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Alexis Jones on Draft Day Drama and Tough Love Coaching

UNCASVILLE, CT – JUNE 09: Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and Minnesota Lynx guard Alexis Jones (12) look on during a WNBA game between Minnesota Lynx and Connecticut Sun on June 9, 2018, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Connecticut defeated Minnesota 89-75. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Alexis Jones plays guard for the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. She played two seasons at Duke before transferring to Baylor, where she was a 2x First-team All-Big 12 selection. Drafted by the Minnesota Lynx in 2017, Jones played two seasons with the team before being traded to the Los Angeles Sparks. She signed with the Dream this past offseason. She spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her draft day experience, her advice to the incoming rookies, and how Cheryl Reeve’s tough love helped make her the player she is today.

The 2020 WNBA draft was last week. Looking back, what do you remember about your draft day experience? 

It was a dream come true. I remember getting to New York, it was like, okay, this is real. I’m in New York. My family also got to come, which made it a great experience. And then I got to talk with Adidas, which was amazing. I used to dream about getting a shoe endorsement when I was younger. And so to have the opportunity to be a part of the Adidas family was a really big honor, especially because for women, there’s not a lot of opportunities out there for girls to be a part of a shoe company. So I was really super happy, proud, and appreciative of that. They’ve been amazing to work with.

What was it like having to wait to hear your name called?

I was nervous, because I was expected to go sixth or seventh, so when I didn’t hear my name being called, I was like, yo, I don’t know what’s about to happen. But then next thing you know, I end up getting picked up by Minnesota. I was like, cool. As long as I didn’t drop to the second round, I’m fine. I never expected in life to be going to Minnesota, but I was happy because I knew I’d have a chance to be around some of the top girls in the nation.

The Lynx were in the middle of their dynasty at the time. Do you remember what the first thing that went though your head was when you realized you were heading to Minnesota? 

Not going to lie, the first thing going through my head was, I know I’m not about to play. I got that through my head real quick. I’m not that good at enjoying the moment, so I was automatically thinking about basketball. But then I got to speak to Seimone Augustus on the phone, and that was super dope. To be on a call with Seimone Augustus was super inspirational for me right there at that moment. It was a wonderful feeling.

There wasn’t really time to celebrate, though, because I knew I was about to be on the bench. I was like, I have got to get in the gym. Contracts aren’t guaranteed, and I didn’t want to get waived. So I had a little draft party when I got back home, but the next day I was in the gym.

What are your thoughts on the incoming rookie class? 

I think there’s a lot of good guards coming. The past few years there’s been a lot of great guards. I played with Lauren Cox before, and I’m super proud of her. I also played with Beatrice, who was taken by the Sparks. Super proud of her as well. I like the girl from Texas A&M a lot [Chennedy Carter, Atlanta’s first round pick]. We’re both Texas people. She for sure has a lot of game in her and a lot of swag, too, which is great to come into league with swag. I think all these young girls, they just have a whole bunch of swag. I love it. They all got energy, and everything that’s coming to them is well-deserved.

You transferred from Duke to Baylor after tearing your ACL during your sophomore. Can you talk about what went into that decision? 

I think I got to a point where I was just too far from home. I just needed people to be around me at that moment. A lot of times my dad would call, and he would want to come see me play, but he couldn’t. And when I was injured I started to think… that maybe this is God calling and telling me to be back close to home where I can just be happy. And so I just took the jump.

It was definitely a scary feeling, because you never know how the next coach is going to treat you. And I knew Kim was a hard-nosed coach. Plus my dad was even preaching at me to stay. He did not want me to go. But I really wanted to be close to home, and at some point I just felt like, no matter how hard it might get, I’m going to always be me at the end of the day. I know I play hard. I know I work hard and that no matter what happens, I’m going to go in and do what the team needs me to do.

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The jump from college to professional must have been an even bigger transition. How did you make that adjustment?

I think I just got blessed to be in Minnesota. I had great teammates like Mone [Seimone Augustus], Lindsay [Whalen], Maya [Moore]. I took every opportunity to learn everything I could from them. And they really brought me in. When I would get in the game for my two minutes, they would try to make my two minutes seem like they were the two minutes of a Hall of Famer.

And Coach Reeve gave me tough love. Man, my first game, I ain’t ever going to forget. My first game, I was talking to Mone, and I was just talking to Mone. I knew I wasn’t going to play. Of course, if coach wanted to put me in, I was ready. But I had already accepted that I probably wasn’t going to play that game. So then Coach Reeve came over and started talking to Mone. She turns to me and just says, you know you’re not going to play this year, right? And I was just like… I had nothing to say. Mone told me later not to worry about her, but after that, it was always bittersweet being coached by her. I don’t have any bad blood with her or anything. I enjoyed it, and I think that’s where I learned to grow up. She brought that hunger out of me. She just kept making me more hungry and hungry to get where I wanted to be.

You were a first round pick and an amazing college player, but obviously it can still be a tough transition. There’s a lot of players who just got drafted who are in the same shoes you were in. What would you say to them? 

Stay focused on what you believe in and know what you’re coming into. And I would say always be willing to learn. If you’re willing to learn, you can go so far in this basketball game. You can be one of the greats if you are willing to learn.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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