Women’s Basketball Newsletter
Saturday 3rd July 2021
Game of the Week: Las Vegas Aces 95-92 Seattle Storm
Player of the Week: Marina Mabrey (Dallas Wings vs Chicago Sky) – 28-3-5 in 100-91 win Friday 2nd July 2021
Summary of Contents:
- WBBL Expansion
- FIBA Women’s EuroBasket
- European 3×3
Lucky 13 in 2021-22 WBBL
The 2021-22 WBBL season will see 13 teams competing in the top tier of British Basketball next season.
The Sheffield Hatters are back for their 60th anniversary season, complete with a new logo and the return of Head Coach of 11 years Vanessa Ellis. The Hatters sat out the 2020-21 Pandemic affected season due to a lack of sponsorship, and the move had interesting consequences.
Head Coach Vanessa Ellis won the domestic title in Austria as head coach of UBI Graz whilst Naomi Campbell made the WNBL semi-final as a major part of the Nottingham Trent University roster whilst Helen Naylor suited up for the Manchester Met Mystics. In a season that saw Callum Jones make the unbelievable swap from Manchester to Sheffield in the Men’s British Basketball League, we also saw Helen Naylor make the reverse journey!
The Hatters and the remaining 11 teams in the WBBL will be joined by new franchise Gloucester City Queens. Gloucester’s head coach has not been officially announced, however the club’s CEO is Jay Marriot, former BBL player and Plymouth Raiders head coach as well as the host of the incredibly successful BBL podcast The BBL Show.
Gloucester City Queens (and their men’s team the Kings) look to follow a similar model to that of Bristol Flyers, in that they are part of a city wide sporting group called Gloucester Sport, which has worked incredibly well for Bristol in that the shared knowledge, experience and resources of several sporting clubs are brought under one umbrella to reduce costs and increase efficiency. See more in our article on Bristol Sport from 2017.
The growth of the WBBL up to 13 teams is an exciting prospect, as it gives greater opportunities for elite athletes to play in the UK as well as showing the growth possibilities in women’s sport.
Serbia reign supreme, champions of Europe again
For the second time in six years Serbia are EuroBasket Champions, having once again defeated France in the final, 63-54 on Sunday in Valencia.
France fell to their first defeat of the tournament, but it continued their run of lost finals, their fifth in a row in EuroBasket’s championship game.
France led in the opening minutes 5-2 but once Serbia gained the lead late in the first period, they never once looked like giving it up as they made France uncomfortable and never allowed them to settle into a rhythm.
Serbia shot efficiently in the contest, scoring at 41% from the floor, including 39% from three point land, whilst France were forced to settle for awkward looks from the midrange, which more often than not was not rewarded.
Serbia were looking like racing away with it during the second period, but France fought back well and gave their fans hope of a very different second half as they narrowed the gap to 5 points when it had been 10 midway through the period.
Unfortunately for France, this would be as good as it got as in the second half, Serbia continued their efficient domination and despite a valiant late comeback, led by Marine Johannes it was not enough as Serbia clinched their fourth major medal since 2015.
Sonja Vasic was named the Tissot MVP of the tournament and in the final she came to play, finishing with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in the final and averaged 15.5 points, 7.2 boards and 4.2 assists throughout the six games.
Yvonne Anderson was, as we’ve seen her to be all season, electric in the midrange and painted area as the point guard bagged 18 points and 4 assists to finish the game’s top scorer, piping teammate Jelena Brooks (15) and France’s Valeriane Vukosavljevic (15).
Whilst this is another difficult defeat for France in a EuroBasket final, this is also their 7th medal in their last 7 appearances in EuroBasket and both sides will head to the Olympics in Tokyo looking to take their EuroBasket form with them.
Vasic headlines EuroBasket All-Star Five
Serbia’s Sonja Vasic not only took away a winners medal from the 2021 EuroBasket but also the Tissot MVP award and a place in the All Star Five. The small forward averaged 15.5 points, 7.2 boards and 4.2 assists throughout the six games as she led her nation to victory.
Runners up France were represented by Endene Miyem who finished with an average of 12.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. The final three places were occupied by the Belgian pair of Emma Meesseman and Julie Allemand and the dominant Jonquel Jones of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Jonquel Jones set the record for the most rebounds in a EuroBasket game with 24 rebounds to complement her 29 points against silver medalists France in the quarter finals. Jones was a one person wrecking crew for Bosnia as she finished with figures averaging 24.3 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
Emma Meesseman is expecting big things from this international season with Belgium and the eventual bronze medalists were left to rue what could have been as they were beaten by Serbia by a single point in the semi finals. Meesseman was back to her best with figures of 20.7 points per game, 8.5 boards and 4.5 dimes per game for the tournament.
