IN BLOCKBUSTER TRADE
The big name in the deal is certainly Williams, who won gold medals at the 2000 Olympics and 1998 World Championships while playing with USA Basketball under current Fever Head Coach Nell Fortner. She is the sixth-leading rebounder (1,156) in WNBA history, and is seventh in league history with a 15.4 career scoring average. Her presence in the Indiana lineup will bolster the Fever’s inside game, playing alongside third-year pro Kelly Schumacher, and help offset the loss of Olympia Scott-Richardson, a Fever starter who was injured in an Italian pro league in March.
Williams, with 3,604 points, is the second-leading scorer in U.S. women’s professional basketball history, combining 1,837 points in the WNBA and 1,777 points in three American Basketball League seasons from 1997 to 1999. Minnesota’s Katie Smith, who also played in the ABL, has 3,680.
“We’re ecstatic to have Natalie Williams join our team because she’s one of the best post players in the game today,” said Chief Operating Officer Kelly Krauskopf. “She’s going to help our team, and help our franchise grow as a contender in the Eastern Conference. She comes with great credentials. Her career speaks for itself.”
Added Fortner on Williams, “I’m excited to be coaching Natalie again. I’m fully aware of what she can do, and what she brings to this team is exactly what we needed - a dominant low-block player who is an outstanding rebounder. She is a great rebounder on both ends of the floor.”
Also joining the Fever is a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection from North Carolina, Coretta Brown, whose 251 3-pt field goals is a Tar Heel record, and third in ACC history. The 5-9 slashing combo guard was the 11th overall selection taken in the WNBA Draft on April 25. She will come to training camp as one of six Indiana backcourt players: Brown; five- and six-year WNBA veterans Coquese Washington and Bridget Pettis; third-year pro Niele Ivey and four-year veteran Stephanie White; and third-round draft pick Ashley McElhiney of Vanderbilt.
“Coretta Brown is an athletic combo guard and somebody that we’ve watched all year,” stated Krauskopf. “We’re happy to have her athleticism and her versatility. She will help us in the backcourt.”
In exchange for Williams and Brown, Indiana dealt its top two draft picks from last week’s dispersal and rookie drafts. Crawley, a 6-5 center who started 31 games at Portland last season, was the Fever’s selection with the No. 6 pick in the dispersal draft that distributed players left from the defunct Miami and Portland franchises. Jackson, a 6-2 forward from Tennessee, was Indiana’s top pick in the rookie draft, with the No. 7 pick overall.
Williams is widely regarded as one of the finest post players in the WNBA. Last season with Utah, whose franchise moved last fall to San Antonio, Williams guided the Starzz to the Western Conference Finals while averaging 14.0 points and 9.2 rebounds during the playoffs. In a first-round upset of the Houston Comets, she averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 boards.
She was second in the WNBA in offensive rebounds (3.4) last season, and was fifth with 8.2 rebounds overall, ranked just behind Fever star Tamika Catchings who was fourth with 8.6. Williams finished second in the league in rebounding in 1999 (9.2) and 2001 (9.9), and led the league in rebounds (11.6) and double-doubles (19) in 2000.
Williams started 31 games in 2002 while averaging 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. She was the Starzz’ leading scorer and rebounder, and a WNBA first team all-league selection, in each of her first three WNBA seasons. She is the just the second three-time WNBA All-Star ever to be traded. Ironically, the other is also in Indiana - Nikki McCray.
The daughter of former NBA star Nate Williams, Williams is considered to be the greatest two-sport athlete out of UCLA since Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She was a state long jump champion in high school who later was the first woman ever to earn All-America honors in volleyball and basketball in the same year. A four-year All-American in volleyball and the national player of the year in 1990 and 1991, she was a two-time All-American and a finalist for basketball’s national player of the year award in 1993 and 1994. Williams was chosen as USA Basketball’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1999, and was named as Utah’s Female Athlete of the Century.
Brown averaged 14.5 points last season at UNC while leading the Tar Heels to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A native of Statesboro, Ga., she finished her career as Carolina's all-time leader in 3-pt FG and 3-pt FG percentage (.380). She ranks third in school history in assists, eighth in free throw percentage and 12th in scoring. A two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference and All-ACC Tournament selection, Brown didn't miss a game during her four-year college career.
The Fever, 16-16 last season while qualifying for its first trip to the WNBA Playoffs, opens 2003 training camp on Thursday, May 1. Thursday’s opening practice is slated for 2:00 p.m. at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Fever has just seven days to prepare for a preseason opener at Charlotte on Thursday, May 8. Following next week’s game at Charlotte, Indiana hosts a May 14 preseason home date against Phoenix. The Fever open the regular season at Charlotte on May 29, and host a regular season home opener against the Washington Mystics on Saturday, May 31 (3:00 p.m., ABC-TV).
Individual tickets for all Fever home games can be purchased at the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, the Internet (www.Ticketmaster.com or www.ConsecoFieldhouse.com) or by phone at 317-239-5151. For season or group ticket information, call 317-917-2500 today!