Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat on the aftermath of Monday's WNBA draft.
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 Tuesday at noon ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:03 PM)
Good afternoon. The WNBA draft is done, A'ja Wilson's commitment is in the books, and there's a lot to mull over. Let's get started.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
How important will the May 16 CT Sun/NYL Opening day be for both teams? I think intangibilly it may be the most important game of the regular season. Either team gets blown out odds are high fans will turn on them (Especially if Thomas lights it up against NYL's young 3s and very old 4s) and moreso, this feels like a battle for the Sun's soul...Will the Uconn faithful really get behind the team's shots at Charles or will they stand for her and root libs because she is top huskie? What's your take, because I think this is so compelling they should send a truck on a short drive to Bristol to cover this! :)
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
Yes, could be a lot of drama there. Whatever happens, Liberty fans will overanalyze it, right? :) I don't think the ConnSun fans will get all mean toward Tina Charles, but I also think some of them (maybe a lot, I'm not sure) are a little ticked at her about her mindset last year and forcing the trade. They won't be rooting for the Libs. Chiney will win over the Sun fan base quickly, if she hasn't already. I think the Sun folks know they have a young team, and there could be growing pains even though there is talent there. The Lib fans are smart enough to know Charles is phenomenal, but there are still some issues with the team. One game does not a season make, but this one will be interesting.
Do you think that Coach McGraw instigating a verbal brawl with Auriemma was a clever way to divert persistent questioning of her top players at the FF about what they would try to do to offset Achonwa's absence, or she meant most of her comments?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
I'd never thought of Muffet McGraw as someone who might come up with any elaborate plot to divert the media, really. Although she surely didn't want the Irish to be thinking about what then actually happened: They got killed in the paint. Overall, though, I think she was genuinely irritated with some of Geno's remarks (the Lent thing, etc.) and then didn't hold back.
What is your opinion on Tina Charles refusing to play for the Connecticut Sun and threatening to sit out the season? A local reporter said she quit on her team. Is quit too strong a word? Did the Sun get fair value in return for Tina?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
I think this is part of pro sports. Tina Charles is one of the very best centers in women's pro basketball. She maybe *the* best, in fact. In 2012, she won the league MVP, got the team to one game of the WNBA finals, and then they fired the coach she liked. So ... she used the power she has and said, "I'm going elsewhere." I understand that wouldn't sit well with fans, but like I said, it is part of what goes on in pro sports.
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
Folks, I am very sorry to cut the chat short. I will come back to it, possibly tomorrow afternoon, and try to get to several more questions. There is breaking news that Diamond DeSheilds may be transferring from North Carolina, and I'm trying to follow up on that. Will let you know via twitter when I will come back to chat. Thanks.
Buzzmaster (4:55 PM)
Hey everyone, Mechelle will be back on Tuesday at noon ET to resume her chat from last week that was cut short due to breaking news. Be sure to stop on by!
Mechelle Voepel (12:04 PM)
Good afternoon. Sorry the chat was cut short last week, will try to tackle various topics today. Let's get started.
Jessica (Tar Heel Country)
First thoughts on the transfer of Diamond DeShields?
Mechelle Voepel (12:14 PM)
I've thought about it a lot, but I have not spoken with Diamond since it was announced. So whatever I think about it is speculation based on past conversations with her and with other people who have "observed" what went on. When you are a recruit so talented that you can pretty much "go anywhere" it sometimes is more difficult to make the right decision because you have so many options. Add to that, a couple of things. Diamond and the three others who committed along with her were essentially trying to put together their team, as opposed to just focusing on their own individual recruitment. I think this has become more and more common as young players in the recruiting process communicate a lot on social media. The danger of it is that as an incoming freshman, you don't really know fully what you're going to be facing. It's enough to try to manage yourself, not try to manage the make-up of the team. Also, the assistant who was so involved with Diamond's recruitment to UNC, Tricia Stafford-Odom, left before Diamond and the others got there. That combined with Sylvia Hatchell's illness may have left all the freshmen feeling like what happened was not what they expected.
Irving Matchen (Washington, DC)
I still can't believe DeShields is transferring when the future looked really bright for NC. Will she recover from this no matter where she lands?
