Big Five Women and Drexel Gather Under One Roof

By Mel Greenberg

  Less than 24 hours after the dedication of St. Joseph's Michael Hagan Arena, players and coaches from allthe Big Five women's teams and Drexel will gather on Hawk Hill Sunday morning for the annual Big Five basketball clinic, which also serves as a fundraiser for the Coaches vs. Cancer foundation.

 The fee is $25 for and the clinic is open to the first 300 girls who register between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. just before the two-hour session gets under way.

 Players must be in the grades 1-8 while the event is also open to AAU, grade school and high school coaches.

Sunday's gathering will be the first formal Big Five participation of new Penn coach Mike McLaughlin and his staff after his longtime stint at Holy Family. Drexel coach Denise Dillon's Dragons are the reigning Colonial Athletic Association champions, including senior Gabriela Marginean, the CAA player of the year.

  The Guru hears more could be in store for Drexel on Tuesday morning in Washington when the men's and women's pre-season picks are made known at the CAA annual media day.

                      Lisa Leslie's new cause

    As mentioned in the previous blog, former WNBA star Lisa Leslie, who retired three weeks ago after a storied career in the pro league, internationally with three Olynpic gold  medals, and at Southern Cal, visited town Friday as part of a barnstorming tour promoting liver cancer awareness.

    Leslie lost her stepfather Tom Espinoza to the disease in early 2001 after being diagnosed in December 2000, which is a year earlier than the Guru mentioned on a previous post.

   Due to a schedule switch, Leslie did not speak at a luncheon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, as orginally planned, but did have lunch across the street in Center City at Doctor Watson's Pub, a longtime hangout of The Inquirer Sports Department.

   "I've always been involved with causes that are more helpful for people than for myself," Leslie said of her involvement.

    "This is no different. Losing my stepfather in 2001, it was hard to see someone deteriorate very quickly when he lost his battle to liver cancer," Leslie said. "To see my mom and him go through that without options was probably the hardest part.

 "I'm teaming with Covidien, which is a health care company and it provides different procedures and some surgeries that can help with the liver cancer. I wanted to make sure people got information from their new website"

Leslie said the health care group found her in terms of her involvement in the crusade.

"That was really good and they did their research and were aware Tom died from liver cancer. It eas easy for me to get involved, a no-brainer because the situation we went through having options and information, I just thought it would be great for people to know they have options.

"Liver cancer and lung cancer are two diseases you don't hear a lot about," she said.

Leslie has been involved in campaigns battling breast cancer and she said, "The difference is that there are so many options that make you feel it is preventative and it gives you hope. Now there's those things that are surrounding livercancer, too, so it's great we can get that message out."

Of course, the conversation also turned to basketball.

Leslie is looking at broadcast and maybe coaching opportunities, among other options, but noted, "I really want to take my time. Because when I get involved with something I'm really passionate about it and I want to make sure that can continue."

 She has no idea who the Sparks will turn to replace Michael Cooper, who is the new coach of Leslie's alma mater at USC. But she would be thrilled to see her USC coach Marianne Stanley, the former Immaculata star and Old Dominion coach who has been a Sparks assistant, get promoted.

Leslie wants to be around the pro game and noted, "It will be interesting to see the staying power (in the pros) between the Connecticut players and Tennessee players,"

 She thought former Huskies guard Renee Montgomery came into a tough situation as a rookie in being picked by the Minnesota Lynx, which is a very young team.

 Leslie, a good friend of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, the former Temple member who was her Olympic teammate, also discussed the difference in mindsets of younger players, even some in the WNBA, as opposed to her generation.

"I only knew one thing and that was to keep working hard whether it was just at practice or in a game," Leslie said.

She cited Connecticut junior Maya Moore as a player who gets after it in all situations.

Leslie said she doesn't feel any different right now in the early days of her retirement since her activities are the same as if she would be still an active player.

"But it was time to leave," Leslie said. "However, when next summer comes around, wow, for the first time I'm going to have it all to myself."

                  -- Mel