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Lynx sweep Mercury, advance to 3rd straight finals

Lynx sweep Mercury, advance to 3rd straight finals

PHOENIX (AP) Maya Moore scored 27 points, Seimone Augustus had 22, and the Minnesota Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury 72-65 Sunday to advance to the WNBA Finals for the third straight year with a sweep in the best-of-three Western Conference finals.

Minnesota will open the finals on Friday at home against Atlanta, which completed its sweep of Indiana earlier Sunday.

Diana Taurasi had 21 points for Phoenix, but was 6 of 21 from the field. Candice Dupree added 17 points, while No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner was held to six points and 10 rebounds.

Minnesota beat Phoenix 85-62 in Game 1 on Thursday.

The Lynx swept Atlanta in the 2011 finals and lost to Indiana in four games last season.

Minnesota led by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, but Taurasi hit a 3-pointer and another basket to cut the lead to 69-63 with 1:24 remaining. Dupree got loose for a layup with 33 seconds left to get Phoenix within 69-65.

The Lynx, who won eight of nine at the end of regular season, have won all four of their playoff games in the postseason, winning by an average of 12 points a game.

Minnesota won all seven meetings with the Mercury this year and has beaten Phoenix 14 straight times dating to 2011.

The Lynx advanced despite missing 12 free throws and the Mercury holding Lindsay Whalen to three points on 1-for-12 shooting. Whalen had 20 points in Game 1.

Minnesota ran off seven straight points after Phoenix had tied it 41-all with 7:45 left in the third quarter and went into the final period with a 53-45 lead.

Griner, after hitting two quick shots in the first two minutes, was held to 3-of-6 shooting in 32 minutes.

The Mercury made a concerted effort on the glass, starting the game by outrebounding Minnesota 8-1 in the first five minutes and grabbing an early 15-9 lead. Phoenix led 21-19 after the first quarter.

Minnesota scored the first nine points of the second quarter and opened up a 38-29 advantage after Augustus hit a 3 with 1:46 remaining. But Dupree scored the last four points for Phoenix and the Mercury got within 38-35 at the break. Augustus had 14 points and Moore 13 for Minnesota in the first half.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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McCoughtry leads Dream to WNBA Finals

McCoughtry leads Dream to WNBA Finals

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Angel McCoughtry led Atlanta to its third WNBA Finals spot in four years, scoring 27 points in the Dream's 67-53 victory over the Indiana Fever on Sunday.

Seeking their first title, the Dream swept the best-of-three Eastern Conference finals. They will face the winner of the Western Conference series between Minnesota and Phoenix.

Dream center Erika de Souza added 12 points and eight rebounds. Atlanta dominated inside, making 14 layups, scoring 48 points in the paint and controlling the glass, 43-33.

Tamika Catchings led Indiana with 24 points and six rebounds. The short-handed Fever were trying to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002.

Atlanta dominated the second half behind smothering defense. Indiana shot 28.1 percent for the game and went 7 for 32 after intermission. All-Star Shavonte Zellous was held to six points, nearly nine below her regular- season average.

McCoughtry was the league's scoring champion and made the all-WNBA second team. She averaged 21.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. On Sunday, she was at her best, making 10 of 21 shots and going 6 for 6 at the line.

The Dream led 34-33 after a tight first half marked by five ties and 14 lead changes.

Indiana led 33-28 with under a minute to play in the half but came undone. McCoughtry made a short jumper and Briann January had a pass stolen, fouling Jasmine Thomas to stop the fast break. Catchings received a technical foul, leading to McCoughtry's free throw, and Atlanta's Armintie Herrington converted a three-point play with 3 seconds left.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Lynx gang up on Mercury for 85-62 win

Lynx gang up on Mercury for 85-62 win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore scored 20 points apiece and Seimone Augustus added 18 to lead the Minnesota Lynx to an 85-62 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.

Diana Taurasi scored 15 and Brittney Griner had 13 points and six rebounds for the Mercury, who now face a must-win situation in Game 2 in Phoenix on Sunday.

Both teams started out cold on, but Minnesota recovered quickly and turned the first half into a mismatch. After hitting just one of their first six field goal attempts, the Lynx made 16 of their next 23 shots, while Phoenix was just 9 for 37 (24.3 percent) for the half.

Whalen, a first-team all-WNBA pick, scored just 13 points in Minnesota's two-game sweep of Seattle in the conference semifinals. The changed Thursday when she hit her first five shots and finished the first half 7 for 10 for 14 points, one of three Lynx in double figures before halftime. She finished the game with six rebounds and five assists - team highs in both categories.

Minnesota has won all six meetings with the Mercury this season, but they hadn't played since July 24. The Mercury went 9-4 down the stretch after naming Russ Pennell their interim head coach.

The Mercury advanced to the conference finals by upsetting second-seeded Los Angeles, winning both road games in their best-of-three semifinal series. But they quickly discovered that the Lynx were going to be a tougher out.

Minnesota's 12-2 playoff record at Target Center is the best postseason home-court advantage in WNBA history, and the Lynx swept Phoenix in the conference finals en route to winning the 2011 league title.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Dream beats Fever 84-79 in Game 1 of East finals

Dream beats Fever 84-79 in Game 1 of East finals

ATLANTA (AP) Tiffany Hayes scored 23 points, Angel McCoughtry had 18 points and the Atlanta Dream beat the Indiana Fever 84-79 on Thursday night for a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Armintie Herrington finished with 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists for the Dream. Erika de Souza had 10 points.

McCoughtry scored on a three-point play to give the Dream an 81-75 lead with 1:07 left.

The league's leading scorer made three free throws down the stretch to help Atlanta seal the win.

Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 21 points, while Erlana Larkins had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Karima Christmas and Shavonte Zellous each had 15 points.

It's the third straight year the teams have faced each other in the East finals.

Game 2 is at Indiana on Sunday. The Dream split their two games at Indiana in the regular season.

With the score tied at 56, the Dream scored the last six points of the third quarter.

McCoughtry made a running layup, Hayes scored on a layup and Alex Bentley made a jumper to close out the quarter strong for Atlanta.

Despite the Dream's third-quarter surge, they had a tough time pulling away from the Fever. Indiana stayed in the game with timely baskets from Catchings and a couple of 3-pointers from Erin Phillips.

Hayes provided offense, while Herrington made several hustle plays to help give the Dream the edge.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Maya Moore Receives WNBA Cares Community Assist Award Presented by State Farm

Maya Moore Receives WNBA Cares Community Assist Award Presented by State Farm

-- Two-Time WNBA All-Star Receives Award for First Time in Career --

NEW YORK, Sept. 26, 2013 -- Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx was awarded the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by State Farm for her contributions to the community in September. This marks the first time Moore has received the honor.

Through her Maya Moore Academy, Moore, who helped the Lynx to the 2011 WNBA title, hosted young girls (ages of 12 to 17) to an exclusive basketball experience, which included valuable life lessons of leadership and building character. Moore also works with United Way to emphasize the importance of education and teaching youth how to read, in hopes of providing them with opportunities to advance in the world.

Additionally, through Lynx initiatives, Moore appeared at the Minneapolis YWCA summer basketball camp and MidCountry Bank camp, as well as led the Lynx annual Faith and Family night program, guiding the group in prayers and song.

"I was given a lot growing up, people helped and guided me to get opportunities to be the best that I could be," Moore said. "Because of that I want to do my best to bless others, especially through basketball camps with my Academy. The pillars of my academy are basketball, leadership, character and service, and instilling those things into our next generation gives me a lot of joy because it makes a huge impact in their lives."

In recognition of her efforts, the WNBA and State Farm are donating $5,000 to the United Way and Athletes in Action.

The WNBA Community Assist Award presented by State Farm is awarded monthly during the season to the players that best reflects the WNBA’s passion to make a difference in the community. Please visit wnba.com/statefarmcommunityassist for more information on the award and its recipients.

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Fowles, Taurasi Headline 2013 All-WNBA First Team

Fowles, Taurasi Headline 2013 All-WNBA First Team

-- Taurasi Earns Record-Tying Eighth First-Team Nod --

NEW YORK, Sept. 25, 2013 -- Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi headline the 2013 All-WNBA First-Team, the WNBA announced today. Fowles was the leading vote-getter (167 points), followed by Taurasi (162), who earned a record-tying eighth First Team nod.

A pair of Minnesota Lynx -- forward Maya Moore (161) and guard Lindsay Whalen (143) -- and Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (119), the 2013 WNBA MVP, round out the First Team. Parker is the only First-Team returnee from 2012.

An All-WNBA First Team member in 2004, 2006-11, Taurasi ties Lisa Leslie for the most First Team selections in WNBA history. While this marks the third First Team honor for both Parker (2008, 2012) and Whalen (2008, 2011), and the second for Fowles (2010), it is a first for Moore, who was a member of the Second Team a year ago.

Voting for the All-WNBA First and Second Teams was conducted by a panel of 39 national and local sportswriters and broadcasters at the conclusion of the regular season. Players were selected by position and received five points for each First Team vote and three points for each Second Team designation.

Fowles, a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year winner (2013, 2010), led the WNBA in rebounding (11.5 rpg), finished second in blocks (2.44 bpg), and was one of only two players (Connecticut’s Tina Charles) to average a double-double on the season, finishing with a scoring average of 16.3 points. Fowles captured WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in July, August, and September, as the Sky finished with a record of 24-10, good for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, as Chicago reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

Taurasi finished second in the league in both scoring (20.3 ppg) and assists (6.2 apg) in 2013, while guiding Phoenix into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. The Mercury opens play in the Western Conference Finals tomorrow against the top-seed Lynx at the Target Center (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).

Parker, who also earned MVP honors as a rookie in 2008, guided the Sparks to a 24-10 record, tied for the second-best mark in the league as Los Angeles secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. She ranked fourth in the WNBA in blocks (1.84 bpg), sixth in scoring (17.9 ppg), seventh in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and double-doubles (eight), and 12th in assists (career-high 3.8 apg).

The runner-up to Parker in the 2013 MVP voting, Moore helped Minnesota to the league’s best record (26-8) and the top overall seed in the playoffs. Moore led the WNBA in three-point field goal percentage and three-point shots made (.453 on 72-of-159), and ranked third in scoring (18.5 ppg). She also finished sixth in steals (1.74 spg), seventh in free throw percentage (.882 on 90-of-102 from the line), and 15th in rebounds (6.2 rpg).

Whalen, an All-WNBA Second Team selection a year ago, averaged a career-high 14.9 ppg, good for 15th in the league. She also ranked third in assists (5.8 apg, the second-best figure of her career), and contributed an average of 4.4 rebounds.

The Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings (116 points) and WNBA Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky (105) were voted as forwards on the 2013 All-WNBA Second Team. Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream (97) and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx (62) were selected as guards, while the 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player, Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles (52), rounds out the Second Team.

In honor of being named to the All-WNBA First and Second Teams, each player will receive a Tiffany & Co. designed trophy. In addition, $10,000 will be awarded to each member of the First Team, while each member of the Second Team will receive $5,000.

Below are the results of the 2013 All-WNBA Team voting:

2013 ALL-WNBA FIRST TEAM

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx, Forward - 161 points

Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks, Forward - 119 points

Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky, Center - 167 points

Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury, Guard - 162 points

Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota Lynx, Guard - 143 points

2013 ALL-WNBA SECOND TEAM

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever, Forward - 116 points

Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky, Forward - 105 points

Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun, Center - 52 points

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream, Guard - 97 points

Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx, Guard - 62 points

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Conference Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Phoenix Mercury

Conference Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Phoenix Mercury

This may very well be the most exciting matchup of the entire 2013 postseason as the star-stacked rosters of the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury collide. Both powerhouse teams have been favorites this season to win it all, which comes as no surprise considering the two teams have collectively been in four of the last six WNBA Finals series.

Phoenix started the season with ginormous expectations drafting game-changing center Brittney Griner and the return of Diana Taurasi, who sat out most of last season with injuries. Injuries, changes in personnel and offense well into the season muddled the team's path to the postseason, but the squad pulled together and are playing in true championship form.

The Mercury are also coming off an explosive first round win over the Los Angeles Sparks which came down to Griner's game-winning shot in the final throes of Game 3. Griner has had her confidence tested this season, dealing with injuries and rookie adjustments to the league, but expect the victory over L.A. to help restore her game-changing potential. And Taurasi will be Taurasi, one of the strongest killer-instinct players in the history of the WNBA. Mix that in with the deadly pick-and-roll combination of Taurasi and Candice Dupree and Phoenix will have several offensive weapons that the Lynx will need to give every ounce of strength in trying to stop.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is the league's top team enjoying one of the best regular season runs in the history of their franchise. They've arguably got the league's strongest pool of talent with four All-Stars in their starting lineup in Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson. Each player is one of the league's best in the specialties they bring to the table and once they all get going, they will be tough to stop.

With the injuries that have slowed the Mercury this season, expect the Lynx to rely heavily on their sheer athleticism, led by leap-frog flyer Maya Moore. The Mercury, on the other hand, are likely to rely heavily on their physical gameplay and frenzied offensive tempo to really get into the Lynx's head and shake up their confidence.

Considering the pool of talent both teams bring to the table, no squad has a clear advantage over the other. Both franchises are equally capable of winning this series, making it a matchup that would be a grave mistake to miss.

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Conference Finals Preview: Atlanta Dream vs. Indiana Fever

Conference Finals Preview: Atlanta Dream vs. Indiana Fever

It was a battle for Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Washington, but the Dream pulled out the series with an 80-72 win in game 3. While the Dream fought to the very end, the Indiana Fever took care of the Chicago Sky with dominating defensive performances in both game of the series.

Now, the Dream will take on the defending champion Fever in the Eastern Conference Finals--which will feature a big matchup between 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Team members the Dream's Angel McCoughtry and the Fever's Tamika Catchings.

During the regular-season, the Dream took the series 3-1. Angel McCoughtry posted high numbers in each game, reaching a game-high 30 points and adding 9 rebounds and 8 assists during the final matchup between the two back on September 4. Her big offensive play helped lead the Dream over the injury-riddled Fever during the regular-season.

Back in June, the Fever lost center Jessica Davenport to a stress fracture in her lower leg and another three players were out of the lineup through mid-July. During the regular-season series, the Fever's Erin Phillips, Katie Douglas, Shavonte Zellous and Briann January all sat out games due to injuries. On the Dream's side starting guard Tiffany Hayes sat out in the team's one loss to the Fever.

The Fever's Katie Douglas is still day-to-day with a back injury, but the team was able to pull together in the semifinals and shutdown the top-seeded Sky and Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne without her. With the team mostly back to health and the confidence from the dominating win in the semifinals, expect this to be a competitive matchup.

The two teams have tangled in the post-season for the past two years. In 2012 the Dream lost to the Fever in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, 2-1, (Indiana went on to win the 2012 WNBA Championship) and the year before that the team defeated Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-1, but eventually fell to Minnesota in the 2011 WNBA Finals.

Last year's post-season matchup was a physical series and Indiana was just on fire. The Fever's starters all put up big number in games 2 and 3 and were able to contain then WNBA scoring-leader Angel McCoughtry, only allowing her to score two points in the second half of game 3, to close out the series.

The year before, Angel McCoughtry led her team to the 2011 WNBA Finals with a stellar performance against Indiana in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. She posted 26 points and 8 rebounds, using the opposing crowd's chatter as motivation to win.

This year, Angel McCoughtry is once again the league's scoring-leader and is determined to get her team back into the finals. However, with the Fever mostly back to health, the chemistry flowing again and previous postseason and championships experience, this series is sure to be a battle. The Fever are also on a streak. With the win over No. 1 seeded Chicago in the semifinals, Indiana has now a streak of three consecutive postseason series wins over high-seeded opponents (Indiana is the No. 4 seed). With 2012 WNBA Finals MVP Tamika Catchings rounding into playoff form, the Fever may be peaking at just the right time.

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Tulsa Shock's Riquna Williams Named 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year

Tulsa Shock's Riquna Williams Named 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 24, 2013 -- Tulsa Shock guard Riquna Williams was named the 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, the WNBA announced today. Williams received 17 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters to earn the award. Minnesota Lynx Monica Wright (13) finished second in the voting.

In 27 games, including 21 as a reserve, Williams averaged 15.6 points -- a five-point increase from her rookie season last year and the second-highest average on the Shock -- 2.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steals in 22.7 minutes per game. The second-year guard from the University of Miami tied for fourth overall in the league in free throw percentage, converting 90 percent of her attempts from the free throw line. She also topped the 20-point plateau nine times, including a WNBA-record 51-point explosion late in the season.

Williams' record-setting game came on Sept. 8 in a 98-65 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars. She shot 17-for-28 from the field, including 8-for-14 from three-point land. Williams scored eight points in each of the first two quarters before erupting for 20 in the third and 15 in the fourth. The 51-point effort surpassed the previous mark of 47 set by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi in 2006 and Seattle's Lauren Jackson in 2007. Williams earned the first Western Conference Player of the Week Award in her career following that performance.

An All-Rookie Team selection in 2012, Williams finished her inaugural WNBA campaign ranked third among rookies in both assists (2.1 apg) and steals (1.55 spg), and fourth in scoring (10.5 ppg).

In honor of being named the Sixth Woman of the Year, Williams will receive $5,000 and a specially-designed trophy from Tiffany & Co.

Below are the results of the 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year voting and a list of previous winners:

2013 SIXTH WOMAN OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Riquna Williams, Tulsa Shock - 17 votes

Monica Wright, Minnesota Lynx - 13 votes

Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream - 7 votes

Jantel Lavender, Los Angeles Sparks - 1 vote

WNBA SIXTH WOMAN OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Riquna Williams, Tulsa Shock

2012 - Renee Montgomery, Connecticut Sun

2011 - DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury

2010 - DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury

2009 - DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury

2008 - Candice Wiggins, Minnesota Lynx

2007* - Plenette Pierson, Detroit Shock

* Inaugural award

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Tina Thompson Says Farewell

Tina Thompson Says Farewell

It’s been 17 years. 17 years filled with WNBA Championships, gold medals and broken records. 17 years in a career that was never imaginable before 1997. And 541 games later, it all comes to an end--but the history will never be forgotten.

Tina Thompson was the first player to ever be drafted into the WNBA in the inaugural draft on April 28, 1997 (by the Houston Comets). Thompson, who was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection at USC and led her team to three NCAA Tournaments and an Elite Eight appearance, had been planning to go to law school until she got a call from the WNBA and found a new career.

"My plan was just to play a few seasons, stack up a little cash so I could pay for law school and avoid student loans. So being here 17 years later is amazing. It’s a blessing, and it’s something I never could have predicted."

In her 17 seasons with the league, Thompson has racked up the numbers. She holds the league record for points scored (8,074) and minutes played (17,669) and is the only player to compete in all 17 WNBA seasons. She is an MVP (2000), a nine-time All-Star, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a four-time WNBA Champion. She was also honored as a member of the league’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and was named to the WNBA’s Top-15 Players of All-Time list in 2011.

And in her 17th season, she absolutely dominated.

During the regular-season, she averaged 14.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. She was just under her career averages of 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and above her 4.4 average assists per game. And in her last season, she found herself in the playoffs once again. While the Storm was eliminated by the Lynx in the Western Conference Semifinals, Thompson was determined to fight until the very end. Late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the series, Thompson put in a layup with 1:20 left to give the Storm its first lead since late in the second quarter-- almost extending her career one more game.

