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April 20, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:02 PM)

Good afternoon. It's been an emotional week with the news of Pat Summitt moving to an emeritus position. We all hope that her health allows her to impact student-athletes at Tennessee for as long as possible. There's no way to adequately say thanks to her for everything she's done for women, women's sports, and college athletics as a whole.

Levi (Oklahoma)

First, Pat Summitt is my favorite coach of all time she will be sorely missed on the sidelines. Thanks for the joy you gave to womens basketball fans on the sidelines for almost 40 yrs. As for the Shock, is this team at least going to get off the worst team in the league list this year? I think for the first time the young talent on this team is finally legit. Williams and Johnson will probably be on this team. With the addition of previous injured players such as Crossley and Black coming back to camp, is Lynetta Kizer or Vicki Baugh in your opinion WNBA ready?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:06 PM)

Someone asked me on draft day if things were going to get better for the Shock, and I said probably, because they couldn't get much worse than the previous two years. Coach "K" has a lot of experience in the WNBA, and a young team with some kids who at least in college were definitely winners. I think Baugh and Kizer do have some upside, but it depend on how well they perform in training camp as to which one, if either, gets a roster spot.

Deven (New York)

What do you think about the NY Liberty's chances this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:08 PM)

I still see holes in this team, and I don't see where John Whisenant has done much to upgrade the talent. Maybe he's got a plan that I just don't recognize, but I don't know how optimistic Lib fans can be going into the summer.

Keith H (Seattle)

What should Storm fans expect from Shekinna Stricklen and how well do you think she'll mesh with Sue Bird and (eventually) Lauren Jackson? Thank you for your chats.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:10 PM)

It's a good team for Stricklen, who needs some veteran leadership to help her adjust to pro life. She has all the tools, and this is a good place for her to learn how to navigate the pro world successfully. Tanisha Wright is the more "unsung" leader on that team; she will not mince words and everyone respects her. As long as Stricklen plays hard and is a good teammate - which I think she will be - she'll mesh fine with LJ and Sue.

Ian (NY)

I am a huge Brittney Griner fan (as you prob know bc all my questions are about her) and I have never said anything bad about her. But this decision really makes me scratch my head. What are your thoughts on the matter? I understand that she needs to take care of her family's health and that is a legitamate excuse but summer school? The school really can't have her schedule rearranged to fit this once in a lifetime opportunity? I was really looking forward to seeing her play with Sylvia, Tina and Candace if she was the 12th spot picked.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:14 PM)

Lots of questions about Brittney Griner, and I find this to be one of the most difficult topics to deal with because of the speculation that tends to surround her. People will speculate about whether there is another reason for why she would turn down this potential spot on the team. At this point, I think we have to take her at her word that these are her reasons. That said, of course people will still speculate.

Blake Whitney (Washington, D.C.)

What are your thoughts on George Washington landing Jonathan Tsipis (and former Irish PG and St. John's assistant Megan Duffy)? Seems like a pretty good indication that GW is committed to getting back to where it was during the McKeown years.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:15 PM)

Considering his success as an assistant at Notre Dame, it does seem like a good hire. He had a lot to do with these last two trips to the NCAA championship game.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

Was it Devereaux Peters' NCAA tournament play which caused her draft stock to soar up to lottery pick status?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:17 PM)

I guess it didn't hurt ... but it seems like Cheryl Reeve just thought that Peters' defense/rebounding ability was what fit best. It would seem whomever the Lynx drafted (considering Nneka Ogwumike was gone) was going to have a limited role. I was surprised a bit, though, like I'd imagine most people were, by the Lynx' pick. Peters herself said she was shocked.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Who is your all-time Tennessee starting 5? I'm going with Holdsclaw, Parker, Catchings, Gordon but can't decide between Marciniak or Jolly at PG.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:24 PM)

