By Mel Greenberg
NEW YORK - In what at times seemed like a retrospective of NCAA tournament stars of the current decade, the New York Liberty grabbed a 77-71 preseason victory over the Washington Mystics Thursday morning-afternoon in Madison Square Garden.
The Liberty then jumped on the bus -- Washington appeared to go home on the train based on who was spotted in Penn Station -- to head up to casinoland to help the Connecticut Sun get their preseason schedule under way.
If one needs a sign over how young is the WNBA getting, consider this: former Connecticut star Kelly Schumacher, with eight years of action that now includes a spot on the Mystics roster, was the most veteran player on the combined training camp roster of both teams.
Perhaps Washington will retain the former Huskies shot-blocker as a good luck charm -- she has played on the last two WNBA champions being the Detroit Shock in 2008 and Phoenix Mercury in 2007.
Next came Washington's Alana Beard, who sat out the game with a slight injury, and New York's Shameka Christon, who each had five years of experience.
Missing from the sidelines was the Liberty's top draft pick Kia Vaughn -- "We didn't cut her, she's graduating Rutgers today," joked Liberty coach Patty Coyle, who herself is a Rutgers graduate.
Also missing were the media group who cover the Scarlet Knights, mildly surprising considering that second-year pros Essence Carson for the Liberty, and Washington newcomer Matee Ajavon were in the house.
"Hey, I was there at media day," emailed one colleague who pointed out the other beats they have to handle at the moment. The Guru, given his own home office situation, can certainly understand.
An announced crowd of 15,958 for the event billed as school day gave the arena a mid-season ambience.
Considering a current disease that has penetrated the area, the Guru was glad the youngsters didn't fnd the WNBA anything to sneeze at.
New York jumped to a 19-7 lead after the first period, causing the Guru to suggest the Mystics dispatched a tape off to the White House in search of a stimulus. Incidentally, the Guru suspects the current resident may stop by the Verizon Center this summer when he isn't flooding the Inquirer email system, among others, with the day's activity.
As it turned out, a stimulus came in the second quarter when Willingboro's second-year pro Crystal Langhorne got hot and Washinton was able to get back into contention.
Langhorne seems a bit more confidence now that her former Maryland post-play pal Marissa Coleman, the Mystics' top draft pick, is on the roster.
"Coleman looks like she's going to do ok in tis league," Coyle said afterwards.
During the action, an All-Star game of ACC players broke out, not difficult considering six former conference stars are on the Washington roster.
At one moment, Liberty No. 2 draft pick Abby Wander out of Duke, knocked down a three-pointer from the corner over Coleman and Langhorne.
The move prompted the Guru to fire off a quick text to Blue Devils women's SID Lindy Brown -- "Duke just scored over Maryland."
Actually, a little later there actually was sone Duke-on-Duke action with Lindsey Harding defending Waner.
"I thought Abby held her own a did quite well considering we've been in camp five days and this was her first game in the Garden," Coyle said.
She also added that she is thrilled with the later start to WNBA training camp.
"This is a thousand times better," Coyle said. "I would much rather have the whole team in camp, even though it will be a shorter time frame until we start the regular season."
Coyle is also thrilled with the addtion of new assistant coach Anne Donovan, a former WNBA head coach who won a championship with Seattle in 2004 and guided the United Statres to a gold medal last summer in Beijing.
"So far, she's been phenomenal," Coyle said.
She noted there wasn't much to take from a game started just five days after camp opened, but she was delighted the Liberty only committed 11 turnovers.
Christon scored 10 points for New Yotk, while former Utah star Leilani Mitchell and former Texas star Tiffany Jackson each scored 10 points.
Nakia Sanford had 17 points and eight rebounds for the Mystics, while Lanhorne contributed 15 points and six rebounds. Former Duke star Monique Curre had 12 points, and her former Blue Devils teammate 11. Coleman had seven points, seven rebounds and blocked two shots.
The two teams will meet again for a Thursday morning encounter next week at the Verizon Center.
The Guru received the following email on Tuesday from John Molina, up in Connecticut::
"Just wanted to pass along that the owner and Coach of the All American
Red Heads, Owell Moore, passed away last night.
He started coaching the All American Red Heads in 1948 before buying the
team in 1955. He had as many as 3 teams on the road at the same time,
playing over 600 games combined in a single season (all on the road)
plus running a girls basketball camp at the same time."
Until next time