.C., most likely a result of a midafternoon game on Mother’s Day and the first-place Nationals playing an afternoon home game nearby.

While it’ll take a while for her jersey to rival anything worn by Alex Ovechkin and Bryce Harper, plenty of girls, boys and even grown men walked around the Verizon Center showing off her No. 11.

Dave Noren pulled up his new Delle Donne T-shirt to reveal Delle Donne Chicago Sky garb. “I’m from Chicago,” he said, admitting that he prefers she play in Washington given his suburban Virginia address. Sons Greg, 12, and Zach, 9, also had their own Delle Donne paraphernalia.

“She’s the best,” Zach said.

Greg added, “She’s really good.”

Delle Donne cited wanting to be closer to home as the primary reason she wanted to leave Chicago. Now home is a straight shot up I-95 north to Wilmington, Delaware, a far easier trek for parents Ernie and Joan Delle Donne than navigating a plane ride in and out of O’Hare International.

Short of relocating a WNBA franchise to the tri-state area, “This is perfect,” said Ernie Delle Donne, sitting alongside his son Gene, daughter-in-law Jennifer, granddaughter Gia and Amanda Clifton, Elena’s fiancé.

Ernie Delle Donne, who traveled to 28 of Elena’s 32 home games last season, used to leave his office no later than 11 a.m. for a night game in Chicago. If he was lucky, he’d be back to work by 1 p.m., the next afternoon.

“Now for a 7 o’clock game, I can leave at 4 and be here in time for tipoff and be back before midnight,” he said.

Elena lunched with her mother on Thursday — Joan Delle Donne stayed at home with Elena’s sister, Lizzie, on Sunday — and handed off a Mother’s Day gift to Gene. Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and autism, is expected to come for two games.

The family is expected to make good use of their recently purchased vacation home on the water in Annapolis, Maryland. Friday night, Elena met her family for a Mexican meal and had a flatbread from Dunkin’ Donuts with everyone before arriving at the Verizon Center by noon Sunday.

“The drive from our house to practice here is actually a lot better than in Chicago,” Clifton said. “Just being out here, being close to family automatically puts her in a better place. She’s much happier, not just about basketball, but about life.”

Joe Biden wasn’t in the house on Sunday, but the former vice president from Delaware told Thibault he expects to attend four or five games. The first state was well represented, however. The University of Delaware, Delle Donne’s alma mater, sent down a charter bus of 44 fans.

“This is wonderful,” said Carol Dillon, a regular at Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center during Delle Donne’s college. “We can take the train.”

Seated next to her in the second row at midcourt, her friend Helen Hannan added while mimicking a jump shot, “I could watch her shoot all day.”

“I knew the Delaware faithful would show up,” Delle Donne said. “That’s my crew; that’s my family. Delaware always makes me proud. It’s truly a home game. Delaware doesn’t care if it’s two hours. It’s home for them as well.”

While Delle Donne will be the focal point for the Mystics offense, she’s surrounded by shooters, including Toliver. The former Maryland star, who won a league championship last year as a member of the L.A. Sparks, scored eight and added four assists.

“I played four years two miles down the road,” said Toliver, whose father, former AAU teammates and high school bestie were in the stands. “It feels like home.”

Tayler Hill, one of two mothers on this team along with Tianna Hawkins, finished with 15, and Meesseman had 13 with nine boards.

“Offensively we didn’t have to force much and I think it’s going to continue to be that way,” Delle Donne said. “Any player can step up anytime and any night. It’s exciting to be on a team with this many options.”

 

Original Source: http://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/19367118/wnba-moms-getting-more-help-ever-face-challenges

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University of Delaware women’s basketball coach retires

Courtesy of WDEL:

The University of Delaware has another opening to fill. Long-time women’s head basketball coach Tina Martin has announced her retirement.

Martin recently finished her 21st year at the helm of the Blue Hens, piling up 408 wins, a school record for either men’s or women’s basketball. She took her teams to four NCAA tournaments and seven WNIT invites. She had 20 wins or more in 12 of the past 18 seasons.

She released the following statement.

“After a great deal of thought, I’ve decided the time is right for me to retire as head coach at the University of Delaware and move on to the next chapter of my life.  Delaware basketball has been my passion for over 20 years and I am going to miss it. I’ve been fortunate to work with very driven and loyal assistant coaches, talented student-athletes, great teams, and supportive fans. I would like to thank all of the athletic directors I have worked with at UD, including Bernard Muir and Eric Ziady and especially Edgar Johnson who hired me 21 years ago. My staff and I have established an outstanding winning tradition and I will always be proud of my legacy at the University of Delaware.”

Martin was named conference coach of the year three times and coached WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, who was the second overall pick in the WNBA draft and won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors.

Martin’s consistent success peaked with four conference championships.

In their final season in the America East Conference in 2000-01, her squad finished 17-1 in the league, on their way to a 26-5 campaign.

The move to the Colonial Athletic Association meant a huge hurdle was put in their way, national-power Old Dominion under head coach Wendy Larry.

Delaware went 111-40 overall in their first five seasons in the league, but had to settle for four WNIT appearances and a conference-regular season title in 2002-03.

They would win a then-program-record 26 games in 2006-07, finishing tied for second in the league, but a win over Old Dominion in the regular season helped the Blue Hens join the Lady Monarchs and James Madison as three CAA teams earned bids to the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

The floor caved in the following year, with a 7-24 record, including 1-12 outside of the league in 2007-08.

