Are the pieces finally falling in place for the Tulsa Shock?
Time will tell, but if the preseason prognostications of the league's general managers are any indication, Tulsa finally looks like a playoff contender. A survey found the Shock as the WNBA's most improved team.
Tulsa, which went 9-25 last season, is now on the playoff radar after a series of offseason moves. And it appears that 2011 draft pick Liz Cambage will also rejoin the team, adding to the intrigue.
First, though, came the trades with Minnesota and New York to acquire former Stanford standouts Candice Wiggins and Nicole Powell, respectively. Next, came the signing of Notre Dame All-American Skylar Diggins, undoubtedly the top point guard in the 2013 draft.
"It seems like people want to play in Tulsa now,'' forward Glory Johnson said. "Last year, players would ask `Why would I come to Tulsa?' Now, with all the great players we have, it's like people are saying `Check out Tulsa now.'''
The Shock open on the road Saturday in Atlanta. Washington visits on Monday.
"The excitement is building,'' Shock coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "It's a privilege to be in this league. It's a high-level league and has the best players in the world.
"We feel like all through (the roster), we have more talent. We've been happy with the work ethic in camp. Everyone is working hard to learn everything. Making that final cut (Thursday) is going to be really hard. I'd like to keep all 12.''
Kloppenburg remained in contact with Cambage in the hope of luring the 6-foot-8-post player back to Tulsa.
"I talked with her, emailed and texted her all year long,'' he said. "I think she finally realized she wanted to give this shot. We're happy to get her back.''
Cambage started 11 of 33 games her rookie season, averaging 11.5 points and 4.7 rebounds on a team that won only three games. Last winter, Cambage came into her own as a pro, averaging 36.2 points and 11.1 rebounds for Zhejiang in China.
Johnson emerged as a star as well, playing in Russia.
"When I went to Russia, I was told the Americans - and there were two of us - were expected to take charge of the team,'' she said. "I put in extra practice in the gym and came back with the attitude that I want to contribute however I can.''
The frontcourt combination of Johnson and Tiffany Jackson-Jones, has the former excited. But Jackson-Jones suffered a stress fracture to her right tibia and will likely miss the first three weeks.
"It's a little disappointing to have the stress fracture but it's just a bump in the road,'' she said. "I'm very excited to be back. It's exciting to have Liz coming back and with Skylar, Candice and Nicole here.
"I'm so excited to be on the court with Glory. She's so athletic. She has the ability to be a premier player in this league. Candice is already very vocal, that's something we lacked in the past. I played with Nicole in New York.''
Jackson-Jones said she was eager to see Cambage on the court.
"She's had a few years to mature,'' she said, "and I can only imagine how hard it was for her being 18, drafted and moving so far from home.''
Diggins has completed her first preseason camp and proudly wore a battle scar after a sharp elbow to the face.
"It's gone isn't it?'' Diggins asked of the scar. "It looks better I know.''
Diggins laughs at the attention she has received since signing with Jay-Z's new agency.
"I come from humble beginnings,'' she said. "I drove a 2004 Honda in high school and college and was really happy to have it. It's a blessing to have been a part of the (Jay-Z) dynasty, whether I got a car or not.''
Diggins is more concerned with basketball.
"It feels like we are in on the ground floor on something really special,'' she said. "We might be the youngest team in the league, but we're exciting and we will be fun to watch.
"We're excited to have Liz back. I know the city will do a great job in welcoming her back. The fans of Tulsa are great people, they welcomed me and my family and I believe they will do the same for Liz.''
League rules dictate rosters must be trimmed to 11 by Thursday.
Are the pieces finally falling in place for the Tulsa Shock?
'Twice as Nice'
When it comes to the 3A State Tournament and Oklahoma City, the Verdigris High School basketball teams are a household name.
Head coaches Randy Upshaw and Mike Buntin lead their programs back to the 'Capitol City' this week for a chance to hoist the coveted 3A state championship on Saturday night at the Big House.
Cards fly into 3A State Tournament
Verdigris junior guard Cade Upshaw lives for March Madness.
The 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter overcame a sluggish performance in a loss to Tahlequah Sequoyah to bounce back for a 20-point outing in the Cardinals’ 72-42 win over Antlers Saturday evening in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Checotah Event Center.
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Vinita used an 18-point third quarter — highlighted by the sophomore leadership of Carsyn Spurgeon — and converted 21-of-34 free throws to notch a 61-55 win over the Inola Lady Longhorns Saturday night in the Class 4A Area Tournament.
‘Soaring to State’
In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Stilwell advances to State
A jam-packed, vocal crowd — aided by the control of several Claremore Police officers — witnessed Stilwell’s come-from-behind 57-51 win over Harrah Saturday night in the must-win game of the Class 4A Area Tournament at the Claremore High School Gymnasium.
QB competition highlight Tulsa's spring drills
The Tulsa football team will open spring drills on Tuesday at H.A. Chapman Stadium. It will be the first of 15 spring workouts covering five weeks, and the first of three this week before taking next week off for Spring Break.
Tulsa practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week with practice sessions beginning at 3:30 pm. Practices are open to the public, but TU fans are required to enter and sign-in for each practice session at the check-in station on the west side of the stadium.
FOOTBALL: Tulsa opens AAC season with home opener against Tulane
The University of Tulsa wastes no time in getting right into American Athletic Conference competition in its inaugural season in the conference. Tulsa kicks off the 2014 campaign at home against another new league member, the Tulane Green Wave, the first weekend of the college football season.
SOFTBALL: Henshaw's game-winning RBI single lifts Tulsa past Western Illinois
Right fielder Haley Henshaw's game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the University of Tulsa a 7-6 win over Western Illinois on Tuesday at the Collins Softball Complex.
C-USA WOMEN'S BB TOURNEY: No. 15-seed UTSA upsets Tulsa
No. 15-seed UTSA overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to defeat No. 10-seed Tulsa in first round Conference USA tournament action Tuesday night at Memorial Gym on the campus of UTEP. UTSA made eight of their last 14 field goals and 10-of-14 free throws to overtake the Hurricane.
SOFTBALL: OSU faces North Texas in Denton
The Oklahoma State softball team returns to action Wednesday, March 12, when the Cowgirls travel to Denton, Texas, to play North Texas in a midweek matchup beginning at 6 p.m.
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