Thompson’s head coach over the past three seasons, Brian Agler, was inspired by what the 38-year-old All-Star was able to do in her final season.

"She takes a lot of pride how she is as a professional. And I know that she’s one of the elite competitors in our league. So it doesn’t surprise me that she’s going out in a strong manner because she takes so much pride in herself and the team that she plays on. So knowing her the way that I do, it’s not surprising. But I still sit there in awe, like a lot of people do, and see what she’s doing at her age and just am amazed and impressed and just appreciative of what she’s done not only for our team this year but what she’s done for the league."

For Thompson, she’s just doing her job.

"I’m just basically doing whatever I can to help our team win games...I just do whatever I have to do in order to fill our team’s needs."

Not only was Agler awed by her play, but he also enjoyed seeing the impact she had on her teammates and the younger players in the league.

"That’s what’s really impressed me this season is just her impact off the floor and her leadership abilities.

"She does such a good job with all of our players. And I think they sort of look to her because of her resume and the respect they have for her. Even the ones that have been on our team and won championships, like Tanisha [Wright] and Camille [Little]. They still look at Tina and in a lot of ways she helps them a great deal to be better leaders themselves."

While Thompson has become a leader and a role model for many young basketball players, she never thought that she would play this kind of role.

"I don’t play the game for recognition or something like that, I play because I absolutely love it and it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for most of my life. I think it’s cool because I go out and work really hard and because I love and respect the game so much that I’m able to be a role model and I’m able to do the things that I’ve been able to do for such a long time, but it’s not necessarily my motivation."

Now that her 17-year career has come to an end and her life quiets down, she has time to focus on what is most important to her--her son Dyllan.

"Initially, I don’t plan to do anything. I just plan to rest. Basketball has been my focus for such a long time. To play at this level for such a long time consistently is physically grueling. So my main focus is just to relax and just rest and focus on my son. He’s always my main priority, you know, now we’re in this position for me to just spend a lot more personal time with him, although he’s with me all the time, it’s different now, the scheduling and everything is different. His schedule is the priority and I’m looking forward to that."

While she is putting an end to her career, she will always keep the special memories with her.

"Probably my most favorite [memory] is our third season--our third championship--we dedicated it to my late teammate Kim Perrot. It was a tough season for us, very emotionally grueling. But the meaning of the season and us being able to overcome so many emotional trials, for me, it told the character and the fight in our team, but it was special because we played for and we did it all for Kim."

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Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

- McCoughtry Repeats; Fowles and Robinson Topple Mainstays -

NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2013 -- Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars) have won the 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Awards for scoring, rebounding and assists, respectively, it was announced by the WNBA today.

The WNBA presents the Peak Performer awards annually to the players who lead the league in each of those categories during the regular season. Each player will receive a trophy crafted by Tiffany in honor of her accomplishments.

McCoughtry earned her second straight Peak Performer award for scoring, averaging a league-best 21.5 points. The fifth-year veteran averaged more than 20 points for the fourth consecutive year and shot 41 percent from the floor. McCoughtry scored 20 or more points in 19 games this season, including six games of 30 or more.

On Sept. 6, McCoughtry became the third-youngest player to reach the 3,000-point plateau, accomplishing the feat four days before her 27th birthday. She reached the milestone in 154 games, tying for third fewest in WNBA history. Her career average of 19.5 points ranks third all-time.

Leading the league in rebounds per game with 11.5, Fowles bested three-time defending rebounding champion Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun, who had edged the Sky center for the award by fewer than one rebound in each of the last two seasons. The Louisiana State University alumna had her two best rebounding totals of the season against Connecticut, pulling down a career-best 22 on May 31 and 21 on Aug. 18. Fowles grabbed double-digit rebounds in 20 games this season, including seven consecutive games to start the season. She ranks second all-time with 9.8 rebounds per game, and recorded the third-highest single-season rebound total in league history (369) this season.

San Antonio Silver Stars guard Danielle Robinson earned her first Peak Performer award, averaging 6.7 assists to hold off Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi who finished second (6.2 apg). Robinson also topped two-time defending assists champion Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota who finished third, averaging 5.8 assists. Robinson dished out five or more assists in 20 games this season, reaching the 10-assist plateau twice, on Aug. 6, against Minnesota and June 25, against Phoenix. She also ranked second in the league in assist-turnover ratio with a 2.63 mark.

2013 WNBA Peak Performers -- Final Statistics

Top Five: Scoring Average

1. Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) - 33 G - 246 FG - 196 FT - 711 PTS - 21.5 PPG

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) - 32 G - 200 FG - 182 FT - 651 PTS - 20.3 PPG

3. Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) - 34 G - 233 FG - 90 FT - 628 PTS - 18.5 PPG

4. Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky) - 30 G - 172 FG - 157 FT - 543 PTS - 18.1 PPG

5. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) - 29 G - 218 FG - 85 FT - 521 PTS - 18.0 PPG

Top Five: Rebounding Average

1. Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) - 32 G - 117 OR - 3.6 ORPG - 252 DR - 7.8 DRPG - 369 TOT - 11.5 RPG

2. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) - 29 G - 98 OR - 3.3 ORPG - 195 DR - 6.7 DRPG - 293 TOT - 10.1 RPG

3. Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream) - 34 G - 90 OR - 2.6 ORPG - 247 DR - 7.2 DRPG - 337 TOT - 9.9 RPG

4. Jayne Appel (SA Silver Stars) - 29 G - 75 OR - 2.5 ORPG - 184 DR - 6.3 DRPG - 259 TOT - 8.9 RPG

Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx) - 33 G - 89 OR - 2.6 ORPG - 205 DR - 6.2 DRPG - 294 TOT - 8.9 RPG

Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock) - 29 G - 95 OR - 3.2 ORPG - 163 DR - 5.6 DRPG - 258 TOT - 8.9 RPG

Top Five: Assist Average

1. Danielle Robinson (SA Silver Stars) - 25 G - 168 AST - 6.7 APG

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) - 32 G - 197 AST - 6.2 APG

3. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) - 34 G - 197 AST - 5.8 APG

4. Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky) - 33 G - 184 AST - 5.6 APG

5. Lindsey Harding (L.A Sparks) - 33 G - 170 AST - 5.2 APG

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Delle Donne, Griner Headline 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team as Unanimous Selections

Delle Donne, Griner Headline 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team as Unanimous Selections

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- The 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky and the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner headline the 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team as unanimous selections, the WNBA announced today. The Atlanta Dream’s Alex Bentley, New York Liberty’s Kelsey Bone and Tulsa Shock’s Skylar Diggins round out the first-year standouts being recognized.

The voting panel consisted of the WNBA’s 12 head coaches, each of whom voted for five players regardless of position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players on their own team. Delle Donne and Griner each garnered the maximum of 11 votes. Bentley and Bone notched 10 votes apiece and Diggins tallied eight.

The No. 2 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, Delle Donne led all rookies in scoring (18.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.929, 157-for-169), three-point field goal percentage (.438, 42-for-96), and minutes (31.4 mpg). She ranked second amongst her fellow rookies in rebounds (5.6 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg). Overall, she led the league in free-throw percentage, while ranking second in three-point field goal percentage, fourth in scoring, and fifth in blocks. The 6-5 forward/guard swept the Rookie of the Month honors this season. The Delaware product appeared in 30 games, scoring in double digits in all but two, and helped the Sky to the best record in the East (24-10) and a franchise-first playoff berth. She became the first rookie to be the leading vote-getter in WNBA All-Star balloting.

Griner, the top overall selection in the draft out of Baylor, paced all rookies (and the league) in blocks at 3.0 bpg, and also led all first-year players in rebounds (6.3 rpg) and field goal percentage (.556, fourth in the league). She was the only rookie other than Delle Donne to average double-digit scoring, posting 12.6 ppg. She led all rookies in double-doubles with three.

A second-round draft selection out of Penn State, Bentley ranked fourth among rookies in scoring (8.3 ppg), third in assists (2.8 apg) and third in steals (1.0 spg) as she helped the Dream to a 17-17 record and the number two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Bone, the fifth overall selection out of Texas A&M, ranked fifth among rookies in scoring (6.9 ppg) and third in rebounding (5.4 rpg). Bone was the only rookie aside from Griner with multiple double-doubles, posting two on the season (15 points, 11 rebounds on July 31 at Washington; 11 points, 10 rebounds on Aug. 11 at Atlanta).

Diggins, a product of Notre Dame, was the third overall selection in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. She led all rookies in assists (3.8 apg), steals (1.28 spg), and ranked third in scoring at 8.5 ppg. Diggins twice dished out 11 assists (May 27 vs. Washington, June 23 at Minnesota) and had five games with three-or-more steals.

Below are the top finishers in the vote for the 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team: :

2013 ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky, Forward/Guard - 11 votes

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury, Center - 11 votes

Alex Bentley, Atlanta Dream, Guard - 10 votes

Kelsey Bone, New York Liberty, Center - 10 votes

Skylar Diggins, Tulsa Shock, Guard - 8 votes

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Chicago's Fowles and Indiana's Catchings Headline 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Team

Chicago's Fowles and Indiana's Catchings Headline 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Team

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles, the 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, headline the 2013 WNBA All-Defensive First Team, the WNBA announced today.

Fowles received 10 of a possible 11 First Team votes and finished with 53 points to lead all players, while Catchings earned nine First Team nods and finished with 51 points. Angel McCoughtry (42) and Armintie Herrington (36) of the Atlanta Dream, and the Seattle Storm’s Tanisha Wright (22) round out the First Team.

Fowles, the 2011 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, captured First Team honors for the third consecutive season after leading the WNBA in rebounding (11.5 rpg) and defensive boards (7.9 drpg), and ranking second in blocks (2.44 bpg). This marks her fourth All-Defensive Team honor overall; she earned Second Team honors as a rookie in 2008.

Catchings, recognized as the league’s top defender in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012, makes her ninth consecutive appearance on the All-Defensive First Team. Catchings led the league in steals (2.82 spg) and was tied for ninth in blocks (1.03 bpg).

This is the fourth First Team appearance for Wright, who tallied two First Team votes and averaged 3.7 rebounds from the guard position to go with 1.1 steals. McCoughtry, who tallied six First Team votes after finishing second in the league in steals (2.70 spg), earns All-Defensive Team honors for the fourth time, having previously being selected to the First Team in 2010 and 2011, and to the Second Team in 2009. Herrington (six First Team votes) captured First Team honors for the first time after finishing fourth in the league in steals (2.32 spg). Herrington was voted to the All-Defensive Second Team in 2011 and 2012.

The WNBA All-Defensive Second Team is comprised of Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson (29 points, four First Team votes), Indiana Fever guard Briann January (21, three), San Antonio Silver Stars guards Jia Perkins (20, four) and Danielle Robinson (20, one), Tulsa Shock forward Glory Johnson (19, two) and Atlanta Dream center Erika de Souza (14, one). A panel of the WNBA’s 12 head coaches voted on the WNBA All-Defensive Team, selecting First- and Second-Teams by position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own team. Players earned five points for each First Team vote and three points for a Second Team vote.

Below are the top finishers in the voting for the 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Teams:

2013 WNBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever, Forward - 51 points

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream, Forward - 42 points

Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky, Center - 53 points

Armintie Herrington, Atlanta Dream, Guard - 36 points

Tanisha Wright, Seattle Storm, Guard - 22 points

2013 WNBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM

Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota Lynx, Forward - 29 points

Glory Johnson, Tulsa Shock, Forward - 19 points

Erika de Souza, Atlanta Dream, Center - 14 points

Briann January, Indiana Fever, Guard - 21 points

Jia Perkins, San Antonio Silver Stars, Guard - 20 points

Danielle Robinson, San Antonio Silver Stars, Guard - 20 points

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Indiana Fever Guard Shavonte Zellous Named 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year

Indiana Fever Guard Shavonte Zellous Named 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 22, 2013 -- Indiana Fever guard Shavonte Zellous is the winner of the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year, the WNBA announced today. Zellous received 30 of 39 votes from a panel of national and local sportswriters and broadcasters.

Zellous nearly doubled her scoring average in 2013 (14.7 ppg) from 2012 (7.5 ppg), and also improved her rebounding numbers in 2013 (3.4 rpg) from 2012 (2.7 rpg). She also took her overall field goal percentage up from .369 in 2012 to .415 in 2013.

In her fifth season in the league, Zellous started all 29 games in which she appeared this season. She posted career highs in scoring, rebounds, steals (0.9 spg), blocks (0.7 bpg) and three-point field goal percentage (.348). Zellous opened the season with 15 consecutive double-figure scoring efforts, and tallied 10-or-more points in 24-of-30 contests overall. Zellous poured in a season-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from distance on June 8 against Phoenix.

Zellous is in her third full season with the Fever, which finished the 2013 campaign with a 16-18 mark, and earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. She spent part of the 2010 season with Indiana as well, also splitting time with Tulsa. Zellous was drafted 11th overall by Detroit in the 2009 WNBA Draft following a standout career at the University of Pittsburgh.

There was a nine-way tie for second place, with each of the following players receiving one vote: Jane Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars); Elizabeth Cambage (Tulsa Shock); Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream); Kelsey Griffin (Connecticut Sun); Allison Hightower (Connecticut Sun); Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock); Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars); Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky); and Monica Wright (Minnesota Lynx).

In honor of being named the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year, Zellous will receive $5,000 and a trophy specially designed by Tiffany & Co.

Below are the complete voting results for the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year Award and a list of past recipients:

2013 WNBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Shavonte Zellous, Indiana Fever - 30 votes

Jane Appel, Phoenix Mercury - 1 vote

Elizabeth Cambage, Tulsa Shock - 1 vote

Erika de Souza, Atlanta Dream - 1 vote

Kelsey Griffin, Connecticut Sun - 1 vote

Allison Hightower, Connecticut Sun - 1 vote

Glory Johnson, Tulsa Shock - 1 vote

Danielle Robinson, San Antonio Silver Stars - 1 vote

Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky - 1 vote

Monica Wright, Minnesota Lynx - 1 vote

PREVIOUS WINNERS -- WNBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR

2013 - Shavonte Zellous, Indiana Fever

2012 - Kristi Toliver, Los Angeles Sparks

2011 - Kia Vaughn, New York Liberty

2010 - Leilani Mitchell, New York Liberty

2009 - Crystal Langhorne, Washington Mystics

2008 - Ebony Hoffman, Indiana Fever

2007 - Janel McCarville, New York Liberty

2006 - Erin Buescher, Sacramento Monarchs

2005 - Nicole Powell, Sacramento Monarchs

2004 - Wendy Palmer/Kelly Miller, Connecticut Sun/Indiana Fever

2003 - Michelle Snow, Houston Comets

2002 - Coco Miller, Washington Mystics

2001 - Janeth Arcain, Houston Comets

2000 - Tari Phillips, New York Liberty

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Washington's Mike Thibault Named 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year

Washington's Mike Thibault Named 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept 21, 2013 -- Washington Mystics Head Coach/General Manager Mike Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, is the recipient of the 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year Award, the WNBA announced today. Thibault, who also won the award in 2006 and 2008, received 12 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters.

The Seattle Storm’s Brian Agler and Chicago Sky’s Pokey Chatman tied for second with 11 votes apiece. Lin Dunn of the Indiana Fever (three), Gary Kloppenburg of the Tulsa Shock (one), and Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx (one) rounded out the vote-getters.

Thibault’s three Coach of the Year awards are tied for the most in WNBA history with Van Chancellor, who earned the honor in each of the league’s first three seasons (1997 through 1999). Thibault also joins Dan Hughes (2001, 2007) as the only coaches to win the award with two different teams.

In his first season at the helm in Washington, Thibault returned the Mystics to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, guiding the club to a 17-17 record and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Thibault led a 12-game turnaround from a year ago when the Mystics finished 5-29. Just one year prior to that, Washington posted a 6-28 mark.

Thibault achieved a milestone on July 6, when the Mystics defeated the visiting Seattle Storm, 62-59. The win was the 212th regular-season victory for Thibault and moved him ahead of Chancellor into the top spot on the WNBA’s all-time wins list.

Under Thibault, the revamped Washington roster features seven players who were not with the team in 2012, led by guard Ivory Latta, who signed with the Mystics as an unrestricted free agent this past winter and went on to be selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad. Thibault also orchestrated a trade that brought center Kia Vaughn to Washington, and added four rookies to the roster. Three of those rookies -- Tayler Hill, Emma Meesseman, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt -- made Washington the only team with three players receiving votes toward the All-Rookie Team.

Prior to joining the Mystics, Thibault spent 10 seasons (2003 through 2012) as head coach of theWNBA’s Connecticut Sun, leading that club to eight playoff appearances and two WNBA Finals. During his tenure with the Sun, Thibault compiled a 206-134 (.605) record and achieved several other milestones, including becoming the second coach in WNBA history to reach 200 regular-season victories, the third-fastest coach in league history to compile 100 wins (doing so in 159 games), and the fourth WNBA head coach to work at least 300 regular-season games.

In addition to his WNBA coaching duties, Thibault served as an assistant to Head Coach Anne Donovan on the U.S. Women’s National Team that won a gold medal during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Prior to joining the Sun in 2003, Thibault spent numerous years in various roles with NBA teams. He first joined the NBA in 1978 as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers and was quickly promoted to director of scouting and assistant coach in 1980. During his tenure with the Lakers, the team won two NBA championships. From 1982-86, he served as the director of scouting for the Chicago Bulls, when that organization selected Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley, and John Paxson. Thibault went on to serve as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and also as a scout for the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks.

Below are the voting results for 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year Award as well as a list of past recipients:

2013 COACH OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics - 12 votes

Brian Agler, Seattle Storm - 11 votes

Pokey Chatman, Chicago Sky - 11 votes

Lin Dunn, Indiana Fever - 3 votes

Gary Kloppenburg, Tulsa Shock - 1 votes

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx - 1 votes

COACH OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics

2012 - Carol Ross, Los Angeles Sparks

2011 - Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx

2010 - Brian Agler, Seattle Storm

2009 - Marynell Meadors, Atlanta Dream

2008 - Mike Thibault, Connecticut Sun

2007 - Dan Hughes, San Antonio Silver Stars

2006 - Mike Thibault, Connecticut Sun

2005 - John Whisenant, Sacramento Monarchs

2004 - Suzie McConnell Serio, Minnesota Lynx

2003 - Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Shock

2002 - Marianne Stanley, Washington Mystics

2001 - Dan Hughes, Cleveland Rockers

2000 - Michael Cooper, Los Angeles Sparks

1999 - Van Chancellor, Houston Comets

1998 - Van Chancellor, Houston Comets

1997 - Van Chancellor, Houston Comets

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Swin Cash and Tamika Catchings Win 2013 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award

Swin Cash and Tamika Catchings Win 2013 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award

NEW YORK, Sept. 20 2013 -- Swin Cash of the Chicago Sky and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever were named the recipients of the 2013 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, the WNBA announced today. The co-winners each received seven of 39 votes from a panel of national and local sportswriters and broadcasters.

Catchings, who also won the award in 2010, becomes the fourth player to be honored multiple times, joining Kara Lawson (2012, 2009), Dawn Staley (2006, 1999), and Suzie McConnell Serio (2000, 1998). Three players tied for second place in this year’s voting, Alana Beard (Los Angeles Sparks), Armintie Herrington (Atlanta Dream), and Candice Wiggins (Tulsa Shock), each receiving four votes.

