Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the women's college hoops season.
Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
Good afternoon. Sorry for starting a bit late ... "Doctor Zhivago" was on TCM and it just ended. It's a rather long film, you know. Gotta wait for the the closing line, "Then it's a gift," to give you an upbeat feeling after so much depressing stuff. :) OK, let's get going.
The Maloofs want to move the Sacramento Kings to another city. If they get their wish, will a new home make them consider reviving the Monarchs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
The move they want is to Anaheim, right? So I guess it would be surprising to see them get back into the WNBA business there. Is any metropolitan area really up for supporting two WNBA franchises? Then again, greater LA is kind of like its own country. But after the Maloofs dumped the Monarchs, you wonder if the league would want to risk that again with them.
kevin (macon ga)
What do you think of the IAAF's new rules regarding hyperandrogenism?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
I think the world track and field governing body's new guidelines _ if a female has excessive levels of male hormone, she must gain medical clearance to compete - are the most fair option for all parties considered. Nature doesn't play by any "rules" - there are people who are on different places of the gender spectrum, physically and hormonally, than most other people. But sports *does* have rules, and the separation between male and female competitors is necessary because of the standard biological differences. For the sake of fairness for the majority of competitors, I think there does have to be a codified way to deal with those who - through nature - are far out range with most of their competitors. This is a complicated, difficult issue. Nobody wants to deny anyone the right to compete. From my understanding, if a female has androgen levels similar to a males, she would need to have some form of androgen resistance or wouldn't be allowed to compete as a female. I think it's the best answer for an extremely tough situation.
kevin (macon ga)
Are you surprised that Dawn Evans went undrafted? Anyone else that didn't get selected that shocks you?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
The two people I most thought probably should get a chance in the draft were JMU's Dawn Evans and Baylor's Melissa Jones. When you score at the rate Evans has, I don't see why she wouldn't be worth at least a third-round pick. And I think Jones is the very definition of team player - someone with so many intangibles. If nothing else, she would be the person you'd want as your 11th player - a no-maintenance, hard-working, bust-her-tail all the time player. In both cases, I'm assuming medical conditions made teams shy away from any consideration of drafting them - Evans with her kidney disease and Jones with her recent vision loss in one eye. I imagine both will be invited to training camps and then have a chance to prove themselves.
kevin (macon ga)
Pam Ward said at the draft that the WNBA would name its president "within the next few days or so". Is that a believable timetable?
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
Personally, I think she was ad-libbing, maybe trying to present it in a more positive light. As opposed to, "We're here at the WNBA draft and there is no president to announce the picks. We have no idea when there will be a president. Supposedly before the season starts in June." That might not sound so good. :) But that's me speculating ... yes, I let out a guffaw of disbelief in the press room when that statement was made on TV. Then again, I don't know when it's going to happen, either.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Elizabeth Cambage...best WNBA draft outfit ever?
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
I have about as much fashion sense as my dog ... and if she knew I said that, she would be insulted. I seriously am bad at such stuff. However, Liz looked terrific ... but I just hope no animal died to create that outfit. I thought everyone looked very nice; Maya Moore gets an A-plus in my book for No. 1 picks ... but since I just told you I don't know anything about fashion, I hope that's not a back-handed compliment. The funny part in person was watching most of the players quickly take off the heels as soon as they could put their flats back on.
Keith H (Seattle)
Mechelle, were there any surprises for you in the draft in terms of players going earlier or later than you would have thought?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
I wasn't sure that Chicago would go with Courtney Vandersloot that high. Not that I don't think she's a good pick with a bright future ... I just didn't know it would happen. I thought Amber Harris, with her size and skills, might be too hard to pass up even though Chicago wanted a point guard. I was a little surprised that Danielle Adams lasted as long as she did considering her scoring ability. I figured she was not going to go high in the first round, but I thought someone might take her before No. 20.
Helen (New York)
What do you make of the Liz C. hype? Is she ready for it? Is the Shock? Is the W?