Mechelle Voepel (12:20 PM)
She's a really talented player with lot of goals. I think ultimately, as long as she stays healthy, she has a long and bright future ahead. However, I don't know how her college career will go. Unless she's able to get a hardship transfer, she'll have to sit out a year. How will she adjust to a new school and system? Where will that be? It could turn out she goes to a school and is very successful, as is the team. But that's an unknown, compared to the known fact that UNC made it to the Elite Eight this year and had everyone coming back.
Craig (Taftville, CT)
What is your take on the situation surrounding Tina Charles forcing her way out of Connecticut? Thanks.
Mechelle Voepel (12:27 PM)
I don't think it's a great thing for the league, because Connecticut was clearly put in a position where it had to trade an MVP winner who is just entering the prime of her career. But ... it seemed she had the bargaining power because she was willing to threaten sitting out if she wasn't traded. That's the economic world the WNBA is in; a star player can make enough money elsewhere to be able to say, "If you don't do what I want, I won't play." From Tina Charles' point of view, though, she would say, "I was the MVP of a team that got within a game of the Finals, and you fired the coach I wanted to keep in place." So she felt disrespected to some degree, by ConnSun management, I think, and then didn't thaw in regard to new coach Anne Donovan. People will make up their own minds on what they think of Charles' decision and how she carried it out. I guess knowing her personality and the fact that she felt she had the upper hand, I wasn't really surprised she forced the trade.
Eli Bay Area [via mobile]
We have finally reached the end of the Ogwumike era. Do you see STANFORD rebuilding or reloading?
Mechelle Voepel (12:33 PM)
Maybe somewhere in between? :) I know, that's wishy-washy, but part of it is I'm unsure how much longer Tara VanDerveer is jazzed up to be a head coach and continue in the recruiting wars. I know she loves the teaching and X's/O's aspect of the sport, but the rest of it may be getting a bit old. Over the years, we've been waiting to see if other programs in the Pac-12 will emerge as consistent contenders over the long haul, and none have. Is that starting to change. I'm not sure. Maybe. Cal getting the FF last year was a breakthrough. But I've been a little fooled before into thinking it was really happening for the Pac-12, and then it didn't. So ... I think part of the question about Stanford's future is linked a bit to how good the conference can get as a whole. Will someone overtake the Cardinal?
keith (New York)
Does Meighan Simmons has a good chance of making the liberty team with her scoring ability?
Mechelle Voepel (12:37 PM)
It depends on what she has to offer that may effectively complement what else the Liberty has. It seems like Bill Laimbeer is looking at various options for getting more offense, but can Simmons provide that more than some players who are more expererienced professionally than her? Can she differentiate herself enough in camp to earn a job? I am not ruling it out, but think it will be pretty difficult.
With Sylvia Fowles injured, who is most likely to start at center for Chicago?
Mechelle Voepel (12:41 PM)
That is a good question. And I'm not sure there is a good answer. Based on what I've read Pokey Chatman say, the opportunity is there for young players like Sasha Goodlett and Avery Warley to stop forward, along with a rookie like Markeisha Gatling. But that's a lot to expect from those players. I don't know ... maybe the Sky is really hoping that Big Syl is a quick healer.
ccollin13 [via mobile]
Will Jordan Hooper be a contributor in Tulsa? It seems like if there was any team where she'd have a shot at real minutes, it would be in Tulsa, where there is desperate need for a 3.
Mechelle Voepel (12:43 PM)
I think it's at least the potential for a good fit. She's big and a good shooter. There are a lot of areas of her game that will need work for her to make it at the pro level, but she's a really hard-working kid who will take instruction well.
O'Brian (Washington, DC)
What are you thoughts on Mike Thibault's selections of Stefanie Dolson and the trade for Bria Hartley? Do you think they are good fits for his system?
Mechelle Voepel (12:47 PM)
I thought Dolson was a good pick, but I admit being surprised about the trade of Crystal Langhorne to Seattle to bring Hartley and Tianna Hawkins. I assume Thibault is thinking long-term about what he wants the team to look like, mixing in more youth. And I guess he is bullish on the UConn connection. Huskies players have, by and large, performed well in the WNBA.
kstater (Little Apple)
Any news on next coaching job for Deb Patterson, Kamie Ethridge or Shalee Lehning?
