SACRAMENTO, CALIF., Feb. 10 , 2009 – The Sacramento Monarchs today announced the signing of guard-forward Hamchétou Maïga-Ba as well as the re-signing of team veterans Chelsea Newton, Ticha Penicheiro and DeMya Walker. Per company policy, terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
These signees will join current Monarchs Rebekkah Brunson (a 2007 WNBA All-Star), Kara Lawson (a 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist), Nicole Powell (the 2005 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year), Charel Allen, A’Quonesia Franklin, Laura Harper, Crystal Kelly, Scholanda Robinson and Kim Smith at Training Camp.
“With the signing of Maïga, we have what I think is the final piece of our puzzle to put us in a position to be a playoff team for the seventh year in a row and to be successful overall in 2009,” said Sacramento Monarchs General Manager John Whisenant. “We already have the two best three-point shooters in Kara Lawson and Nicole Powell, and with the signing of Ticha Penicheiro, we have the WNBA all-time leader in assists.”
Maïga-Ba was selected by Sacramento in the first round (12th overall) of the 2002 WNBA Draft and helped the Monarchs win the league title in 2005 by averaging 3.8 points and 1.6 rebounds per game during the playoffs. She signed as a free agent with Houston on March 13, 2007. Last season, Maïga-Ba started in 22 of 26 games played for the Comets and averaged 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 22.7 minutes per game. Maïga-Ba also represented her native country of Mali in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Sacramento signed her as an unrestricted free agent following the Houston Comets Dispersal Draft on Dec. 8, 2008.
Newton, a second round selection (22nd overall) by Sacramento in the 2005 WNBA Draft, started every game for the Monarchs in her first year in the league. She finished third on the team in steals (55), fourth in offensive rebounds (32), fifth in minutes (715) and seventh in scoring (148; 4.4 per game). Newton was recognized on the WNBA All-Rookie Team that year and earned WNBA All-Defensive Second Team honors in 2007. In 2008, Newton played in 26 games for the Monarchs while recovering from an ankle injury; she averaged 4.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 15.1 minutes per game as she helped Sacramento reach the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
“Chelsea had off-season ankle surgery to take care of a very painful injury; she is a defensive stopper at the one, two or three position and with the signing of Maïga, we get another defensive stopper with more length who can guard the two, three or four positions. Maïga and Chelsea give us the versatility that we need to be a top team in all facets of the game,” said Whisenant.
As a long-time Monarchs veteran, Penicheiro has been recognized multiple times for her prowess on the court. Following the 1998 season, her first in the WNBA, Penicheiro finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting after leading the league in assists (7.5 per game) and minutes (36.0 per game) and finishing fourth in steals (2.23 per game). Penicheiro went on to be recognized as a WNBA All-Star from 1999-2002 in addition to being named to the All-WNBA First Team in 1999 and 2000 and the second team in 2001. In 2003, she earned both the Cascade Dish & Assist award and the Off-Season Community Assist award; then, in 2006, Penicheiro was honored with WNBA All-Decade Honorable Mention accolades as well as a place on the Sacramento Monarchs All-Decade Team. During the 2008 season, Penicheiro reached 2,000 career assists as well as 650 career steals as she continued to solidify her status as the all-time WNBA leader in both categories. Additionally, she tallied her 10,000th minute and currently is fifth all-time in the league in minutes played (10,181).
On May 15, 2008, Sacramento requested waivers on Walker after she suffered a right knee patella fracture on April 27, 2008, while playing with her team, Nadezhda, located in Orenburg, Russia. She underwent successful surgery on May 2, 2008, under the care of Monarchs Team Doctor Richard Marder and Sacramento re-signed her as an unrestricted free agent on July 21, 2008. Through nine WNBA seasons, Walker has played in 207 games and averaged 20.6 minutes, 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. Additionally, she was a 2005 WNBA All-Star selection and was an integral part of the Monarchs 2005 WNBA Championship team.
“Rebekkah, along with DeMya who has been rehabbing her knee to full-strength, gives us more inside scoring and rebounding,” said Whisenant. “Also, Head Coach Jenny Boucek now has two years of WNBA head coaching experience under her belt and with her veteran assistants, we have all the ingredients to compete for the WNBA Championship. I’m excited, our owners are excited and I think our fans should be excited. We are looking forward to a good summer.”