JW Had To Become More Selfish

Great article on UWGB’s small giant, center Julie Wojta.

The smallest giant in women’s college basketball remains head and shoulders above the competition this season. The undersized center, expected to play guard when she arrived at just about the only school that recruited her, is from a town called Francis Creek that is exactly as small as it sounds.

And she wants to be a certified public accountant.

Let’s see the good people of Knoxville, Palo Alto, South Bend, Storrs or Waco try that trick.

Nothing about the Green Bay women’s basketball program adds up to a national power if you apply the usual math, yet the Phoenix are once more beating all comers and chasing perfection. Nothing about Julie Wojta adds up to equal one of the best players in the nation if you apply the usual math. Yet here stands the 6-foot senior center, offering every incentive to the coaches who vote for the State Farm All-America team to think long and hard about it first if they decide to leave her out of this season’s list of the 10 top players in the country.

Yet JW wasn’t always one of those players with a score first mentality.

Start with the notion that she might like passing even more than the quarterback who plays across town for the Packers. Wojta scored 24 points against Illinois on a neutral court and 29 points at Wisconsin. She shoots 56 percent from the floor, 86 percent from the free throw line, 40 percent from the 3-point line and ranks 19th in the nation at 19.7 points per game (in addition to 20th in rebounding and 14th in steals). She nevertheless treats shots like a polite dinner guest treats the last roll in the basket.

No, you take it. Really, I insist. I couldn’t possibly …

“That’s something that I’ve struggled with,” Wojta said. “Ever since fourth or fifth grade, I like the assist. I like that team feeling that people get when it goes through all five of us and then we score. I think those are the teams you want to be on; that’s what makes it fun. I’ve struggled with that, and they’ve continued to stay on me. They want me to take 20 shots a game, and I’m thinking, ‘Holy crap, that’s a lot.’ They’re pushing me to do that and I have to realize that they want me to do it to help the team.

“They remind me, ‘No one is going to be mad if you’re taking more shots.'”

Another thing that helps is a level athleticism not seen in many post players.

Like an option quarterback in a world of pocket passers, what makes her so difficult to stop is you don’t have anyone like her. How many other centers excelled at long jump and shot put in high school and get at least one teammate’s vote, in this case junior Sarah Eichler’s, as the fastest player on a college basketball team? Unless you’ve got a heptathlete hanging around, it’s going to be tough finding a match for her on your scout team. And other than Brittney Griner in last year’s Sweet 16, not a lot of opponents have gotten the best of her.

“She’s just too athletic,” Eichler said. “There is that point where — I’ve been playing with her for three years and there are still times where we’ll be playing pickup or we’ll be in practice and Julie will do something and everyone will just stop and be like, ‘Did that really just happen?’ She’s just so athletic. A lot of girls who play the 5 at the college level are 6-2, 6-3 and not very fast laterally, and Julie is 6 feet, but she plays like she’s 6-4. She’s a huge presence inside, and then if you get her on the perimeter, she can drive past most of the people who would ever guard her.”

As a result of JW becoming more selfish is the Phoenix are currently undefeated and ranked #13 in the AP poll and #12 in the Coaches poll.


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Green Bay possible host for WIAA state basketball tournaments

Potential good news for the Green Bay area.

Madison’s place as host to the WIAA state basketball tournaments has outlasted The Great Depression, World War II and the disco era, but it might not survive growing pressure to reserve the Kohl Center for University of Wisconsin sports during March.

WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said Friday the state’s governing body for high school sports is actively seeking a new home for its state boys and girls basketball tournaments, as early as 2012-13.

After holding the boys tournament in Madison for 91 of the past 92 years, that might mean taking both tournaments to Green Bay or Milwaukee.

Anderson told the WIAA Board of Control that PMI Entertainment Group, which represents the Resch Center in Green Bay, has made an official offer to host the tournaments beginning in 2014. He said the WIAA also has inquired about the availability of the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee to host the state tournaments for the two sports that are the WIAA’s biggest moneymakers.

It’s all but a given that beginning in 2014 both tournaments will need a new home.

