Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat some hoops.
Voepel has covered women's college and pro basketball for ESPN.com since 1996. Read her blog at www.mechellevoepelblog.com.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:03 PM)
Happy almost start to Memorial Day weekend. Let's get started.
glenn (fresh meadows)
I know its mad early but how impressive has Jessica Breland been for Chicago...people thought EDD would be a sitting duck without fowles and cash and instead breland has been a double double a night
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
I agree. You know, we "pick" the order of finish in the conferences, and I did the East. I was thinking, "Well, if Fowles is out an extended time, and Swin Cash is gone, it could be tough for the Sky." Then add in Epiphanny Prince taking a break for being burnt out. So I picked the Sky last, although I might as well have been throwing darts to pick the East order after Atlanta. Anyway ... Jess Breland has been very good so far, and so has the rest of the supporting cast to Elena Delle Donne. You're right, it's early, but so far Chicago has been a pleasant surprise.
kevin (macon ga)
Liz Cambage is now saying she'll "definitely be back" in Tulsa next year. Should we believe her?
Mechelle Voepel (2:10 PM)
Wasn't there a movie called "Definitely, Maybe" a few years back with Ryan Reynolds? I didn't see it - rom-coms aren't my thing - but I remember seeing previews. Uh ... I'd say that fits Liz: Definitely, maybe. :)
Watching EDD play made me think of something. If she hadn't left UConn, would we be talking about six straight national championships for UConn?
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
Maybe. Considering UConn's recent recruiting good news, we may be talking about the Huskies being in the midst of winning six in a row now. It's hard as a columnist to talk about this in a way that doesn't offend UConn fans, but I think the reasonable among them do understand why nobody but them wants to see UConn - or any team - win that many championships in a row. But ... if it happens, it happens.
jbb1985 (Downton Delirium)
Since it is still early WNBA, a quickie on WCBB with recent spate of highly-touted recruits committing. Boykin, Collier and Samuelson all verbal to UConn? On top of Edwards, Ekmark, Nurse and Williams incoming, plus the 6'5" transfer Butler going to Storrs. 2 more seasons of Stew and MoJeff, 3 more seasons of MoTuck and Chong. Besides the obvious bright prospects for the repeat defending NC team, would you say UConn has reloaded for almost the next 4 seasons? Were you surprised that in a long-time 2 horse race for the 3rd sister, that Katie Lou Samuelson went UConn without taking her formal South Bend visit?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
This, of course, is what I am referring to. As for being surprised by what recruits do ... I really never talk to recruits/high school kids in my job. I get to know kids once they are in college. So I don't have much sense of recruits' personalities except what I read. Thus, I don't have a lot of personal insight into whether much they do is surprising or not. They're high school kids. Even if I did regularly talk to them, I don't know if I would understand what they were thinking or how they made their decisions. In general, though, I would say there are kids who are very focused on winning NCAA titles and planning for pro careers. Clearly, UConn has a great track record in both.
john (Minnesota )
is maya moore the best player in the league?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
I've voted her as MVP the last two seasons. I just think she does so much on court all the time, and her mindset is so competitive. She doesn't take mental days off from competing, as far as I can tell. Even if she has a rare bad game, it's not because she wasn't prepared. She has a competitive, constant fire to go along with the fact that she's athletically at her peak and she "thinks" the game like a veteran, too. So, yes, I would say she's the best player right now.
Big Cat (Chicago, IL)
What do you think about my Sky?
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
Impressed. Happy for them. I can remember talking to Jess Breland when she was in the midst of her cancer treatments, and how she was just very pragmatic and even-keel, not complaining. I just really like her as a person, and she's one of those kids you "root" for. And I like the cohesion of this team, plus how EDD quickly became a "leader" at this level. In some ways, you could say this Sky team now is a little like the Delaware dynamic when she was there. She is the star, no question, but she's got the kind of personality that seems to endear her to teammates.
Sam (Wellington, FL) [via mobile]
The Mercury are off to a great start this season. You ranked them number 1 in the power rankings but do you feel they have enough to win the West over the Lynx? Maya Moore and company have looked great this season.
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
My "philosophy" of weekly power rankings is to kind of highlight how teams have done over the past week. Of course, as you get deeper into the season, their overall record plays into that. But since this was the first week, I gave the Merc the top spot based on them winning in LA. Overall, projecting for the season, I still would go with the Lynx. Another reason to do power rankings is the hope that readers agree and disagree, because we like for them to add in their opinions. Even if the opinion is, "Voepel, your dimwit, your rankings are so wrong," it means they care enough to have an opinion about how teams are doing. And that's what I hope for: Readers who care about the topic. (If they leave out the dimwit part, though, that's OK, too.) :)
glenn (fresh meadows)
How important is it for the WNBA's survival for them to FINALLY be aknowledging and specifically marketing to the LGBT community?
