POSTED ON MAY 12, 2010:
WNBA team has eye on the prize for the season
Bigger than Thought. Marion Jones, above, is just one of the players. If you were not aware of her Olympic stardom and subsequent fall from grace, you would think she is just one of the gals. In a way she is, but in a larger way, she is not.
Who foots the bill for our Amber Alert signs on highway 169? Pretty sure it is the state's responsibility, but why illuminate the signage when no emergency exists?
To take it a step further, if the city spends $1 a year on the board, upkeep, electricity or replacement bulbs, isn't that too much? Do we really need to be reminded to look out for motorcycles?
Also, motorists are likely to quit paying attention to the "be kind to motorcycles" message soon. What happens when an actual emergency message is scrolled? Will it have the same impact?
And with that, we are on to sports. I'm working on a piece for later this summer. It has taken me all over Tulsa. My stop last week was the Reynolds Center located on the University of Tulsa's campus.
This was the first time I entered the building and TU was not the focal point. No Coach Wojcik or Coach Graham interview on the docket.
Nope, this time it was a Tulsa Shock practice. T-Town, let's keep it real. None of us know what to expect from our professional WNBA team. Anyone who claims otherwise is 98 percent full of lawn fertilizer.
Here is what I can tell you from my 30-minute viewing session. The girls are going to get after it. Coach Nolan Richardson seems to have a plan in place, and the girls are responding.
Will this translate to W's? Who knows? Cannot say I've witnessed the talent level of other teams around the league.
"I can say on the defensive end, we get after it like in Detroit," said Shock guard and member of last year's Detroit Shock, Shavonte Zellous. Otherwise, very little has carried over from the Detroit version to our Shock.
"The style of play is a little different, but it takes some time to get used to it. Once you get the hang of how (Coach Richardson) wants things to go and where you need to be and how he wants you to play ... It'll be cake," Zellous said.
The team looked fast. The players appear ready to run, run and run some more. A lot will hinge on the ability to control the defensive glass and make crisp, quick outlet passes.
Of course, you cannot talk about a fast Shock team without mentioning Marion Jones. I'm still fascinated by her presence on this team. Am I the only one? Please tell me, and I can stop writing about her.
She is just one of the players. If you were not aware of her Olympic stardom and subsequent fall from grace, you would think she is just one of the gals. In a way she is, but in a larger way she is not.
When you watch any sport, you focus on the ball or puck. It's human nature. This is what makes analysts so valuable. They explain blocking schemes, off-ball movement and strategy.
When Jones is one of the 10 players on the court, you are constantly looking for her, too.
Remember, it was just 10 years ago Jones captured five medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was the fastest woman alive.
Fast forward to today, and she's sprinting up and down the court, while Nolan Richardson barks orders from the sideline. What were the odds against this scenario playing out 10 years ago?
After the structured practice completed, the girls paired up to shoot free throws. Jones and a teammate chose the basket where I was sitting. Her form was solid considering she has not played competitive hoops in six or seven years.
Her physique was good. Her arms and calves appeared strong and shapely but not quite like 10 years ago. How much of the physical decline is attributed to no longer using performance enhancing drugs, and how much of it is due to being a 34-year-old mother. Much of the latter me thinks.
Several other media members were on hand. The AP sports writer wanted to speak with Coach Richardson and two players. Guess who was one of the players he was seeking?
Fox 23 sent a cameraman and a petite gal to do a piece. It appeared as though she might have practiced with the girls for a bit as she adorned the same practice uniform the team did.
When her playtime was over and the camera turned on for interviewing, who was the second player they grabbed? You guessed it.
Should be an interesting season to say the least. And to wrap up the Shock preview, I leave you with this.
"You know (we) won three WNBA championships (as the Detroit Shock)," reminded Zellous. "That mentality is going to stay with us for the remainder of our WNBA career. We are looking to bring it to Tulsa and win these games and keep these fans happy and coming to see us play."
Visit wnba.com/tulsa for schedule and ticket information. For a more enhanced preview, visit this week's cover story on Page 21.
Just Kickin' It
A springtime sports column would not be complete without mention of the next mixed martial arts fight card coming to Tulsa.
The Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino hosts XFL's May 15 fight card. Three title fights highlight the night.
The main event features recently crowned 185-pound champion Trey "That Just Happened" Houston. He faces stiff competition in the form of Jeremiah Sanders.
Houston was recently featured in an UTW cover story. (Check out "Fighting to the Top" at urbantulsa.com.) His story is amazing. The TU student/fighter is 21 years old. He barely qualifies for entrance into the casino. Go figure.
As an added bonus, James "Lights Out" Toney will be on hand to officially announce his August fight against Randy Couture. Toney is an elite, slightly-pass-his-prime boxer making the conversion to mixed martial arts.
Visit the Osage Million Dollar Elm box office for tickets or call 627-7070.
The fights take place the same night as the Tulsa Shock's first home game. Chances are different audiences will attend each. No cross promoting for this evening.
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