Those of you who read this regularly, both of you, know that I’m a big fan of women’s basketball. I can assure you it’s not just that I have an attraction to tall, athletic women in short pants. It goes back to when my daughters were playing youth basketball and Heather Hanaan was starring at the local high school. After the games, Heather would come out and talk to the youngsters and sign autographs and exude sweetness. And then I saw her in a game holding the ball in one hand with her arm extended, daring her defender to grab for it. She went on to play at Colorado State and I followed her career there.
That’s when I discovered Becky Hammon, now the point guard for the New York Liberty. A cute little midwestern girl with a game that looks like it was bred in Brooklyn. Outside shooter who can drive to the hoop and make the no look pass to the open teammate. That brought me to Williams arena and the Lindsay Whalen show. I had season tickets last year and saw every home game. The best show for the money in town.
I have season tickets again this year. Lindsay’s gone but Janelle McCarville is on the short list for national player of the year. Last night was their first exhibition game, Janelle was on the bench in street clothes having broken her hand in practice (what is it with broken hands). Their opponents were the Wisconsin Vikings (gotta love that name) an AAU team made up of former college players. Everyone expected the usual pre-season blow out. What I didn’t know is that AAU must not stand for Amatuer Athletic Union anymore. They had Anna LaForge, who is the star of the Phoenix WNBA team.
April Calhoun was Ms Basketball in Minnesota three years ago. She’s an Armstrong Falcon, that is from the school my girls went to. I followed her career for the five years she played on the varsity. She was also a soccer and track standout and even though she hadn’t played softball much before high school, she was the center fielder and leading hitter on the State Championship team. She’s got red hair. No one plays harder than this girl, she dives to the floor for loose balls and is a tenacious defender. It was a big disappointment when she went to Iowa. Two seasons ago she started every game at point for the Hawkeyes. But she was homesick and the Minnesota program had gone from doormat to the final four. She transferred in, skipped a year and started at shooting guard last night. She played both there and at the point, led the team in scoring, got a bunch of assitsts and played great defense. At one point she out ran a girl for a loose ball, dove to the floor to get it under control and was able continue to dribble as she slid across the floor.
The Vikings hung around and actually lead with ten minutes left. But the Gophers just had too many fresh legs for them and they eventually ran out of gas. But the real story of the night was Anna LaForge. She scored 47 points. The girl has a picture book fade away jumper that she can take off the dribble and can hit from behind the arch. Everyone in the Barn was thinking, “She can’t possibly hit that shot.” String music! Right throught the bottom of the net. Time after time. Shannon Bolden is the Gopher’s defensive stopper and I’ve rarely seen anyone that she couldn’t stay in front of. Including some of the best players in the country last year. Katie left her in the dust regularly. The Viking’s (Wisconsin Vikings I love that)coach pulled her with about a minute left in the game and the home fans gave her an ovation. She acknowledged the crowd sat down on the bench and someone handed her a young toddler. “Yes sweety, Mommy torched ’em tonight.”