Honored as the recipient of the July Community Assist Award presented by State Farm, Catchings is actively involved with a number of organizations on both a national and local level including her Catch the Stars Foundation. Through her foundation, she works to inspire others to give back to the community, promote literacy, fitness, and mentoring, while empowering youth to achieve their dreams. The MVP of the 2012 WNBA Finals Catchings serves as the league’s ambassador for the "Dribble to Stop Diabetes" campaign.

"Tamika defines hard work, dedication, leadership, and reliability," said Coach Lin Dunn. "We could not be more proud of what she has accomplished not just as a basketball player but as a person, role model and leader for fans all over the world."

Cash, a three-time WNBA champion and 12-year veteran is deeply engaged in the Chicago area where she participates in numerous community events and speaking engagements. Through her Cash for Kids Foundation she works to inspire today’s youth through sports and other activities to motivate, educate, and elevate.

"From the day she arrived, Swin has been a vocal leader on and off the court" said Coach Pokey Chatman. "I can think of no one more deserving of this honor. As successful as she has been on the court, Swin is equally respected for her extensive community outreach."

The Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award is presented each season to honor a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court -- ethical behavior, fair play and integrity -- the award is named for the late Kim Perrot, who helped guide the Houston Comets to their first two WNBA championships before passing away in August 1999, after a seven-month battle with cancer.

In honor of being named the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award co-winners, Cash and Catchings will each receive $5,000 and a specially-designed trophy from Tiffany & Co. An additional $5,000 will be designated to the charity of her choice.

Below are the voting results of the 2013 WNBA Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award and a list of past recipients.

2013 KIM PERROT SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD RESULTS

Swin Cash, Chicago Sky - 7 votes

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever - 7 votes

Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks - 4 votes

Candice Wiggins, Tulsa Shock - 4 votes Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks - 4 votes

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury - 3 votes

Crystal Langhorne, Washington Mystics - 3 votes

Leilani Mitchell, New York Liberty - 3 votes

Allison Hightower, Connecticut Sun - 2 votes

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx - 2 votes

ALL-TIME KIM PERROT SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD WINNERS

2013 - Swin Cash, Chicago Sky

2013 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2012 - Kara Lawson, Connecticut Sun

2011 - Sue Bird, Seattle Storm

2011 - Ruth Riley, San Antonio Silver Stars

2010 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2009 - Kara Lawson, Sacramento Monarchs

2008 - Vickie Johnson, San Antonio Silver Stars

2007 - Tully Bevilaqua, Indiana Fever

2006 - Dawn Staley, Houston Comets

2005 - Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Connecticut Sun

2004 - Teresa Edwards, Minnesota Lynx

2003 - Edna Campbell, Sacramento Monarchs

2002 - Jennifer Gillom, Phoenix Mercury

2001 - Sue Wicks, New York Liberty

2000 - Suzie McConnell Serio, Cleveland Rockers

1999 - Dawn Staley, Charlotte Sting

1998 - Suzie McConnell Serio, Cleveland Rockers

1997 - Haixia Zheng, Los Angeles Sparks

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Sylvia Fowles Named 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of Year

Sylvia Fowles Named 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky was named the 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the WNBA announced today.

Fowles, who also was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, received 21 out of 39 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters. She edged out five-time winner Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever who collected 16 votes. The Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry and the Seattle Storm’s Tanisha Wright each received one vote.

The 6-6 Fowles finished second in the WNBA in blocks (2.44 bpg), anchoring a stout Sky defense that led the WNBA in opponent field goal percentage (.404), while allowing the fourth-fewest points per game (73.59). Fowles led the WNBA in rebounding (11.5 rpg), and was one of only two players (Connecticut’s Tina Charles) to average a double-double on the season, finishing with a scoring average of 16.3 points.

Fowles captured WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in July, August, and September, as the Sky finished with a record of 24-10, good for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, as Chicago reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history. She joins Catchings, Teresa Weatherspoon, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie as the only players to win the award more than once.

Fowles, the second overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, was named an All-Star for the third time this season, and sports career averages of 16.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over a distinguished six-year career.

In honor of being named the Defensive Player of the Year, Fowles will receive $5,000 and a trophy specially designed by Tiffany & Co.

Below are the complete results of the 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year votes and a list of past recipients:

2013 DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky - 21 votes

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever - 16 votes

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream - 1 vote

Tanisha Wright, Seattle Storm - 1 vote

ALL-TIME DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky

2012 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2011 - Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky

2010 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2009 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2008 - Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks

2007 - Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

2006 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2005 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2004 - Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks

2003 - Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

2002 - Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

2001 - Debbie Black, Miami Sol

2000 - Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

1999 - Yolanda Griffith, Sacramento Monarchs

1998 - Teresa Weatherspoon, New York Liberty

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Elena Delle Donne Named 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Elena Delle Donne Named 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky is the recipient of the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year Award, the WNBA announced today. Delle Donne was a unanimous selection by a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters who voted for the award.

The No. 2 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, Delle Donne led all rookies in points (18.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.929, 157-for-169), three-point field goal percentage (.438, 42-for-96), and minutes (31.4 mpg). She ranked second amongst her fellow rookies in rebounds (5.6 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg). Overall, she led the league in free-throw percentage, while ranking second in three-point field goal percentage, fourth in scoring, and fifth in blocks. The 6-5 forward/guard swept the Rookie of the Month honors this season.

The Delaware product appeared in 30 games, scoring in double digits in all but two, and helped the Sky to the best record in the East (24-10) and a franchise-first playoff berth. The first rookie to be the leading vote-getter in WNBA All-Star balloting, Delle Donne averaged double digits in scoring every month. She averaged 19.1 points during June and finished her rookie season by averaging 17.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in September, while connecting on all 26 of her free-throw attempts during the final month.

In her professional debut on May 27, she collected 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a 102-80 win against the Phoenix Mercury. Perhaps Delle Donne’s best game came on Aug. 11, in a 94-86 overtime victory against the league-leading Minnesota Lynx. In that game she produced a career-high 32 points, her first time hitting the 30-point plateau as a professional, and forced overtime with her fourth three-pointer of the game with 4.5 seconds left in regulation. In another notable performance, Delle Donne posted 18 points including the buzzer-beating game winner to give the Sky the 70-68 edge over the visiting Mercury on Sept. 11.

In honor of being named the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Delle Donne will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy by Tiffany & Co.

Below are the complete results of the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year voting, followed by a list of previous winners:

2013 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky - 39 votes

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky

2012 - Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

2011 - Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

2010 - Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun

2009 - Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream

2008 - Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

2007 - Armintie Price, Chicago Sky

2006 - Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx

2005 - Temeka Johnson, Washington Mystics

2004 - Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

2003 - Cheryl Ford, Detroit Shock

2002 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2001 - Jackie Stiles, Portland Fire

2000 - Betty Lennox, Minnesota Lynx

1999 - Chamique Holdsclaw, Washington Mystics

1998 - Tracy Reid, Charlotte Sting

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Sparks' Candace Parker Named 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player

Sparks' Candace Parker Named 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player

-- All-Star Wins Award for Second Time in Six-Year Career --

NEW YORK, Sept. 19, 2013 -- Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks has been named the 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player, the WNBA announced today. Parker received 234 points (10 first-place votes) from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters.

Candace Parker in Pictures: 2013 MVP Season | Through the Years

This marks the second time Parker has won MVP honors in her six-year WNBA career. As a rookie in 2008, she became the first player in WNBA history to earn both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. Parker becomes the fifth player to earn multiple WNBA MVP awards, joining Lauren Jackson (three), Lisa Leslie (three), Sheryl Swoopes (three), and Cynthia Cooper (two).

This season, Parker guided the Sparks to a 24-10 record, tied for the second-best mark in the league, and the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed. She ranked fourth in blocks (1.84 bpg), sixth in scoring (17.9 ppg), seventh in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and double-doubles (eight), and 12th in assists (career-high 3.8 apg). She paced the Sparks in scoring, rebounding and blocks, while ranking second on the team in assists and steals (1.29 spg). Parker scored at least 20 points 13 times, including a season-best 30 points in a 94-78 win over Tulsa on July 11.

After the Sparks started the season 5-4, Parker’s strong play in July led the team to a 7-2 mark for the month. In those nine July contests, Parker averaged 19.8 points and 9.0 rebounds while earning Western Conference Player of the Month honors. She scored at least 20 points in six of the nine games and averaged 23.2 points over two weeks (five games) to earn back-to-back Western Conference Player of the Week awards. Overall, she earned three Player of the Week awards this season, increasing her career total to 13.

Also in July, Parker was crowned MVP of the 2013 Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game after setting a scoring record with 23 points. Her stat line for the star-studded event included 11 rebounds and 10-for-13 shooting from the field as she led the Western Conference to a 102-98 victory over the East.

Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore finished second in the voting with 218 points (10 first-place votes) and Chicago Sky rookie forward/guard Elena Delle Donne finished third with 189 points (seven). Rounding out the top five vote-getters were Sky center Sylvia Fowles (109, six first-place votes) and Atlanta Dream forward/guard Angel McCoughtry (90 points, two first-place votes), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five for third, three for fourth and one for each fifth-place vote received.

In honor of being named the WNBA Most Valuable Player, Parker will receive $15,000 and a specially-designed trophy.

Below are the complete results of the 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player of the Year award votes and a list of past recipients:

2013 WNBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER VOTING RESULTS

Candace Parker - Los Angeles Sparks - 234 points

Maya Moore - Minnesota Lynx - 218 points

Elena Delle Donne - Chicago Sky - 189 points

Sylvia Fowles - Chicago Sky - 109 points

Angel McCoughtry - Atlanta Dream - 90 points

Diana Taurasi - Phoenix Mercury - 69 points

Tamika Catchings - Indiana Fever - 43 points

Lindsay Whalen - Minnesota Lynx - 34 points

Tina Thompson - Seattle Storm - 13 points

Lindsey Harding - Los Angeles Sparks - 7 points

Nneka Ogwumike - Los Angeles Sparks - 5 points

Seimone Augustus - Minnesota Lynx - 1 point

DeWanna Bonner - Phoenix Mercury - 1point

Tina Charles - Connecticut Sun - 1 point

ALL-TIME WNBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD WINNERS

2013 - Candace Parker - Los Angeles Sparks

2012 - Tina Charles - Connecticut Sun

2011 - Tamika Catchings - Indiana Fever

2010 - Lauren Jackson - Seattle Storm

2009 - Diana Taurasi - Phoenix Mercury

2008 - Candace Parker - Los Angeles Sparks

2007 - Lauren Jackson - Seattle Storm

2006 - Lisa Leslie - Los Angeles Sparks

2005 - Sheryl Swoopes - Houston Comets

2004 - Lisa Leslie - Los Angeles Sparks

2003 - Lauren Jackson - Seattle Storm

2002 - Sheryl Swoopes - Houston Comets

2001 - Lisa Leslie - Los Angeles Sparks

2000 - Sheryl Swoopes - Houston Comets

1999 - Yolanda Griffith - Sacramento Monarchs

1998 - Cynthia Cooper - Houston Comets

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Every Cloud Has a Sylvia Lining

Every Cloud Has a Sylvia Lining

She may not get the spotlight like many of the league's other superstars garner, but Chicago's Sylvia Fowles has quietly become one of the league's most dominant player on both ends of the floor this season.

"She's the cleanup woman," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. "I mean, she's shooting almost 60 percent from the field, she's leading the league in rebounding, she's blocking shots and she can score. As a coach, she allows you to play her so many different ways and that is pretty darn valuable to me."

Fowles finished the regular season as the league's top field goal shooter at 59 percent in addition to leading the league in rebounding with 11.5 boards per game. Throw that in with the fact that she is also one of the league's top shot blockers and scorers and you have a force to be recogned with.

Fowles said her stride this season has been cathartic alongside the team's success this season. She's been on the team since 2008 and this year marks the first time the Sky have made the playoffs in the franchise's history - and they did it with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"It's very humbling," she said. "It makes you apperciate all the struggles you've been through with this organization. It all has been working towards this moment."

Fowles has been a dominant player ever since she stepped into the league so her numbers should come as no surprise. But injuries in past seasons stunted her opportunities including last year when she missed 9 games as the Sky missed making the playoffs by one game. Chatman said Fowles' rejuvination this year began in the offseason. She played basketball in Turkey on the same team as established bigs like Atlanta Dream's Sancho Lyttle and Seattle Storm's Ann Wauters.

"What that translates into is she didn't have to play 35, 36, 37 or 38 minutes a game," Chatman said. "It allowed her to go in later, it allowed her to play in fewer minutes. She wanted to give herself an oppportunity to get better overseas, but it was an opportunity to stay fresh and prepare for what was to come."

In addition to staying healthy, Fowles' improvements this season have been complimented by the meteoric run of rookie teammate Elena Delle Donne. The two have been playing at MVP caliber levels all season long and Chatman said it's because of how well the duo play together.

"They're a perfect compliment to one another," Chatman said. "You look at the personalities of those two and they don't cancel each other out. When I hear talk about both of them having a chance at MVP, it makes me smile because they understand each other and respect how important one is to the other."

Fowles added having Delle Donne in addition to a prolific scorer in Epiphanny Prince on the team has helped cement her role for the team and hone in on what she does best.

"Rebounding and blocking shots has always been my bread and butter," Fowles said. "I'm pretty much the garbage woman. When you have an Elena Delle Donne and Epiphanny Prince, they can score anytime they touch the ball. I think my main thing is get some offense boards, rebounds and putbacks."

She added the team's solidified structure this season has helped create a tough-as-nails mentality going into the postseason.

"There's a different mindset (than previous years) among the 11 girls that we have here," she said. "We all want to go out and compete to the best of our ability. I think that's what's making the difference."

She added the team's goofy and outgoing chemistry off the court has made a difference this season as well. A big factor in that has been Fowles' presence, her coach said.

"You see that big body and that beastly game, but a lot of people don't know she's also one of the most endearing, kind, thoughtful and appreciative people out there," Chatman said.

On the surface, it appears Chicago would be heavy favorites in the first round as a No. 1 seed going against the No. 4 seeded Indiana Fever. But the Indiana Fever are the defending WNBA champions who can scrap with the league's best, including the Sky as they prepare for their first ever playoffs series.

"Yeah they're the fourth seed, but you can't write them off," Fowles said. "Indiana is going to come out and be very aggressive and very strong and we know what they're capable of. So we have to come out and be as aggressive too and step up our mental game."

The Fever are known for their tenacious defense, led by veteran superstar Tamika Catchings. But Indiana doesn't have a dominant center the way the Sky do. Considering the Fever beat the Sky, 3-1, in their regular series matchups, big games from Fowles could be the Sky's X-factor in winning the series.

Chatman said Fowles and the rest of the Chicago lineup will be ready.

"They're the team that beat us three times," Chatman said. "There's the motivation. Indiana is going to be physical. They're going to switch and they're going to trap. We've learned from that. If we continue to bring high level basketball both physically and mentally, then we should be ok."

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Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2013 -- Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars) have won the 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Awards for scoring, rebounding and assists, respectively, it was announced by the WNBA today.

The WNBA presents the Peak Performer awards annually to the players who lead the league in each of those categories during the regular season. Each player will receive a trophy crafted by Tiffany in honor of her accomplishments.

McCoughtry earned her second straight Peak Performer award for scoring, averaging a league-best 21.5 points. The fifth-year veteran averaged more than 20 points for the fourth consecutive year and shot 41 percent from the floor. McCoughtry scored 20 or more points in 19 games this season, including six games of 30 or more.

On Sept. 6, McCoughtry became the third-youngest player to reach the 3,000-point plateau, accomplishing the fear four days before her 27th birthday. She reached the milestone in 154 games, tying for third fewest in WNBA history. Her career average of 19.5 points ranks third all-time.

Leading the league in rebounds per game with 11.5, Fowles bested three-time defending rebounding champion Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun, who had edged the Sky center for the award by fewer than one rebound in each of the last two seasons. The Louisiana State University alumna had her two best rebounding totals of the season against Connecticut, pulling down a career-best 22 on May 31 and 21 on Aug. 18. Fowles grabbed double-digit rebounds in 20 games this season, including seven consecutive games to start the season. She ranks second all-time with 9.8 rebounds per game, and recorded the third-highest single-season rebound total in league history (369) this season.

San Antonio Silver Stars guard Danielle Robinson earned her first Peak Performer award, averaging 6.7 assists to hold off Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi who finished second (6.2 apg). Robinson also topped two-time defending assists champion Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota who finished third, averaging 5.8 assists. Robinson dished out five or more assists in 20 games this season, reaching the 10-assist plateau twice, on Aug. 6, against Minnesota and June 25, against Phoenix. She also ranked second in the league in assist-turnover ratio with a 2.63 mark.

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2013 WNBA Peak Performers -- Final Statistics

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Top Five: Scoring Average

Player (Team)

1. Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)

3. Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)

4. Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)

5. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun)

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Top Five: Rebounding Average

Player (Team)

1. Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky)

2. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun)

3. Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream)

4. Jayne Appel (SA Silver Stars)

Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx)

Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock)

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Top Five: Assists Average

Player (Team)

1. Danielle Robinson (SA Silver Stars)

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)

3. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)

4. Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky)

5. Lindsey Harding (L.A Sparks)

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Chicago's Fowles and Minnesota's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month

Chicago's Fowles and Minnesota's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month

NEW YORK, Sept. 17, 2013 -- Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in September.

Fowles led the WNBA in both rebounding per game (11.6 rpg) and field goal percentage (.569) in September. She ranked second in blocks per game (3.0 bpg) and total blocks (15), and 13th in scoring (15.6 ppg). Fowles also recorded three double-doubles, ranking second in the WNBA.

Highlights of Fowles’ play in September included:

- Sept. 6 vs. Indiana: 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while adding eight rebounds and four blocks in an 82-77 loss.

- Sept. 11 vs. Phoenix: Double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds in addition to four blocks in a 70-68 victory.

- Sept. 14 at Minnesota: Double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 79-66 loss.

Moore averaged 18.0 points in September as Minnesota (26-8) finished its 2013 regular season with a 4-1 mark, clinching the No. 1 overall seed and home-court advantage throughout the WNBA playoffs. Moore also averaged 3.2 assists and ranked fifth in the league with a .523 field goal percentage, as well as in the top-10 in total three-pointers made.

Highlights of Moore’s play in September included:

- Sept. 4 vs. Los Angeles: 20 points, six rebounds, two blocks in an 83-74 victory.

- Sept. 10 at Seattle: 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting, five steals, three assists and four rebounds in a 73-60 win.

- Sept. 14 vs. Chicago: Double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, in addition to six assists in a 79-66 victory.

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Fans Contribute to Successful WNBA Season

Fans Contribute to Successful WNBA Season

NEW YORK, Sept. 17, 2013 -- Fans responded to one of the WNBA’s most compelling seasons as the league experienced double digit growth in television viewership, increase in attendance and soaring traffic on WNBA.com.