Finally, the 24 year old Belgian and Indiana Fever star Julie Allemand had a tournament to remember, finishing with per game averages of 9.0 points, 5.3 assists and 1.7 steals.
Great Britain making waves in European 3×3
For the first time ever Great Britain will be represented at the Fiba 3×3 Europe Cup under the Eiffel Tower in September as they punched their ticket at the qualification tournament in Romania last weekend.
Great Britain took a star studded quartet under the guidance of legendary Stef Collins. Olympians Temi Fagbenle and Chantelle Handy were teamed with Shequila Joseph and London Lions star Shanice Beckford-Norton.
Great Britain swept their pool with wins over the second-seed Hungary 17-12 before dismantling Slovakia 21-13 setting up the qualification game with Belarus.
The qualification game was their closest of the competition with GB coming away winners with a 16-14 advantage to send GB to Paris.
Temi Fagbenle and Chantelle Handy both ranked in the top ten in scoring, with Fagbenle ranking fourth with her 17 points in three games, whilst Handy was ninth with 14 points in the competition. The top scorer overall was Ukraine’s Ganna Ruloyva with an incredible 26 points in her three games played.
The WNBA has enough news in a day to deserve its own newsletter but here goes.
Slugfest in Vegas
Las Vegas Aces edged Seattle Storm in a Sunday overtime classic. The Aces and Storm are the top two teams in America and it is fitting that they were not separable after 40 minutes of action. The star down the stretch for Vegas was Chelsea Gray who had 21 points in the game and 15 points in the fourth and overtime periods. Gray took over in the final minutes, being aggressive, driving the lane and using her pull up midrange jumper to great effect as Vegas took a huge victory.
A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart excelled in the contest with 22 and 35 points respectively and arguably in the battle of the centers it was MErcedes Russel of the Storm who edged it over Liz Cambage finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The WNBA is the epitome of a win now league. Just look at the Rookie of the year race, there are 17 rookies in the league this season as the famously competitive WNBA only has 144 jobs across the 12 teams.
Notable transactions from the past few weeks include:
Candice Dupree waived by Seattle
Lauren Cox waived by Indiana signed by Los Angeles
Karlie Samuelson signed by Los Angeles
Kiah Stokes waived by New York signed by Las Vegas
Astou Ndour-Falls activated by Chicago
Jonquel Jones activated by Connecticut
Shyla Heal trade to Dallas from Chicago and waived
Kristine Anigwe waived by Dallas signed by Los Vegas
All Stars Named
The 2021 WNBA All-Stars have been named after a series of votes with a final panel of WNBA coaches selecting the final 12 players. The All-Star game in Olympic years sees the top Non US Olympic athletes take on the Olympic Team, this year in Vegas on the 14th July.
A long list of 36 vote getters awarded by the public (50% of the votes) current WNBA players (25% of the votes) and members of the US media (25% of the votes) was whittled down to the final 12 by the WNBA coaches.
Notable absentees from the All-Star team are Marina Mabrey and Nneka Ogwuimke. Mabrey has been in incredible form for Dallas and is in the running for the Most Improved Player award at the end of the season, and her omission has raised eyebrows.
As for Nneka Ogwumike, her omission from All-Star is less surprising given she has played in just 5 games in the WNBA this season, however it is her “snub” from the Team USA Olympic roster that has much of the American Basketball scene up in arms as one of the elite players in the world has been overlooked again for the Olympics.
Full WNBA All-Star Team
Team USA announce Olympic Roster
As previously mentioned Nneka Ogwumike’s omission from the final 12 has been met with controversy and outrage in the USA with her Sparks team mate Amanda Zahui B.disagreeing with the decision. “I think it’s straight up bulls**t. I think that politics play way too big a role in this. I think that they were playing her, and it is unacceptable.”
There have been discussions regarding the political and vague nature of roster selection, with rumours of college allegiance playing a large part of the selection process, but there have been those defending the decision on grounds that Nneka Ogwumike, despite being a major part of the Team USA structure outside of the Olympics winning gold in the last two world cups, has been injured and may not be game ready for the Olympics.
Candace Parker, who won gold in 2008 and 2012 for Team USA had this to say on the selections. “How many times are we gonna say it’s unfair, how many times are we gonna say it’s not politics it’s bullshit which is why I’m commentating in Tokyo and not playing” in response to a question from Doug Fienberg. Parker recently announced she would be part of the commentary crew for NBC’s Olympic Basketball coverage.
Team USA will feature six players who have never represented at the Olympics with reigning league MVP A’ja Wilson set for her first appearance at what many consider the highest level competition in International Basketball. Ariel Atkins, Napheesa Collier, Chelsea Gray and Jewell Loyd will also make their Olympic debut under Head Coach Dawn Staley, who was an assistant in 2016 under Geno Auriemma.
Team USA Roster
Coach: Dawn Staley