After a 15-15 campaign in 2008-09, a gift fell into her program’s lap as a Delaware product named Elena Delle Donne made a decision to resume playing basketball, and chose her home state’s top university.

The four Delle Donne years saw the Blue Hens win 104 games, and took the program to new heights.

They started with two more WNIT appearances, and a spot in the 2011 CAA championship game, but then the explosion happened.

Delaware went 63-6 over the new two seasons, being ranked as high as No. 7 in the Associated Press poll as they not only made the 2012 NCAA tournament, but won their program’s first post-season game at Arkansas-Little Rock as a No. 3 regional seed.

2013 brought Martin and the Hens news they would host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and despite Delle Donne beginning to battle what would turn out to be Lyme Disease, they again won the CAA, and took advantage of their hosting opportunity.

A 78-69 win over West Virginia was followed by a 78-69 upset of No. 3-seed North Carolina, sending the Blue Hens to the Sweet 16 in Brideport, Connecticut.

Delaware would get close late, but Kentucky’s tenacious defense eventually wore down the Hens in a 69-62 defeat, ending the career of Delle Donne and a 7-player senior class.

Despite the momentum at that point, Martin’s squad has fallen back to the pack in the four years since.

One final WNIT apperance came at the end of a 20-11 season in 2013-2014, making her 0-7 in the secondary post-season tournament.

The last three years her squads went 47-46, finishing no better than 4th in conference play, as James Madison and Drexel have stepped to the forefront in the league.

Martin was a basketball star at Lock Haven University and was an assistant at Lock Haven and Seton Hall before taking the head coaching job at Delaware in 1996.

Martin’s top assistant for her entire time with the program, Jeanine Radice, has been named the interim head coach. The school said in a statement they will begin a national search for Martin’s replacement.

 

Original Source: http://www.wdel.com/sports/university-of-delaware-women-s-basketball-coach-retires/article_5d5beb54-2c15-11e7-b4f6-c79d8bbc63d2.html

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Five Reasons To Watch The Mystics Work This Season

Courtesy of WNBA:

2016 Record:
13-21

Key Offseason Moves:
Acquired Elena Delle Donne in a trade with the Chicago Sky in exchange for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft

Acquired the No. 6 pick in the 2017 draft from the Seattle Storm as part of a three-team trade with the Mystics sending Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn to New York

Signed free agent Kristi Toliver

Re-signed Tayler Hill

2016 Highlights

EDD Takes DC

The Mystics pulled off one of the biggest trades in WNBA history by acquiring former MVP and scoring champ Elena Delle Donne from the Chicago Sky.

Her list of accolades is lengthy, including individual awards and her contributions to Team USA’s Gold Medal in Rio last summer. One thing is certain – she can revitalize Washington’s franchise. Her arrival has already caused a whirlwind of speculation and sky-high expectations for the team this season. She will produce, just as she always does, and the Mystics can do some incredible things this season because of her immense talents.

Adding A ‘Spark’

The Mystics didn’t just make a splash on the trade market, they also did in free agency. The club signed Kristi Toliver from the Los Angeles Sparks, fresh off her WNBA championship victory over the Minnesota Lynx.

Playing her last seven seasons in LA beside Candace Parker, Toliver is now a seasoned vet with a championship ring and solid leadership qualities. Her outside shooting ability will give Washington another option to stretch the floor on offense and take some pressure off of Delle Donne.

The Balling Belgian

Perhaps the scariest part about the Mystics is that, in addition to EDD and the other scorers on the roster, they also boast perhaps the WNBA’s most versatile center.

Indeed, 23-year-old Emma Meesseman is a stretch-5 who can pull her defender outside the 3-point line and create easy routes to the basket for her teammates. She can also knock shots down from deep, as evidenced by her near-45% mark from long distance, ranking best in the league ahead of Seattle’s Sue Bird.

Meesseman attempted and made the most 3’s of her career last season, resulting in the highest scoring output in her four years in the WNBA. It’ll be interesting to see what year five holds for the Belgian.

Top Of The Hill

In her first year as a starter, Tayler Hill started in all 32 games she played and led the Mystics with 15.4 points per game. She averaged career-highs across the board and nearly doubled her scoring average from the year before.

Now with an established scorer like EDD around, Hill should be able to get better looks, leading to more efficient scoring. If all the pieces come together quickly, this Mystics offense should be one of the league’s most potent.

Sharp-Shooting Shatori

With the No. 6 pick in the 2017 Draft, the Mystics selected Shatori Walker-Kimbrough from Maryland, and she should be able to contribute immediately as a 3-point markswoman.

After all, shooting threes is what she does best, having set Maryland and Big 10 3-point field goal percentage marks as well as leading the NCAA in 3-point shooting as a junior, shooting 54.5% from behind the arc.

The Mystics already have the first, third and fourth best 3-point shooters from last season (Meesseman, Delle Donne and Toliver, respectively) and now added arguably the best shooter available in the draft. The pick came from the Storm in a three-team deal that saw the Liberty land Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn. This offense has the capabilities of being a modern, run-and-gun WNBA offense.

 

Original Source: http://www.wnba.com/news/five-reasons-watch-mystics-work-season/

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