The 2013 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile begin Thursday, Sept. 19, with the Atlanta Dream taking on the Washington Mystics at 8 p.m. ET followed by the Phoenix Mercury against the Los Angeles Sparks at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2. NBA TV will then tip off its postseason coverage on Friday, Sept. 20 when the Indiana Fever begin their defense of the WNBA crown against the Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the Seattle Storm against the defending Western Conference champion Minnesota Lynx. All 23 possible postseason games will be airing on ESPN, ESPN2 and NBA TV. Information on game tickets and TV schedules can be found on WNBA.com.

The 2013 WNBA regular-season highlights include:

WNBA on TV:

- The WNBA regular season on ESPN2 averaged 231,000 viewers, up +28% over last season (180,000)

- ESPN2’s telecast of the Chicago Sky vs. the Phoenix Mercury on opening day was the most viewed WNBA regular season game on the network since 2004, delivering 455,000 viewers.

- NBA TV had its most viewed WNBA season up 19% over last year, with the Seattle Storm vs. the San Antonio Silver Stars (Friday, June 21) becoming the most watched WNBA game in the network’s history with 113,000 viewers.

WNBA Attendance:

- Led by the Chicago Sky (+17%), the Phoenix Mercury (+9%), and the Indiana Fever (+8%), WNBA saw increases in attendance (+1.0%).

WNBA Digital:

- WNBA.com experienced double digit growth during the 2013 season for daily unique visits (+27%), total visits (+20%,) and total page views (+11%). - WNBA games streamed online at WNBA.com via LiveAccess saw a 24% increase in unique users.

WNBA Social Media

- The WNBA Channel on YouTube (youtube.com/wnba) set a new record with 635,000 videos viewed during opening week and has experienced a three- fold increase in video views this season.

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Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne Named Rookie of the Month for September

Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne Named Rookie of the Month for September

NEW YORK, September 17, 2013 -- Chicago Sky guard/forward Elena Delle Donne has been named Rookie of the Month for games played in September, the WNBA announced today. This marks the fourth consecutive Rookie of the Month honor for Delle Donne.

For September, Delle Donne led rookies in scoring (17.2 ppg), free-throw percentage (1.000, 26-for-26), minutes (33.6 mpg), and ranked second in rebounds (5.8 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg). The WNBA All-Star led her team to a 3-2 record for the month, which included a 70-68 win on Sept. 11, over the visiting Phoenix Mercury. Delle Donne’s 18 points included a buzzer-beater to give the Sky the win.

The Delaware native has helped the Sky to the best record in the East (24-10) and a franchise-first playoff berth. Delle Donne finished the season ranked first overall in three-throw percentage (.929, 157-for-169), fourth in points (18.1 ppg), and fifth in blocks (1.8 bpg). Delle Donne appeared in 30 games, scoring in double-digits in all but two.

Highlights of Delle Donne’s month included:

- Sept. 8 vs. Washington: 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line in a 93-79 win

- Sept. 11 vs. Phoenix: 18 points including a buzzer-beater in a 70-68 win

- Sept. 13 vs. Atlanta: 18 points and eight rebounds in an 87-82 win

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Series Preview: (2) L.A. Sparks vs. (3) Phoenix Mercury

Series Preview: (2) L.A. Sparks vs. (3) Phoenix Mercury

The No. 2 seeded Los Angeles Sparks are set to take on the No. 3 seeded Phoenix Mercury in a series that is sure to be competitive and feature two dynamic MVP candidates in forward/center Candace Parker of the Sparks and guard Diana Taurasi of the Mercury.

There is no doubt that these two players will have a large impact on the outcome of the playoffs series. Parker leads her team averaging 17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists, while Taurasi leads the Mercury averaging 20.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists and ranks second in the league in scoring average and in assists--just 1.2 points behind Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry and .5 assists behind San Antonio's Danielle Robinson, respectively.

During the 2013 season, the teams broke even in the series at 2-2. In those four games, Taurasi averaged 24.3 ppg, with her highest mark coming from the game back on June 14 when she put up 34 points. Parker posted 19.3 ppg, scoring her series-best at 25 points when the two met on July 18.

The previous matchups paint the picture that this will be a sure to be an aggressive series. Both teams have top-notch supporting casts and played tight games during half of the series. Just to show the competitiveness between the teams, in the third-game the Mercury snapped the Sparks' 19-game regular-season home winning streak. While the Sparks have homecourt advantage, that advantage could easily be taken over by the Mercury. Overall, the Sparks are the second-highest scoring team in the league (just behind Minnesota) averaging 81.94 points per game, but Phoenix is just right behind them with an average of 79.71 points per game. The teams faced each other in the last regular-season game of the year, with the Sparks getting a huge 89-55 win, but both teams sat out their stars during most of the game.

Between two of the league's top all-stars and competitive matchups during the season, the supporting casts on both teams make it hard to say that either team will get a sure victory in this playoffs series. Rookie center Brittney Griner has overcome injury issues and managed to lead the league in blocks, while her offensive game is improving just as the playoffs approach. As for the Sparks, forward Nneka Ogwumike is second in the league for field-goal percentage at .566. Just behind Parker, Ogwumike, last year's Rookie of the Year, put up and average of 14.6 points-per-game and 7.6 rebounds.

With a back-and-forth regular-season series, it is hard to predict who will make it to the Conference Finals. Yes, Taurasi has had some high-scoring games in this series and the Mercury have pulled away by more points in the matchup, but with the depth on each roster it is hard to count out the higher-seeded Sparks. With under 400 miles between the two teams, this is sure to be a battle that will create excitement out West.

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Series Preview: (1) Chicago Sky vs. (4) Indiana Fever

Series Preview: (1) Chicago Sky vs. (4) Indiana Fever

The No. 1 seeded Chicago Sky take on the No. 4 seeded and defending champion Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Being the top seed in the East, Chicago looks like a clear favorite but what happened during the regular-season tells a different story.

In the four regular-season meetings between the two teams, Indiana took the series 3-1 with the Fever winning by as much as 20 points in one meeting. While Indiana easily took three games against the Sky, injuries were a factor for both teams this year, particularly for the Fever. Chicago hit a dip midway during the 2013 campaign rookie sensation and MVP candidate Elena Delle Donne suffered a concussion. Influential Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot also sat out a game against the Fever.

For Indiana, Perennial All-Star Tamika Catchings, who carried the squad to the 2012 WNBA Championship with an epic Finals MVP performance, averaged 17.7 points and 7.1 rebounds leading into this year's playoffs. But unfortunately, several starters, including Catchings, have battled injuries all season. Back in June, the Fever lost center Jessica Davenport to a stress fracture in her lower leg and another three players were out of the lineup through mid-July. Currently, the team doesn't have a true center listed on its roster. So expect the team to play small in this series. While seasoned WNBA veteran Katie Douglas (15 points and 2.8 rebounds) is back on the court, Catchings sat out of the last game of the season with a sore back, but is expected to be back by Friday. Even with these setbacks, don’t expect the Fever to go down without a fight.

While the Fever took the WNBA Championship this year, the path isn’t so clear this year. The Chicago Sky, headed into its first playoffs and is led by one of the most dynamic young players to ever enter the WNBA in Delle Donne. Additionally, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Sylvia Fowles has had a monster year, adding impressive offensive numbers to her customary stellar defensive work in the paint. Look for this playoff series to be a competitive series, just based on the regular season series. Also, look for young talent to shine in the big spotlight.

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Series Preview: (1) Minnesota Lynx vs. (4) Seattle Storm

Series Preview: (1) Minnesota Lynx vs. (4) Seattle Storm

The Seattle Storm were just two points away from beating the Minnesota Lynx to advance to the Western Conference Finals last year when nobody thought they even had a chance to be competitive in the series. Now they have a chance at a rematch.

This year, the Storm are continuing to buck expectations by even making the playoffs without their superstar players Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. With multiple wins against the Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks, in addition to other wins against the Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream, the Seattle Storm have held their own against some of the league's finest this season.

But they'll need to scrap with everything they've got against the Minnesota Lynx, currently on one of their best regular season runs ever. The ferocious Lynx are on the warpath to make it to their third consecutive WNBA Finals. If any team wants to get a crack at a championship this season, it is widely believed they'll have to go through Minnesota.

It's going to be a bittersweet affair watching the Storm's playoff run this season as it will be the last time fans will get to see Tina Thompson in WNBA action. As the first player ever to be selected in the WNBA in 1997, the legendary guard will hang it up after 17 historic seasons. And don't get it twisted, at 38, she can still play, capable of putting up 20-25 points on any given night.

For the young Storm roster going against the goliath lineup on the Lynx, Thompson's leadership will be crucial in keeping the team focused. And there's a lot of budding talent on the Storm that can keep things interesting. Expect the trio of Shekinna Stricklen, Temeka Johnson and Camille Little to do some scoring damage in this series.

The Lynx on the other hand have the league's most star-studded lineup with four of their starters named to the All-Star team this season. Maya Moore has taken over as the team's general and her sheer athleticism and ability to knock down threes will be a constant worry for the Storm. And the increased scoring production from Lindsay Whalen and always reliable Seimone Augustus will keep the Storm on their toes too.

The Storm will have to give everything they've got to stay competitive in this series. And having one of the notoriously strongest fan bases in the WNBA, it will come in handy for them. The Lynx meanwhile may be the favorites on paper, but it's the playoffs so anything can happen. In order to win, the Lynx will have to play the same way they did to get into the playoffs - and that's steamrolling through their opponents no matter what team they play for.

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Series Preview: (2) Atlanta Dream vs. (3) Washington Mystics

Series Preview: (2) Atlanta Dream vs. (3) Washington Mystics

The Atlanta Dream are on a warpath led largely in part by 2.0 version of Angel McCoughtry. She's faster, stronger, better and most importantly she's wiser. And this season she's led the squad to new heights as they attempt to reach the WNBA Finals for the third time in the past four seasons.

New heights can't be mentioned in the WNBA without mentioning the coach Mike Thibault's brilliant turnaround of the Washington Mystics. Thibault joining the team this season, alongside All-Star Ivory Latta, has helped the team clinch a playoffs spot and squash its reputation as being one of the worst teams in the league. It's been nothing short of exciting to see how much turnaround this squad has made in just one season.

McCoughtry finishes the season with some of the most stellar numbers of her career, leading the league in scoring for the second consecutive year and in steals. She's also been the driving force behind the improvements of Tiffany Hayes and Erika de Souza, who have both taken the scoring burden on the team that McCoughtry used to carry.

Ivory Latta's animated presence both on and off the court has been the team's spark in generating some badly needed team chemistry. She's the backbone of the team and an excellent three-point shooter (leads the league in most 3 point field goals made this season) that will be a tough force for the Dream to stop. Add that to rookie guard Tayler Hill slowly hitting a stride this season and the Mystics will have a speedy backcourt that will be tough to stop.

The Dream may have the homecourt advantage in this series but their records this season are the exact same at 17-17. For the Dream to win this series, they will need to stay healthy. McCoughtry is likely to be a dominant force again this post season but she'll need help from her teammates to stay competitive. Tiffany Hayes has been in and out of the lineup this season with nagging injuries and a question mark still hangs over Sancho Lyttle being ready for playoffs action. McCoughtry is likely going to draw a double-team, if not triple-team, from the Mystics this series and her teammates will need to step up their production.

The Mystics, on the other hand, will need to focus heavily on their defense starting with Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie stepping up their presence in the paint. The Dream's Erika de Souza is emerging as a dominant finisher under the rim and the Mystics will need to neutralize her since she's one of McCoughtry's favorite people to pass to. And speaking of McCoughtry, the Mystics will need to throw every resource available at her on both ends of the floor to slow down her and her team's momentum in the series.

Washington's resilience this season is likely to make this series not one to sleep on. Atlanta may be the favorite going into the series but expect Thibault and the Mystics to have a few tricks up their sleeves to try and shut the Dream down.

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Mystic's Latta, Lynx's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week

Mystic's Latta, Lynx's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week

NEW YORK, September 16, 2013 -- Ivory Latta of the Washington Mystics and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Sept. 15.

Latta averaged 15.3 points last week, leading Washington to a 3-0 record as the Mystics clinched the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Her 3.7 assists per game tied for fifth in the East, while her mark of .600 from three-point land ranked second. This is the third time Latta has been named Player of the Week, with each of the honors coming this season.

In a 69-67 win over Indiana on Sept. 10, Latta scored 15 points and recorded four assists to help Washington clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2010. Later in the week she scored a game-high 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field as the Mystics defeated Connecticut, 82-56. Latta also shot 5-for-7 from behind the three-point arc. To wrap up the week, Latta chipped in 12 points as the Mystics defeated the Liberty on Sept. 15, 70-52.

Moore’s 19.7 points per game last week ranked second in the West as Minnesota posted a 2-1 record and clinched the No. 1 overall seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. She also averaged 5.3 rebounds while ranking sixth in the West in assists (3.7), field goal percentage (.561) and three-point percentage (.462). This marks Moore’s third Player of the Week award this season and fifth of her career.

To help defeat Seattle 73-60 on Sept. 10, Moore scored 20 points and tallied a personal season-best five steals. Two days later, she scored 17 points in an 85-84 loss to Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, Moore recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds to help Minnesota defeat Chicago 79-66 and earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. She also tied a personal season-high with six assists.

Other candidates for WNBA Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne, Epiphanny Prince and Sylvia Fowles in the East, as well as Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike, Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen, San Antonio’s Danielle Adams and Tulsa’s Riquna Williams in the West.

Week 1: McCoughtry, Parker ; Week 2: Latta, Brunson; Week 3: McCoughtry, Taurasi; Week 4: McCoughtry, Glory Johnson; Week 5: Delle Donne, Taurasi; Week 6: Delle Donne, Parker; Week 7: Fowles, Parker; Week 8: Catchings, Cambage; Week 9: Latta, Thompson; Week 10: Cambage, Charles; Week 11: Moore, Delle Donne; Week 12: Fowles, Toliver; Week 13: Moore, Delle Donne; Week 14: Catchings, Thompson; Week 15: McCoughtry, Riquna Williams

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Race to the MVP: And the Winner Is...

Race to the MVP: And the Winner Is...

The 2013 WNBA season comes to a close this weekend and it is time to select an MVP. This is one of the closest MVP races in recent memory with no clear favorite leading the pack of candidates.

Speaking of history, congratulations to Tulsa's Riquna Williams for setting the all-time WNBA single-game scoring record on Sunday with a 51-point outburst. With her upside, she could very well be in the MVP conversation in future seasons.

As for this season, five candidates have valid arguments to win the award, and if any of them claim the honor, it should come as a surprise to nobody. At the end of the day, however, there can only be one winner.

In alphabetical order, here are the five candidates worthy for this year's MVP Award and WNBA.com's selection to win it.

NOTE: WNBA.com is not involved in selecting the actual MVP award. The Most Valuable Player Award is selected by a national media panel of several dozen sportswriters and broadcasters.

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Elena Delle Donne

KEY STATS: Ranks #1 in Free-Throw Percentage (90%), #2 in three-pointers (50%)

Did you see her game winning spin-move to jumper against the Phoenix Mercury this week? Enough said.

She's one of the most exciting storylines of the season. With all the "3 to See" hoopla surrounding the incoming class of rookies this season, Elena Delle Donne's meteoric run this season was a pleasant surprise to us all. But for her fans that have been following her since her high school and college days, it shouldn't. Delle Donne has helped transform the Chicago Sky from a franchise that has never made the playoffs in its history to the anointed team in the Eastern Conference that is a favorite to make it to the WNBA Finals.

At 6'5, she exploits her height advantage at the perimeter to drain buckets against her mismatched defenders. She has one of the league's highest 3-point percentages and is by far the league's best free-throw shooter. (As of 9/12/13, of the 159 free throw attempts she's taken this season, she has made 147 of them!). Her ability to knock down shots and fearless ability to get to the foul line leaves teams scratching their heads on how to stop her night after night.

Her superb gameplay makes it all but inevitable to win this year's Rookie of the Year honors, but it almost feels like calling her a rookie would be a disservice to appreciating how good her game already is.

And while this isn't a qualification for MVP, it's worth noting she has one of the strongest fan bases this season as the league's top vote getter for the WNBA All-Star game and during these weekly Race to the MVP column, the overwhelming majority of emails that come in have been for her.

If she's putting up 18.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in her rookie season, just imagine what she will be capable of in seasons to come.

"The clear frontrunner for this year's WNBA MVP award is Elena Delle Donne. Her presence in that lineup has transformed a less-than-mediocre team into a team that may very well end up playing for the league championship. When she was first drafted, the buzz was that the Sky could possibly earn their first postseason spot. Now there's talk of the Sky taking it all.

She has made every one of her teammates better players. When the time calls for a big play - a defensive stop or a big bucket - it is Delle Donne who usually gets the call. Her own individual play has been magnificent.

There is one other gift that Delle Donne has that makes her special. She can take over a game - defensively and offensively. She has the ability to alter the tempo and course of a game through enormous talent and sheer willpower. This ability tends to appear when the outcome of a game is undetermined or when the game is an important one. We will all see this special talent of hers in the postseason and those of us with long enough memories will realize that Michael Jordan is back in Chicago."

- Pat in Washington DC

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Angel McCoughtry

KEY STATS: Ranks #1 in Scoring (21.8 ppg), #1 in Steals (2.8 spg)

Her stats speak for themselves. McCoughtry is leading the league in scoring (21.8 PPG) and in steals (2.8 spg) making her an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor. She is currently also leading the league in the Points/Rebounds/Assists category at 31.7, further outlining her vitality to her team.

And she's done all this with an injury-riddled supporting cast. Tiffany Hayes and Sancho Lyttle, the team's other high-volume scorers, have been on and off the team's injury list all season, forcing Angel to crank up her game to even higher notches. The Dream started off the season with a bang winning 11 of their first 12 games, and despite the few losing skids they've had since then, the Dream still managed to finish in second place in the Eastern Conference and clinch their fifth consecutive playoff appearance - a playoff appearance for each year McCoughtry has been in the league.

While her stats could be enough, McCoughtry's most important reason for deserving the MVP honors is her growth in leadership. For several seasons she had often been portrayed (and just as often unfairly) as a selfish player that didn't have much of a relationship with her teammates. Often times it was all the rumors and chatter of what she was doing off the court that clouded fans from seeing what she was doing on the court.

This season, she has put all her critics to rest. McCoughtry has spent extensive effort bonding with her teammates and the investment shows in how she interracts with them and makes them better. Erika de Souza and Hayes are putting up some of the best numbers of their careers and each credit McCoughtry's guidance as the reasons for why. Angel's growth and maturity this season cannot be overlooked.

In the past, many teams in the playoffs have been able to neutralize the Dream by positioning their defensive guns on McCoughtry. But with McCoughtry stepping up her leadership role and making players around her better, the Dream now have many more offensive options like Hayes and deSouza that opponents will need to stop too.

"I believe Angel McCoughtry is this year's MVP. Focused on the numbers alone, McCoughtry has been leading the league in points and steals for nearly the entire season. Secondly her team has been firmly in the playoff hunt since the start of the 2013 season (all while playing with many new players and without Sancho Lyttle this year).

As a fan of the Minnesota Lynx, it pains me to admit the absolute truth: Angel McCoughtry is the 2013 MVP of the WNBA, because no one has maintain the level of greatness and has made the players around them better like she has. Comparable to any other player in the league she has been the most valuable, because without McCoughtry there is no Atlanta Dream."

