Guru News and Muse: Drexel Glow Continues Into The After-Season

By Mel Greenberg

 PHILADELPHIA - Since the traffic report of the Guru site the last few days or so resembles the direction of the nation's economy, the graph line illustration was enough to jolt the Guru back into doing hitting the keyboard.

Maybe a stimulus will soon be provided from Vice President Biden's residential state just to the south of us. (See next item). He was born in Pennsylvania, incidentally.

In the interim, the Guru has been busy commuting back and forth from the office to Drexel in West Philadelphia where the Dragons continue to shine in the aftermath of their most successful season that culminated with a first-ever Colonial Athletic Association title that translated into an NCAA tournament debut.

Several weeks ago, the school celebrated with a new approach to the annual men's and women's awards dinner.

Rather than use a hall on campus for the formal sit-down event of past years, the Dragons used their very own court at the Daskalakis Athletic Center for a night of fancy appetizers with the main meal being the presentations. Noteworthy was the unveiling of two banners for the women to mark their postseason season success.

With the Drexel men finishing far above their predicted last-place finish in the CAA, both coach Bruiser Flint and Denise Dillon earned conference coach of the year titles, a rarity of sorts in many leagues with the trophies in both genders being given to the same school.

During Dillon's remarks she cited Amy Mallon, her associate head coach who is a former St. Joseph's star, as well as the rest of the staff and team.

  Mallon was one of the finalists in the recent Penn search before she withdrew ahead of the Quakers' decision.

 "Drexel seemed to be a better place for me right now," Mallon told the Guru.

Dillon also alluded to a bit of some financial reward from Drexel to Mallon for her help in the Dragons' success.

 In the middle of the Dragons' celebration last March when the Guru suggested to a high Drexel school official that Dillon could become a hot property, the response came that the Dragons have resources to retain individuals they wish to stay in West Philadelphia.

Then a week ago, the Guru was back at another campus site to attend a late-afternoon academic-athletic awards reception for all members of the Drexel sports community.

Athletic director Eric Zillmer mentioned how both the men's and women's basketball teams had received certifications from the NCAA for finising in the top 10 percent of academic performance as measured by the national sports collegiate governing body.

 That, too, made Drexel in an elite situation.

Most of the honors had already been announced involving women's basketball achievements. However, the surprise presentation went to Dillon, who received the school's first Constantine Papadakis Leadership Award that goes to an athlete or coach in the athletic department.

 The award is named for the former Drexel president, who died in early April after battling cancer.

  Papadakis was a major fan of the Dragons athletes and was also involved in many other activities that helped raise Drexel's profile in the nation.

 "He's going to be missed, greatly," Rebecca Weidensaul, the school's associate athletic director for academics, noted to the Guru during the postseason basketball banquet. "He gave this place an identity."

 And finally, for now, another honor came Drexel's way on Monday with the news that senior Nicole Hester has won the Honda Inspiration Award, given each year to a female college athlete who has overcome adversity to excel in her sport.

In Hester's situation, it was her fight back to active duty a year ago after being sidelined for the 2006-07 season to battle Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

 In 2008, she earned an award from the V Foundation for her achievement.

"This award means so much to me," Hester said Monday in an email to the Guru. "After winning the championship, this is just icing on the cake. I don't think that this year could have gone any better for me."

In a statement that came with the release announcing Hester's latest honr, she noted how she learned after researching the disease on the internet the seriousness of its nature.

 "Still, I never had a doubt in my mind I'd be able to beat it," Hester said.

         Will Delaware Gamble on Delle Donne?

    No, the Guru is not talking about the Blue Hens and coach Tina Martin making the move to welcome former Ursuline Academy star Elena Delle Donne, the nation's top high school recruit in 2008, if she decides to play for Delaware, where she has been enrolled for the past year.

  But, first, the journalistically-obligated background.

  In August, the Wilmington-area superstar gave up her scholarship offer to powerful Connecticut, which then went unbeaten for a sixth NCAA title.

Citing burnout, she left the sport of her acclaim and joined the Delaware volleyball team as a walk-on after enrolling too late to earn a scholarship. She played the sport her senior year at Ursuline.

 After the fall season in which the Blue Hens repeated their CAA title, Delle Donne then left the squad and has since been contemplating a return to hoops where her presence could cause a dramatic reversal to a program that has struggled the past two seasons with youth. Delaware had previously averaged 23 wins across eight seasons under Martin.

The Blue Hens coach has been willing to give Delle Donne space, telling inquistors all winter that the door is open for conversation, but she will not be making any overtures in DelleDonne's direction.

That, said, the Guru's headline refers to the state and its citizens.

In the past week, sports betting in Delaware has been legalized, although the NCAA and NFL have been protesting the action.

But say wagering ultimately stays in place.

Delle Donne is enormously popular in her home state and when the Blue Hens were having their best years, attendance was plentiful at the Bob Carpenter Center. The venue also had sellouts when Ursuline played in state tournament action.

And so, the Guru simply muses, if Delle Donne ultimately decides to seek a spot on Martin's team, might we see wagering occur on women's basketball in Delaware?

Such activity is not legal in Connecticut, but the Guru recalls an amusing moment during the parade in 1995 in Hartford after the Huskies and coach Geno Auriemma won their first NCAA title.

As the cars carrying the victors slowly snaked their way through the downtown streets on the way to the state capitol, one gentleman could be heard yelling loudly in Auriemma's direction, "Hey Geno, we love you because you always cover."

 Incidentally, a month ago before betting was enacted in the nation's first state to join the union, Delle Donne in converation among the collegiate coaching crowd was listed as a 2-1 favorite during the NCAA Women's Final Four as likely to be in uniform this fall.

                            Jump Shots

  First, because many of you in the Midwest know him, the Guru wishes a speedy and complete recovery from surgery to our colleague Steve Tucker, who is a veteran sportswriter covering high school and college women's hoops at the Chicago Sun Times.

     DePaul coach Doug Bruno, who is out of town attending the Big East meetings until Wednesday, is keeping the Guru informed Tucker's progress.

Secondly, Temple fans will want to know that Kamesha Hairston, who spent a season with the WNBA Connecticut Sun before being cut last summer, has signed a contract to participate in training camp with the Minnesota Lynx.

In another Temple-related item, Ervin Monier, who is now an assistant and Southern Cal babysitter for Michael Cooper until the Los Angeles Sparks coach finishes the summer, was on Dawn Staley's first staff.

As for recriting prowess, he discovered one Candice Dupree, who went on to become one of the Owls' all-time top two players -- the other being Marilyn Stephens. Dupree became a first-round pick of the Chicago Sky in 2006 and has gained all-star status as one of the league's top players.

 The Guru will be at the New York Liberty's exhibition opener Thursday morning in New York when the Liberty goes against Washington in a Madison Square Garden event that will have a heavy presence of recent stars from Rutgers (Kia Vaughn, Essence Carson, Matee Ajavon), Maryland (Crystal Langhorne, Marissa Coleman), and Duke (Alana Beard, Monique Currie, Lindsey Harding). New York coach Patty Coyle is also a Rutgers graduate.

Until next time

             -- Mel