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
Shoot, Tulsa can always use some hype. :) Seriously, I think part of the hype is that the draft was right there at ESPN headquarters. Bringing your product to the hype machine is pretty smart; it's a good way for the WNBA to get players very quickly to a lot of different platforms all in one place. We'll see how she does dealing with life in Middle America, Nolan Richardson's style of coaching, and time away from home. Teresa Edwards was at the draft, and I congratulated her on the upcoming Naismith Hall of Fame induction and then said, "It's your duty as a Hall of Famer to make sure those Tulsa guards know to constantly get the ball to Liz and Kayla." She laughed and said she'd let them know.
Will a coach like Gillom who constantly relies on her veterans give Lavender enough minutes to make a serious impact as a true center in LA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
That is a great point. If Coach Gillom is looking toward the future, she really needs to incorporate Jantel as a fundamental part of LA's rotation as soon as possible. This is an aging team, and some of these folks really are not going to play forever, even if it seems like it. It's important that Lavender is nurtured by her older teammates - she is very bright and a hard-worker. She is going from a talented young, emotional point guard with some issues to one of the very best in the business in Ticha Penicheiro. This should be a very good rookie season for Lavender - the Sparks need to help make that happen. She and Candace Parker can be pillar players for that franchise long-term.
Any more info on Katie Smith and the Seattle trade rumors? If a trade doesn't happen, do you think Katie will retire or suit up for the Mystics?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
I have not heard anything new on that front today. But during the winter, Brian Agler talked about how he really wanted to see if he could get Katie out in Seattle for at least one year and give her another run at a WNBA title. Of course, they go way back to the ABL. When I talked to Katie over the winter, she seemed to be leaning toward coming back, but she was non-committal about where. She was surprised at what went on with the Mystics in regard to Julie Plank and Angela Taylor, and it's never a good sign when your team-leading veteran is so left in the dark by major moves like that. I hope she's back for at least one more season.
Which team helped themselves the most in the draft?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Wow, when you get Maya Moore and Amber Harris on the same day ... that's something to celebrate. Obviously, the Lynx had the Nos. 1 and 4 picks, so it wasn't hard for them to make these selections, but still ... it was a perfect draft day for them. Frankly, I think Tulsa did great, too. I agreed 100 percent with Tulsa choices (who's going to argue with Liz Cambage and Kayla Pedersen), including giving Italee Lucas a chance. I liked what I saw from her at the end of the college season.
Minn. has a bunch of good players, but is the problem that many of them play similar positions?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
That's also a good observation. But I think this is where a point guard like Lindsay Whalen is worth so much ... she just knows how to maximize the value of whatever combination of players that surrounds her on the floor. Plus, to me, there is a difference in these players who have similar games in that some of them are so-called alpha dogs and some aren't. There are some Lynx players I believe have star potential but are actually more comfortable in supporting roles. And then there's someone like Maya Moore, who I think can come right in and be a leader as a rookie. So, while I've been fooled before by the Lynx (many times, sadly), I'm bullish on them making this work. And I'll remember to eat these words in September if I'm wrong again.
Was Anosike's move more about skills/needs than personnel relations? I had always thought she was a huge asset to MIN.
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
She's a really good player, but the way she ended the last two seasons in Minnesota did not go over well. I think the Lynx figured they would have a better chemistry situation by making that deal, and felt that her defense and rebounding - which admittedly are very valuable - could be made up by other players.
Did the Sky make a mistake by not taking Amber Harris?
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
I referenced this earlier in regard to being a little surprised Chicago decided to pass her up. There are not very many Amber Harris-types that are going to come down the pipe. We tend to think it's easier to find a good point guard than a player like Harris. Yet finding the right PG has been a big problem for a lot of franchises over the years. I think Chicago's Pokey Chatman must have been convinced that Courtney Vandersloot is the real deal to have passed on Harris. One thing I'd like to see from Harris, though, is better on-court and off-court body language. She tends to be hang-dog too much, and I think that impacts your teammates. She's not a bad kid at all. I just think she could use a little boost in how she presents herself, which would give her teammates greater confidence.
