Features for SLAM:

Darkest Before…(SLAM Magazine Issue 197, 3.22.16)
Debbie Ryan wanted to get into Dawn Staley’s head. When splitting up her team for scrimmages, the former Virginia coach would group four starters plus the sixth, seventh and eighth player—and give Staley the third-stringers. The stacked squad envisioned a breezy victory; Staley saw an upset. From crossing over boys in Philly’s inner-city playgrounds to twice tying for Virginia’s top rebounding average at 5-6, the National Player of the Year in 1991 and ’92 loved to show and prove.“She would say, ‘Oh, OK. I see what you’re doing,’” Ryan says. “‘Go ahead. We’re still going to kick your ass.’ And she never lost in four years. I kept track.” Staley has always been drawn to challenges. (READ FULL STORY HERE).

Staying Ready: Kiwi Gardner is working to change his reputation from YouTube phenomenon to NBA point guard (8.5.14):
The Warriors and the Lakers traded baskets back and forth in an overtime NBA Summer League game in July. But the fast-paced game slowed down for Kiwi Gardner, the fresh-faced, 21-year-old point guard from Oakland who cracked Golden State’s roster after spending a year with the Warriors’ D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz. Gardner stood up from the bench midway through and realized where he was. He saw the Lakers jerseys and the NBA logos. He saw Steve Kerr coaching on the sidelines and other legends watching in the stands. This is what standing on an NBA court felt like; this is where he’s always wanted to be.  (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Inner Drive: Does WNBA MVP Maya Moore remind you of another No. 23? (SLAM Magazine Issue No. 182 (10.28.14):
With a second left before halftime, Maya Moore catches the ball and drains a long three. She’s mad. Not the angry, flustered, emotional kind of mad. After all, the fourth-year pro rarely breaks her poker face. Rather, she’s the driven kind of mad. You know, the usable kind that leads to action. It’s late June, and the visiting Minnesota Lynx had a weak half against the bottom of the pack L.A. Sparks. After she hit that shot to the end the quarter, Moore pounded her fist so hard you’d think she hit a Game 7 overtime buzzer-beater. She looked down at the floor in a private moment to herself, then up at the basket. A collective hush filled Staples Center. Everyone could feel it—Maya was about to go off after the half. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Standard Bearer: Ten years into WNBA and Diana Taurasi dominant as ever (8.24.13):
It was a routine trip down the floor. Diana Taurasi dribbled the ball in transition, alternating between her right and left hand. The Mercury were well on their way to blowing out the Shock earlier this month, but Taurasi didn’t slow it up to reset the offense. With a hesitation move, she slid past her defender for the easy left-handed layup. Already backpedaling the other way for defense, Taurasi didn’t see that she became the fastest WNBA player to amass 6,000 points, reaching the feat in 25 games fewer than it took the previous record-holder, Lauren Jackson. “I was in the moment,” Taurasi says. “I really didn’t know.” (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Hustle Points: Kyle O’Quinn’s making an NBA career out of hard work (8.6.13):
Kyle O’Quinn didn’t want to be that kid. The uncoordinated tall kid who could barely make a layup, who only made the varsity team because he towered over everyone else. “I definitely didn’t want to be that tall kid on the bench either,” O’Quinn said. He was in the middle of a growth spurt his junior year at Campus Magnet High School in Queens, NY, having transferred from his neighborhood school. His new classmates assumed he played ball, but the last time he had suited up was for a rec league as a child. “You know, where you get a trophy for just being there,” he said. Simply being tall wasn’t good enough for him, either. He wanted to be good—college basketball good. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Mental Game: CJ Wilcox expands versatility (1.19.13)
CJ Wilcox created a game for himself as a kid. He called it “Mental Game.” Before or after school, he would pick five spots on the floor to master that day, either from midrange or three, or both. Wilcox challenged himself to make a certain number of shots in a row at each spot, often seven, before he could move on to the next spot. “Say he made seven in a row. [At the next spot] he’d make six and he’d miss the seventh, he’d have to start over,” said Randy McAllister, Wilcox’ former coach at Pleasant Grove High School in Utah. “I mean it was just agonizing to watch sometimes, but he would just keep going until he finished.”  (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Dream Big: Shoni Schimmel has brought Showtime to the WNBA, but her transition hasn’t been easy (7.24.14): 
Shoni Schimmel knows Brittney Griner is 6-8. She knows she stands almost a full foot shorter, and was reminded of the fact when Griner swatted her layup in the first quarter of the WNBA All-Star game last Saturday. But Schimmel wouldn’t back down, challenging Griner again in the fourth quarter. With her back turned to the rim, Schimmel threw up a dazzling shot over her head, just beyond Griner’s reach, for two of her All-Star game-record 29 points. Over a year ago, she pulled that exact move on Griner to upset No. 1 Baylor in the Sweet 16 in what would become the highlight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Schimmel’s life is much different now. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Another Shot: Michael Redd wants back in the league (5.23.13):
Where is Michael Redd? “Still working out, training, planning to play with somebody next year,” said the former All-Star, now 33. “I’d love to play on a contender to let the League know that I can still play after having gone through what I’ve gone through.” Before you say that he’s too old or that his knees can’t take another 82 games, remember that he’s a shooter. Shooters find ways to put the ball in the basket on off-nights, find new angles in the air when a defender closes out. Shooters keep shooting, no matter what. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Sister 2 Sister: Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike have helped each other become forces in the WNBA (6.23.15):
Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike didn’t hold one-on-one duels in their backyard as kids, leaving the loser to wash dishes after dinner. The Houston natives weren’t coordinated enough to catch the ball then, anyway, hooked on the Discovery Channel long before they ever learned of the Rockets. Even when the pair began to develop a nose for the ball, snagging rebounds out of the air with ease as preps, their relationship continued to be more collaborative than competitive. So when the Stanford grads faced off for the first time as pros last summer—Nneka for the Los Angeles Sparks and Chiney for the Connecticut Sun—Chiney accidentally clapped when Nneka made a free throw. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Show and Prove: WVU’s Juwan Staten has more game than people know (3.15.14): 
Juwan Staten wasn’t in a rush. On West Virginia’s first possession against Kansas last Saturday, he toyed with his defender, dribbled around screens and pulled the ball back out to pass to teammates. Six passes later, with seven seconds left on the shot clock, none of his teammates had made a play. Staten retrieved the ball, and after a quick hesitation dribble, drove to the rim for the easy two. He could have done that the first time he caught the ball. With a lightning-quick first step, the Mountaineers’ floor general has the ability to blow by a defender and find a seam to the basket on whim. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Threes Run in the Family: Kari Korver of No. 14 UCLA shooting lights out (3.8.13) 
Last November, Pauley Pavilion was new. Fresh. Vibrant. Full of possibilities. The UCLA women’s basketball team ran on to the newly renovated court and began splitting into layup lines before tipoff of its season opener. Some dribbled down the right side and finished with a reverse on the left. Others crossed over then double-clutched before tapping the backboard and putting the layup in. Then the rhythm changed. Freshman Kari Korver was the only one to pull up for jumpers, inching farther back each turn. Her teammate, running parallel, often nodded with approval. There were no unnecessary moves, no long rebounds—just makes. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Mike Conley elevating his game to an elite level (9.26.13):
At the start of every NBA season, we like to label players and put them into boxes. But Mike Conley has been making that a little more difficult lately. He was able to shake off the “guy-with-all-the-potential-but-never-lived-up-to-it” label that hovered over him for the past few years, by substantially surpassing expectations this past postseason. So what do we call him now? An elite point guard? A top-10 point guard? A superstar in the making, even? Depending on who you talk to, he could be one, none or all three. But what’s undeniable is that he’s integral to the Memphis Grizzlies’ chances for another deep playoff run in the upcoming ’13-14 season. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Leading the Charge: Ivory Latta has finally found her rhythm (7.2.13):
It’s been six years since Ivory Latta felt this at ease on the court. She’s stealing the ball, racing down the floor to beat her defender rather than slowing up and planning her next move. Now with the Washington Mystics this season, her fourth team in the league, Latta has more than a new jersey and address; she’s got a new outlook on how far she’s come and a smile bigger than Magic’s at the thought of finally being able to show how good she can be. In her debut for Washington on the road against her former team, the Shock, the 5-6 point guard dropped 27 points with 4 threes to win 95-90 in overtime. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Heart of a Champion: Devereaux Peters is the league-best Lynx’ X-Factor: (9.13.13):
She sets screens that allow Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore to get around a defender and attack the basket. She rebounds any missed threes by Lindsay Whalen. And in 18.8 minutes of play a night, Devereaux Peters has blocked 33 total shots, perhaps her biggest contribution to the Minnesota Lynx. “I’m the filler,” Peters said. “I try to come in and fill whatever role needs to be filled.” Peters may not yet be a household name in the WNBA, but the 6-2 second-year reserve forward is an integral piece to the league-best Lynx, who hold a 25-7 record heading into playoffs.  (READ FULL STORY HERE)

