Rookies Shine on Opening Night

So much for first-game jitters. Taking a cue from last year’s Rookie of the Year and MVP Candace Parker – who had the best debut in the history of the league with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists – four of this year’s rookies turned in outstanding performances on opening day.

And while none of them matched Parker’s brilliant performance, each of these four players were key contributors throughout the game and in crunch time as their respective teams each opened the 2009 campaign with a victory.

In a tightly contested game between San Antonio and Phoenix - the last two Western Conference champions – No. 5 pick DeWanna Bonner was on the floor late in the fourth quarter and looked nothing like a player playing in her first game as a pro. Mercury coach Corey Gaines trusted Bonner with the game on the line and she delivered with a double-double – 16 points and a team-high 11 rebounds – in 25 minutes off of the bench as the Mercury defeated the Silver Stars, 90-79.

“I’ve been saying this all preseason, DB [DeWanna Bonner] she’s going to be phenomenal,” said Mercury teammate Cappie Pondexter. “I’m going to challenge her to win rookie of the year because she has that potential in this class.”

Bonner wasn’t the only rookie to impress on opening day of the 2009 season. No. 1 pick Angel McCoughtry played 26 minutes in her WNBA debut, including critical minutes in the fourth quarter and two overtime periods, as the Dream edged out the Fever, 87-86. McCoughtry finished her WNBA debut with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

In Connecticut, the Washington Mystics spoiled the Sun’s home opener behind a team-high 16 points from No. 2 pick Marissa Coleman. The rookie out of Maryland caught fire from long range, connecting on all four of her 3-point attempts. She also added five rebounds during her 26 minutes off of the bench.

“She’s awesome. She is a special player, she does it all,” said Mystics head coach Julie Plank after the game. “She is a competitor and we count on her three-ball and she is not afraid to take shots.”

Also putting in an impressive performance off the bench was No. 4 pick Renee Montgomery for the Minnesota Lynx. After watching the Chicago Sky jump out to an early nine-point lead, Montgomery entered her first WNBA game and was part of an offensive explosion for the Lynx that gave them a comfortable lead as they cruised to a 17-point win.

After falling behind 15-4 just five minutes into the game, the Lynx caught fire and outscored the Sky 17 to 6 to close the quarter tied at 21. The Lynx kept things rolling in the second quarter, winning the period 35-24 to head into the locker room with a double-digit lead. Montgomery scored eight of her nine points in the decisive run, capped off by a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the second quarter.

So what will these four players do for an encore? We’ll have to wait and see. But like they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and these four players do not need a second chance.