I think there is no chance Maya doesn't start from day one, but vocal Wiggins fans are chirping that this is "unfair" because Augustus would bump her from the starting SG spot. Please try to reason with these people. It's time for Minnesota to win!
Mechelle Voepel (3:11 PM)
I didn't know there were people saying that. Umm ... what's "unfair" if you're a Minnesota fan is not seeing your team in the playoffs since 2004. Maya Moore has already played pro-level players in the world championship, of course. If she earns a starting spot, which I would guess she will, then she's going to make the team better. I don't know why anyone would be a bigger fan of one particular player on a team than what was best for the whole team anyway. Now, if Candice earns a starting spot, so be it. But who starts really shouldn't matter at all compared to the objective: the postseason.
What are your thoughts about Jasmine Thomas ending up in Seattle?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
She seemed really excited about it, especially the opportunity to work with Sue Bird. I think it will be good for Jasmine to play in a different system. She could be a good pro player and that could be a nice fit for her.
Any thoughts on the hire by Wisconsin for its new head coach?
Mechelle Voepel (3:21 PM)
I thought that the Badgers might go with Matt Bollant, considering his success recruiting in that region of the country with Green Bay. From everything I heard, he would have made that move. I was surprised because I don't think of Bobbie Kelsey as having any Big Ten connection ... she's from Georgia, played at Stanford, coached at various places but never in the Big Ten. The closest she was as an assistant to Big Ten country was when she was in Evansville a decade ago. That said, she's been part of the four consecutive Stanford trips to the Final Four, and the Cardinal does recruit nationally. And she has put in 14 years as an assistant, so it seems she was ready for a head-coaching job. I was just surprised it was in Wisconsin.
Is there still a Maggie Dixon rookie coach of the year award & if so has it been announced? I was impressed with the job Linda Lappe did at Colorado this season.
Mechelle Voepel (3:26 PM)
It was given to Stephanie Glance of Illinois State, which I thought made no sense. Glance was the de facto head coach throughout Kay Yow's illness at N.C. State when Yow had to be away. And Glance was the team's interim head coach after Yow passed away in January 2009. I honestly don't see how Glance really qualified for the Maggie Dixon award, and it seemed like Linda Lappe much better fit what would be the reason why this award was begun: to honor the up-and-coming head coaches. I'm not trying to be disrespectful to Stephanie Glance, but this just didn't add up to me.
Judith (Wash DC)
A Washington Post sports section story this week about the Mystics was headlined "Mystics Get A Complete Makeover." Did you ever think you'd be reading anything like that after a team had its most successful season in franchise history? When Angela was hired two years ago, fans were told that management recognized the need for stability, that you can't win championships without a stable core (front office and players). Any yet... here we are again. Your thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (3:31 PM)
Ah Judith ... this is like asking me "Some people think 'The Outer Limits' was better than 'The Twilight Zone.' Your thoughts?" I don't want to waste everybody's entire afternoon. :) Just when I thought the Mystics were really stabilizing, they tore up much of what was built and started again. I don't get it. But I hope for the sake of the loyal fan base in D.C., the moves they've made don't disrupt the progress of the players that are there.
Blake (Washington, DC)
As a Mystics fan, I've been as befuddled by and critical of the organization over the past offseason as anyone. With that said, given the fact that Lindsey Harding's agent basically demanded a trade (which would adversely affect Washington's bargaining power, I'd think), isn't getting Ta'Shia Phillips, Kelly Miller and next year's first-rounder actually a pretty good deal for Trudi Lacey? Yes, the Mystics have no starting point guard now, but apparently Harding was not going to play for Washington, period, so at least we got something in return. Yes?
