Foes ... Then Friends
After everyone spent the day checking in with an exhausting process of physicals, photos, contracts and questionnaires, the 2002 WNBA Pre-Draft Camp officially tipped off with a buffet dinner Thursday night. Players, coaches and WNBA staff members dined on a variety of meats, vegetables and pasta before indulging in a make-your-own-sundae bar. It was a good chance for the players to interact on a social level before things got serious the next day.
It also formed some interesting friendships. Iowa's Lindsey Meder found herself sitting next to Stephanie Schmitz, a guard from Drake who had been Meder's defensive assignment every time the two played for the last four years. The players had an even stronger connection by virtue of the fact that Hawkeyes' head coach Lisa Bluder had come to Iowa from Drake. So Schmitz played for Bluder for two years and then Meder played for her for two years.
"My coaches used to be her coaches so we had a lot to talk about," Meder said. "We kept saying, 'Did she do this with you? Was she like this with you?' It was really fun."
After an intense morning workout, the players gathered at center court to receive instruction from pre-draft camp staff member Lynn Barry (who's also the wife of NBA legend Rick Barry). First she told them how to have the practice clothes they were wearing washed and then that they were to wear their second set of practice clothes to the afternoon session. Except the players must have been more concerned about reading playbooks than their weekend guidelines because quite a few had forgotten their second set of practice clothes at the hotel.
Barry's next instructions further showed the intensity of the morning. She said there were lots of fouls in the morning scrimmages and to "admit you got beat and move on" when playing defense. This was important for the later games that have two halves of 20 minutes -- running time. So when play stops, the clock doesn't. More fouls mean less time for the WNBA coaches and player personnel to see the prospects' skills.
Nikki Teasley was one of the few campers who brought a second set of clothes for the afternoon session, but wouldn't be able to use it. |
North Carolina guard Nikki Teasley proudly raised her hand as one of the players who remembered her afternoon practice gear and then spent considerable time during the lunch period chatting with Lin Dunn and other members of the Storm coaching staff. Remember, the Storm hold the No. 1 pick in the draft.
But an ankle injury would force the North Carolina guard to sit out of the first afternoon session of games. She thought she'd try to play on Saturday, but she wasn't sure. "I have to protect myself," Teasley said.
So, Which is It?
Pre-draft camp is an interesting setup, sort of like a two-day playground fiesta. The players are divided into teams and don't really have any practice time together before their games, during which everyone is trying to showcase their skills in front of the WNBA team coaches and scouts.
"It's disorganized," UNLV center Linda Fröhlich said of the game action. "So there's not a lot of motion offense. There's a lot of one-on-one. And it's hard to get touches, being a post player. We're used to basketball being a game, but now everyone is fighting for a paycheck. It's so much more serious."
Louisiana Tech forward Ayana Walker had a different opinion on the atmosphere. "It's relaxed," she said. "Not so intense. I thought people would be a lot more uptight."
Ayana Walker and Cheryl Moody unwind after an intense first game at
pre-draft camp. |
Florida International forward Cheryl Moody stands somewhere in the middle on this issue. "It's a lot of fun, but you can't let up even for a minute," she said. "I thought I had a rebound and all of a sudden, this girl came up behind me, grabbed the ball and went the other way for a layup."
Coop-in' It Up
The award for the person having the most fun at pre-draft camp so far goes to Mercury head coach Cynthia Cooper. Normally very serious on the sidelines, Cooper was rarely seen on Friday without a broad smile on her face. At one point, she came up to a group of prospects resting on the sidelines between games and said hello. They gave her what she must have felt was a shy welcome. So Cooper plopped herself down on the floor amongst them, startling Iowa forward Jerica Watson, who was wearing headphones.
Cynthia Cooper (center) must have liked what she saw on the first day of camp.|
Cooper asked if she could listen and Watson handed them over. The Mercury coach bounced to the tune for a minute before returning the headphones to a wide-eyed Watson. The group laughed as Cooper went on her way.