Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The 76-inch Reason for the Rutgers Press Conference: Elena DelleDonne

When I first saw the details of the Rutgers press conferece, I was a little annoyed, to be honest. I felt that C. Vivian Stringer (henceforth, CV), the Rutgers basketball coach, had three choices in organizing her response to the Imus controversy.
1. Ignore it
2. Brush it off and play the "no respect" card. Imus is just another in the long line of people who disrespected us, but we got in the championship game and will be in the hunt again next year.
3. Fan the flames and make it clear that Imus' comments were hurtful and disrespectful.

Having seen so much men's basketball, I was expecting 2. to occur. However, CV chose 3. Why "3."? (EdBias: it took me forever to answer this. Just giving you prior warning!).

Aside: And why, pray tell, did all the women have to wear their warm-up gear to the press conference? Those women should have been in nice dresses and pant suits, making a mockery of the sterotypes behind Imus' words. Seeing is believeing, ladies; you missed a great opportunity to back up your statements with your dress.

Take a look at the Rutgers' roster. 70% of the players come from New York or New Jersey. Those aren't bad states to recruit from; it must be nice to get ballers from the Bronx and Brooklyn. The NYC Factor is nothing to be ashamed of. But Rutgers Remains in a Regional Recruiting Rut.

What must have stung CV and Rutgers the most was the sliver of truth in Imus's belittling, offensive comments. Imus was right when he referred to the Rutgers women as "tough" in his initial statement. I watched all of Rutgers vs. Tennessee last year, and listened/watched to significant parts of Rutgers games from the Elite Eight on. Rutgers devoured Arizona State with their aggressive defense. CV is a tough, admirable woman who gets the most out of her players; she got Cheyney State into the Final Four 25 years ago. I mean, at least most fans had half a clue as to where George Mason was located. Cheyney State?! Rutgers is tough from the coach on down.

However, they have not been able to get the blue-chip all-American players to come to Rutgers. Rutgers has the misfortune of being in Connecticut's shadow. Just like the men's game did some 25 years ago beginning with Magic Johnson and later Scottie Pippen, the women's game is starting to develop point forwards. And Rutgers' inability to sign such a player hurt them in the final game. Tennessee's Candace Parker (6'4") and Sidney Spencer (6'3") were able to score and defend inside and outside on the court.

But this year, Rutgers, not Connecticut, was in the Final Two. That should help Rutgers finally recruit on a national level. Those of you who went to the "other" high school in town or the "other" college in state know how tough it is to beat out the team on top; but if you can do it once, you can do it again. This is the type of breakout year that CV can use to build a PROGRAM for years to come. A strong incoming recruiting class guarantees a five-year run of excellence (including this last year). And guess what? Next year, there is another Candace Parker on the recruiting horizon. CV must have been excited indeed.

Elena DelleDonne plays in Delaware, and the 6'4" member of the class of 2008 is the Lebron James of high school basketball. I'd rather not post a lot of pictures, as she isn't a senior yet. Use google image search, though, and you can see the skills in her game. She was leading her team to state championships as an EIGHTH grader! Take a look at the body control on her rebound here, and you can tell that she is one gifted athlete. CV would have loved to stick her on Parker in the championship game.

Her list of schools? (thanks to scout.scout.com for the info) Connecticut, Maryland, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee, Texas, Villanova. Two members of the Big East are there, but no Rutgers. Elena has never expressed interest in Rutgers, to my knowledge. And to be honest, there wasn't much reason to in the past. But guess who was at last weekend's Boo Williams tournament, where Elena DellaDonne was playing? CV. Sure, she was probably there to see April Sykes, who has voiced interest in Rutgers. But I'd be very surprised if a coach as experienced as CV didn't manage to "bump" into Elena in the halls, either.

With Rutgers' performance this year, they earned the right to be re-considered by the Elena DelleDonne's of the world. They were shedding that small, scrappy, second-rate image that they had compared to the Connecticuts and Tennessee's of the NCAA. And with a few casual words, Imus pushed them right back into that mold.

Think Elena's parents want her going to a team of "nappy-haired hos"? Think her friends wouldn't give her a little grief about considering Rutgers now? Think her Connecticut friends wouldn't tease her about how "you don't want to be one of those hardcore hos, do you"? They would, and CV knows that. I suggest that CV participated in the press conference as she did, not only to defend her current team, but also with one eye on how this affected recruiting. That's no surprise; it's what smart coaches do.

I know the Rutgers story is old news, but I wanted to let you in on some of the background subtext that you may not have been aware of. I'll try to give you a better and SHORTER post on Thursday.

1 comment:

  1. This is Mizzo from the starting five and someone whose lived in Delaware most of my life.

    Rutgers signed the player who beat Elena in the championship game, Kadijah Rushdan. Rushdan and Elena have battled back and forth the last few years. Kadijah wanted to attend Duke, but chose Rutgers instead.