Houston Comets: 2007 Preview

HOUSTON COMETS
2006 Results: The Comets finished
18-16, (.529, 3rd in the West).
Roster | Stats | 2007 Schedule
Head coach: Karleen Thompson enters her first season with the team.
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2007 Probable Starters:
C:
Michelle Snow
PF:
Tina Thompson
SF:
Sheryl Swoopes
SG:
Dee Davis
PG:
Roneeka Hodges
2007 Draft Results:
Rd. 1:
Ashley Shields
Rd. 2:
Dee Davis
Rd. 3:
Kristen Newlin
2006 Leaders:
Points
Tina Thompson, 18.7 ppg
Rebs.
Michelle Snow, 7.9 rpg
Assts.
Dawn Staley, 3.9 apg
Blocks
Michelle Snow, 1.1 bpg
Steals
Sheryl Swoopes, 2.1 spg
The Comets made a brief appearance in the 2006 postseason, losing to Sacramento in the Western Conference Semifinals. Houston went 18-16 in the regular season, good for third in the West, and sent four players to the All-Star Game. In 2007, Comets fans can expect to see an intriguing blend of youth and veterans on the court.

COMING BACK


Thompson
Forward Tina Thompson missed 13 games in 2006 due to injury. In the 21 games she did play, she reminded fans why she was a member of the WNBA All -Decade Team, compiling 18.7 ppg and 5.6 rpg. Thompson has been with the Comets since Day 1 and remains a versatile scorer who can light it up from anywhere on the floor, as she showed this offseason, averaging 21.1 points for Spartak Moscow in the EuroLeague competition.

Teammate Sheryl Swoopes is one of the true legends of the game. She was also named to the WNBA All-Decade Team… and for good reason. She is one of the premiere defenders in the league and last year averaged 15.5 ppg, 2.1 spg and an impressive 5.9 rpg, earning spots on the WNBA All-Second Team and the All-Defensive Team.

Michelle Snow, the Comets' 6-5 center, had arguably the best year of her career in 2006. She dominated the paint, averaging 13 ppg and 7.9 rpg.

Returning to the Comets backcourt will be third-year player Roneeka Hodges, who provided a valuable 7.5 ppg off the bench in 2006. Anastasia Kostaki could also see minutes as a sub.


Swoopes
Sancho Lyttle is back as a backup center for Snow. The 6-4 three-year vet also played her college ball in Houston. Meanwhile, Mistie Williams hopes to improve on a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign and 33-year-old Astou Ndiaye-Diatta can still provide minutes in the post.

NOT COMING BACK

The Comets have said goodbye to point guard Dawn Staley who retired after the 2006 playoffs. Throughout her playing career, she won three Olympic gold medals and was named to the WNBA All-Star Team five times. Awarded the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award for the second time in 2006, she will share her positive attitude and knowledge of the game with the Temple's women's team where she will continue to reign as head coach.

The Comets also lost starting guard Dominique Canty, who had been with the team since 2003. She signed as a free agent with the Chicago Sky. Though she spent much of the season sidelined due to injury, in her 15 starts, she averaged a career-high 10.9 ppg.

The Comets lost a third guard when they waived 10-year veteran Tamecka Dixon.

As if losing three phenomenal veterans weren't enough, the Comets have also bid farewell to the Comets' one and only coach, Van Chancellor. He had been around since the league's genesis and helped earn the Comets their dynasty status, as the team captured four consecutive WNBA championships from 1997-2000. After 211 wins and 111 losses, Chancellor has bowed out and the team will now look to his protégé, Karleen Thompson, to command the shuttle.

ADDITIONS

Karleen Thompson has been hired as the new head coach and general manager of the Comets. She was previously Houston's assistant coach for two years under Chancellor. Prior to working with the Comets, she spent eight years with the Sparks organization and was a temporary co-head coach at one point. A former player at USC, she is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and hopes to bring a championship back to Houston.


Shields
In the 2007 Draft, Houston used its eighth overall pick to nab relative unknown guard Ashley Shields out of Southwest Tennessee Community College. Praised for her competitive nature and aggressive attitude, the 5-10 guard averaged 25.9 ppg last season. The Comets are hoping Shields can adjust quickly and step into the lineup as the Comets' latest star guard.

Dee Davis also hopped aboard the Comets roster on draft day. Selected 14th overall, the 5-7 point guard out of Vanderbilt has an impressive college resume, earning first-team All-SEC honors as a senior. She averaged 5.5 apg and has a reputation for coming up big in the clutch. If she can prove to Thompson that she is up for the challenge, she could compete for a starting spot right off the bat.

Erin Grant was drafted by Seattle in 2006, but never played for the Storm. She could stick around as a backup guard. Also new to the Comets is Latasha Byears, who Houston signed from Washington in the offseason. The nine-year veteran came off the bench in 26 games for the Mystics last year. Australian Jae Kingi-Cross could also step in and grab some playing time. The Comets are the fourth team of the six-year veteran's career, but she's hoping to catch on. Hamchetou Maiga-Ba has also been added to the roster. While she is not likely to start, she will provide Thompson with flexibility as she rebuilds the backcourt.

Finally, in the Charlotte Dispersal Draft, the Comets chose center Yelena Leuchanka. At 6-5, she could add size, strength and depth to the bench, but it's unclear as to whether she'll play in the States this summer.

OUTLOOK

This will be a very different looking Comets team. Their success will depend largely on how quickly the rookies can adjust to their roles. That, of course, will depend largely on how Karleen Thompson chooses to integrate them into the game plan. Despite their three stars, this will most likely be a rebuilding year for the Comets, as the youngsters could easily take some time to get accustomed to the level and style of play. A playoff run might be a stretch this year, but with strong veteran play and top newcomers, fans can expect a return to greatness in the years to come.

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