Atkinson Highlights Fever Draft Picks
INDIANAPOLIS – University of North Carolina forward La’Tangela Atkinson was chosen by the Indiana Fever with the ninth overall pick of the 2006 WNBA Draft, leading a four-player draft that included two others from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Indiana drafted Georgia Tech center Kasha Terry with the 26th overall selection, followed by Duke shooting guard Jessica Foley at No. 38 and Russian center Marina Kuzina at No. 40.
Historically, the Fever has drafted heavily from the Southeastern Conference – taking 11 players out of 18 picks since drafting former Tennessee superstar Tamika Catchings with the third overall pick in the 2001 draft. This year, though, the Fever took three from the Atlantic Coast Conference before turning to Kuzina, a 6-5, 20-year old youngster on the Russian National Team.
“We had a very active off-season and we really were looking for people who would fit into our system,” said the Fever’s Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf. “We like the four players we’ve chosen, and we’re very happy with La’Tangela. She really was the player we identified early. She can be a player who can fill the void left by Deanna Jackson (chosen by Chicago in the 2006 Expansion Draft).”
Atkinson is a 6-2 forward who plays perimeter defense and is a strong rebounder. She averaged 9.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a senior while leading the Tar Heels to the Final Four. She averaged 9.3 points and 7.6 rebounds during a collegiate career in which she was a four-year starter.
She will be one of four Tar Heels on the Fever training camp roster, when camp begins April 23. She will join one of her college coaches, Charlotte Smith, who signed a free agent contract with Indiana in February. Smith is a seven-year WNBA veteran who led UNC to an NCAA title in 1994. Former UNC guard Coretta Brown begins her fourth year in the WNBA, all with the Fever. Nikita Bell, a 2005 UNC graduate who was drafted and waived by Detroit last year, also joins the Fever camp. In her coaching capacities at UNC, Smith has coached each of her three new teammates.
“La’Tangela’s got long arms, a nice wing span, and she is a very good defender and rebounder,” said Fever coach Brian Winters. “We think she can develop and really grow with us down the road. When we lost D.J. in the expansion draft, we felt what we lost was a lockdown defender. We knew we needed to find that again, and we think we’ve addressed that need.”
Indiana stayed in the ACC to grab Terry in the second round, and Foley in the third. Terry is an athletic, 6-3 center known for her shot blocking and defensive capabilities. She averaged 6.9 points and 5.8 rebounds during her senior season, and nearly two blocked shots per game. Foley shot 40 percent from 3-point range, and came off the bench to average 5.5 points for the Blue Devils while advancing to the NCAA championship game.
Kuzina is a player who could appear for her country during the FIBA World Championships this fall. She currently averages 16.6 points and 6.3 rebounds during EuroCup competition.
“We were looking to add some depth and some complementary players,” added Krauskopf. “There is a lot more talent in this league now. It is increasingly difficult for players to make teams. We liked our depth already, and we like our picks. It will make for a competitive training camp.”
The Fever opens its preseason schedule at Charlotte on Saturday, May 6, and hosts a preseason game against the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday, May 11 (noon). Indiana begins the 2006 regular season schedule when it hosts the Detroit Shock on Saturday, May 20 (7:00 p.m.).
Single-game tickets for all Fever home games may be purchased at the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations including the Internet (Ticketmaster.com or ConsecoFieldhouse.com), or phone at (877) WNBA-TIX, in addition to select state-wide Marsh stores and Home Court II in Circle Centre Mall. For season ticket information, call (317) 917-2500.