- Erica in Illinois

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Maya Moore

KEY STATS: Ranks #1 in 3-point FGs (50%), #3 in Scoring (18.4 ppg)

She was WNBA.com's favorite going into this season to win the MVP award. She's put up so many video-game like performances this season to live up to the expectations including her career-high 35 points against the Indiana Fever last month. And since the All-Star break, there really hasn't been anyone playing better than her.

Moore was already playing at a terrific pace last season and she's improved this year in just about every statistical category. The most significant one is her 3-point shooting. She leads the league in downtown buckets with a 46 percent 3-point average. Mix that in with her freakish athleticism and you've got an explosive athlete that is an unstoppable force both inside and outside the permiter.

Her shining jewel this season has been her growth in leadership. Moore has stepped it up this season in leading the Minnesota Lynx to one of their best seasons ever. While it would be foolish to not acknowledge the contributions of All-Stars Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson's for the Lynx's ferocious run this season, Moore is the squad's general and she'll be the one leading them into the post season.

"Hands down the MVP this year belongs to Maya Moore. She is the focal point of the Lynx this year and she never shies away from it. She has put up an MVP caliber Stats and kept Lynx in the spotlight. She continues to up her game every year."

- Adebayo in Maryland

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Candace Parker

KEY STATS: Ranks #2 in Efficiency (23.1), #1 in Defensive Rebounds (10.1 per 40 minutes)

Parker winning the MVP would be the ultimate redemption story. She came into the league in 2008 and hit the ground running for the Los Angeles Sparks becoming the first player ever to win Rookie of the Year and MVP. But then she took time off to have a child and subsequent seasons were marred with injuries. Last year was her first full season back since 2008 and her team lost in the Western Conference Finals by one painful point. She told WNBA.com earlier this year that winning the MVP award would be a much needed catharsis from all the ups and downs she's experienced since her rookie year.

And this season, she has certainly been playing at a top-notch level to deserve the award. She's one of the league's top scorers that it's almost futile for opponents to try and stop her when she's in the paint. It's also hard to keep track this season of all the comebacks she's shepherded for her team this season. Parker going into beast-mode when her back is against the wall is one of the most entertaining things to watch in the league this season.

Her most intriguing skill this season is her ability to influence the game without solely relying on her ability to score. She makes players around her better with Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver enjoying All-Star seasons by playing off Parker in the team's transition offense. As a tenacious force on both ends of the floor, Parker has adopted an almost Matrix-like ability to control the flow of the game in more ways than one.

"Hands down, Candance Parker is the 2013 MVP. Remember MVP is not the individual that scores the most points in a game. It is the individual that leads the team and elevates the level of play of the surrounding players. Now, look at Parker's game and presence on the floor. She plays every position on the floor (no other candidate does this). Even if she does not score 20 per game, her presence on the floor warrants every team to focus on her and double team."

-Nathaniel in Georgia

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Diana Taurasi

KEY STATS: Ranks #2 in Scoring (20.8 ppg), #2 in Assists (6.2 apg)

Towering expectations to bring home a championship, crucial teammates that have been marred with injuries, a game-changing draft pick that hasn't hit her stride yet, a change in coach midway into the season and several strategy shifts in how the team should run their offense. No superstar has had more mountains to climb this season and excelled than Diana Taurasi.

The Phoenix Mercury were a heavy favorite to win the WNBA Championship going into this season and with all the roadblocks on the way, Taurasi has been the driving force to keep those hopes alive. With all the ups and downs, Taurasi has been the Mercury's stabilizing force heading into the postseason.

Statistically, she is playing at a top-notch level, only about a point away from leading the entire league in scoring. She's also shed her reputation of being a selfish player by coming close to leading the league in assists too (6.2 per game). She's also playing at the same, if not higher, level she was at in 2009 - the year she won the league's MVP award.

This may not be a substantive reason for deserving the MVP award, but Taurasi is also one of the most fun players to watch on the court. A genuinely warm and friendly person off the court, Taurasi dials in to a ruthless state of mind when she's on the court striking fear into her opponents because of how hard she plays. Her relentless desire to win is what makes fans love her.

And it's that desire that has restored the Mercury's winning ways this season. Taurasi sat out most of last season with injuries, forcing the Mercury to slide down to one of the worst records in the league. This year she has been healthy and now the team has a solid chance of getting their hands on the franchise's third WNBA championship.

"She is the second scoring leader and second in assists rankings. The Mercury are in the playoffs right now, and Diana is the only leader for this team. We are waiting to get a little bit of respect please for Diana Taurasi."

-Defne from Turkey

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Winner: Angel McCoughtry

With all due respect to the other players on the Atlanta Dream, who are a tough and talented bunch, McCoughtry has led her squad to new heights with significantly less star power that the other candidates on this list enjoy.

If all of these candidates were sidelined this season for any reason, each of their teams could still make the playoffs. Except Atlanta. Chicago almost did last season even with Epiphanny Prince and Sylvia Fowles missing several games with injuries.

Statistically, McCoughtry is leading the league on both ends of the floor. And through the wear and tear of the season that has slowed down other players on this list in terms of scoring, McCoughtry has been the most consistent force all season long.

In this crowded list of candidates where no clear player leads the pack, WNBA.com selects Angel McCoughtry as the league's Most Valuable Player.

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Diggins' Diary: Sky's View of History

Diggins' Diary: Sky's View of History

She may not be through her first full WNBA season, but this past weekend Skylar Diggins was witness -- and active participant -- to two WNBA firsts.

In Tulsa’s 98-65 win over San Antonio on September 8, Skylar’s backcourt mate Riquna Williams famously scored 51 points -- the most ever in a WNBA game. Meanwhile, Diggins, who’s seen her scoring increase in the past few weeks, chipped in with 20 points of her own, two shy of her career high. The 71 points that the two guards combined for is the most ever for teammates in a WNBA game, besting the 70-point outburst by perennial All-Stars Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter in 2006.

For Diggins, however, the performance was meaningful for more than just the obvious historical reasons.

"It was an amazing experience for me being a rookie seeing (Williams) break out like that in just her second year," Diggins said. "She is somebody who is a great offensive player all around, so it was inspiring for me to watch her play and to be able to do that in her second year in the league."

Diggins also said that during the game she could feel the gravity and excitement of the moment building.

"I thought it was an amazing experience for me as a rookie because I’ve never seen anything like that. Nobody has," Diggins said. "It was unbelievable to watch and when you get respect from the other team, that’s how you know this is exciting. When you have the other team’s fans starting to get anxious when she got to 42 or 43. They’re like, ‘is she gonna get 50?'"

Diggins, playing the role of supportive teammate in addition to secondary scorer, encouraged Williams as well.

"Throughout the game when she had 20-something, I was like, ‘get 40, get 40,’" Skylar remembered. "And then she gets 40, so then I’m like, ‘get 50 then, get 50!’ We were just egging her on."

Diggins also applauded Williams’ performance because the Miami product was able to score while staying within the general principles of the offense. The team was not running isolation plays for Williams, Diggins said, and that alone proves the kind of offensive threat Williams -- now the 11th leading scorer in the league -- has evolved into.

"She’s a player we all know can score in bunches," Diggins said of Williams. "She’s a blow-by guard that can also really shoot the three too, so you kind of have to pick your poison with her and she was showing it off. She had some mid-range jump shots, she shot some threes and she got to the basket, got a few and-ones, got to the free-throw line, so it was a complete game for her."

Williams’ iconic effort underscores the overwhelming feeling that Tulsa is a team on the rise. The Shock have two elite bigs in the frontcourt with Liz Cambage and Glory Johnson, but they also sport a strong quartet in the backcourt. There, Williams and Diggins are joined by promising rookie Angel Goodrich and veteran Candice Wiggins, each with their own definable skillset.

"Candice rarely misses an open three and is a player that can also explode and make it from the 3-point line and is somebody that is one the best defenders in the league in my opinion," Diggins said. "Then you have Angel who is such a great passer and kind of like my partner in crime, I’ll say. And just a player that is so heads up about everything and that’s fun to play with when you have players who are smart and who know the game of basketball and can play it pretty well."

As a result, Diggins says she feels confident that the players in the Tulsa locker room -- as young as they may be -- can compete at the highest level. All it’s going to take is a little bit of seasoning.

"I’ve always thought we had the right pieces, but nothing can teach you about this league like game experience and now that we have a year under our belts, I’m excited for what’s to come for this team the next few years," Diggins said. "This year we knew we were going to be rebuilding and we just decided to lay the foundation down for something good in the future."

Williams’ record-setting game is a pillar of that foundation. It is simultaneously a glimpse into the future and a demonstration of existing talent. It’s also evidence that Diggins and the rest of the team can reference as validation for their optimistic outlook.

"I was just glad to be in the game and say I was in the game with her," Diggins said. "It was just a great night for our young team. We’re continuing to make history with our young franchise and Tulsa and we have a very bright future and (Williams is) one of the players that we’re really going to build this program around. I’m glad to be a part of it."

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Lynx clinch top spot in West with 73-60 win

Lynx clinch top spot in West with 73-60 win

SEATTLE (AP) Maya Moore scored 20 points and Lindsay Whalen added 19 to help the Minnesota Lynx clinch their third consecutive Western Conference title with a 73-60 victory over the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night.

Monica Wright added 14 points for Minnesota (25-7), which won its seventh straight game.

The two teams will face each other again next week in the best-of-three first-round series since Seattle already had clinched the fourth and final seed.

Moore hit 7 of 10 shots from the field and Whalen 7 of 9. The Lynx pulled away from Seattle with a 23-14 run in the second quarter.

The Lynx beat Seattle in the first round last year. They won the WNBA title in 2011.

Tanisha Wright led Seattle (15-17) with 14 points. Tina Thompson had just five points and shot 2 of 8 from the field.

Minnesota has won 11 of the past 13 games against the Storm, including a 4-0 sweep this year. The Lynx last swept Seattle in a regular-season series in 2001.

Whalen scored 17 and Moore 10 to help the Lynx to a 40-28 halftime lead. Whalen scored four during a 10-0 run late in the second quarter to give the Lynx an 18-point lead. They led by 24 early in the fourth quarter.

Seattle starting point guard Temeka Johnson missed the game with a heel injury and is considered day to day. She averages 10.4 points and four assists per game.

The Lynx beat Seattle 75-60 on Saturday and 97-74 on Aug. 31. Both teams have two regular-season games left.

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Mystics clinch playoff spot with win over Fever

Mystics clinch playoff spot with win over Fever

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Kia Vaughn had 15 points and six rebounds to lead the Washington Mystics to a 69-67 victory over the Indiana Fever on Tuesday to clinch a spot in the playoffs on Tuesday.

Ivory Latta had 15 points and four assists and Tayler Hill added 12 points for the Mystics (15-17), who reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Briann January had 16 points and Shavonte Zellous added 14 points and six rebounds for the Fever (15-17), who could have clinched a No. 3 seed in the playoffs with a win.

The Mystics went on an 8-2 run midway through the second half. Michelle Snow scored a basket and Hill hit two 3-pointers to give Washington a 60-55 lead with 7:11 left and the Mystics held on the rest of the way.

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Dupree and Bonner lead Mercury over Liberty

Dupree and Bonner lead Mercury over Liberty

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner each scored 18 points to help the Phoenix Mercury beat the New York Liberty 80-76 on Tuesday night.

Diana Taurasi added 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Phoenix (18-13), which is trying to lock down the third playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Mercury lead Seattle by three games and can clinch the third seed with one more win or a Storm loss. Seattle hosted Minnesota later Tuesday night.

The Mercury will visit Chicago before closing the regular season against San Antonio and Los Angeles.

While Phoenix is already in the postseason, New York (11-21) was eliminated from the playoff chase. This is only the second time in the past seven years that New York didn't make the postseason.

Katie Smith scored a season-high 17 points to lead the Liberty.

With the game tied at 69 midway through the fourth quarter, Phoenix went on a 9-3 run to take control. Taurasi started it with a jumper and capped it with a rebound and assist to Bonner for a 3-pointer that made it 78-72 with 2:16 left.

New York wouldn't go away as Kelsey Bone hit consecutive baskets to make it 78-76 with 30 seconds left.

Taurasi tried to seal the win with 9.3 seconds left, but her deep 3-pointer was off the rim giving New York one last chance.

Smith's inbounds pass was stolen by Briana Gilbreath and Taurasi hit two free throws to clinch it.

Phoenix will be without Taurasi for Wednesday night's nationally televised game as she picked up her ninth technical foul in the third quarter for flailing.

Under WNBA rules, a player or coach is automatically suspended without pay for one game upon receiving a seventh technical foul during the regular season. For every two additional technical fouls received during that regular season, the player or coach will be automatically suspended for an additional game.

That seemed to energize Phoenix which rallied behind Penny Taylor, who was playing in her second game since coming back from a right knee injury that sidelined her for 13 games. She scored 10 straight points for the Mercury, who led 62-61 after three quarters. Taylor finished with 12 points.

New York was without star Cappie Pondexter, who was sidelined with a knee contusion. Coach Bill Laimbeer said that the team will see how she's feeling as to whether she'll sit out the final two games of the season or not.

Tuesday night marked the last game at Newark for the Liberty. The team will head back to Madison Square Garden next season with the renovations there finished.

The Liberty honored Smith before the game. Smith announced earlier this year that she would retire at the end of the season. The 15-year veteran, who is the league's No. 2 all-time leading scorer, was given a framed USA basketball jersey, a collage of photos of her playing career among her gifts.

Smith kept the Liberty in the game early on scoring nine points in the first quarter. New York trailed by 34-24 midway through the second before rallying behind Alex Montgomery. Her consecutive 3s made it a one-point game.

Phoenix led 43-41 at the half behind 13 points from Bonner and 12 from Taurasi.

---

Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

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Storm Overcome Adversity to Clinch Playoff Spot

Storm Overcome Adversity to Clinch Playoff Spot

It was last winter when the Seattle Storm learned that two of its top players would miss the 2013 season. Guard Sue Bird and forward/center Lauren Jackson, both perennial All-Stars and multiple WNBA Champions and Olympic Medalists, were sidelined with injuries.

With the Big Two out, all odds seemed to be against a Seattle squad which prided itself on a strong playoff tradition. It also didn’t help that the competition in the West appeared particularly fierce in 2013, with the traditional powers in Minnesota and Los Angeles reloading and Phoenix and Tulsa bolstered by the addition of Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins, respectively.

While outsiders saw this as a problem, the team didn’t listen. Players stayed focused and took on new leadership roles. "We started talking with Camille [Little] and Tanisha [Wright] and Tina [Thompson] about how important their leadership was going to be this year for the success of our team," said head coach Brian Agler. "We’ve had a strong tradition here of making the playoffs and we want to compete for championships and we just didn’t want to have that go away just because we’re missing two really good players."

Seattle had made the playoffs for the last nine seasons and won the WNBA Championship in 2004 and 2010.

A big reason the Storm are vying for a championship once again is because of the play of one of those leaders, 17-year veteran forward Tina Thompson. This year, she is averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, her best numbers since the 2010 season when she played for Los Angeles, having struggled with injuries in between. For Thompson, the all-time leading scorer in the WNBA, clinching the playoffs is a testament to the team’s focus.

"We knew before we all got together what we were up against, but we didn’t have any doubts that where we are right now was possible," said Thompson, who was key part of the legendary championship Houston Comets teams which dominated the early years of the WNBA. "So I think that because we had the same goal, we were all focused on doing that and be in this position that allowed us to be here. I mean of course there are a lot of outside things going on and expectations, or lack of, that people didn’t have for us in the beginning of the season. But again, that’s the outside looking in. We never felt how other people felt, we always thought this was possible."

The Storm is advancing to yet another post-season, but this will be the last for Tina Thompson. Thompson, who was the first ever player drafted in the WNBA back in 1997, is retiring after this season and will player her last home game at Key Arena on September 14 against Tulsa.

Coach Agler has been really impressed with what she has contributed to the team in her 17th season in the league.

"She’s really impacted our team in a positive way, obviously with her play. She’s had just a tremendous season, but also with her leadership and her maturity. She does such a good job with all of our players. And I think they sort of look to her because of her resume and the respect they have for her. Even the ones that have been on our team and won championships, like Tanisha [Wright] and Camille [Little]. They still look at Tina and in a lot of ways she helps them a great deal to be better leaders themselves."

For Thompson, the goal is just like it is for any other season.

"I’m just basically doing whatever I can to help our team win games."

Adjusting to her leadership role this year wasn’t problem with that goal in mind.

"Coming to this team, or this part in my career, my expectations weren’t this. I went to Los Angeles, then I came to Seattle expecting to be a contributing player to a very good team," said Thompson, whose superlative efforts this season were recognized with an All-Star berth. "But like in LA, here in Seattle we’ve been kind of riddled with injuries and things just don’t go like you planned and I’ve just been put in a role where I have to be the go-to player or one of the go-to players, but it’s not something that I’m unfamiliar with, it’s something that I’ve had to do most of my career. So it’s pretty familiar and I just do whatever I have to do in order to fill our team’s needs."

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Riquna Williams sets WNBA record with 51 points

Riquna Williams sets WNBA record with 51 points

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Riquna Williams set a WNBA record with 51 points to help the Tulsa Shock rout the San Antonio Silver Stars 98-65 on Sunday.

The second-year guard out of Miami surpassed the previous record of 47 points set by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi against Houston on Aug. 10, 2006 and matched by Seattle's Lauren Jackson against Washington on July 24, 2007.

Williams was 17 for 28 from the field and hit eight 3-pointers for Tulsa (11-21). She had 20 points in the third quarter after scoring 16 in the first half.

The 5-foot-5 Williams had 16 points in the first half, continually rising high above taller defenders for 3s and long jumpers. She hit a 21-foot jumper over Jia Perkins before draining a 3 to pull Tulsa within 33-25 with 6 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Tulsa took control in the second half outscoring San Antonio 59-22. Williams had 35 herself in the final 20 minutes.

With Williams approaching the record, fans were cheering for her to get the ball in the final minutes of the game on every possession. She tied the mark with a layup with 1:22 left in the game and then broke it with jumper 24 seconds later.

She added two free throws with 5 seconds left for her final points.

Perkins scored 21 points to lead San Antonio (11-21)

Skylar Diggins added 20 points and Tiffany Jackson-Jones had 10 for Tulsa.

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Sky pull away to beat Mystics 93-79

Sky pull away to beat Mystics 93-79

WASHINGTON (AP) Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points and the Chicago Sky beat Washington 93-79 on Sunday to prevent the Mystics from clinching a playoff spot.

Epiphanny Prince added 21 points for the Sky (22-9), who have already clinched the Eastern Conference's top playoff spot and finished the five-game season series with four victories over the Mystics.

Swin Cash had 16 points and Sylva Fowles had 13 points and nine rebounds as Chicago won its seventh game in its last eight.

Ivory Latta scored 18 points on six 3-pointers for Washington, which closed within two points in the third quarter but never led after the first. The Mystics have lost two straight.

Crystal Langhorne added 16 points for the Mystics, who can still clinch their first playoff berth in three seasons with a win or a loss by New York. Washington visits Indiana on Tuesday night, while New York hosts Phoenix.

Down 63-58 at the end of the third, Washington closed within three on Kia Vaughn's inside basket to open the fourth.

But Chicago responded with a 12-2 game-sealing run sparked in part by Prince's drawn charge on Tierra Ruffin's layup attempt.