Mechelle Voepel (12:55 PM)
At this point, I'm not aware if any of them are actively involved in job searches. One would certainly think, though, that Ethridge and Lehning will rejoin the college ranks. I'm just not as sure about how Patterson sees her future and if she wants to keep coaching. I'm not trying to be snarky, but seriously, a private religious institution might be a good fit for Patterson.
stever (Ann Arbor)
So what does Leticia Romero do?
Mechelle Voepel (1:02 PM)
I have been monitoring the situation at Kansas State with Romero having been denied a release from her scholarship. Certainly, a lot of people have criticized the school for that. In talking to various folks, I know the school feels there are some legitimate reasons in regard to its decision. Those likely won't change the minds of those who think K-State should have just granted the release and let this young woman get on with her life/career. In regard to what Romero will do now, I expect to be speaking to her soon to attempt to get her thoughts directly. I have been working on a story about the situation, but have needed to keep gathering more information to have a really informed opinion. Clearly, it's a difficult situation for this student-athlete.
Will Kayla McBride make an immediate impact for San Antonio?
Mechelle Voepel (1:05 PM)
I think so, because she is needed. I also believe she's ready to contribute at that level, and that Dan Hughes picked her because he felt she was going to be an impact player quickly. All rookies have a lot to learn, but every pro coach/GM I talked to was very high on McBride's prospects.
jbb1985 (2013-2014 post mortem room)
Tenn loses only Simmons, gets its usual top recruits, and returns some injured players. Additionally, Coach Warlick has another year of seasoning (even though she has been on the Tenn bench for quite a while, decades). Do the Lady Vols finally get back to the FF next season? If they do not, will Warlick start to notice the rising temperature of her seat and increasingly hear some Rocky Top faithful grumbling become audible a la Gene Bartow following Wooden?
Mechelle Voepel (1:09 PM)
I would assume Holly Warlick has felt a pretty significant amount of pressure ever since it was revealed that Coach Summitt was ill. I think this has been a harder transition for Warlick than she ever talks about, because I doubt she was really ever expecting it to happen. As for Final Four prospects ... are they significantly better than this year? I thought the Lady Vols had a pretty decent chance to go as a No. 1 seed, but it didn't happen. Considering how much talent both South Carolina and Texas AM return, I think Tennessee's focus just needs to be on competing really well in the SEC, and not obsessing over Final Four propects during the season.
kevin (macon ga)
South Carolina is bringing back everybody and adding a stellar recruiting class. UConn loses two starters off of a team that didn't have much depth. Which one will be the preseason #1?
Mechelle Voepel (1:12 PM)
I wouldn't be surprised if UConn was still preseason No. 1, just because we pretty much always give the Huskies every benefit of the doubt. Considering their success, it's understandable why. I don't know what I'm going to do. I won't worry about that until October.
Mike (San Antonio)
Stars training camp looks like an old Big 12 reunion - Whitney Hand (Oklahoma), Carolyn Davis (Kansas), Karla Gilbert (Texas A&M/former Big 12). Will any of these 3 make the roster?
Mechelle Voepel (1:14 PM)
Maybe Davis? She is very talented, but was derailed by that serious knee injury while at Kansas. But I felt like she could blossom as a pro player if she was committed to it.
jbb1985 (east or not so east)
How long does it take Kelly Graves to remake Oregon from the uber run-and-gun to some version, presumably, of Gonzaga?
Mechelle Voepel (1:20 PM)
Probably not very long. When coaches have been very successful at a so-called mid-major program, the question always is, "What could they do at a BCS program?" Why hasn't Oregon been good? Why haven't the Ducks been able to keep top recruits in state? I think it's been largely a matter of not having the right coach. Graves proved his ability at Gonzaga, and I think we all wondered when/if he would tackle the challenge of taking over a Pac-12 program. This is his chance.
Adam (Columbus, Miss.) [via mobile]
What do you think of mississippi state's chances next season to move up in the SEC and to crack national rankings?
Mechelle Voepel (1:22 PM)
I think Vic Schaefer has that program headed in the right direction, and you've seen positive signs of that in various games since he took over. Exactly whether it will happen next year, I'm not sure. Do I think he will be able to create a top-25 type program there? Yes. I don't know that it will be perennially in that category, but I think fans would be pretty happy just to be in the conversation.