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
It's interesting ... we've had this internal discussion at ESPNW about the league's announcement of its LGBT-focused marketing campaign. And some people's thoughts were, "Oh, are they FINALLY doing this? It's about time. It's ridiculous. They should have done it long ago." Really more chastising the league because it took so long, rather than even sounding glad that it was happening. But I have to say ... I'm just like, "Look, yes, the league could have done better with this. We know that. But so could all of society." We've made so much progress in the last 10 years in regard to LGBT awareness and rights and acceptance and inclusion. So my attitude is, "OK, this is terrific. I am really happy they are doing this." I criticize the league for things they do or don't do that bug me, but I also understand that marketing and sponsorships and all those things haven't been easy for women's sports. I know there have been fans who felt very hurt and left out and not acknowledged by the WNBA. Of course I understand that. But at some point ... maybe it's that I'm almost 50, and I have some perspective that makes me more pleased with the progress than I am mad at what *didn't* happen for years.
jbb1985 (WCBB anticipation a la Carly)
Firs,t there was DeShields and her group seemingly going to UNC as a recruitment package deal arranged by the players. Now, 3 of the 4 USA 3x3 team all commit to UConn (4th uncommitted but said to be a Storrs target, too) and all three of them visited UConn at the same time (the 4th visitor committed to Duke, so not a total sweep). It appears the younger players often are teammates on some squad or become friendly and talk among themselves, logically, and currently think of LeBron/ Wade/ Bosh can thrive from going en masse to their chosen team, why not WCBB recruits? Is this a trend, or two random, high-profile incidents; with the first one already tainted by the leader leaving UNC?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
I think part of it is the fact that there are so many easy ways to instantly communicate, and that kids form friendships that are not about geographical ties. And they are kids, so they kind of think they can "orchestrate" things to their liking. In some cases, it works. In some cases, it won't. I think kids would be much better off just worrying about their own recruitment and where they fit with the team that the coaching staff is assembling, and not think they can essentially put together their *own* team or at least small group. It's hard enough to manage your own expectations, let alone the groups. But ... I didn mention I'm almost 50. Kids are gonna do what kids are gonna do. :)
What's next for Leti Romero
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
At this point, Kansas State seems to be digging in deeper, and any kind of real leadership or reason is gone out the window. Leti Romero has visited some junior colleges, and she might be forced to take that option, even though that is not what she wants to do. She's supposed to be going home to the Canary Islands later this month, and she's running out of time to make some decisions. John Currie, Pat Bosco, Kirk Schultz and Jeff Mittie could actually show leadership and stop hiding behind smokescreens of "We followed our procedures" and "It's out of my hands," and all the other pass-the-buck excuses that have come out of Kansas State lately. Now they are into bunker-down bureacrat mode, and it's infuriating and pathetic. Kansas State as a school and athletic department, and Manhattan as a community deserve better than the malevolent clown show this has become. Leti Romero certainly deserved better.
Can the NCAA investigate or intervene in the situation with Romero at Kansas State or is this truly under the sole control of the school?
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
I don't know if the NCAA would get involved with this ... they don't seem to see that they would have jurisdiction. But that's part of the broader issue that all of us media and fans who follow college sports point to ... what are an athlete's options when a school does something like this? An athlete was completely denied her release, her appeal was in front of people who work at the same school (even if they aren't in the athletic department) and then the release was denied again. And neither had to give the student any reason. The athletic director says he can't comment publically, but then does on Twitter. The school gets bad publicity, so finally the AD - who didn't talk to the athlete before denying her release - finally summons her to his office to say, "I'll write a letter to the appeal committee to see if they'll reconsider." They won't. Oh, but then it changes to, "Wait, actually maybe we can release you to some schools you don't have any interest in going to." Then it's, "Actually, there will be *no* release at all, the committee's decision was final and we have no way to revisit it ... even if the coach and athletic director now are saying they want to give you a release." Yeah, that's what Romero has been dealing with. That's why she went to the media and finally got a lawyer. But what options does she really have that are expedient enough to help her for the coming school year?