Delle Donne hit two fading jumpers in the spurt and a free throw after a technical foul was assessed to Latta. Delle Donne's latter jumper, off the dribble from the baseline, made it 75-62 to cap the run.

Chicago kept building its lead. Murphy's 3-pointer made it 78-64, Tamera Young's free throws stretched it to 82-66 and Prince's 3-pointer made it 85-68.

Latta and Tayler Hill's 3-pointers helped the Mystics to an 8-0 spurt close it to 85-76. But the Sky got offensive rebounds on their next two possessions and led 90-76 after Delle Donne's second 3-pointer of the game with 1:05 to play.

Delle Donne left inside the final minute to a loud ovation from a crowd that included a large contingent of supporters from the University of Delaware, the rookie's alma mater.

Monique Currie scored 13 points and Vaughn added 11 for Washington, 8-8 at home with one game left to play.

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Taurasi, Dupree lead Mercury past Atlanta 79-71

Taurasi, Dupree lead Mercury past Atlanta 79-71

ATLANTA (AP) Diana Taurasi scored 25 points, Candice Dupree added 15 and the Phoenix Mercury won their third straight game with a 79-71 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday.

Angel McCoughtry finished with 25 points and Erika de Souza had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Dream (17-14). The loss ended Atlanta's three-game winning streak.

Phoenix (17-13) never trailed after Taurasi's layup midway through the first quarter.

Tiffany Hayes, who scored 19 points off the bench for Atlanta, cut the lead to 74-67 with a 3-pointer. But in the last 3 minutes, she had a turnover and missed two layups and two 3s.

McCoughtry, the WNBA's leading scorer, hit a free throw to cut the lead to 74-71, but she missed a 3 and a 20-footer before fouling out with 25.8 seconds to go.

Centers Brittney Griner and de Souza tangled at the 6:46 mark of the third and had to be separated by officials and teammates.

Griner was assessed a technical foul, but Atlanta failed to cut the lead to single digits when McCoughtry missed the ensuing free throw and Armintie Herrington threw the ball away to end the Dream's possession.

Over the next 2 minutes, Griner hit an 8-foot hook shot, Taurasi hit two jumpers and Bonner scored a 3-pointer that made it 59-42.

Griner finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Mercury led by as much as 19 in the second quarter on Taurasi's 15-footer midway through the period, but Atlanta closed with an 18-6 run to cut the lead to six on McCoughtry's 3-pointer.

Taurasi, the league's second-leading scorer, had a season-tying nine rebounds and six assists.

McCoughtry was just 8 for 21 from the field and Dream starter Jasmine Thomas went 3 for 13.

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Lynx beat Storm 75-60, clinch tie for West title

Lynx beat Storm 75-60, clinch tie for West title

SEATTLE (AP) Rebekkah Brunson scored 19 points to help the Minnesota Lynx beat the Seattle Storm 75-60 on Saturday night, clinching at least a tie for the Western Conference title.

Seimone Augustus had 14 points, Maya Moore added 11 and Lindsay Whalen 10 to lead the Lynx (24-7) to their sixth straight win.

Minnesota can secure its third straight conference title outright with its next win or loss by second-place Los Angeles. The Lynx play the Storm here again Tuesday night and then visit Los Angeles on Thursday.

Tanisha Wright scored 17 of her 22 points in the first half for Seattle (15-16). Shekinna Stricklen added 12 points.

The Storm, who are assured of a postseason spot, can catch Phoenix for the No. 3 seed, but now trail the Mercury by two games with three left.

The Lynx used a 10-0 run in the first quarter to turn two-point deficit to a 19-11 lead. They extended the advantage to 34-16 in the second quarter.

However, Seattle closed the first half with a 17-6 run over the final 6 minutes to pull to 40-33 at the break.

Minnesota pushed the lead back to 15 by the end of the third quarter, and led by 18 in the fourth.

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Fever beat Sun, clinch 9th straight playoff berth

Fever beat Sun, clinch 9th straight playoff berth

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The road back to the playoffs for the defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever hasn't been easy.

The Fever fell behind early in the season and had to endure injuries to several players. Still, they managed to persevere to return to the postseason for a ninth straight year.

Tamika Catchings had 15 points, six rebounds and four steals to help the Fever beat the Connecticut Sun 69-60 Saturday night, clinching another playoff berth.

``When we came in (the locker room) it was just like a relief,'' Catchings said. ``I would like to see us going into the playoffs on a winning streak.''

Erlana Larkins had 12 points and Jessica Breland added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Fever (15-16), who have won three of four.

Kelsey Griffin had 14 points and seven rebounds and Tan White had 13 points for Sun (8-23), who lost for the eighth time in their last nine games.

Rene Montgomery tied the score at 44-all before Catchings made two free throws and a jumper to give the Fever a 48-44 lead.

The Fever went on an 8-2 run in the fourth to take a 58-48 lead when Breland hit a free throw with 6:16 left.

``Indiana had better focus in the fourth quarter,'' Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ``The fourth quarter, the backboard hurt us. (And) both teams were on back-to-back games.''

Indiana was coming off a win at Chicago and Connecticut beat Washington at home on Friday.

After winning the season opener, the Fever lost seven straight. Indiana has had a .500 record just three times. The single win at the start of the year was the only time Indiana had a winning record.

And the Fever have dealt with injuries from the start.

``I've never had this many injuries,'' Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. ``But I've been in situations where injuries were huge. We've dealt with tough situations before and we know you fight through it.''

Indiana has had seven different starting lineups this year and Larkins is the only player to start every game. Seven of Indiana's top scorers from the 2012 championship team have missed games, including forward Katie Douglas who has played in only two games because of a back injury.

Nine different Indiana players have combined to miss a total of 107 1/2 games. To help, the Fever signed three different replacement players this season, including Jasmine Hassell, who the Fever drafted in the second round this year, waived, and resigned three times. Breland was also signed and came through for Indiana on Saturday.

Breland put the game out of reach when she was fouled on a shot and scored a free throw to give Indiana 65-54 lead with 3:12 left.

``For us, we've talked about from the beginning of the season to now, and just how valuable (the bench) is to our team,'' Catchings said. ``Having the minutes they've had throughout the season brings us to this point where they're confident enough to go in there and to make things happen.''

Indiana has three regular season games left before the start of the playoffs, including one more matchup at Connecticut on Sept. 15.

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Results for October 2013

Lynx blast Dream 88-63; 1 win from title

Lynx blast Dream 88-63; 1 win from title

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Seimone Augustus scored 20 points and Lindsay Whalen had 14 points and five assists to push the Minnesota Lynx to the brink of their second title in three seasons with an 88-63 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night.

Rebekkah Brunson had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Maya Moore chipped in 14 points and eight boards for the Lynx, who lead the best-of-five series 2-0.

Angel McCoughtry scored 15 points for the Dream, but she made just 5 of 18 shots and was in foul trouble for most of the night.

Game 3 is on Thursday night in Georgia.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Moore leads Lynx past Dream 84-59 in Game 1

Moore leads Lynx past Dream 84-59 in Game 1

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maya Moore had 23 points, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter to propel Minnesota from the start, and the Lynx delivered a dominant 84-59 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday night.

Moore shot 10 for 16 from the floor and grabbed seven rebounds, and Monica Wright pitched in 20 points off the bench. Seimone Augustus scored her usual 19 points, and the Lynx overwhelmed the Dream by leading the entire game and shooting 49.4 percent from the field.

Angel McCoughtry finished with 17 points for the Dream, but she needed 24 shots to get there, making just six field goals. Aneika Henry added 14 points for the Dream, who fell to 0-7 in the finals since 2010. They were swept by the Lynx in 2011.

Game 2 is here in Minnesota again on Tuesday night.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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The X-Factors: Monica Wright and Tiffany Hayes

The X-Factors: Monica Wright and Tiffany Hayes

Atlanta’s slogan for the playoffs reads: "Teamwork makes the dream work!" That theme was true in the path to the Finals for both the Dream and Lynx. While both teams have standalone stars, each team wouldn’t be in this place without the supporting cast, specifically the X-factors.

Each team has a spark. That one player behind the stars that really puts the team over the edge in order to win the big games. For Minnesota that energy lies in fourth-year guard Monica Wright and for Atlanta it's in Angel McCoughtry’s go-to shooter, second-year guard Tiffany Hayes.

These teams are where they are today because of the improvements made and the tenacity that these two possess. Now, let’s look at what makes these two the X-factors for their respective teams.

Wright plays with some of the best stars in the league, sharing the court with the "three to fear" -- Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen. Outside of those three, Wright has become a strong force. She’s been able to adapt to any role and any situation that she’s thrown into.

It’s clear by looking at her stats that something has changed since the last time she was in the Finals back in 2011. This season she’s put up her best numbers since her rookie year in 2010--averaging 9 points per game, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists. So far in the playoffs she’s at 7.3 points per game, 2.3 rebounds and .5 assists, which are higher than her numbers from the last two years.

While her stats have improved, where she really stands out is in her will to fill in at any time and wherever needed. This has been her goal and has become her role for the Lynx this year.

"I’m trying to fit in to whatever role or whatever’s needed because every game is different," said Wright who finished second in the 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman award race. "You never know what might happen during in the course of a game. And to be a bench player you have to be very adjustable and you have to be ready whenever your number is called and pretty much be ready for anything."

Tiffany Hayes has quickly adopted this mentality. In only her second year in the league, she’s become a key piece in the Dream’s playoffs run. Her numbers have also increased since her rookie year. In 34 games played in 2012, she averaged 8.6 points per game, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. In 2013, she’s played 23 games, sitting out 7 games due to knee surgery. Still, she’s improved her numbers to 11.3 points per game and 3.7 rebounds. And in the playoffs, she’s made a big statement, averaging 13.6 points per game and 5.8 rebounds compared to last year’s 4.3 and 2.3, respectively. And she posted 18 points in the crucial game 3 against Washington in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, plus 23 in game 1 of the Conference Finals against Indiana.

Hayes credits her improvements this year to her time off when she was injured. During that time, the Dream lost six of seven games, which shows how important of a factor she is to the team. Hayes took advantage of that time off to go to the gym and work on her shot in order to help her team win when she was healthy. But besides just helping her team with her improved stats, Hayes has found her role as that spark of the team.

"When I was the sixth man, my goal was to come in and be a spark and now I’m being it as a starter," said Hayes who was voted as the league’s third best sixth woman behind Wright. "I just have to make sure that whoever’s out there starting the game is starting it off right. So people coming in off the bench are coming in with the same intensity."

And now both X-factors are ready for this moment in the spotlight of the Finals.

For Hayes, her teammates have contributed to that.

"It’s really my teammates building my courage and encouraging me to take it to the hole and nobody can stop you...it definitely builds your confidence and makes you play a lot better."

Wright’s adaptability throughout the regular-season helped her prepare for the Finals series.

"I’ve been able to practice a lot doing that [filling in wherever needed] all season long and kind of prepared myself for this moment."

And what’s going to lead to holding that trophy championship in their hands?

According to Wright, "It’s mostly going to be about the X-factors, who wants it more, and who wills themselves to get there."

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Angel Leads the Way

Angel Leads the Way

After a frustrating 2012 season with the Atlanta Dream, Angel McCoughtry made very clear in the offseason what her expectations were for this year.

"Trust me and believe," she told WNBA.com while playing basketball abroad in Turkey. "It’s coming. Real soon. I will win a WNBA Championship. Mentally, after this experience, I’m stronger than ever."

The numbers don't lie, she is. At 21.5 points and 2.7 steals per game this season, McCoughtry led the league in scoring (for the second year in a row) and in steals, making her a major threat on both ends of the floor. But McCoughtry said it's her ability to make players better is what she's tried to step up the most this year.

"You always want to improve your game every year," she said while stretching before a recent game. "I knew I had to work on my passing skills, so I look at things each year I can improve on and sharpen them up."

In seasons past, McCoughtry has often been labeled -- perhaps unfairly -- as a selfish player, hesitant to rely on her teammates in crunchtime situations. But this year she has been anything but that, something Head Coach Fred Williams said McCoughtry was quick to point out.

"She's been a good leader for us throughout the course of this season," he said. "That was something we talked about extensively in the offseason. She's matured a lot as a player, she's emerged as a full-fledged triple threat player getting us steals, points and passing the basketball."

Teammate Tiffany Hayes said McCoughtry's leadership has been the driving force as the Dream prepare for their third WNBA Finals appearance in the past four years.

"I think she motivates us more this year," she said. "She's always led by example, but this year she encourages by being more of a vocal leader and I think that's really been helping us."

Hayes has had a stellar season in her own right and credits a lot of that to Angel's support.

"People see her all the time on the court but a lot of people don't know what kind of leader she is off the court," said Hayes, the second-year southpaw out of UConn. "For me, I can look to her, when I don't know what to do in games and in practice as that support."

McCoughtry is in the prime in her career and already has a decorated list of accomplishments under her belt, including WNBA Rookie of the Year honors, an Olympic Gold Medal and two All-Star appearances. But that coveted WNBA championship is what's missing.

"It would mean a lot," she said. "The mindset going in just making sure we just have a go getter mentality. Trying to go in attack mode, no fear. We're going to go in confidently."

The Minnesota Lynx swept the Atlanta Dream in the 2011 WNBA Finals 3-0. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she isn't taking anything for granted in trying to stop McCoughtry.

"I can speak from a coach's perspective, having watched a lot of video, that she [McCoughtry] has amazing athletic gifts that make it very challenging," said Reeve as the 2013 Finals approached. "Despite knowing what you need to do to defend her, it's a challenge to get it done because she is so gifted."

Lynx guard Seimone Augustus went toe-to-toe against McCoughtry in the 2011 Finals and will likely match-up against her in this series. She said it was tough to guard her in that series and anticipates this one being difficult too.

"Angel is going to do things that we don't know what Angel is going to do," she said. "And Angel doesn't know at times what Angel is going to do. So it makes it a lot more difficult at times to guard her."

While McCoughtry has taken her game to new heights this season, the Lynx's Maya Moore has done the same for her squad. All in all, Augustus said the series is going to be one to remember.

"It's going to be a great game," she said. "Two great teams going against each other with two or three of the best players in this league just going head-to-head, playing great basketball."

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Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream

Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream

The rematch is here. Back in 2011, Minnesota swept Atlanta in the WNBA Finals. Now, the Dream are looking for revenge against a Lynx team that is making its third-consecutive trip to the Finals.

2011 was a different story, though. All-Star Maya Moore was a rookie and the Lynx captured the title largely because of a stellar Finals MVP performance by Seimone Augustus. Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry, who is making her third finals appearance in her five year-career, dominated scoring the ball in 2011, but since then, has been more committed to getting her teammates involved. McCoughtry has become more well-rounded, and while she is the team's leading scorer, it has become more about wins than points.

During the three-game Minnesota sweep in 2011, Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson were major factors, with Brunson posting 26 points in the opener, Augustus pouring in 36 in Game 2, before they combined for 29 points in the Game 3 series-clincher. Veteran point guard Lindsay Whalen and then-rookie Maya Moore provided balance for the Lynx.

As for Atlanta, Angel McCoughtry stepped up and posted some big numbers with 33 points in Game 1, 38 in Game 2 and 22 in Game 3. Lindsey Harding provided support, but the Lynx were able to wear the Dream out with the support of the whole squad.

Now these teams are back stronger than before. Maya Moore has found her groove and is leading the Lynx in scoring, while Augustus, Brunson, Whalen and a solid supporting cast make Minnesota strong favorites for a second WNBA crown. For the Dream, McCoughtry is the scoring leader with support from Tiffany Hayes and Erika de Souza. Hayes is in her second year in the league and has improved her numbers over the past year, while de Souza is putting up her best numbers since the 2010 season.

The key for Atlanta is to balance the matchup with the Lynx. Atlanta will need to play team ball and get everyone involved and productive to compete with the talent-rich Lynx. For Minnesota, if Moore, Augustus and Whalen perform up to their abilities, another title is firmly within their grasp.

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Results for November 2013

Mercury Hire Brondello

Mercury Hire Brondello

Nov. 15, 2013 , PHOENIX -- The two-time WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury today named veteran WNBA player, coach and former Australian Olympian Sandy Brondello (braun-DELL-oh) the ninth head coach in franchise history. Brondello was also named the team’s vice president of player personnel.

"In a thorough search of very qualified candidates, Sandy separated herself as the right coach for this team and the right person for this job," said Mercury Executive Vice President Jim Pitman. "She is a winner, a leader, an excellent communicator and a detail-oriented tactician. Her lifetime of basketball experience and her ability to evaluate talent year-round will greatly benefit our organization, and we are thrilled to add such a great ambassador of the women’s game."

"I am very humbled and excited about the opportunity to be the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury," said Brondello. "It is an organization that I have respected and admired for so long. The team has great past achievements and I will be working hard to continue that legacy of success. I am looking forward to having the great fans in Phoenix behind me now and not against me."

A nine-year veteran of the WNBA coaching ranks, Brondello has been affiliated with the WNBA for 14 of the league’s 17 seasons, including her time as a player. A proven winner internationally and in the WNBA, her nine total years as an assistant coach and head coach have featured six playoff appearances, including three conference finals berths and a spot in the 2008 WNBA Finals. Brondello joins the Mercury after most recently serving as lead assistant coach for the Los Angeles Sparks (2011-13) under 2012 WNBA Coach of the Year Carol Ross. Brondello led the San Antonio Silver Stars to a 2010 playoff berth in her lone season at the helm following five seasons on the Silver Stars bench as an assistant under Dan Hughes (2005-09), the third-winningest coach in league history.

During the WNBA offseason, Brondello serves an assistant coach with Russian League team UMMC, the squad for which Mercury star Diana Taurasi plays in the winter and spring. Now the Mercury’s head of player personnel, Phoenix’s pro scouting efforts will be buoyed by Brondello’s knowledge of and exposure to overseas talent.

"Having played for Sandy overseas I know the dedication and passion she will bring to the Phoenix Mercury," said Taurasi. "We are all excited for the future."

Brondello finished a stellar 17-year professional playing career with a five-year run in the WNBA in which she played for Detroit (1998-99), Miami (2001-02) and Seattle (2003), and was named a 1999 WNBA All-Star. She began her career with the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in Australia (1986-96), and was named the league MVP in 1995. The 5-7 guard was a 10-time German Cup champion while playing with BTV Wuppertal (1992-2002), a three-time European Cup All-Star selection (1994, 1996, 1997), and the 1996 European Cup MVP when she led her team to the title.

An 18-year member of the Australian National Team, Brondello is a four-time Olympian, a two-time silver medalist (2000, 2004), and was named the 1992 Australian International Player of the Year. In her time with the national team, she was a teammate of Mercury forward Penny Taylor.

"I am so excited to get to work with Sandy," said Taylor. "Her knowledge of the women's game, and basketball experience in the WNBA and around the world are second to none."

Brondello is married to Olaf Lange, who is the head coach of UMMC (Russia), and the couple has two children, Brody and Jayda.

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Nancy Lieberman: Giving Back

Nancy Lieberman: Giving Back

New York, November 12, 2013 -- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman dreamed of becoming the best basketball player in the world as a young New Yorker, honing her skills and love of the game on the court at P.S. 104 in Brooklyn. And this past weekend Lieberman was in Long Beach, New York unveiling a new basketball court that she hopes will be the source of inspiration for a new generation of players.