An Amazing Ride: Former UConn husky Carla Berube leads DIII Tufts into national prominence (4.23.13)
It was 1995. Before people knew that Storrs was the name of a village in northeast Connecticut. Before the Huskies hated the Tennessee orange like Los Angeles hates the Celtic green. Before women’s basketball began to spread into national sports consciousness. That year, a National Championship was at stake for Geno Auriemma’s UConn squad led by Rebecca Lobo. When sophomore Carla Berube put in two free throws to secure the 70-64 victory against the Lady Vols for the program’s first-ever title and perfect 35-0 record, UConn sparked a meteoric rise in the sport for the next decade. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Seize the Moment: Point guard Alexis Jones has flourished for Duke (4.10.13): 
Most freshmen have to carry the team’s bags or hit the free-throw at the end of practice to decide the immediate future: double the running or going home. For Duke point guard Alexis Jones, her freshman season had much more at stake. When junior All-American PG Chelsea Gray went down with a season-ending knee injury on February 17 against Wake Forest, Jones was catapulted onto the national stage and asked to lead a deep Duke squad ranked fifth in the country into the ACC and NCAA tournaments. (READ FULL STORY HERE)

What’s Golden: Layshia Clarendon leads Cal to Sweet 16 (3.29.13):
If you’re guarding Layshia Clarendon, you might want to back up a little. Far enough back so she doesn’t quickly cross you, but not too much, because she’ll pull up for a mid-range jumper without hesitation. In the time it takes to figure out the appropriate distance, Clarendon will already be at the rim. Years before the senior playmaker was getting past opposing guards with a single dribble for No. 2-seed California (30-3), 12-year-old Clarendon played one-on-one with her cousin Trinidee Trice, who now plays for Cal State San Bernardino, every night for hours in Clarendon’s backyard.  (READ FULL STORY HERE)

Changing of the Guard: Skylar Diggins and Niele Ivey hope to bring a title to Notre Dame (4.5.13):
Young girls across America don’t just wear Jordans and colored wristbands while clutching a 28.5-inch basketball on their hip. Those coming up in the last four years wear the broad white signature headband of Notre Dame senior point guard Skylar Diggins, the player they want to be like. As 10-year-old, Diggins dreamed of emulating another PG in South Bend: current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey, who led the Fighting Irish to their first National Championship in 2001 before playing five seasons in the WNBA.  (READ FULL STORY HERE)