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Past articles:
  • Title IX's 35th Anniversary

  • The 2002 High School State Champs

  • The 2002 Gball Awards

  • Being Recruited

  • Protecting Your Knees

  • Candace Parker dunks!

  • Michigan Playoff Results

  • WNBA Teen Advisory Board

  • St. Ann's girls' team

  • Leslie Gball's Player of the Year

  • Hitting the last-second shot

  • Scholarships,
    Part I

  • Scholarships,
    Part II

  • Media Coverage of Girls' Sports

  • Carleton hoopsters visit Thailand

  • National Girls and Women in Sports Day

  • Improving Agility

  • Lisa Leslie wins Flo Hyman Award

  • March Madness

  • New Trier High School

  • Hoops & Heroes Awards

  • High School Champions

  • One Nation, One Flag, One People

  • Amateurism

  • Cross Court Options

  • Coaching Boys

  • WNBA 2001 Rookies

  • Outstanding Rookies Make Great First Impression
    by Dave Wohlhueter

    There was plenty of new blood in the WNBA this year, and the newcomers made the league stronger than ever.

    It was an unusual rookie group, with four super stars coming in from the same school, and the eventual Rookie of the Year honoree actually being from the previous class.

    Indiana forward Tamika Catchings, the third overall pick in the 2001 draft out of the University of Tennessee, was named the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year. Somehow this seems wrong, but yet it is within the rules.

    The 6-0 Catchings was with the Fever for the entire 2001 season, but didn't see any action due to a torn ACL in her right knee. Do you think that she was as nervous this summer as she would have been as a "true" rookie? I don't think so.

    Being that we play the game with rules, we'll go with the decision because Catchings did have a fabulous year. In leading Indiana to its first playoff appearance, Catchings became the first WNBA player to record 60 3-pt. baskets and 80 steals in a single campaign. She was the league leader in steals per game (2.94), and led all rookies in scoring (18.6 ppg.), rebounding (8.6 rpg.), blocks (1.34 bpg.), double-doubles (12), and minutes played (36.5 mpg.).

    Four of the first six draft choices in the 2002 WNBA draft came from the University of Connecticut, the unbeaten NCAA national champion, and they didn't disappoint. The No. 1 choice, guard Sue Bird, was taken by Seattle. In another year, she would have won the rookie award. The nifty playmaker topped the 2002 class in assists (6.0 apg.) and was third in scoring (14.4 ppg.). She led the entire WNBA in free throw percentage (.911). In the rookie class, Bird was second in minutes played (35.0 mpg.) and 3-pt. field goal percentage (.401), and tied for third in double-doubles (3). Both she and Catchings were selected as starters in the mid-season all-star game.

    Another ex-Huskie, taken No. 2 in the draft by Detroit was forward Swin Cash. The 6-1 Cash played in every game, scoring 14.8 points per outing to rank No. 2 on the rookie list. She was No. 1 in the entire WNBA in foul shots made (173). In the 2002 class, Cash ranked second in double-doubles (7), and was third in rebounds (6.9 rpg.), blocks (0.94 bpg.) and minutes played (33.7).

    Forward/center Ashja Jones of UConn was chosen No. 4 in the draft by Washington. A reserve on a good Mystics quintet, Jones still accounted for 8.8 percent of her team's points, rebounds and assists. In her WNBA class, she ranked fifth in blocks (0.53 bpg.), sixth in rebounding (2.8 rpg.), and seventh in scoring (6.5 ppg.).

    The fourth UConn alumnus was forward Tamika Williams, taken No. 6 by Minnesota. Williams also had a banner first season. She was the league's runner-up in field goal percentage (.561). In her class, she was second in rebounding (7.4 rpg.), third in steals (1.42 spg.), tied for third in double-doubles (3), and fourth in minutes played (33.0 mpg.) and scoring (10.1 ppg.).

    No other school class has entered the league at the same time with such a wallop as the Huskies of 2002.

    Other first-round draftees also made their marks. Guard Stacey Dales-Schuman out of Oklahoma, taken by Washington at No. 3, was an instrumental part of the Mystics fine season. Dales-Schuman scored 9.8 ppg. for fifth on the rookie list, and was sixth in minutes played (26.0 mpg.). She handed out 2.7 assists per contest, tied for fifth amongst the first-year players.

    Point guard Nikki Teasley of North Carolina was chosen No. 5 by Portland, but before the draft was completed, she was traded to Los Angeles where she became a starter, averaging 27.6 minutes per game for the WNBA defending champs. Teasley handed out 4.4 assists per game, No. 2 in the rookie class, and averaged 6.4 ppg., which ranked No. 8 amongst the newcomers. Teasley made 40 percent of her field goal attempts, including shots from behind the 3-pt. arc.

    Another first-round selectee, 6-5 center Michelle Snow of Tennessee, made her mark with Houston after being selected No. 10. Snow averaged 3.9 ppg. and 3.7 rpg. in all 32 contests for the Comets, and became a starter near the end of the regular season. She made 46.9 percent of her field goal tries, and blocked 0.81 shots per outing.

    Probably the biggest surprise of the draft was the outstanding play of Wisconsin guard Tamara Moore, who was taken No. 15 in the draft by Miami. Moore played just five games with the Sol before she was traded to Minnesota where she was on the floor for 26 more contests. The 5-10 Moore averaged 7.2 ppg. and 2.7 rpg., while dishing out 2.8 assists per outing. Always tough on the defensive end, she averaged 0.97 steals per contest. She also could be counted upon at the foul line, converting 85.7 percent of her shots, which was fifth-best in the WNBA.

    Detroit, which came on strong at the end of the regular season, had a good draft that included Cash, and second-round choice Ayana Walker, a center from Louisiana Tech. Walker played in all 32 games, averaging 5.1 ppg., 3.7 rpg., and 1.06 blocks per outing.

    Stanford great, forward Lindsey Yamasaki, was a late second-round choice of Miami (the 29th player taken overall). She averaged 3.5 ppg. in half the games.

    Injuries played a huge role in many of the disappointments. Guard Sheila Lambert and forward Danielle Crockrom of Baylor, and guards LaNeishea Caufield and Rosalind Ross of Oklahoma were all first-round draft choices who went down to injury. Lambert, selected No. 7 by Charlotte, broke her right fibula in the WBCA All-Star game before the WNBA season and was limited to three games. Crockrom, taken No. 11 by Utah, averaged 1.6 ppg. in 18 contests, but suffered a right anterior tibial contusion six games into the season. Caufield, chosen No. 14, was averaging 2.4 ppg. in the first eight games for the Starzz before a stress fracture put her on the sideline for the remainder of the summer. Ross was the final pick of the first round by Los Angeles, but a preseason injury eliminated her 2002 campaign.

    An injury to former Georgia center Tawana McDonald, kept her on the sideline for Indiana. She was the No. 13 pick in the draft, while the Fever got very little play from ex-Vanderbilt forward Zuzana Klimesova, who averaged 0.5 ppg. in 11 contests because of an injury.

    Minnesota was expecting big things from South Carolina guard Shaunzinski Gortman, whom it obtained in a draft day trade with the Sting, but the ninth player taken in the draft averaged just 3.1 ppg. in 29 contests.

    The excellent play during the 2002 season can be rationalized by the current caliber of the players. One thing is certain, the Class of 2002 added a great deal of talent to the WNBA in its sixth year of action. Will it be the best class ever? I guess we'll have to wait until 2003.

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