“We have reached out to other venues, knowing that we’re certainly going to need a home for our tournaments by 2014,” said Anderson, whose association is under contract with UW to hold the state basketball tournaments on the Madison campus through 2013 but has been told that conflicts could force both tournaments to be moved from the Kohl Center.

“It’s a given. Whether that home is a facility in Madison, a facility in Milwaukee or a facility in Green Bay. We’re limited.”

So just what are the conflicts that are causing the WIAA to look at alternative sites?  One is the new Big Ten Hockey conference.

The long-term conflicts include the dynamics of the Big Ten men’s hockey conference, which debuts during the 2013-14 season.

The conference announced in June it will use a two-week postseason format that begins with the four lowest seeds meeting in a best-of-three series at the home of the highest seed. The winners will advance to face the top two seeds at the home of the No. 1 seed the next week.

The economic benefits in Green Bay could be huge if the tournaments were hosted here.

The 12 WIAA state tournaments held on the UW campus have an estimated economic impact of $10 million on the city of Madison and Dane County, according to Greater Madison Visitor and Convention Bureau figures. Boys and girls basketball, which bring in more than $3 million of the WIAA’s $6 million in annual revenue, account for most of that.

Were you disappointed when the WIAA moved the boys sectional tournaments from Green Bay?  If so start letting them know that you want the state tournaments to be held here.

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And LeBron chooses …

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in...
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the South Beach of Miami.

LeBron James put the NBA on notice Thursday night, joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Ending weeks of silence and drama, the two-time MVP said on his ESPN special from Greenwich, Conn. on Thursday night that he’s decided to join the Miami Heat and leave the Cleveland Cavaliers after an unsuccessful seven-year quest for the championship he covets.

“I can’t say it was always in my plans, because I never thought it was possible,” James said. “But the things that the Miami Heat franchise have done, to free up cap space and be able to put themselves in a position this summer to have all three of us, it was hard to turn down. Those are two great players, two of the greatest players that we have in this game today.”

It’s a huge victory for the Heat, who got commitments from Wade and Bosh on Wednesday. That duo, along with James, formed the upper echelon of the most-celebrated free-agent period in league history.

Heat president Pat Riley landed them all, a three-pack of stars to help shape his quest for a dynasty in Miami.

And for Cleveland, a city scorned for generations by some of sports’ biggest letdowns, James’ long-awaited words represented a defeat perhaps unlike any other.

James is gone. Home sweet home no more.

Apparently money wasn’t the deciding factor, since Cleveland could offer the most.

The Cavaliers, a franchise that was in ruins before winning a lottery drawing and bringing James up Interstate 77 from his Akron home, have had the upper hand — until now. They were able to offer him more money — $30 million more — than any other team.

But James told ESPN it wasn’t about the money.

Both Wade and Bosh both said they would take fewer dollars to make this happen. And that, combined with what Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said to James on the recruiting tour, was enough to pull off the stunner.

Was it all part of a plan or just coincidence considering …

James, Bosh and Wade entered the pros in the same year, the respective Nos. 1, 4 and 5 picks in the 2003 draft. They went their separate ways: James to Cleveland, Bosh to Toronto and Wade to Miami, where he won a championship partnered with center Shaquille O’Neal in 2006. That year, James, Bosh and Wade all signed matching contracts to make sure they were all unrestricted free agents at the same time. (Source: ESPN)

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Breaking news: Blazers in the state title game

Kudos to N.E.W. Lutheran on making it to the D4 title game.

N.E.W. Lutheran will play for the WIAA Division 4 state boys basketball title after outlasting Clayton 64-63 in this morning’s state semifinal game.

The Blazers (18-10) will face Randolph (28-0) at noon Saturday at the Kohl Center.

Kaylor Zimmerman scored 21 points and had six steals, and Aaron Gosse added 20 points for the Blazers, who roared out to a 40-26 halftime lead.

Clayton (25-2) chipped away at the lead and made it tight at the end. Taylor Dayton had a game-high 26 points for the Bears. (Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette)

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