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Past articles:
  • 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

  • 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

    by Dave Wohlhueter

    Former UConn guard Sue Bird was the No. 1 draft choice by Seattle in the WNBA last spring. On Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002, the WNBA all-star was the top selection in the National Women's Basketball League.

    Bird will play for the Springfield Spirit when the league opens its third season on February 2, with Houston traveling to Springfield, Mass., the home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Seventy-two players were drafted for the league's six teams. These players were selected from a group of 150 candidates taken from local tryouts across the country, and from the WNBA. Included in this group were 60 players from all over the USA, who attended a national combine tryout in Chicago last November.

    In 2003, each team will have at least four WNBA players, while some will have as many as 6-8.

    WNBA players drafted in the first round for the 2003 season were Bird by Springfield; Nikki McCray by Tennessee; Tawana McDonald by Grand Rapids; Deanna Jackson by Birmingham; Dominique Canty by Chicago; and Tina Thompson by Houston. Both Bird and Thompson were named to the second team for the 2002 WNBA season.

    The National Women's Basketball League was founded as a semipro league in June 1997, as a vehicle for women to play basketball after college. These semipro teams were formed throughout the United States, with about 600 players taking part in the action.

    The NWBL began to sell pro franchises in 2001 with the first teams located in Atlanta, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Mobile, Ala. That inaugural season, Atlanta defeated Birmingham to win the Pro Cup, emblematic of the league championship. In 2002, Springfield and Chicago, Ill., joined the league, and Mobile moved to Houston, Texas. Houston defeated Chicago for the Pro Cup.

    In 2003, Houston, Chicago, Birmingham and Springfield will be joined by the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Blizzard, and the Tennessee Fury based in Knoxville.

    NWBL President Patrick Alexander does not consider the league a threat to the WNBA, which has growing pains of its own. He said, "We are the 'other professional women's basketball league in the United States.' We don't play in the summer, but our schedule runs in the spring."

    According to Alexander, approximately 20 WNBA players will dot the NWBL rosters in the spring because they would rather play professionally in the U.S. rather than overseas. These players will use the league to prepare for the 2003 WNBA summer campaign.

    Many WNBA players have already played in the NWBL, with a season that runs from February to April. In 2002, WNBA Rookie of the Year Tamika Catchings played in the NWBL, along with Rebecca Lobo, Sheryl Swoopes, and Kelly and Coco Miller.

    Fan interest has varied in the league's two-year history. Most teams have averaged about 1,000 fans, although Alexander expects that to grow in 2003. The Springfield franchise holds the league game record of about 7,000 fans.

    Players are paid a basic per diem of about $50 per day plus housing for the 72-day season. Players, Nos. 9-12 on the roster, do not receive a per diem.

    Alexander said, "You play in the NWBL for three primary reasons: 1. to keep your WNBA job, or 2. to take a WNBA job, and 3. not for money, but for the love of the game!

    "We look forward to heading into our historic third season in 2003," said the NWBL leader.

    For additional information on the NWBL, check out its Web site. It is kept up-to-date, and information on all teams can be found on the site.

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