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SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING IN CHICAGO - APRIL 13
Pre-Draft Camp Notebook
By Lina Balciunas

Rising to the Top
Shaunzinski Gortman might not measure up height-wise to Indiana's Jill Chapman, but the South Carolina guard has been one of the standouts in camp.
(WNBA Photos)

The consensus among the WNBA coaches seems to be that the players who had the best performances at this year's pre-draft camp are South Carolina guard Shaunzinski Gortman, Old Dominion forward Hamchétou Maïga and Tennessee center Michelle Snow.

Gortman has opened eyes with her hustle and aggressiveness, while Snow has showed she could be physical to go along with her finesse. Maiga has had the most statistically impressive camp, averaging 10.0 ppg and 4.5 rpg through the Saturday morning session. She scored 17 points in Friday's first game and followed with 12 points in the late afternoon.

"I'm just out there playing my game," Maiga said. "The other ODU players, like Ticha Penicheiro, who have come here told me, 'just do what you do best.' So that's what I'm trying to do -- go out there and play my game."

Storm Trade Brewing?
Head coach Lin Dunn still hasn't decided whether the Storm are going to keep their No. 1 draft pick or trade it away.

"We've gotten a lot of offers and had to sift through them to find the serious ones," Dunn said. "So now we're going to fully consider our options in the next 24-48 hours and then make a decision about whether to accept one of the trades."

With the top prospects not participating in pre-draft camp, Dunn's presence in Chicago this weekend was mostly to scout for the Storm's second-round pick (No. 19 overall). However, she had quite a bit of praise for the performances of Tennessee center Michelle Snow over the last two days, a projected first-round pick, but not considered to be a No. 1 candidate. So a trade down might very well be in the works ...

Congo's Kongolo Turns Heads
Amba Kongolo finally gets to relax after a tough first afternoon game.
(WNBA Photos)

Pre-draft camp gives players from the major college basketball programs a chance to improve their position in the draft, but it also serves as an important opportunity for the lesser-known players to get some much-needed visibility. "We don't have the staff or the budget that the NBA teams have," Lynx head coach Brian Agler said. "So we aren't able to see the players from the smaller colleges during the season. This is a great time to be able to watch them in person and see what they can do."

One such player who has stood out this weekend is forward Amba Kongolo from Division II N.C. Central. The Congo native had a camp-high 12 rebounds in the second game on Friday and has impressed many of the WNBA coaches with her post play. She was CIAA player of the year in her junior and senior seasons and led the Eagles to two NCAA Division II Tournaments. Kongolo also has experience against some of the top WNBA players, having competed in the 1996 Olympics as a member of the national team for what was then known as Zaire.

That team beat Canada and the People's Republic of China before falling to the United States and Kongolo's defensive assignment was Comets forward Rebecca Lobo. Kongolo would be the second Congo native on a WNBA roster, along with Sparks forward Mwadi Mabika.

Ladies' Man
The Miracle will have plenty of support from their male counterparts this season, thanks to new head coach (and former Magic guard) Dee Brown. Guard Tracy McGrady and forward Grant Hill have already bought season tickets. And a ringing endorsement from Magic head coach Doc Rivers to Miracle management helped get Brown the job. Brown finds coaching in the WNBA a natural progression in his life and not just because of his playing experience.

"I have two daughters and a third on the way," he said. "I've been around women all my life, so another 12 won't be a big deal."

Connecting Off Court
Southeastern Conference foes for four years, everyone's on the same team when it comes to lunch. (WNBA Photos)

The competition might be fierce on the court but bonds have formed off the court that are just as strong. After a tough morning of games, the players gathered for a leisurely lunch, with the de facto cliques forming according to college and conference.

"We've played against each other all four years and now the Southeastern Conference comes together as one big family," Alabama guard Shondra Johnson said. "For one big lunch."

The SEC is well-represented at pre-draft camp with 13 participants -- all of whom seem to enjoy each other's company.

By this point in their careers, there are few strangers among these women. The connection goes even well beyond college.

From the left, Takeisha Lewis, Jessie Stomski, Tamara Moore and Alayne Ingram, basketball buddies from "way back," enjoy lunch together. (WNBA Photos)

"We've played in camps together since junior high," Wisconsin forward Jessie Stomski said. "So we keep playing with and against the same people."

"It's great to hang out with the people I've been on the court with," Michigan guard Alayne Ingram added.

"It's like we've all gone through each level together," Louisiana Tech forward Takeisha Lewis said.

"And this is the one that is going to take us to the top!" Badgers guard Tamara Moore finished.



Stats from Pre-Draft Camp

2002 Pre-Draft Camp notes: April 12

Photos from 2002 Pre-Draft Camp

Check out some tidbits from Pre-Draft Camp

Snow sets sights on WNBA slam

Chat wrap: Michelle Snow

Video: Watch top draft prospects in action