Alexis Hornbuckle, Olayinka Sanni, Kara Braxton, Plenette Pierson and Shavonte Zellous are the only remaining players from the Shock's days in Detroit.
Layne MurdochNBAE/Getty Images

Season Outlook

When it was announced that the Detroit Shock were moving to Tulsa, Okla. on Oct. 20, 2009, many within the new organization, including head coach Nolan Richardson, assumed the players would be part of the package. That was not the case, as only five members from the 2009 team are with the Shock today. So as the front office was drumming up a following in the community, they were simultaneously constructing a roster – similar to what an expansion team has to do.

“We thought we were pretty much buying a complete team, but now there are about five players who are no longer here, and Cheryl Ford is out six months,” he said. “We are starting from scratch building this team.”

Impressively, while in the Motor City, the Shock made the playoffs the last seven years, reaching the WNBA Finals four times, winning three of those series. Last year, Detroit fell to the Indiana Fever, 2-1, in the Eastern Conference Finals. With a successful history like that, it’s no wonder why Richardson would have loved to have more of the 11 players off last year’s roster. In finding suitable replacements, there were certain qualities that Richardson kept an eye out for.

“I wanted to bring in some players who will run, guard and can handle some coaching,” the former head coach at Arkansas said. “Those are the type of athletes I like, who are skillful and successful.”

Those who did pack their bags to head 948 miles to Tulsa include guards Shavonte Zellous and Alexis Hornbuckle, forward Plenette Pierson, and centers Kara Braxton and Olayinka Sanni. Ford may have returned, but was waived after it was determined that she'll miss the season with a left knee injury. Of that aforementioned group, only Hornbuckle (21 games) started more than four games last season. She’ll handle the ball on offensive sets this season, and will look to replace the void left in the assists column now that Katie Smith (Washington Mystics) and Deanna Nolan are gone. Zellous, meanwhile, had an impressive rookie season off the bench, where she averaged nearly 12 points and three rebounds a night. Not only was Zellous the second-leading freshman scorer, but she was also named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team.

Braxton provides leadership in the middle, where she has been for the Shock since 2005. She was a reserve much of last season because Taj McWilliams-Franklin (New York Liberty) was stationed in the paint. Pierson, a former Sixth Woman of the Year recipient, missed all but one game of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury, but has said she’s ready to go. Her intense play should fit well with Richardson’s famous “40 Minutes of Hell” style of play.

Among the first new acquisitions the Shock made this offseason was former Olympian Marion Jones. The 34-year-old hasn’t played the game on any level since graduating in 1997 from the University of North Carolina, where she was a starting member on the 1994 National Champion Tar Heels. Richardson hasn’t revealed how much he’ll use Jones, who was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in 2003, but she’s expected to be used primarily off the bench.

Two other early moves the Shock made were picking up guards Scholanda Robinson and Shanna Crossley. Robinson was selected in the Sacramento Monarchs Dispersal Draft, while Crossley was nabbed from the San Antonio Silver Stars for forward Crystal Kelly. Crossley has the edge for starting minutes to lead the Shock down the court, but Robinson could also appear in the lineup at the same time should Richardson go with a three-guard lineup, or also in some defensive sets. It could be interesting to see what mixture of Hornbuckle, Zellous, Crossley, Robinson and Jones that Richardson goes with on a given night.

After the Crossley deal, the Shock weren’t done working the phones. Tulsa then sent its seventh selection in the 2010 WNBA Draft to the Connecticut Sun for forward Amber Holt and center Chante Black. Black only played about 13 minutes a game in her rookie season, averaging 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds. She and Braxton will be a tandem underneath the basket on Richardson’s depth chart. Holt, meanwhile, took more of a reserve role last season after starting all 34 games her rookie season in Connecticut. A broken wrist she suffered prior to the season was the main reason behind her move to the bench. Both Black and Holt weren’t going to get much playing time with the Sun, so this move allows them the opportunity for more minutes.

Without a first round pick, the Shock were still able to nab one of the top players on the board, forward Amanda Thompson out of Oklahoma. Many were surprised to see her fall to 19th overall, but that worked into Tulsa’s favor. She will certainly be part of Richardson’s rotation, but probably won’t get much floor time, especially early on.

The Shock certainly will be one of the teams to watch this season, not only for the dramatic roster turnover, but to see how Richardson’s style transfers over to the women’s game. Richardson, who coached at the University of Tulsa early in his career, believes his up-tempo speed of play could be the difference maker for his squad. That could be the difference maker for this collection of new teammates as they try to win now.

Scott Stanchak

Player on the Spot

Only Richardson knows how much playing time Jones is going to get this season. While those minutes will likely all be off the bench, you can bet that the 5’10” guard will have all eyes on her when she does step onto the floor.

The intrigue of watching Jones play comes from many angles: Former gold medalist Olympian stripped of her medals after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs; former basketball star at the University of North Carolina who hasn’t suited up in an organized game since 1997; a 34-year-old rookie looking to make it in the top professional woman’s basketball league in the world.

Richardson has said that Jones has been exceptional throughout training camp. In a recent conference call, the Tulsa head coach described what it’s been like working with her: “Even though she hasn't been in the game for a long period, a long time, it reminds me of a knife that's not sharp, but you got a chance to sharpen it up. That's what she’s been doing since she’s been in camp.”

Interestingly, Jones and Ivory Latta, who was in camp with the Shock but waived, both have their jerseys hanging in the rafters at the University of North Carolina. Latta’s was retired after winning the national player of the year in 2006, while Jones’ jersey was honored for her Olympic credentials.

Jones won’t be the typical WNBA rookie, but she’ll still endure the same tolls that most freshman players experience, including a four month cross-country travel schedule, back-to-back games, bumps and bruises. Once known for her excellent conditioning, that could help ease her into the life of a WNBA player. One thing is for sure though; her track ability could create some dynamic fast-break situations for the Shock.

Scott Stanchak

Projected Lineup

G.Alexis Hornbuckle
G.Shavonte Zellous
F.Amber Holt
F.Plenette Pierson
C.Kara Braxton

Players Added

C.Chante Black
G.Shanna Crossley
F.Amber Holt
G.Marion Jones
F/GNatasha Lacy
G.Scholanda Robinson
F.Amanda Thompson
F/C.Iciss Tillis

Players Lost

G.Sherill Baker
G.Tanae Davis-Cain
G.Anna DeForge
F/C.Barbara Farris
F.Cheryl Ford
F.Crystal Kelly
C.Taj McWilliams-Franklin
C.Britany Miller
G.Deanna Nolan
C.Kelly Schumacher
G.Katie Smith
G.Nikki Teasley

2008 Leaders

PPGDeanna Nolan16.9
RPGCheryl Ford7.4
APGDeanna Nolan3.5
SPGTwo Tied1.3
BPGTwo Tied1.0

Team Stats

Points Scored78.0(5th)
Points Allowed77.8(8th)
Field-Goal Percentage.430(7th)
Opponents’ FG%.410(2nd)
Rebounding Diff.+3.7(2nd)