Krauskopf Deals for Three New Stars
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Fever has announced the signing of two veteran free agents, and a player-for-player swap with the Phoenix Mercury. Typically active in the league’s free agent and trade markets, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf has orchestrated all three moves within the past week to make the Fever not only bigger and more athletic, but more experienced. Per club policy, terms were not disclosed.
Among the moves, Krauskopf has signed veteran free agents Olympia Scott and Charlotte Smith, who combine for 15 years of WNBA service. Scott returns to the Fever where she was the club’s starting center in 2001 and 2002, and helped lead the franchise to its first playoff berth in 2002. Smith is a seven-year WNBA veteran who has been a starter most of her career – including each of the last two seasons with Charlotte and Washington, respectively, where she posted the best numbers of her career.
In a two-player trade with the Mercury, Indiana sent fleet-footed shooting guard Kelly Miller to Phoenix, in exchange for sharpshooter Anna DeForge. Miller, the co-recipient of the league’s Most Improved Player Award during her first season in Indiana in 2004, averaged exactly 10.2 points per game in both seasons with the Fever. The 5-10 DeForge averaged 14.4 points in 2004, and 13.1 in 2005. DeForge, a four-year WNBA veteran, ranked sixth in the league with 47 3-pt field goals in 2005.
“We have significantly upgraded our team,” said Krauskopf, who has guided the Fever through each of its first six seasons including a 21-13 mark and last summer’s appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. “We knew that we needed to replace some people in the post when Natalie Williams announced her retirement. We feel that we’ve got good stability and athleticism at the post now, and we’ve gotten bigger on our perimeter. We had a good season last year, but we need to continue to move forward and we believe we have just made ourselves better with these additions.”
The Fever opens training camp on Sunday, April 23, and begins the 2006 schedule when it hosts the Detroit Shock on Saturday, May 20 (7:00 p.m.). For season ticket information, call (317) 917-2500.
INDIANA FEVER NEW PLAYER CAPSULES
Scott, who recently shortened her name from Olympia Scott-Richardson, is currently playing in Turkey where she is averaging 16.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game for Ceyhan Belediye. Among EuroCup rebounding leaders through January, Scott ranked fourth, just ahead of Fever teammate Ebony Hoffman, who was sixth. Last season, Scott appeared in 18 games with the WNBA Champion Sacramento Monarchs. She also came off the bench in all seven playoff games as the Monarchs won the first title in franchise history.
“We are very pleased to have Olympia back with our franchise,” said Krauskopf. “Her aggressive style of play and her size and quickness in the post will be tremendous assets to our team.”
“I always left that door open when I left there in 2004,” said Scott, via phone from Turkey. “Indiana has always had a well-run organization and I very much enjoyed my time with the Fever.”
On playing in Charlotte and Sacramento the past two seasons, she added, “You always have the opportunity to learn whenever you are in different situations, or playing under different coaches. I think I’ve been learning ever since I left Indiana. I’ve been blessed with different perspectives – and of course it was fun to win last summer!”
The 6-2, 175-lb. center averaged 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds during her time as a 61-game starter for the Fever, before a knee injury overseas forced her to miss the entire 2003 campaign in Indiana. She signed a free agent contract with Charlotte prior to the 2004 season, and later was a part of a four-player trade last March that sent her to Sacramento.
The Stanford graduate is an eight-year WNBA veteran who has played with five different franchises since being chosen by the Utah Starzz as the 11th selection of the 1998 WNBA Draft. She played parts of three seasons with the Detroit Shock before the Fever acquired her in 2001 trade that brought her to Indiana as the team’s starting center.
For one season in 2004, Smith and Scott were teammates. And like her former and new teammate, Smith recently shortened her name from Charlotte Smith-Taylor.
A seven-year WNBA veteran, Smith played her first six seasons in Charlotte before signing in 2005 as a free agent with the Washington Mystics. Currently, she is in her fourth year as an assistant coach for the No. 1-ranked North Carolina women’s basketball team. She is a former National Player of the Year while leading the Tar Heels to a national championship as a senior in 1995. Early in her senior season at UNC, she became just the second collegiate women’s player to dunk in a game when she did so on Dec. 4, 1994. In 2002, she was named the 10th-best female athlete in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Charlotte is a great addition to our team,” said Krauskopf. “She is a versatile player and a great athlete who can play inside and out. We welcome her veteran experience.”
A six-foot forward, Smith is coming off her two best pro seasons in 2004 and 2005, starting every game in each of those years. In 2004 with the Sting, she posted career-highs of 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Last season, she averaged 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds with the Mystics. She is a career 40 percent shooter overall, 35 percent from 3-point range.
After spending two-and-a-half seasons in the American Basketball League, Smith was the 33rd pick of the 1999 WNBA Draft by Charlotte. She has started in 164 out of 219 games played in the WNBA.
DeForge came into the WNBA as perhaps the least heralded of the Fever’s three new additions, but she has blossomed into one of the WNBA’s most formidable shooting guards. Like Miller, for whom she was traded, she started every game for her team during the past two seasons.
“Anna gives us a big guard who can post-up other guards in this league,” said Krauskopf. “She is an accomplished shooter, she takes big shots, and we are excited to have her a part of our franchise.”
A Michigan native who played collegiately at Nebraska, DeForge spent the 1998 season in the ABL with San Jose, where she also was a former teammate of Smith’s. Coincidentally, she was a teammate briefly with Scott, when she entered the WNBA and was assigned to the Detroit Shock in 2000.
She was waived in training camps with Houston and Charlotte in each of the next two years, however, before landing with Phoenix and asserting herself as one of the league’s new young stars. Prior to the Olympics in 2004, she was selected to the WNBA’s Select All-Star Team to play an exhibition against Team USA.
She has been a starter in 104 out of 128 games of her WNBA career, with career averages of 11.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals.