Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prowling with the Minnesota Jaguars


While the Minnesota Lynx made a giant splash Tuesday with their preseason game at Concordia University's Gangelhoff Center, a second Minnesota women's basketball team hosted their home opener at the St. Paul facility Saturday and Sunday.

The Minnesota Jaguars are a women's semi-pro team and new member of the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League. Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Tanisha Gilbert had an integral role in the team's formation, eager to return to her local roots. Coaching the Jaguars and running their front office is Melissa Young, once the head coach of Hamline University's women's basketball team.

The Jaguars started the season winning out at a Miami tournament. After sweeping the Rock County Robins with a 71-66 win on Saturday and a come-from-behind 88-82 win on Sunday, the first-year Jaguars remained distant from the loss column, with their record at 7-0.

While recent talk has surfaced about the relatively low pay of WNBA players compared to their overseas earnings, WBCBL players receive little or no compensation. To save money, teams will schedule back-to-back weekend series against one opponent to limit travel costs.

The lack of paychecks hardly detriments participation. The Jaguars are comprised of former standouts in high school and college whose passion saturates their stream of consciousness. Some are using the Jaguars to stay in shape for professional scouts and agents, including WNBA veteran Tamara Moore and Illinois Fighting Illini star Jenna Smith, who was a second-round pick for the Washington Mystics in the 2010 WNBA Draft only to be waived during training camp. Others hope to get noticed for the first time.

The rules are similar to WNBA games, with 10-minute quarters and a 24-second shot clock. College rules are used for tabulating fouls, which means a team can commit six fouls before placing their opponent in the bonus. However, the biggest difference between WNBA and WBCBL appears before the game tips off. Prior to the playing of the national anthem, all players and coaches meet at center court to join in prayer, reflecting the hopes and wishes of the league's players to better their lives through basketball.

The Jaguars host their second and final weekend series of the WBCBL season July 16th and 17th at Gangelhoff Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. both days.

Listen to any or all of our interviews by clicking play below the player you want to hear.

Former Golden Gopher Tanisha Gilbert

Concordia-St. Paul alum Gillian Bjerke

WNBA veteran Tamara Moore

Illinois Fighting Illini standout Jenna Smith

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