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Hoops Happening: Courtney Vandersloot has come alive since All-Star snub

The Chicago Sky guard set a new league record on Tuesday night. Plus, WNBA All-Star Game ratings may offer some clues into possible cities for league expansion. This is today in women’s basketball for Wednesday August 1, 2018!

Courtney Vandersloot is not playing with you people.

Does Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot have your undivided attention yet?

Last night against the Dallas Wings, in a game in which the the Sky squandered a 24-point lead but came back to win it by one point, Vandersloot grabbed another headline — and it wasn’t for her 12 points and 14 assists that put her season double-double tally at six.

It wasn’t even that four of her six double-doubles for the season happened in four consecutive games. And, if these postgame notes and quotes are any indication, Vandersloot’s increased and more consistent production of late was not special enough to even mention.

But hopefully Vandersloot was celebrated heartily after the record was revealed that Vandersloot’s performance made her the first WNBA player to dish 50 assists across four consecutive games. With Vandersloot serving it up so freely, and everyone not only getting fed but feasting wildly, recognition is beyond warranted, especially given that her 14 assists were a game-high as well.

Now, whether she’ll admit to feeling snubbed by the All-Star voters is one thing. But Vandersloot’s performances since the All-Star selections were announced on July 17 is undeniable. Here’s how things shakeout by the numbers:

Vandersloot before the All-Star announcement:

Points and assists averages for games played June 17 through July 15

  • 9.85 points
  • 8.38 assists

Vandersloot after the All-Star announcement:

Points and assists averages for games played July 18 through July 31

  • 13.6 points
  • 11.2 assists

That’s a pretty sharp rise. And with the history-making and history-setting performances Vandersloot has mustered since the July 17 All-Star announcement, she has further cemented her legacy, thus, ensuring her name will pop up in WNBA conversations for years to come.

The next WNBA city will be ...

Ratings of the WNBA All-Star Game on ABC increased 17% over last year and it was the most watched All-Star Game since 2015. For anyone interested in league expansion, a look at the cities where viewership was highest reveals a lot about interest in the league, the seeds of that interest and prospective cities where a team might thrive.

The Lynx have built a championship dynasty in Minnesota, so it makes sense that host city Minneapolis would be at the front of the pack.

ESPN Media Zone

But this list illuminates a few trends:

#1. Former WNBA cities still love the game. Tulsa may have lost the Shock, but Oklahoma is still willing to tune in for WNBA basketball. San Antonio lost the Stars but viewers in that market still watched the WNBA All-Star Game in healthy numbers. Thus, once a WNBA city always a WNBA city? It seems clear that fans already have been cultivated, but while some may not be willing to pay for League Pass, others seem eager to turn on basic cable and watch a game.

#2. Players are the biggest draw. And, of course, player interest begins at the collegiate level. Powerhouse UConn has churned out some of the best basketball players to ever play the game. From legends Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi to newbies Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams, the WNBA is packed with UConn talent and people want to see them play professionally. Hence, the Connecticut market tied Minneapolis for market share.

Holding both theories in mind — that former WNBA cities and cities with strong collegiate ties/player interest — would make the most successful WNBA cities, Charlotte would be the ideal home to the next WNBA city. Thanks to UNC and Duke, North Carolina has always been a basketball state. But South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley and A’ja Wilson put the University of South Carolina Gamecocks solidly on the map and on the national stage.

Gamecocks fans want to see Wilson play in the pros. But she is not the sole Gamecock standout, as other South Carolina players have filled up WNBA fosters, too: Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis (Dallas Wings), Tiffany Mitchell (Indiana Fever) and Alaina Coates (Chicago Sky).

But Charlotte also is an NBA city (with the Hornets) and a former WNBA city (with the Sting, for which Staley once played) — pointing to all of the pieces being in place for a Charlotte WNBA team to thrive.

Last night in the league

Home court held no advantage on Tuesday night, as the Storm, Mystics and Sky all got wins on the road.

Next up on the court

Two nationally-televised matchups are on tonight’s schedule, with must-win situations being present for the New Liberty and Phoenix Mercury, who each have lost four games in a row. Stay tuned for previews!

News tidbits

It’s WNBA FIT Month! Get inspired. Get fit.

Throughout August, the WNBA, with help from Kaiser Permanente, will be promoting its “health and wellness program that encourages physical and mental well-being for fans of all ages.” Fans will have access to FIT clinics hosted by some of the league’s biggest stars, health tips from professionals and a behind-the-scenes look at some of the players’ training routines. Learn more.

All-in on the Aces and A’ja Wilson, says the entire world

Where A’ja Wilson goes, the money follows. If a statue in her likeness at University of South Carolina and the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game were not enough, MGM Resorts International has become an official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA. If this turns out to be a vibrant revenue stream for the WNBA, everyone should be all-in on this one.

Oh, and A’ja Wilson was named Rookie of the Month for July 2018, making it two of those awards in a row during her young WNBA career, and increasing the likelihood she’ll win it in August, as well, to sweep the season, before picking up the Rookie of the Year trophy as a mere matter of business.

LeBron James continues to be revolutionary

The features of his I Promise school will ensure that students who graduate enter the next phase of their lives on equal footing to their counterparts from more advantaged backgrounds. James knows through his own experiences of rising out of poverty, and then living as a wealthy black man in a society that tells him he has no business, that no amount of hard work can overcome grave inequities and lack of resources. LeBron James is the exception, not the rule for poor black children, and his philanthropic activities show his deep understanding of systemic injustice.

In other news ...

  • Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage picked up her seventh technical foul of the season and now faces another fine as well as suspension, joining Diana Taurasi of Phoenix Mercury in the tech-to-suspension club.
  • In related news, veteran WNBA referee Sue Blauch has been hired to fill a newly-created position: Head of WNBA Referee Performance and Development. Cambage has sounded off all season on the officiating, calling it, at times, “wack” and “terrible.” Could those complaints have forced the the league to act? And, if so, would Cambage have grounds to appeal her impending suspension?
  • Imani McGee-Stafford continues to use her platform wisely and call out those who don’t do the same. Too often people witness wrongdoing and don’t speak out about it. It is great to the women of the WNBA modeling something very different.

How to #WatchThemWork all season

Shine brighter. * flicker flicker *