I agree on the first four and I'd go with Jolly at PG. Nothing against MM, but I just think Jolly would handle distributorship with those players masterfully and she would have to do a LOT of ballhandling being the only true guard. I realize there's no specific "shooting guard" on that starting five, but I'll take it just the same. Another good choice at PG would be Dawn Marsh, the UT assists leader. Holly Warlick or Kara Lawson or Lea Henry would be good choices, too.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

Was Kelley Cain the most surprising pick of the 1st round of the WNBA Draft? Also, will we see her this season in the Liberty lineup?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:25 PM)

Well, it certainly surprised me. I figured if NY wanted Cain, they could have let the draft go by and tried to bring her in. I guess Whiz felt strongly enough about her and was afraid someone else would get her in the second or third rounds, since his only other pick was in the third round. If Whiz felt this way about her, you'd think she has a pretty good shot at making the roster.

paul (tx)

NCAA- Is the system tainted? The selection committee sends Baylor( one of the highest schools in attendance) to Bowling Green, OH( the smallest facility in the tournament). Committee also seeds Ohio State an eight seed( well below expected by all experts) and sends them to Bowling Green, approximately ninety minutes away primarily to insure attendance. The chairman of the selection committee is also the athletic director of Bowling Green. I am sure Tallahassee or Norfolk would have loved to have Baylor to help boost attendance . Maybe their AD should be on the committee next year. "The NCAA should have been more careful." Your take!

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:28 PM)

Because of predetermined sites, it does limit where certain teams could go. With putting Florida Gulf Coast in Tallahassee - the Florida connection there, of course - Baylor couldn't be there, too, because it needed to be matched with an 8, 9 and 16. That really left just Norfolk and Bowling Green, neither of them geographically close at all. So I don't know that I saw a big conspiracy there. The predetermined-sites system ties the committee's hands in a lot of ways.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:29 PM)

It's not that I don't sometimes see such conspiracies, though, with the bracket. :)

Amy (Glen Mills, PA)

What in the world is going on at Arizona? They had a monumental collapse as soon as they began PAC-12 play last year, now 3 players are transferring (including 1 starter.) After 3 years, I would have expected SOME improvement under Niya Butts. It's probably too late now to make a coaching change for '12-13, but do you see any hope for improvement any time soon? I cant' see any good h.s. players wanting to play there.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:32 PM)

Seems like the Arizona administration considered the 2010-11 season enough of a spark of improvement. I can see where the fans would be frustrated, though. As for transfers, they are becoming so prevalent that it's harder and harder to know for sure if the problem lies with a coaching staff or with the kid. It's just the nature of our society today ... if players are unhappy - men or women - they seem more willing to pull up stakes rather than stick it out and see if it gets better.

Rich (London)

Explain to me how someone who's been a coach/GM in this league for many, many years drafts a mainstream European player who hasn't been draft eligible since 2007? At least Babkina was close to being eligible when LA made the same idiotic mistake last year. How Meadors and Atlanta could take Yacoubou - who would've gone at least 20 spots higher if she actually WAS available - boggles my mind. Why are people who'd make such elementary mistakes running supposedly professional franchises? It's an embarrassment to the league.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:33 PM)

I don't have an answer for that one. :)

Marc (Malden, MA)

I know there was no specific "shooting guard," but since the best option was probably Semeka Randall, I'm playing Holdsclaw at SG. Another benefit of selecting Jolly over MM is Jolly is a MUCH better outside shooter.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:34 PM)

Yes, I think they could make that lineup work. :)

Katie (Texas)

If summer school was really an issue for Brittney Griner then wouldn't it have been known already and thus the USA Basketball team would have been notified already? At least couldn't the school have started to make plans around her schedule? There are still 3 months till the olympics

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:36 PM)

Again, very good points. But there is also the issue with an illness in her family, which I understand to be a very close family member.

Rob (Indianapolis)

I think people are selling Dev Peters and her overall ability short. Only two players in the past 10yrs have 75 blocks, 75 steals, and 75 assists in a season....Peters and C. Parker. With what they need a role playing post to do for the Lynx there was no other post that was as well rounded. Could you think of any other post draftee that could offer what Peters does?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:38 PM)

It wasn't a draft that presented many rock-solid options for interior players after Ogwumike. Admittedly, I like Glory Johnson for her athleticism and durability, but you make good points about Peters in terms of Minnesota's specific needs.

Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)

Speaking of hires...how much in mourning should I be here in Queens with KBA to Michigan. I trust Tarts and the current team but should I trust the administration not to go back to the bad old days?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:42 PM)

St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico is leaving the NY/NJ area for the first time, so she must feel pretty good about the support she'll get in Michigan. Which is new, because that's not a school historically known for its support of women's basketball, to say the least. It's interesting to see Barnes Arico, Curt Miller and Matt Bollant all join what has been an under-performing conference in terms of the NCAA tournament. Hope they boost the Big Ten. As for St. John's, you'd hope that seeing the success of KBA would make the administration determined to try to keep it going, right?

John (Tulsa)

I guess we won't see Brittney Griner vs Liz Cambage this summer. Who will get the final spot in your opinion? Cappie Pondexter should be there, do you agree? The US seems someone thin at guard (with mostly forwards) and Pondexter is simply a playmaker. Willl USA Basketball not select her because of her fashion show incident. If so I will lose all respect for the committee.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:48 PM)

If there is anything lacking on this team, it probably is speed/defense on the perimeter, and Pondexter can fill that. So I would guess she's a very good option for them. USA Basketball folks have said the whole fashion-week/World Championships incident is not an issue, but of course they wouldn't say if it was. I have to disagree in terms of respect for USA Basketball; Cappie did *not* handle that situation very well, in my view. And while I'm not saying it should hold her off the Olympic team, I could under if USA Basketball looked elsewhere. But like I said, they swore they weren't holding that against her.

Mel (MN)

I noticed that many of the players who were drafted did not have any conversations with the teams who picked them before the Draft, but Stricklen mentioned she worked out for Coach Agler. Is this a new practice? There have been combines in the past, but this seemed to be specifically done for the Storm.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:51 PM)

Agler went to Knoxville to talk to Stricklen and see her work out. He wanted to be sure about using the No. 2 pick on her, and she was glad to comply because it worked out well for her. It's up to the Storm that they chose to spend the money to go see her in that capacity.

kevin (macon ga)

For the second straight year we had an ineligible player selected in the draft (Babkina last year, Yacoubou this year). Are the eligibility rules too complicated?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:53 PM)

Considering the time the teams have to prepare for the draft, I don't see how the rules could be too complicated for them to figure it out.

Marc (Malden, MA)

How much of a step back does Tennessee now take? I'm sure Holly Warlick is a very good coach, but I have to imagine recruiting players to play for her will be more difficult than recruiting players to play for Pat Summitt.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:58 PM)

Let's face it: That's an area of concern. No one can replace Summitt in terms of personality and aura. Still, Tennessee has a *lot* to sell with its tradition and fan base. Plus, Holly deserves a chance to forge her own personality as boss. One hopes the Tennessee administration continues to believe in and support women's athletics the way it has in Summitt's long tenure. That's never a given, frankly, with any school when such a towering figure steps aside or moves to a different role.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

Would both the Liberty and the Sun have used their 1st round draft picks on centers over 6'5" tall if Brittney Griner was not just one year away from making her WNBA debut?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:00 PM)

Perhaps they are, indeed, thinking ahead. And/or Whiz and Mike Thibault just really didn't think much of this senior class. The draft is a little bit about gambling.

kevin (macon ga)

Gary Kloppenburg said the W should eliminate the lottery and just draft in reverse record order. Does he have a point or is it just enlightened self interest?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:04 PM)

Probably more the latter, even though I feel bad for the Shock that the odds - so overwhelmingly in their favor - still worked against them. There could be some problems with the reverse-record order that, to me, make the lottery the better, fairer option to try to assure teams play as hard as they can to the conclusion of their season.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:05 PM)

Thanks for all the questions! Sorry for the ones I did not get to. Hope everyone has a great weekend.