San Antonio Silver Stars: 2006 Preview
Since relocating from Utah before the 2003 season, the Silver Stars went from 12 wins to nine to only seven in 2005.
They had three different coaches in three seasons, they were twice unlucky in the draft lottery, they lost 2005 top draft pick Kendra Wecker to a torn ACL in the first game of the season a year ago. Soon afterward LaToya Thomas, the team's leading scorer in 2004, suffered a torn labrum.
It seems the only luck the Silver Stars have known is bad since moving to the Lone Star state. After spinning their wheels in reverse for the last three seasons, though, the Silver Stars finally seem poised to shift gears and move their win total in the opposite direction despite the fact that Marie Ferdinand, the team's leading scorer in 2005, is pregnant and will miss much of the 2006 season.
As valuable as Ferdinand is, her loss should be offset by many factors, not the least of which is the acquisition of Vickie Johnson, one of the WNBA's most accomplished players.
Johnson starred for nine years with the New York Liberty. She brings plenty of intangibles to San Antonio, and is still a force on the floor. The 5-9 guard has only missed six games in nine years because of injury, has never played less than 29 minutes a game and has never averaged fewer than 9.4 points per game. Her 36 games of playoff experience far exceeds that of the rest of her teammates combined.
Johnson should be a good mentor on a team that lost veterans Nikki McCray and Wendy Palmer-Daniel to free agency and Edna Campbell to retirement. Minus Ferdinand, San Antonio has only one other bona fide veteran in Shannon Johnson.
The experienced Johnson & Johnson backcourt is a strength for the Silver Stars. After that, though, inexperience prevails. Ten players on the team's preseason roster were born in 1981 or later.
The youth movement began to take shape with last year's heralded draft class of Wecker (now healthy), 6-8 All-Rookie Team center Katie Feenstra and forward Shyra Ely. It continued this season with the selection of Sophia Young, who led Baylor to a National Championship, and Shanna Zolman, a career 42.5 percent three-point shooter at Tennessee.
"I feel like we're a little bit blessed to have a draft class that includes arguably the best athlete and the best shooter," said Head Coach and General Manager Dan Hughes of Young and Zolman.
The Silver Stars should also consider themselves blessed to have Hughes, providing some much needed continuity in the front office. The 2001 WNBA Coach of the Year, who also assumed General Manager duties in the off-season, has tweaked the roster to improve the team's chemistry on and off the court.
Hughes is using training
camp to install a motion offense that will take advantage of the team's perimeter
shooting and get more players involved.