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Past articles:
  • 2002-03 NCAA Awards

  • Sophia Young

  • WBCA All Stars

  • NWBL Draft

  • The Burge Twins

  • 2002 WNBA Successes

  • 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

  • Improving Agility


  • LESLIE NAMED GBALLMAG.COM WNBA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
    By Dave Wohlhueter

    If Los Angeles center Lisa Leslie were still at Southern Cal, she would be a four-year letter winner. In the WNBA, she is the Gballmag.com four-year most valuable player award recipient.

    The 6-5 veteran continues to amaze women's pro basketball fans with her never-say-die competitive nature, and she has talent to match. Not to take anything away from Seattle's Lauren Jackson, the WNBA recipient of the MVP award, but Leslie's leadership and ability is what makes the Sparks a winner (she also has amazing talent surrounding her).

    When the seven-year veteran began missing games after her all-star game injury, Los Angeles started to falter. Leslie scored 17 points in the first half of the mid-season spectacle, but injured her right knee 5:27 after the intermission. During her absence, L.A. went 4-7, and when she returned the team began its winningways once again.

    During the regular season, the 6-5 Leslie ranked No. 2 in blocks per game (2.74), No. 3 in rebounds per outing (10.0), and No. 4 in points per game (18.4). She was the league leader in offensive rebounds per game (3.3), and she was No. 3 in double-doubles (13.0) even though she missed 11 contests.

    Jackson adds tremendous support to Leslie in the Gballmag.com first-team front line. In her fourth season at Seattle, the 6-5 forward led the WNBA in scoring (21.2 ppg.), and was in the top five in rebounds (9.3 rpg.), blocks (1.94 bpg.), field goals made and attempted (254x526), free throws made and attempted (151x183), and double-doubles (13).

    On June 7, Jackson became the youngest player in WNBA history to reach 1,000 points. She also became the fifth player to record a 20-20 double-double, scoring 23 points and pulling down a team-record 20 rebounds vs. Charlotte on July 31.

    The third member of the front line is Houston forward Sheryl Swoopes, also named the Gballmag.com Defensive Player of the Year for the second time. Swoopes excels at both ends of the court, and turns in yeoman duty (35.0 mpg., No. 3 in WNBA). She averaged 15.6 ppg. and was fourth in the WNBA in free-throw percentage (.887). The 6-0 forward was No. 1 in the league in steals (77) and steals per game (2.48), after being the runner-up in 2002. She was third in the league in steals per turnover ratio (1.05). Swoopes, named to the Gball first squad a year ago, is a key to the Comets defense that ranked No. 1 in the WNBA in points allowed (63.0 ppg.). She had a career-high 10 assists in a game vs. Phoenix this past summer

    In the first-team backcourt, "old reliable," Sacramento veteran guard Ticha Penicheiro was selected for the third straight season. While averaging 5.4 ppg., she was the WNBA leader in assists per game (6.7) for the sixth straight season. She was also No. 1 in total assists (229) and assists per turnover ratio (2.83). She ranked No. 3 in steals (61) and steals per game (1.79). Against Los Angeles this summer, she had 16 assists to tie her career-high and WNBA record.

    The other first-team guard is Katie Smith of Minnesota, who averaged 18.2 ppg., fifth overall, and the highest of all the WNBA guards. On July 1, she reached the 2,500-point mark for her WNBA career, becoming the second-fastest player in league history (139 games) to reach that plateau. Smith ranked No. 1 in the league in 3-pt. field goals made (78), and is the WNBA's all-time leader for shots made behind the arc. A fine defensive player, she ranked third in the league in minutes played (1,185).

    Named to the second team at forward are two former Gballmag.com first team performers, 6-0 Tamika Catchings of Indiana, who averaged 19.7 ppg. (3rd in the WNBA) and was second in the league in steals per game (2.12) and steals (72), while playing the most minutes per contest (35.6 mpg.); and former Tennessee teammate Chamique Holdsclaw of Washington. The 6-2 Holdsclaw ranked No. 1 in the league in rebounds (10.9) and was No. 2 in scoring (20.5 ppg.). She was hampered by injuries that kept her out of seven games.

