Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:02 PM)
Hello. We're a week away from the launch of WNBA season. Rosters are starting to finalize, and all that. With the May start, everything is accelerated, it feels like. So ... let's get started.
Joseph (Manhattan, Kansas)
Leticia Romero has said several times that there is no tampering. What else can she do about her situation? Too much ego from KS-tate AD to change his decision?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
Let's hope ego doesn't trump common sense and recognizing the decision was wrong. Because it was. I spent a lot of time talking on and off the record to people involved in this decision. I think the university jumped to the conclusion that since she asked to leave, it had to be because a member or members of the former staff was behind it. I interviewed Romero over the phone and in person. I talked to her nearly three hours between the two. I asked her a ton of questions. She is extremely bright, very well-spoken even though she has only been speaking English regularly for less than a year, and she has a very strong personality. I believe her. I think school officials did not take enough time to just *listen* to her. John Currie, the athletic director, did not even meet with her before signing off on the decision to deny her release. He may say that's because she didn't ask him directly for the release. She went to the compliance office, because she thought that was where she was supposed to go. Why didn't the AD reach out to the best player on the team last year and say, "Let's have a face-to-face meeting about you wanting a release. Let me hear from you why, and let's talk about it." Was she not important enough? Was it easier to just deny the release, assume she was a puppet, and then toss her to the appeals committee, which never gave her any reasons for denying her appeal? What more does she have to say? She's said, "I wasn't tampered with, but if you are so sure I was, then block ANY school you want to block." Do they really have to block every D-I school in the United States by denying the release? Does that seem even marginally reasonable?
kevin (macon ga)
Magic Johnson earned the ire of Sparks fans this week when he axed Larry Burnett, the "voice of the Sparks" since 1997. Is the honeymoon over already in Los Angeles?
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
Well, let's hope not. I feel bad for Larry, because he knew everything about that team, the entire history, and his passion for the Sparks was obvious. Sometimes, really crappy things like this happen when there is a change in management. You wish that wasn't the case. It's unfortunate, because there are other WNBA franchises that could sure use a broadcaster that was so invested in the team.
Jonathan (New York)
What is it about the Chicago Sky that they trade away talent and get pennies on the dollar in return -- I'm thinking Kristi Toliver, Candice Dupree, and now Swin Cash?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
I am assuming, like most WNBA observers, that Swin Cash had the upper hand here and it was going to force a trade. That's a terrible position for Chicago to be in, but even so ... yes, it seemed insane that - no offense to Courtney Clements - the Sky got so little for a player of Cash's magnitude. I think it was a fabulous deal for the Dream, though.
Eli California [via mobile]
Katie Lou Samuelson is #1 recruit in the 2015 class what do you think STANFORD's chances are of landing a #1 recruit seeing that her two older sisters (Bonnie & Karlie) are currently on the team
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
I don't know this young woman, so I can't really guess what will most motivate her college choice. I would think for some people, going to Stanford and playing with your siblings couldn't be trumped by anything. But she may have other aspirations. I hope she does whatever is best for her.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
I think Chiney Ogwumike is going to be in the position to put up big numbers for the Connecticut Sun, because they will need production from her. So the No. 1 pick would project as the front-runner. Of course, the No. 2 pick, Elene Delle Donne, won the ROY award last year.
RS (Austin, TX)
How do you think the Chicago Sky will do this year? Do you think EDD will be even better than her awesome Rookie year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
It seems like EDD has gotten physically stronger, which was a big goal of hers. I think she's also blossoming as a person and a leader. She has taken on a big role in terms of promoting the Sky franchise, and she seems to be embracing that. There are a lot of questions, still, about the Sky. How healthy is Syvia Fowles now, and how healthy can she stay all season? Who fills in - and how well - for Swin Cash? How much can the younger (rookies included) players help the vets take some of the scoring pressure off EDD? I can't help but think there's still at least one large missing piece with this team. Maybe someone will step forward and fill it.
kevin (macon ga)
What is Kansas State trying to accomplish by refusing Leticia Romero's transfer?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
They didn't think it would ever get attention. I think they thought they could just deny her release, and maybe she'd just stay and play for Jeff Mittie. But she chose the appeal hearing. So she went through this hearing - by the way, if you are interested in some of the details of that, I will post them on my blog today - and got a ONE paragraph email saying it was denied. No explanations. Maybe they thought she'd just give up. Go to junior college. Go home to Spain. Or maybe even go back and play for Kansas State. They were not prepared to defend their decision because it really isn't defensible. So here's what they did: toss what amounted to an accusation of tampering on Twitter. Leak this tampering theory to a Web site that covers K-State sports, resulting in an article that then pretty much STATES that tampering occured. (Proof?) Then when questioned, don't comment, citing "concerns" for student privacy. Then batton down the hatches and hope the storm blows over. Hope that K-State fans, instead of questioning how this whole thing was handled, circle the wagons against "outsiders." But you know what? K-State fans are loyal to their university, but a lot of them are also not blind to mistakes made. Many of them want Romero to be given her release, and then move on.