Mechelle Voepel (3:36 PM)
Yes, I agree very much with that. Harding was not going to play there, and everybody knew it. So what Trudi Lacey got was actually more than I thought she would. So I do want to give her and the Mystics credit for that. I also think if Nicky Anosike fits in OK there, then the Mystics have a *lot* of young talent on the interior, led by Crystal Langhorne. And when's the last time we thought that about the Mystics? There is a lot to like about this team talent-wise, although the point guard spot raises big question marks. Despite all the drama and craziness, I would certainly not completely despair if I was a Mystics fan. I might need tranquilizers at times, but ... OK, just kidding.
Have you seen or heard any evidence to make you believe Richardson will be a New & Improved coach in Tulsa?
Mechelle Voepel (3:40 PM)
I don't know if a coach changes when you're at the stage of your career that he's in. Not trying to be "ageist" but I really think people usually get more set in their ways, not more adaptive. I do hope the Shock maintains some stability with the roster. There was a point last year when one of the Shock players - not a complainer, a sunny-side up kid - told me, "It's hard because I don't know who's going to be on the team week to week." If the team can stay relatively intact now that Nolan has purged all the former Detroit people, maybe they can get used to his system. He got two big prizes on draft day, so I hope he utilizes them to their fullest potential.
Montgomery, Colson, Breland and possibly Ford to the Liberty. How do you feel about these moves? And the team's chances this summer?
Mechelle Voepel (3:48 PM)
I think the players that John Whisenant got do fit into the style of play he uses, and so that's' a good. I like Alex Montgomery and thought she was kind of a sleeper for this draft ... but I wasn't sure anyone would pick her in the first round. I think Colson is a potentially better fit in New York than she would have been in Connecticut, and she was visibly relieved when she heard about that trade because she thought it might be even harder for her to make the Sun squad. Colson is very realistic about this; she knows that there are so many good guards in the league with more experience. She's more emotionally prepared to have to go overseas and prove herself than some young players might be. She played for a defensive-minded program in college, so she will adapt to Whisenant's system if she makes the team. And I think Jessica Breland, as she continues to fully gain her strength, is a smart pick for sure. One WNBA assistant told me that North Carolina post players are generally considered a good bet because they all are very good rebounders. I said they have to be, as the offensive rebound is such a key part of Carolina's offense. :)
Carol Anne (Seattle)
The college coaching carousel keeps turning faster and faster. Is there any way to make coaches stay long enough to work with the players they've recruited?
Mechelle Voepel (3:51 PM)
No, there will always be a carousel, as coaches try to find the next "best" situation. We know those coaches who are cemented in place until retirement, but a lot of others are going to move around if the offer is right. It's just the nature of the business. That's why recruits should always try to balance every aspect of the school/team when making their choice. Because the coach might change.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Do you predict that national champion Texas AM's first All-American Danielle Adams will make the Silver Stars' roster in San Antonio?
Mechelle Voepel (3:55 PM)
It's going to be pretty tough. San Antonio is a middle-aged to "old" -in basketball terms - and there are several post players on the roster who have quite a bit of experience. Dan Hughes was at the Big 12 tournament and talked a lot about Adams - there are things he liked, but he worried about her defensively, more than anything. So at least she's in a place where the coach really has paid a lot of attention to her college career and wants to give her a fair assessment in training camp. I don't want this answer to conflict with what I said earlier about being surprised that Adams was still available with the No. 20 pick. I've always been torn about her WNBA potential. She's a scorer, and I like to see those folks in the WNBA. But will her conditioning and defense keep her off a roster? That's what we've all been unsure of about her.
Ashleigh (Oakland, CA)
Are the recent moves Boyle and Caldwell made to the ACC and SEC a sign that the Pac-10 (Pac-12) is not keeping up nationally? Are Virginia and LSU better jobs or just better fits?