    WNBA champion Detroit was represented on the second team by 6-1 forward Swin Cash. Cash had a superb year, averaging 16.6 ppg. and 5.8 rpg. She was No. 2 in the league in free throw attempts (214). Twice during the season she was named WNBA Player of the Week.

    The second-team guards are Sue Bird of Seattle and Nikki Teasley of Los Angeles. Bird, named to the second unit in 2002, averaged 12.4 ppg., and 6-5 apg. as the runner-up to Penicheiro. Teasley is another of the upcoming stars in the WNBA. She averaged 11.5 ppg. and 5.1 rpg., to go with 6.3 apg., No. 3 in the league. She ranked No. 3 in the WNBA in 3-pt. field goal percentage (.424) and in minutes played (35.0 mpg.).

    Detroit forward Cheryl Ford is the Gballmag.com Rookie of the Year. The 6-3 Ford had an unbelievable first season with the Shock. She averaged 10.8 ppg. and 10.4 rpg., with the latter ranking No. 2 in the WNBA, although she had the most rebounds (334). She was the first rookie to be the league's double-double champion with 15. Among rookies, Ford was first in rebounding, field goal percentage (.474), minutes played (29.9), and blocked shots (0.97); and was second in scoring and steals (1.00).

    The Most Improved Player Award went to Phoenix guard Anna DeForge. DeForge had a stellar 2003 campaign, after having not played in the league since 2000, when she appeared in 27 games with Detroit, and averaged 5.4 ppg. The Shock traded DeForge to Houston in 2000, and she was released in 2001. She was assigned to Charlotte as a free agent in 2002, but did not make the roster. This year, DeForge averaged 11.9 ppg., and ranked No. 6 in the WNBA in 3-pt. field goals made (61). She pulled down 3.1 rpg., and handed out 2.1 apg.

    It was a somewhat easy year to pick the Coach of the Year. Detroit mentor Bill Laimbeer was just fantastic in taking the Shock from worst in 2002 to first in 2003. His team certainly played like Laimbeer did in the NBA from 1980-94. Laimbeer likes the aggressive style, and his young team really took off under this philosophy. Certainly Michael Cooper deserves recognition for keeping Los Angeles at the top of the West. Suzie McConnell Serio brought Minnesota to the playoffs for the first time ever in her initial year as a WNBA head coach, and John Whisenant got Sacramento back in the playoffs where the Monarchs talented team belongs.

    REGULAR SEASON AWARDS

    WNBA Media Winners
    MVP: Lauren Jackson, Seattle
    Defensive Player: Sheryl Swoopes, Houston
    Most Improved: Michelle Snow, Houston
    Rookie of the Year: Cheryl Ford, Detroit
    Coach of the Year: Bill Laimbeer, Detroit

    Gballmag.com Winners
    MVP: Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles
    Defensive Player: Sheryl Swoopes, Houston
    Most Improved: Anna DeForge, Phoenix
    Rookie of the Year: Cheryl Ford, Detroit
    Coach of the Year: Bill Laimbeer, Detroit

    GBALLMAG.COM WNBA TEAMS
    First Team
    F-Lauren Jackson, Storm
    F-Sheryl Swoopes, Comets
    C-Lisa Leslie, Sparks
    G-Ticha Penicheiro, Monarchs
    G-Katie Smith, Lynx

    Second Team
    F-Tamika Catchings, Fever
    F-Chamique Holdsclaw, Mystics
    F-Swin Cash, Shock
    G-Sue Bird, Storm
    G-Nikki Teasley, Sparks

    WNBA TEAMS
    First Team
    F-Lauren Jackson, Storm
    F-Tamika Catchings, Fever
    C-Lisa Leslie, Sparks
    G-Sue Bird, Storm
    G-Katie Smith, Lynx

    Second Team
    F-Sheryl Swoopes, Comets
    F-Swin Cash, Shock
    C-Cheryl Ford, Shock
    G-Nikki Teasley, Sparks
    G-Deanna Nolan, Shock




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