Obviously early but how encouraging is it that PHX has held it's first two opponents under 70 points? since we all know that never happened that last seven years ;)
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
OK, back to the WNBA ... When you have a defensive weapon like Griner, plus a lot of intelligent vets, you should be a better defensive team. Yes, it's a very small sample size, but we have seen a different Mercury so far from that perspective, and I think considering the explosive offensives at the top of the West, that is a welcome sight to Merc fans.
gee davis (chgo-beverly)
Sorry about my 1st question(you pretty much answered it) in 1- of your other responses.My next question is- Do you forsee the WNBA doing something(Salary-wise) with these youg women so they don't have to go 1/2 way around the world and play (almost all-year) just, to make a decent buck. INJURIES are starting to pile-up on these women.
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
This is in regard to Epiphanny Prince and needing time off of because she's mentally/physically exhausted. The near year-round demands for top players to maximize their income potential is something that's been going on since the league started. The bottom line is, the WNBA will have to get more popular and bring in more revenue before salaries increase. Until then, no, I don't see an end anytime soon to the fact that most players have to go overseas. It's not ideal, but it's the era we're going to be in until the league has a more significant breakthrough in terms of revenue.
Sam (Wellington, FL)
Do you think the WNBA will expand in the near future? I grew up in Phoenix and Mercury are well-supported. I'm missing the Mercury (and the rest of the WNBA) here in Florida. I would love to see a franchise come here.
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
That's another question that we've been asking for a while. Of course, the league did expand to Florida over a decade ago... but the Orlando and Miami franchises didn't sustain themselves. It would be nice to see expansion back to 14 or 16 teams in the next decade. But I really don't know how realistic that is.
Lane (Kukuihaele, HI)
Is Becky Hammon still with San Antonio?
Mechelle Voepel (3:19 PM)
Yes, but she's been out at the start of this season with an ankle sprain. I am not sure if she is playing in the Stars' game Friday or not.
jbb1985 (not mobile)
Would you have three POY candidates for next WCBB season?
Mechelle Voepel (3:20 PM)
Can I list Breanna Stewart three times? :)
jbb1985 (Downton Delirium)
Any thoughts on C. Vivian Stringer and her new 4-year extension that is more incentive-laden than before? Is that more coach- and RU-specific, or might other programs lean towards high but variable compensation packages?
Mechelle Voepel (3:25 PM)
Stringer says she really does still have a lot of enthusiasm to coach. And I guess the Rutgers administration saw enough positives this past season to decide to give her this extension. I think she was in a more limited position in terms of bargaining power, though, which is why the contract was more incentive-laden, as you pointed out. That said, I think it may become more of a trend overall in WBB coaching contracts. I guess another factor in the whole decision by Rutgers to retain Stringer is that it's been a difficult past couple of years for the school and athletic department, PR-wise, and maybe it was "easier" to stay the course than go a different direction. Because I don't think Stringer would have "gone" quietly.
kevin (macon ga)
Every head coach in the W has coached a team to the playoffs and all but two (Brondello and Chatman) have won at least one playoff series. Half the league has a coach with a championship. How much stronger can the league's coaching ranks get?
Mechelle Voepel (3:28 PM)
I do think that's a definite positive for the league, and something that's been apparent in recent years. We all know when the league started, there were some really bad hires and just a lot of "wrong fits" for the job of pro women's basketball coach. As the league has aged, that pool of coaches has improved. Because it is different coaching pros than college athletes. Some people really can do both well, but they do have to understand the differences.
What's your opinion so far on the Sparks this season specifically with the addition of Armintie Herrington?
Mechelle Voepel (3:33 PM)
I think the Sparks will want to be more efficient offensively than they have been in their first two games, in terms of how the shots are distributed. As for Armintie, she's a strong "cog" player, meaning she will embrace whatever role she's give and do the best she can with it. And, of course, she and Carol Ross have that connection from college. Teams benefit from having players like Herrington because they do the "little things" and they play hard, but they fill the roles that they are supposed to.
Charles (San Jose)
Do you think the Romero situation will have an impact in Kansas State's ability to recruit players and retain coaches in other sports?
Mechelle Voepel (3:41 PM)
I wouldn't think it would impact anything with their coaches, really. As for recruiting, in other sports besides WBB, I don't know that it will have that much of an impact, because the recruits may not know about it or think it could happen to them. In WBB, I guess it depends on how Mittie maintains the relationships and develops them in different areas now that he's in the Midwest. I am not sure how the AAU/club coaches will react to what's happened with Romero, and how they may advise the athletes they work with. So, I guess we'll see. But I know this: They have put a young woman through two months of unnecessary and needless stress, and they are impacting her future when they easily could have just parted ways and let her move on. And that not is not something those of us who follow women's basketball are just going forget about. Kansas State is going to own this. They did it.
Mechelle Voepel (3:42 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. There will not be a chat next week, but we'll resume the following week.