What do you think the end resolution will be at K State?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
If they want to do the right thing, give Leti Romero her release. She did nothing wrong. She had a reasonable basis for wanting to transfer. The coaches she came to play for were fired. I know some people will say that's *not* a good-enough reason; I disagree with them. Romero came from another country to play for these coaches. She played very well this season. It's not her fault the coaches were fired. Let her go. Move on with your program. And if the university REALLY cares about self-improvement, have an internal, honest dialogue about why this situation turned out this way. Every school makes mistakes. People are human. But you can learn from them, and grow.
Do you think Bria Hartley and Stef Dolson being on the same will help or hurt in their development? Just wonder if they get too comfortable, will it impede growth.
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
I don't see why it would impede their growth. Nobody who plays four years for Geno Auriemma is inclined to get "comfortable" on the court. :) Now that they are pros, they will each focus on their individual goals and areas of improvement, as well as how that fits into the team construct of the Mystics.
Are you expecting more impressive performance this year from Griner than last year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
In a word: Yes. If she's fully healthy, she should have more of comfort factor this year, just because of experience. She has a new coach in Sandy Brondello, but she knows what the WNBA grind and expectations are like. I think she would look at her rookie season as a bit of disappointment ... that's the way it goes when you are the No. 1 pick. But maybe she will have the kind of season this year that people were looking for last year. And even if she doesn't ... of course, she's still very young.
darryl p (indianapolis)
can the fever make it back to the finals with the current roster?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
I think yes, it would be possible to make it to the Finals. But Atlanta seems like the East front-runner.
kevin (macon ga)
Nicole Powell announced she is retiring from the WNBA at the end of this season. Did she ever have a chance of living up to the expectations people had from her Stanford days?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
I think she had the chance, but it's fair to say that people probably expected more. She's had a pretty long career, and she won a WNBA title. She wasn't a consistent superstar, and maybe some thought she would be. But she's still been able to play professionally for quite a while, and that's not easy to do.
John (Waco, Texas)
What are your upcoming pre-season predictions for the Big 12 title? Longhorns or Lady Bears once again? Nina Davis-potential all-american this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
Oh, gosh. Too far away. :) I think I still lean toward Baylor, even with Odyssey Sims is gone. As for Nina Davis, yes, if what we saw from her as a freshman continues and grows her sophomore year, I do think she's going to be getting All-American consideration.
So about that Swin Cash trade? Hard to recall another trade as one-sided. Any insights as to what really went down?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Again, all I can figure is the Sky felt it had no leverage and the Dream took advantage. I admit when I saw the trade, I was like, "Is this real?" I had to read it over again. Then I was like, "Have *I* lost touch with reality? Or is this so lopsided as to be ludicrous?"
darryl p (indianapolis)
does skylar diggins lead the shock to the playoffs this year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
Well ... you look at the West. Minnesota, LA, Phoenix - hard to imagine they are not playoff teams. So Tulsa, San Antonio, and Seattle are playing for that other spot. Is it possible for the Shock to grab that spot? I'm not going to rule it out. I just don't think it will happen.
What is the point of the WNBA preseason tourney if no one can watch it?
Mechelle Voepel (3:18 PM)
Well, like a lot of things with the WNBA ... it's a good idea, but the execution could use some improvement. Let me say this: I know it seems like I gripe a lot about "timing" with the WNBA, and how they do things without much apparent insight into how to maximize media exposure or fan participation. This event was announced April 23 - right at two weeks before it takes place. I didn't know about it until then. It's at Disney, on an ESPN property ... somehow, you'd think there could be better communication so that those of us at ESPN.com who cover women's basketball might have known and could have planned to be there. Maybe some of that is on my own company, maybe on the WNBA, I don't know. But you'd think for something like this to take place, they might have reached out earlier. Even a month's notice would have been helpful. But ... the years go by, and the same things happen over and over. :)
Alyssa A (OK)
What do you think Shoni Schimmel's role will be in Atlanta? Cooper has talked about her playing point guard but its hard to see her in that role and not as a shooting guard. Also, from pics she looks like she's slimed down quite a bit, do you think that will improve her performance for Atlanta like it did when she lost weight at U of L?
Mechelle Voepel (3:23 PM)
I think her role may change depending on who she is on the court with. I will be interested to see Atlanta's final roster, because I think there is a lot of talent there. Schimmel will be in a very different position than she was at Louisville, where she was the focal point of the offense. She is now in a supporting role as a rookie, and just needs to be open to whatever role they want her to play. I think she is wise enough to realize that.
kevin (macon ga)
I know you like the SAT style questions, so here goes...True or False: Swin Cash for the 2013 Dream = Latasha Byears for the 2001 Sparks.
Mechelle Voepel (3:28 PM)
I took the ACT, actually. :) Um, from the standpoint of being a player with experience, toughness and physicality added to a team that is looking for a way to make that final surge to a championship? Yes, I guess I could see a comparison between Cash and Byears. But they are NOT very much alike in any other way. :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:29 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. I will not be chatting next week, but we will have a lot of preview content on ESPN.com. I will resume the chat the following week.