"I was a poor kid from a one parent family growing up in New York and it was hard at times, not having the advantages that others had, but sports was a great equalizer," Lieberman told WNBA.com after she and fellow New Yorker comedian/actor Billy Crystal partnered in announcing the opening of the DreamCourt in Long Beach.

"And sports taught me self-esteem and teamwork and confidence, and playing on the court at P.S. 104 in Brooklyn and other courts in Brooklyn and Queens and around the city was a safe haven for me and a place where I could grow. And now that I’m blessed and in a position where I can contribute and help, that’s why I’m dedicated to trying provide a safe environment for kids today to make friendships and learn about teamwork and responsibility and the benefits of hard work."

Through her personal foundation and her partner World Ventures, Lieberman has built and opened DreamCourts across the country, from Frisco and Austin Texas, to Denver, Nashville and Minneapolis and now New York. The goal of the DreamCourt progam is to build high-quality basketball courts for children living in underprivileged communities and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, building a court in Long Beach as part of the recovery efforts was a worthy goal.

"If I had my way, we’d have DreamCourts in every city, but we are off to a good start and we’re working," said Lieberman. "The game of basketball has been so good to me, that I am honored to be in a place where I can help give back and help kids to grow where they can do the same."

Lieberman is a true pioneer of the game, earning the moniker of "Lady Magic" while leading Old Dominion University to consecutive AIAW National Championships in 1979 and 1980 and a NIT crown in 1978, in addition to medaling with Team USA in the Pan Am Games (1975) and the Montreal Olympics (1976). She later competed professionally in the WBL, the USBL before competing with the Phoenix Mercury in the inaugural season of the WNBA in 1997 at the age of 39, then the older player in league history.

Lieberman’s achievements didn’t end upon her retirement as a player as she later served as Head Coach/GM of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock for three season. She later became the first women to coach a professional men’s team when she took the helm of the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends in 2009. Currently Lieberman is an analyst for Fox Sports’ coverage of the NBA’s Oklahoma Thunder. Despite this impressive list of achievements, Lieberman is most proud of the work of her charitable Lieberman Foundation, including the DreamCourt program.

"You could take all the points I scored and assists, all the records, medals and championships won, and awards received and it doesn’t even come close to the impact of helping kids," said Lieberman. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my achievements on the court, and the fact that young girls and boys may have seen or heard of me playing, or Anne Myers or Cheryl Miller or any of the other great players, and that we were role models is a great thing and I’m very proud of that. And we, athletes, we are role models, whether we like it or not. I take that very seriously."

"And I love it that the current players in the WNBA are getting more exposure. There are not only girls, but boys, and even some of the guys I talk with in the NBA, our brothers, who watch players like Diana Taurasi or Elena Delle Donne and they say, ‘ Wow, I want to play like Taurasi,’ or ‘Look at that, I want to play like Delle Donne,’ and that is tremendous. But that’s where ultimately it all comes together and it’s about giving back."

Check out the Lieberman Foundation for more information.

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Parker, Bird Win SuperCup

Parker, Bird Win SuperCup

The European SuperCup, a competition pitting last season's EuroLeague Champions (UMMC Ekaterinburg) and the EuroCup Champions (Dynamo Moscow) was a Los Angeles Sparks heavy affair last week as Candace Parker's UMMC edged Kristi Toliver's Dynamo Moscow72-63 to claim the first significant bragging rights of the European women's sports calendar.

Parker led UMMC with eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks, while Toliver led all scorers with 21 points while chipping in with four rebounds and three assists.

Former W player Deanna Nolan scored 15 points for UMMC and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird began her road back to health after missing the 2013 WNBA season due to injury by scoring five points and dishing out five assists in 33 minutes of action.

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Diggins: March of Dimes Honoree

Diggins: March of Dimes Honoree

Mariano Rivera, longtime New York Yankees great and the all-time saves leader in baseball, and Skylar Diggins, WNBA star and former All-American at Notre Dame, will be honored as Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, respectively, by the March of Dimes New York Division at its 30th Anniversary Sports Luncheon on Wednesday, December 4 at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network President, and Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, will be honored with the Corporate Leadership and Sports Leadership Awards, respectively.

Each year, March of Dimes honors the outstanding achievements of men and women in the sports industry. Past recipients include New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, NBA Commissioner David Stern, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Cal Ripken, Jr., tennis legends Andre Agassi and Venus Williams, basketball Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing and Lisa Leslie, and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Rivera, one of the most accomplished and popular Yankee players in history, recently retired after an extraordinary 19 seasons in Pinstripes. During his storied career, the future Hall of Famer set the all-time record for saves (652) and earned five World Series rings as the game’s preeminent closer. In addition to his career saves record, Rivera’s accomplishments are numerous. He earned at least one save in 18 straight seasons; recorded a 40-save season (twice, actually) at age 40 or older; pitched for the Yankees in 19 different seasons (1995-2013), which tied him with teammate Derek Jeter (also 1995-2013) for most seasons played with the Yankees; and recorded a career ERA of 2.21, second-lowest all-time (minimum 1,000 innings pitched) since earned runs became an official statistic. His remarkable mound mastery earned Rivera a host of honors, including: five American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year awards; World Series MVP (1999); League Championship Series MVP (2003); and 13 selections to the American League All-Star Team.

Before joining the Tulsa Shock as the number three pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, Diggins enjoyed one of the most accomplished careers in NCAA history. The standout guard was the only Notre Dame player ever to be a four-time All-American selection, earning consensus first-team honors in 2012 and 2013. In addition, she broke new ground in the Notre Dame record books as a three-time NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player (2010-Dayton, 2011-Raleigh, 2012-Norfolk), a two-time Big East Player of the Year and a two-time recipient of the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the nation's top point guard (the past two seasons making her just the third two-time honoree in the award's history), along with being the 2013 recipient of the Dawn Staley Award. She is also the only player (male or female) in Notre Dame basketball history to register 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in her career, and one of only six NCAA Division I women's basketball players since 1999-2000 to reach those impressive marks. During her stellar rookie season with Tulsa, Diggins was named to the WNBA’s All-Rookie team.

Miller is President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network where he oversees programming and is prominently involved in sales for both networks. Previously, Miller served as Executive Vice President, NBC Sports since November 2006. He reports to Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. Miller, who is credited for co-creating the NHL Winter Classic, an event that the New York Times said "has stolen New Year’s Day",oversees nearly 9,000 hours of annual programming on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network NBCSN including the Triple Crown and its surrounding horse racing coverage, the NHL, French Open, Notre Dame Football, MLS, Tour de France, IndyCar and NBC’s golf properties, which include the PGA TOUR’s Players Championship and Presidents Cup, the PGA of America’s Ryder Cup and the USGA Championships including the U.S. Open. Miller, who has been with NBC for more than three decades, is also responsible for original programming on NBCSN and has been integral in creating programs such as Pro Football Talk and NFL Turning Point. Most recently, Miller has been instrumental in the acquisition of some of the world’s top sports properties, helping solidify multi-year agreements for Formula One, the top international open-wheel racing series; NASCAR, America’s top motorsports franchise; and the Premier League, the preeminent soccer league in the world.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Yormark has overseen all aspects of the team’s move to the new arena in Brooklyn, including the rebranding, marketing, and sponsorship sales. Since he joined the Nets in 2005, Yormark's mission has been to make it the most accessible, inventive, fan-friendly, and community-active team in sports. In his role as CEO of Barclays Center, Yormark has oversight for all facets of the sports and entertainment venue, including operations, event programming, sales, and marketing. In January 2007, Yormark secured a 20-year strategic marketing partnership with Barclays, which includes the naming rights to Barclays Center. In addition to Barclays, Yormark has signed agreements with 10 major partners for Barclays Center, including Honda, American Express, Calvin Klein, Cushman & Wakefield, EmblemHealth, Foxwoods Resort Casino, GEICO, MetroPCS, Stolichnaya, and Ticketmaster. Yormark joined the Nets after a successful six-year tenure with NASCAR, for which he helped build the stock-car racing organization into a major sports property. He has been named the maximum three times to the "Forty Under 40" list by Sports Business Journal and was selected twice to the "40 Under 40" list by Crain's New York Business.

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Looking Back on 2013 Season

Looking Back on 2013 Season

Coming into the 17th WNBA season there was great anticipation that the influx of exciting new talent, coupled with the continuing emergence of already established top players -- including the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists -- would drive the league to new heights on and off the court. As the Minnesota Lynx and their fans bask in the glow of a second championship in three years, it's fair to say this did indeed happen, with the quality of play on the court and general buzz around the league registering at an all-time high. Below, in no particular order, are some of the top highlights of the 2013 WNBA season.

LYNX DYNASTY It all starts with the Minnesota Lynx, who for the third straight season posted the best regular season record in the league and reached the WNBA Finals. This year, like in 2011, the Lynx topped the last team standing in the East, the Atlanta Dream. Minnesota's loss to the Indiana Fever in the 2012 WNBA Finals is the only true blemish in what is indisputably the top collection of players in the WNBA.

The Big Three (or "Three to Fear" as they've been referred to in Minnesota) of Maya Moore (2013 Finals MVP), Seimone Augustus (2011 Finals MVP) and Lindsay Whalen are deservedly now household names to fans of the W, and were the top contributors on the 2013 title team. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention key off-season acquisition Janel McCarville, X-Factor Monica Wright, perennially under-the-radar stud Rebekkah Brunson, and emerging energy player Devereaux Peters.

Led by Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, the Lynx closed the deal again this season with Moore's power and athleticism, Augustus' silky smooth moves and Whalen's old school, point-guard-as-floor-leader skills. But with McCarville, Wright, Brunson and Peters as capable supporting players, an argument can be made that the 2013 Minnesota Lynx were the most talented and deep team in the history of the league, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.

DREAMING BIG Although the Atlanta Dream ultimately fell to the aforementioned Lynx in the Finals, there is plenty of reason for optimism in A-Town. The league's leading scorer for the second straight season, Angel McCoughtry, had arguably her best campaign ever in 2013, adding significant playmaking ability to her already impressive arsenal of offensive weapons. Brazilian post-player Erika de Souza's contributions were recognized with a 2013 All-Star appearance.

Despite the three-game Finals sweep, Game 3 may be a key indicator of big things to come in Atlanta as two young players, second-year southpaw Tiffany Hayes (out of UConn) and rookie guard Alex Bentley (Penn State) both demonstrated fighting spirit against Minnesota. Hayes scored 20 points, including 4-of-6 from three, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists, while Bentley had 18 points, 3-of-5 from three, six assists and three steals.

MERCURY RISING Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury came up short in 2013, as nothing less than a WNBA championship is acceptable to the fiery, title-driven Taurasi. That said, 2013 was a tumultuous season for Phoenix, with the addition of much-heralded rookie center Brittney Griner and the return of the injury-slowed Taurasi and Penny Taylor, coupled with a mid-season coaching change resulting in a topsy-turvy run that didn't end until the Mercury ran into the significant roadblock of the Lynx. Perhaps the season's biggest highlight was Griner's clutch game-winning shot against the star-studded L.A. Sparks in the playoffs, a snapshot of the things-to-come in Phoenix, particularly if Griner can overcome the nagging injuries which slowed her progress in 2013.

HEART OF A CHAMPION Tamika Catchings and the Fever harbored high hopes of defending their hard-earned 2012 WNBA crown at the start of 2013, as evidenced by the raucous reception they received at the White House as the season tipped. Injuries took their toll, however, but true to form, Catchings and the Lin Dunn-led Fever made a passionate late-season run to the playoffs and managed one of the upsets of the year by knocking off the Chicago Sky in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

EDD, SKY'S THE LIMIT There is a new team in town in the East and it's the Chicago Sky. The debut of rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne was nothing short of spectacular, with the 6-5 newcomer unveiling a dizzying display of skills: long-range shooting, sick handle and mid-range game resulting in landslide Rookie of the Year acclaim. EDD's abilities exceed the box score, as her intangibles, from her veteran-like calm in the clutch, to her savvy court-awareness, were just as impressive as her league-best percentage from the free-throw line.

Toss in an All-WNBA Team and Defensive Player of the Year performance by Sylvia Fowles and the Sky were the class of the East in 2013 before succumbing to the defending champs in their first taste of the WNBA postseason. Look for EDD and Fowles to make the Sky a perennial contender, and a legit threat for the title in 2014.

PARKER COMES OF AGE Candace Parker made a big leap in 2013, taking MVP honors in her first All-Star Game appearance (injuries and Team USA duties prevented previous potential trips) and then earning her second league MVP crown after a stellar campaign, memorably exemplified by an overzealous celebration forever captured in this video. Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver also had strong individual campaigns, each joining Parker on the West All-Star squad. Unfortunately L.A. drew Phoenix in the highly-competitive Western Conference playoffs and in a first-round matchup of the ages, fell short to a rampant Taurasi and emerging Griner.

MR. THIBAULT GOES TO WASHINGTON After two straight playoff-less seasons in 2011 and 2012, the Mystics opted for regime chnage in 2013 and with one broad stroke -- the hiring of proven WNBA winner Mike Thibault -- Washington enjoyed a remarkable turnaround, winning more games (17) than in the two previous seasons combined. In retrospect, bringing in Thibault was a no-brainer, as he passed legendary Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor as the winningest coach in WNBA history in his inaugural season in D.C., in addition to leading the Mystics to the playoffs, where they succumbed to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Atlanta Dream.

Thibault relied on a mix of established veterans (Crystal Langhorne, Monique Currie and Matee Ajavon), key acquisitions (Ivory Latta and Kia Vaughn) and draft picks (Tayler Hill, Emma Meesseman and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt) to rebuild the Mystics, who can now build on the post-season experience gained in 2013 when preparing for what could be a promising 2014.

FAREWELL TO THE QUEEN With two of the top players in the history of the game, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, unavailable due to injury, many expected a stormy season in Seattle, but a stellar swansong by another all-time great, Tina Thompson, and gritty performances by veterans Tanisha Wright, Camille Little and Temeka Johnson resulted in a solid year for the Storm, including an impressive 10th straight postseason appearance.

Thompson, the only W player to compete in all 17 seasons, the first No. 1 pick in league history and the leading points scorer in league history, turned back the clock in her final season, leading the Storm in both scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg), in addition to earning a well-deserved All-Star game nod. With the recovering Bird and Jackson slated for a return in 2014, Brian Agler's Storm are on course to keep their playoff streak alive.

HISTORIC NIGHT Riquna Williams made history on Sept. 8 2013, scoring more points in a single WNBA game than any player in the history league when she exploded for 51-points in the Shock's 98-65 win over the Silver Stars in San Antonio. The second-year guard out of the University of Miami, broke the record of 47 points, previously held by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi (in 2006) and Lauren Jackson (in 2007). Other highlights for the Shock include the development of a promising nucleus of young players, including 2013 All-Star Glory Johnson, Aussie center Liz Cambage and much-heralded No. 3 pick Skylar Diggins.

KATIE SAYS GOODBYE When Bill Laimbeer returned to the W for the 2013 season as Head Coach/GM of the New York Liberty, one of the first things he did was acquire the rights to one of his former Detroit Shock players, Katie Smith, for her leadership and on-court skills. While the Liberty had a challenging 2012, Smith, a two-time WNBA champ and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, didn't disappoint, becoming the second leading scorer in WNBA history, surpassing her former Olympic teammate Lisa Leslie, before hanging up her sneakers for the last time as a WNBA player.

SILVER LININGS With Becky Hammon and Sophia Young unavailable due to injury, several players stepped up and grabbed the additional minutes and responsibility for the San Antonio Silver Stars, particularly guards Danielle Robinson and Jia Perkins and post-presence Danielle Adams. Robinson, perhaps the speediest player in the W, not only led the league in assists, averaging 6.7 per game, but earned a Second Team All-Defense nod, as did Perkins, who averaged 13.9 ppg for San Antonio. Adams posted a team-high 14.4 ppg. Robinson also made some noise in her first WNBA All-Star game.

CHARLES IN CHARGE Tina Charles averaged a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Sun in a difficult transition year for Connecticut. One year after landing WNBA MVP honors, Charles was her consistent self in 2013 and also served as a hometown ambassador at the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

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Moore, Brunson lead Lynx to title sweep

Moore, Brunson lead Lynx to title sweep

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) Another WNBA championship for the Minnesota Lynx. Another three-game sweep of the Atlanta Dream in the finals.

Maya Moore, though, says that nothing came too easily for the Lynx.

``That's what a championship is supposed to be,'' she said. ``It's supposed to be hard, and when it got hard, we came together and stuck with it and secured that victory. I'm just really proud.''

Moore scored 23 points, Rebekkah Brunson had 15 points and 12 rebounds and the Lynx beat the Dream 86-77 on Thursday night to win their second WNBA title in three years.

Tiffany Hayes finished with 20 points and Alex Bentley had 18 in reserve roles for Atlanta, which was swept in the best-of-5 finals for the third time in four years.

Moore was playing at the Gwinnett Arena for the first time since leading nearby Collins Hill H.S. to the last of three consecutive state championships in 2007, and she had strong support from the suburban Atlanta crowd.

Moore, the WNBA rookie of the year three years ago after helping Connecticut win two straight national championships, was a big reason why the Lynx won their first championship in 2011.

This time, she was named the finals MVP as Minnesota became the second team to go unbeaten in seven playoff games and win a championship, joining the 2010 Seattle Storm.

``I have so many people around me that I appreciate and who have helped me so much from middle school to high school,'' Moore said. ``I'm sure there's some Connecticut faithfuls here, too, but when you think about all the things you want your team to be - we don't just talk about it. We do it.''

Lindsay Whalen scored 15 points and Seimone Augustus had 14 for the Lynx, who improved to 14-6 on the road this year.

The Dream cut the lead to three points early in the third quarter, but Moore came off a screen on the next possession and hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-39. She and Brunson combined for 19 of Minnesota's 26 points in the third.

Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry, the WNBA's two-time defending scoring champion, finished with 13 points - a career low in nine finals games - and shot just 28.5 percent in the series.

The Dream, forced to move the elimination game to the northern suburbs with their home court booked for an ice skating event, dropped to 6-16 outside Philips Arena.

Injuries dragged on Atlanta all season, the worst of which was the loss of forward Sancho Lyttle in midseason.

``It's tough, but we're not going to make that an excuse,'' McCoughtry said. ``I'm pretty sure Minnesota has injuries, too. They're beat up just as bad as you are. But it takes mental toughness to fight through. It's a long season, and most of play overseas, too. I'm proud of everyone to be strong and fight hard.''

Minnesota never trailed and made life tough on them from the start. By the 4:52 mark of the first quarter, the Dream had committed five turnovers and was 1 for 5 from the field when coach Fred Williams called a timeout with Atlanta trailing 13-3.

After McCoughtry scored inside to make it 47-42 early in the third, the Dream missed six of their next seven shots and committed four turnovers on their next eight possessions.

Monica Wright followed with a three-point play put the Lynx up by 16.

Augustus was grateful to return to the top after losing the finals in four games last year to Indiana.

``I'm sorry if we make it look easy, but it's very hard to get back here,'' said Augustus, the 2011 finals MVP. ``Look at what Washington did this year, what Chicago did this year. We're just lucky to be in this position, and we're willing to sacrifice some parts of their game to make this team better.''

