Final Four Notes 3/31/12: Saturday practices, awards and more

Open practices at Pepsi Center began the day. First up is the Notre Dame Irish, who seem energetic and spirited as they run through a series of drills and scrimmages. Coach Muffet McGraw watches intently for the hour, but doesn’t say a word. The team ends with a traditional Irish jig and an enthusiastic huddle. The emcee takes aside one player from each team as they leave the court, and he chooses Brittany Mallory. Emcee asks Mallory to talk about her role as “the glue” of the team. She says a lot of her teammates “are really emotional,” and that it’s her job to keep them level-headed.

The WBCA names their All-American team, and I run into some of them in a doorway. Elena Delle Donne is insanely tall. And very pretty.

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt, Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick and Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood show up for the ceremony, to support Glory Johnson as one of the honorees. They returned a couple hours later for the WBCA High School All-Star game, to watch Tennessee commit Brashara Graves. Summitt pauses for some photos and a few autographs afterwards, being gracious, as usual.

Coaches, coaches everywhere downtown for the WBCA Convention. They all seem to be having a good time as they flock from seminar to seminar at the Denver Convention Center. Upstairs is the Fan Fest, which is very family-friendly.

Denver is a very clean city, and it’s full of friendly people. Coaches and media alike continue to comment on it. So far, a great location for a Final Four.

Baylor’s practice is also energetic – helped in part by ailing Coach Kim Mulkey. Diagnosed two days ago with Bell’s Palsy, Mulkey still jumped into a drill for a while, throwing the ball to players and yelling at them to “Move! Move! Mooooove!” Later in the press conference, Mulkey joked with reporters that she’s been through worse, such as having a kidney stone and having a baby. “Now I’m just another ugly coach,” she quipped.

During Stanford’s practice, they played the Cardinal’s latest music video “Nerd City Kids,” to wild applause. Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike seemed happier than usual during the practice.

The WBCA High School All-Star game is a little lopsided, with the White Team winning, but it’s good to see the nation’s top prep players. I’ve already seen several of them before, but not all. I like the smoothness of Alexis Jones, from Irving, Texas. There are times when the Duke commit seems one with the ball. Breanna Stewart seems to have been cursed since Hoopgurlz did four stories on her this past week; it took her forever to warm up tonight, after going through the same thing at MCDAAG. Moriah Jefferson is going to need to settle down and cut the flashy stuff when she goes to UConn. Where the heck was Imani Stafford?

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