Now that Stephanie Dolson has completed her UConn era with another title, all eyes will be on Kiah Stokes to fill her role in 2015. Stokes can definitely rebound
Mechelle Voepel (1:24 PM)
That's one of the big questions for UConn, isn't it? Will Stokes blossom in her last year, now that UConn really needs her? Geno Auriemma talked about how Stokes responded during the NCAA tournament, and how much the team/coaches had been dying to see that from her. I think she will have a pretty good season next year.
Tim (Lexington, KY)
How do you think DeNeesha Stallworth will perform in the WNBA
Mechelle Voepel (1:27 PM)
I do think she has potential, and maybe there is a place for her on the Sun roster. But it's a young team, so she'll be competing in part with a lot of other young players. The thing is, when we saw Stallworth at her best in college - which wasn't consistently, of course - she definitely seemed to have the ability to someday play professionally.
jbb1985 (east or not so east)
With Tulsa getting Sims and Goodrich starting much of last season at PG once displacing Diggins, is now or soon a good time to trade Diggins while she retains more trade value than if she languishes another season as a highly-paid, high profile backup guard/
Mechelle Voepel (1:28 PM)
I think it's fair to say that's something to watch for with Tulsa. Will Skylar Diggins be better in her second WNBA season, or will she become somewhat marginalized? And if she does, is she of more value to a team in a bigger media market?
Orlando (Norman, Ok)
Mechelle... Big 12 continues to lead the nation in attendance and fans fanatical about WCBB, but the top recruits seem to be shying away. Why?
Mechelle Voepel (1:34 PM)
It seems like Baylor is still getting top talent, and Texas appears to be re-asserting itself in that regard. As for the other programs ... it points out how hard it can be to sustain success. I sense a little stagnation in the conference. I am not entirely sure why, or if it's just a temporary thing. But the Big 12 really seemed more vibrant a decade ago than it does now, in terms of the talent on teams in general.
Irving Matchen (Washington, DC)
Who do you favor to win the WNBA title this season?
Mechelle Voepel (1:35 PM)
Minnesota is my pick again. I don't think that will change in the weeks before we have our season preview.
Irving Matchen (Washington, DC)
What a week with A'ja Wilson and Dimonad DeShields. Two questions rolled in one: how good do you think SC will be with Wilson and if DD goes to TN how good can they be with her (even sitting out a year)?
Mechelle Voepel (1:39 PM)
South Carolina doesn't really need A'ja Wilson to come in and dominate or anything like that. They have so much talent coming back, she can ease in a bit as a freshman and find her comfort zone. I think especially fueled by the disappointment of losing in the Sweet 16, the Gamecocks will be very good next season. And if DeShields goes to Tennessee, I think she will help that program a lot. She needs to be a more disciplined shooter, but I think she really does know that. I don't know, though, where she will end up. Honestly, Tennessee would seem like a good guess.
DAMIAN (Brooklyn N.Y.)
What predictions do you think the Liberty will be in if all the players are healthy?
Mechelle Voepel (1:41 PM)
I think they are a playoff team, but it seems like they are still short of being a championship contender, at least this season. We'll see ... I'm just not sure the Libs have all the pieces just yet. Plus, we have yet to see how the chemistry will work with this year's team.
Isn't it kind of comical that the 'expansion' of rosters to 12 players was thrown out as such a positive for the players from CBA negotiations, when at least half the league is only going to carry 11 anyway? Seems like a thoroughly worthless 'gain' for the players.
Mechelle Voepel (1:43 PM)
Let's see how it plays out long-term. I understand the frustration about how this is not necessarily much different than before, but at least there are going to be a few more jobs in the league. Infant steps, I hope.
Deep in the Heart (Texas)
SI released their PRE preseason Top 10 yesterday with Baylor #10. As a AP Top 25 voter, do you see Baylor in your Top 10? If not, where would you project the Lady Bears?
Mechelle Voepel (1:46 PM)
As I said, I probably won't think much about rankings until the fall but ... if I had to do it right now, Baylor is higher than 10 for me. Maybe more like 7 or 8, even despite losing Odyssey Sims. There is still a lot of talent coming back, and they got better at really supporting Sims as this past season went on.
Mechelle Voepel (1:47 PM)
Thanks for all the questions; hopefully we covered most of the topics from this week and last week. We'll chat again closer to the start of the WNBA season.