Mechelle Voepel (4:01 PM)
They are better fits for both Boyle and Caldwell, I think. In both cases, the coach is going back to the conference where she had her playing roots and where she was an assistant coach for a long time. Personally and professionally, these moves make sense to me, although I think it's unfortunate that the Pac-10 (12) loses these coaches. There are obstacles in these Pac-10 (12) schools, of course. When are you ever going to be truly "big news" in Los Angeles or the Bay area if you are UCLA women's basketball or Cal women's basketball? So you have to be OK with what kind of attention you get, and in Cal's case, that means battling Stanford women for attention, too. I think those programs need to look to coaches who are either California or West Coast natives ... or people who are absolutely they want to be out in that area of the country for the duration of their careers. There's a lot to like about being there.
There are reports that Cambage said she'd take the 2012 WNBA year off for Olympic purposes. Any chance she'll have a change of heart after her rookie WNBA season?
Mechelle Voepel (4:04 PM)
She did say in her press conference Monday at the draft that Australia wanted players to "stay behind" in 2012, and she intended to do that because she wasn't one of those people who would be "automatically" on the Aussie national team. Now, I don't know if that was just modesty or what, because there's no way they don't include her on the team. But I agree, let's see how she feels after getting through a WNBA season. Lauren Jackson came to really enjoy her time in Seattle. OK, no jokes about how Tulsa is unlike Seattle ... but Cambage may really feel she benefits more as a player in the WNBA and may not want to leave it for a whole summer. And who knows? She might really enjoy it in Tulsa ... the fans there are probably going to be ga-ga over her.
I watched, read and listened to nearly every interview with Maya and Amber in the local media while there were up here. Amber did well, especially considering the focus was more on Maya. But Maya really seemed grab the attention of the traditional sports writer/radio host. Obviously wins this summer will be the key to hold on to this, but it was sure a joy to witness.
Mechelle Voepel (4:06 PM)
Great. I think any observer of the WNBA will be happy to see the Lynx/Maya/Amber succeed, because it will be good for the league. This is the purpose of drafts, of course: To spread out talent and enthusiasm.
UConn Steve (TX)
Who do you feel will have a more difficult time meeting fans expectations - Maya Moore for the Minnesota Lynx or Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis for the UConn Huskies? Minnesota is loaded with talent and Maya might not even be their leading scorer. But it seems like Maya is expected to "save" the Lynx. No one player can "replace" Maya. But the diehard Husky faithful believe that KML is the next All-American superstar who will lead UConn to several Final Fours and at least 1 Championship. KML still has to get thru summer camp and then adapt to college life 3000 miles from home. So who has the most pressure to do deal with, Maya or KML? Thanks!
Mechelle Voepel (4:10 PM)
Maya Moore is very much ready for what is coming. As UConn assistant Chris Dailey said at the Final Four, Maya is a planner. She has visualized and conceptualized everything before she did it. She is not nervous about going to the WNBA or being the face of the Lynx. Neither is she over-confident; she's aware she has to continue to improve to keep her place as an elite player at the next level. So I think the kiddo coming into Storrs has more pressure ... however, she also will have coaches who will try not to let her feel too much of that. Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey are experts by now at dealing with the phenom entering UConn - and far more often than not, they've helped that player reach her full potential and then some. Plus, it's not as if the returning UConn players aren't going to be fired up to be the team's leaders next season, too.
Did the mercury's off season acquisitions help them become a better team when dee or penny are not on the floor?
Mechelle Voepel (4:14 PM)
It was such a quiet draft day for the Mercury that we haven't talked much about them. The departure of Tangela Smith leaves a hole because she was a very dependable cog. I'm not sure that I would feel Phoenix was improved when Taurasi and Taylor weren't on the floor, but the team might be similar enough to what it was before. I think both those players are going to be very energized to make this a great season, and whatever combination ends up around them is going to benefit from that.
Mechelle Voepel (4:16 PM)
OK, rather than let this chat go on as long as "Doctor Zhivago," I should probably go out and tend to my battered front lawn as penance for ignoring it since last fall. Thanks as always for all the questions!