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WNBA BE Tour Hits Washington
During All-Star Weekend
By Adam Hirshfield, WNBA.com

It was hot outside at the corner of 11th Street and H in Washington Saturday morning at the All-Star BE Tour event, where kids, parents and all varieties of WNBA fans poured in to participate in basketball clinics, activities and games promoting fitness and activity in today's youth.

But the heat outside was nothing compared to the smokin' hot shooting of Cindy Brice, a youngster from nearby Arlington, Va., who topped Washington Mystics star Monique Currie in a game of Knockout at the Be Tour's Center Court. After knocking out several of the teenaged competitors, Currie, one of the many WNBA players participating in the event, missed her free throw, and Brice hit hers before Currie could put in her layup.

"It was a nice competition," said the diplomatic Brice, who ended up finishing second in the game. "It was really fun."

But the fact that Currie was out participating and mingling with the fans impressed Brice.

"It lets you know that she cares about the community. It's a great opportunity to be able to see her. And the fact that she's out here shooting around with us is amazing."

The winner? A vacationing Swedish baller named Tuba, who with the win took home a ticket to the WNBA All-Star Game on Sunday. Tuba told me she is a fan of Phoenix and Diana Taurasi and she couldn't have done a finer job of emulating her idol's shooting from outside.

At other stations around the event, volunteers handed out healthy snacks from WNBA partners, allowed fans to get pictures taken in WNBA jerseys and promoted the Nothing But Nets campaign to help prevent malaria in Africa.

Former Liberty star Kym Hampton could be found at the Thrills and Drills station, stretching, dribbling and shooting around with the kids in attendance. Hampton was delighted to be promoting her sport and the activity that comes with being involved in it.

"I think it's important for us to be out here," she said, "because kids don't always listen to what we say, but kids do listen to what we do. And if we are active, then kids will be active too. We're setting an example."

Another former WNBA star, Ruthie Bolton, was showing off both her ripped biceps and her long-range shooting at the 3-point station, where fans could earn WNBA prizes if they and Ruthie combined to hit four or more 3-pointers out of 15 shots.

"It feels great to be out here," said the recently retired Monarchs legend. "It makes me feel like I'm back in the mix. I miss this stuff! It reminds me of when I played. The interaction with the kids and fans is what I loved about playing in the WNBA. I miss being a part of the league, being involved and trying to be educational for the kids."

Despite her absence from the WNBA hardcourt, Bolton hasn't forgotten the positive messages the league is trying to promote.

"It's so important for kids to be thinking about fitness, getting in shape and being active," she said before sitting down to sign autographs for a line of fans. "If you're not working on good habits, you're working on bad habits. I always try to teach kids to be active, so that when you get older, it becomes second nature. When it becomes a part of you, when you're constantly out there doing things, it's so much easier to keep it going throughout your life."

Anna DeForge of the Indiana Fever echoed the importance of kids staying active.

"It's so important," she said. "With all of today's technology, you can sit in front of the computer, play video games, chat online, text message… Children these days have almost too much that can keep them from being active.

"With us being out here on this BE Tour, if we can be role models to them and help them lead a more active life, then we've changed a couple of kids' lives for the better."

Later at the autograph station, WNBA President Donna Orender stopped in to say hi to All-Stars Katie Douglas, Kara Braxton, Cheryl Ford, DeForge and coach Bill Laimbeer.

"This is fantastic!" she told me with a smile. "I'm a little surprised that people are waiting out here to get Laimbeer's autograph, but other than that, I'm impressed by the response that these great players are drawing."

Another smiling autograph signer, Tammy Sutton-Brown of the Indiana Fever, agreed with Orender's assessment.

"The whole experience is fun. It was great to be outside, too. The kids were great. Just being in that environment, it uplifts you a little bit. There are a lot of people out here and it's great to interact with the kids and be so close to them."

One in particular, caught TSB's eye. She signed a WNBA frisbee for a young girl in a "Miss Petite Diva 2007" sash and tiara.

"She was so cute!" Sutton-Brown said with a laugh. "She was adorable. I think that's what it's all about… just showing them that you can still play sports, be active, be fit and be cute in the process."

"That is what this weekend is all about," agreed DeForge. "The events and festivities that the WNBA puts on. This weekend is about the fans, about the children and it's about us interacting with them and giving back.

"And as players, we really enjoy it. We love to be able to give back. We love to see them at the games, but we also love to be out there talking to them, signing autographs, whatever we can do."

Orender summed up the day before chatting with some fans. "The league is definitely providing the right amount of energy and inviting the kind of inspiration that helps young girls pursue their dreams, be strong, play basketball, be confident and don't be afraid."

Anna DeForge, Tammy Sutton-Brown, Kara Braxton sign autographs for fans at the BE Tour event.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images