Atlanta cut the lead to eight early in the fourth, but Devereaux Peters, standing at the top of the key, hit Moore with a backdoor pass for a layup that made it 68-58.

``We know it's not going to be perfect, but the sign of a mature championship team is `How are you going to get through those tough moments?''' Moore said. ``And that's what we did.''

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Results for December 2013

Draft Watch: Opposites Attack

Draft Watch: Opposites Attack

Women's college ball really picked up this week - especially for Maryland and Connecticut. No. 8 Maryland brought home two 49 plus wins and UConn, No. 1, met Duke, No. 2, in a highly anticipated battle on Dec. 17 where UConn came out on top. Maryland and UConn also have two of the hottest seniors in the nation right now in Alyssa Thomas and Stefanie Dolson. The two share an incredible talent, work ethic and dedication to the sport, but their presence couldn't be any more different. Thomas is a strong, silent straight-to-business type, while Dolson is a spirited, high-energy center.

Alyssa Thomas, Maryland

Although Alyssa Thomas is reportedly quiet and somewhat shy, she is anything but on the court. The senior Maryland guard-forward proved exactly that last season when the Terrapins were forced to shuffle things around due to numerous season-ending injuries. Thomas, a 6-2 forward, switched to the point guard position and excelled. She led Maryland to a second-place ACC finish that year despite their early adversity.

This year Thomas is averaging 16 PPG and 11 rebounds. The Terps are ranked No. 8 and are 10-1 on the season. Thomas has 10 straight double-doubles this season and is the only player in Maryland history to put up three career triple-doubles. This week she was named ACC player of the week for the ninth time in her career.

The Terrapins are healthy this year and Thomas is back at the forward position. They - and she - are expected to do well in the tournament.

Stefanie Dolson, UConn

Stefanie Dolson is often regarded as the heart of UConn basketball. She is know for her incredible spirit, charisma and drive on and off the court.

When she started as a freshman, the 6-5 center was not as fast nor as athletic as some of the other posts in the league. But at the conclusion of her first season, Dolson changed her work habits and worked on her game. When she returned for her sophomore season, she was one of the most athletic centers in the league and also one of the smartest.

Dolson is averaging 14 PPG, 10 rebounds and - an almost unheard of for a center - four assists. "How many assists did Stefanie have? Six? There are some centers in the country who don't get six assists in a full year," Coach Geno Auriemma told espnW after the Duke game last night.

Dolson also put up 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Lady Huskies vs. Duke.

Other Notable Seniors

Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg is averaging 18 points per game for Oklahoma this season. Oklahoma is ranked No. 20 and is 7-3 this year.

Michelle Plouffe, Utah's senior forward, is averaging a double-double with 19 ppg and 11 rebounds.

And Duke's 6-1 guard Tricia Liston is averaging 18 ppg for the Blue Devils.

Updates as of 12-17-2013

Chiney Ogwumike - Stanford - 25 ppg, 11, rpg, 1 apg.

Chelsea Gray - Duke - 12 ppg, 5 rpg, 8 apg.

Odyssey Sims - Baylor - 29 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg.

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Swoopes Finds Love for Coaching

Swoopes Finds Love for Coaching

It’s been two years, three months, and five days since Sheryl Swoopes last played a game of basketball, but I was still surprised when she said she didn’t miss playing.

"My passion for the game doesn’t come from playing anymore, my passion for the game now comes from watching and teaching, instructing and coaching and giving back," Swoopes told WNBA.com over the phone from her new office in Chicago. She had just gotten off a post-practice conference call - one of her many new duties as the head coach of Loyola Chicago’s Women’s Basketball team.

Sheryl Swoopes is often - and rightfully - heralded as the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball. She, like Jordan, was known for consistent dominance on both ends of the court and a raw emotion and competitive drive that set her apart from everyone else. Also like Jordan, Swoopes was offered a Nike contract for her own shoe, the Air Swoopes. But probably the most Jordan-esque thing about her was her genuine love for the game of basketball - a love that resulted in one of the most storied careers in professional basketball history prior to retirement in 2011.

Swoopes was a successful college player for Texas Tech, but she saw even more success as a professional player, leading the Houston Comets to 4 WNBA Championship titles. Swoopes was the first WNBA three-time MVP and the first WNBA three-time Defensive Player of the Year. She was also a 6-time WNBA All-Star and even became the second WNBA player to be named the regular season MVP and the All-Star MVP in the same season.

In 1997-2000, Swoopes played with Cynthia Cooper, the first WNBA MVP and two-time WNBA All-Star, and Tina Thompson, a nine-time All-Star and the eventual WNBA all-time leading scorer. The "Big Three," as they were known, launched the first ever WNBA dynasty with the Houston Comets, winning the WNBA championship four years in a row for the first four years the league was in existence.

Before, during, and after her prime years with the Houston Comets, Sheryl Swoopes was able to compete in three Olympic games taking home the gold for Women's basketball all three times.

"I know I made the right decision to retire," she says with confidence now. "So I can actually sit and watch WNBA games now and not say 'Oh my gosh, I miss it and I want to get out there and play.'"

But while crossing over to coaching may seem like the logical next step after the WNBA - many of Sheryl’s peers are now coaching college teams as well - Sheryl took her time getting there, spending a year as a broadcast analyst for Texas Tech, her alma mater. In fact, Swoopes had never held a coaching position in any respect before she was named the head coach at Loyola.

Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t seem to matter to Sheryl. If she approaches coaching the same way she approached playing for so long, then there is no doubt that Sheryl Swoopes will be a successful coach.

But of course that doesn’t mean she isn’t met routinely with challenges and obstacles. Right now that means injuries and rebuilding.

And while the Ramblers are off to a rough start - they are 2-7 on the year - Coach Swoopes assured me that they had had a good practice this morning and are making their way back to good health.

But those are the challenges Sheryl expected to face as a coach. When I asked her what the hardest part of coaching really was?

"Patience." She laughed.

"You know because as a player you always felt like you could go out there and take over a game if something wasn’t going well or shots weren’t falling. I wanted to believe that I was always that player who could do that. And now being a coach, all I can do is prepare my team in practice and say 'here’s a game plan and now we have to go out and execute it.'"

I was curious, though. How could a player who held herself to such high standards as a professional basketball player set reasonable expectations for an entire team of younger, less experienced players?

But Sheryl Swoopes is more grounded than that.

"I don’t expect any of my players to be who I was, the type of player I was. The things that I expect from them are things that I think they’re very capable of doing - or being - and that’s to come to practice and work hard every single day and to compete. I don’t care what the outcome is or who you’re playing. We don’t ever quit. We don’t ever give up. And as long as I’m getting those things from my players I can walk into the locker room at the end of the day whether we win or lose and feel good about the product that we just left on the floor."

It’s a sentiment she’s likely heard before from the many coaches she played for during her career - most notably Coach Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech and Coach Van Chancellor with the Comets - but 100 percent effort is not a learned behavior for Swoopes and it’s no surprise she would ask for nothing less from her own players. The grit and the passion that she wants to bring to coaching is so completely Sheryl that it’s hard to imagine she’s picked up a few things from watching other coaches.

And her list of model coaches isn't scarce.

There’s Cynthia Cooper at UNC Wilmington and now at USC, Dawn Staley who left Temple with the best overall women’s basketball record, and Jennifer Rizzotti who has coached the University of Hartford to four trips to the NCAA tournament and coached the USA Olympic U-18 and U-19 teams to gold medals. But those are just the coaches she played with.

"Granted, what Pat Summit has done - what she did - her mark that she left on coaching, no one will ever be able to touch that. And of course what Gino’s doing over at UConn, Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame, and Tara Van DerVeer at Stanford, I think everybody has hopes and dreams about being able to build that type of a program and that’s exactly what I’m doing here is trying to build a program and I know I’ve got to take small steps."

And so Swoopes has a plan for her team that far exceeds the bounds of a single season.

"I think anytime you come in and take over a program you have to work with what you got," she said. "I really want to be able to create our offense around our defense. And I don’t really have those types of players right now that allow me to play that style, so we’re really trying to adjust to what we have. But it takes time, change takes time, and bringing in a whole new coach and a new coaching staff who have a different philosophy and a different style, it’s something that the players have got to adjust to and I do think they’ve done a really good job with it."

And that adjustment period is hard for everyone, even off the court.

"I have a brand new appreciation and respect for coaches, because as a player you don’t realize all the time and effort that goes into running a program and preparing for practices, all of the scouting you have to do, all the recruiting. It’s just a lot that goes into it. To me the actual coaching part is about 20 percent of the job, the other 80 percent is everything else."

But even with all of her new coaching duties and generally busy schedule, Sheryl still finds time to check in with the WNBA - the league she helped garner credibility, notability, and traction since its inception in 1996.

"I do think it’s competitive, there’s so much talent in the league, from your worst team to your best team, there’s some great individual talent. Being in Chigaco, I got a chance to go out and catch a couple of games this summer. I really got to see Elena Delle Donne play up close and personal and I have so much respect for her as a player."

"My goal," she added matter-of-factly, "is to be the first coach to send a player from Loyola to the WNBA and that’s what we’re working on."

And while that’s proof she still sets some lofty expectations, we already have proof enough that Sheryl Swoopes can not just meet, but far exceed even her own goals.

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Sun Ride the Odds

Sun Ride the Odds

SECAUCUS, N.J., Dec. 10, 2013 - Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Connecticut Sun, appeared positively shocked when WNBA President Laurel Richie announced that the Sun would have the first pick in the upcoming 2014 WNBA Draft despite Connecticut’s almost 45 percent chance of winning. "We’re in the casino business," he told ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi, "We know the odds don’t always work for you, but I’m really glad they worked for us today."

Who wouldn’t be, of course. Top prospects for 2014 include Stanford powerhouse Chiney Ogwumike - sister of current Los Angeles Sparks center Nneka Ogwumike - and Odyssey Sims, a Baylor guard who played with Brittney Griner.

"There are a lot of great players, it’s a very deep draft. You know I think the key is we can have whoever we want and I think that’s the most exciting thing," Etess said. "I think we’ll use this pick to fortify what we need in the best way possible and that’s kind of what the plan is."

With that same plan in mind, Tulsa Shock representative and part-owner Sam Combs was happy with the No. 2 pick.

"We also have a high enough pick that we’ll have the ability to take someone that these other teams might like or need better than us. So it gives us maximum flexibility in terms of retaining players in the pick or maybe trading it for a very good solid veteran."

The Shock, who also have No. 3 pick from last year Skylar Diggins, are still building up their roster.

"There’s a good workman group of players this year not a flashy group of players [like last year] and we’re still young," Combs said. "Our best basketball is still out there."

The third pick overall went to the San Antonio Silver Stars. Though it wasn’t the top pick, Silver Stars’ head coach Dan Hughes seemed happy with the outcome anyway. Hughes, whose pre-game (or in this case pre-lottery) ritual includes going to a concert - this time it was Rod Stewart at MSG - was as cool and as calm as ever.

"I think we can go a lot of ways. You know, we were really beat up last year and we’re going to have players returning to health. There aren’t a lot of glaring needs when we’re healthy. We’ll try to take it to where we think is the best place for us in the long term and kind of spin it that way."

He did note, however, that this year’s class was going to need a lot of observation. "It’s not an easy class to determine who’s going to [get picked] ahead of our pick."

And, lastly, while Bill Laimbeer - former NBA great and head coach of the New York Liberty - does not share Hughes’ laid-back demeanor or thoughtful analysis, he is looking for one thing in particular.

"Players," he said. "Good players. That’s what we’re looking for."

Which, I guess, is why we’re all here.

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WNBA Announces Rule Changes

WNBA Announces Rule Changes

NEW YORK, Dec. 11, 2013 - The WNBA Board of Governors approved six rules changes for the upcoming 2014 season, the league announced today.

Instant replay may now be used:

Instant replay may now be used during the last minute of the game or any point during an overtime period:

When reviewing a block/charge play to determine whether the defender was inside or outside the restricted area, officials will now be permitted to reverse a charge call, or uphold a blocking call, when the defender was outside the restricted area but was not set when the offensive player began her upward shooting motion.

To determine if a whistled goaltending or basket interference was correctly called.

Instant replay may now also be used at any point within a game:

To determine whether an off-ball foul occurred before or after a player has started her shooting motion on a successful shot attempt, or before or after the ball was released on a throw-in.

To permit the officials to assess the appropriate penalties of any unsportsmanlike and unnecessary acts (e.g. flagrant fouls) that are observed during the instant replay reviews.

Additional rules modifications:

On clear-path-to-the-basket fouls, it will no longer be considered a clear-path foul if, at any point before the foul is committed, the defender who commits the foul is positioned ahead of the offensive player in the frontcourt.

A team on offense will lose possession if its player leaves the floor and does not immediately return to the floor, unless she is injured, attempting to save the ball or in other extenuating circumstances.

Each of these rules was recommended by the WNBA’s Competition Committee at its meeting on Dec. 4.

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Sun Win Draft Lottery

Sun Win Draft Lottery

The Connecticut Sun won the 13th annual WNBA Draft Lottery and earned the top pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, the league announced today. The lottery was conducted in a televised event live on ESPN during SportsCenter.

The Sun had 442 chances out of 1,000 to receive the first overall selection, the most of any of the four teams in the lottery mix. It marks the first time Connecticut has won the WNBA Draft Lottery. Entering 2010, Connecticut held the No. 2 overall pick but sent that pick and Lindsay Whalen to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for the No. 1 overall selection and Renee Montgomery. The Sun used the pick to take University of Connecticut center Tina Charles, who went on to earn WNBA Rookie of the Year honors.

Tulsa, which along with the New York Liberty, shared the second largest chance of winning the lottery (22.7 percent each), will have the second pick in the 2014 Draft presented by State Farm, and will be followed by the San Antonio Silver Stars, which had the smallest chance (10.4 percent). The Liberty will have the fourth pick.

WNBA officials and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young conducted the lottery in Secaucus, N.J., to establish the order of selection for the first four picks of the 2014 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. The order of selection for the remainder of the first round, as well as the second and third rounds, is determined by inverse order of the teams’ respective regular-season records in 2013.

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Draft Watch: Senior Standouts

Draft Watch: Senior Standouts

On the eve of the WNBA draft lottery and with the college hoops season well underway, it's about time we start to take a better look at some of the top eligible WNBA Draft contenders. Compared to last year's stacked 3 to See Draft, 2014 offers a well-distributed wealth of talent. Nevertheless, the two players currently leading the pack are the spirited, driven addition to the Ogwumike legacy, Chiney Ogwumike, and the balanced, level headed point guard, and former Brittney Griner teammate, Odyssey Sims.

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford:

It's no secret that Chiney Ogwumike is the younger sister of Los Angeles Sparks forward and No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 WNBA draft Nneka Ogwumike, but Chiney is certainly not in anyone’s shadow. The 6-3 power forward is averaging 25 points per game and 11 rebounds on the season for No. 6 ranked Stanford. Last season, Chiney was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, as well as a Capital One Academic All-American. Chiney is known for her willingness to step outside her comfort zone, which in last season’s win over Brittney Griner's Baylor even meant stepping out beyond the arc.

Back in 2010, Chiney, a Texas native, opted for Stanford over Connecticut and Notre Dame where she played with her sister until Nneka graduated in 2012. The two carried Stanford to NCAA Final Four appearances in both 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Chiney is as of this moment regarded as one of the top picks available for the 2014 WNBA Draft, which means that she isn’t likely to join her sister in Los Angeles. The Sparks have the second to last pick in the first round.

But while Chiney might not be in her sister's shadow, she’s looking forward to following in Nneka's footsteps just the same.

Odyssey Sims, Baylor:

Though Odyssey Sims looks a lot like Chiney Ogwumike on paper, Sims is averaging 30 points per game, four rebounds and three assists, the similarities end there. Odyssey Sims is Baylor's 5-8 point guard who is making over 50 percent of her outside shots and supplementing that with heads-up fast-break layups and aggressive drives to the basket. A former teammate of Brittney Griner's, Sims has learned how to play with a dominate big and take matters into her own hands when the time calls. Just last week, she surpassed the record for Baylor’s most career assists with 492, the last 13 of which she got in Baylor's win over UTSA. And over the weekend, despite Baylor's quadruple-overtime loss, Sims put up a career-high 47 points.

Sims and the Lady Bears are off to a 7-1 start this year without Griner, and could be well on their way to another Final Four appearance, Griner and Sims led Baylor to a National Championship in 2012.

Sims has already been named the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year for this season.

Other notable seniors:

Penn State's Maggie Lucas is averaging 22 points per game and brought in her 2000th career point on Sunday.

Stefanie Dolson is bringing down an average of 10 rebounds a game and putting up 14 points for No. 1 ranked UConn.

Shoni Schimmel, Louisville's explosive, dynamic guard is averaging 13 ppg and four ssists.

Hallie Christofferson is hitting 24 points per game on average and 8 rebounds for Iowa State.

Jordan Hooper for Nebraska is averaging 20 points per game with 10 rebounds.

No. 4 Notre Dame Kayla McBride has 14 points per game, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

Jennifer O’Neil for Kentucky is putting up 14 points per game.

Chelsea Gray, a 5-11 guard for No. 2 Duke is averaging 12 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Note: All statistical information above as of Dec 10, 2013

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Diggins Hits Off Season Hard

Diggins Hits Off Season Hard

December 4, 2013 -- Skylar Diggins can command a room like she can command the court -- even without her signature headband.

When we met this afternoon at the March of Dimes 30th Anniversary Sports Luncheon, the 5'9" Tulsa Shock point guard (6'1" in heels) was using her height to look out over a room full of journalists and photographers -- a setting she's now more familiar with than ever after her career skyrocketed over the past year. Skylar is here to accept an honor as the March of Dimes 2013 Sportswoman of the Year after a stellar WNBA rookie season with the Tulsa Shock and she couldn't be more grateful.

"You know when I first heard about it I was surprised that such a great organization wanted to honor me. They do so much for the community and for infants and babies, it was humbling," she said of the award.

Humbling, maybe, but certainly not undeserved.

After graduating from Notre Dame as the all-time leading scorer with over 2,000 career points (and an oft-mentioned even bigger number of twitter followers), Diggins was immediately drafted third overall in the WNBA draft by the Tulsa Shock and targeted by ESPN as one of the WNBA's "3 to See." In her first ever WNBA season, she went out averaging 8.5 points per game and 3.8 assists and made the WNBA All-Rookie team.

True to form, she hasn't slowed down since. In fact, she's working harder than ever both on and off the court, which is why March of Dimes -- and so many others -- took notice.

She was eager to talk about her training: "You know, I'm glad I'm home and I get to work on things and just really hone in on working on my body and my strength," which is why, she told me, she wasn't worried at all about skipping out on overseas play. "You know, I got a few great trainers both in New York and in South Bend that I'm working with so it's been good for me and just being able to be seen and get out here and really work."

But hard work isn't the only reason why Skylar's here today.

The immensely popular pro athlete has used her position as a social media star and fashion icon to stand up as a role model and an advocate for young girls everywhere. Most notably, Sklyar is the supreme leader of #HeadbandNation, which is what she calls her thousands of social media fans that sport her signature headband. Her face lights up at any mention of her beloved following. "I love headband nation!" she said. "I miss them."

Not for much longer though.

"Look forward to the headbands dropping soon in January," she wanted #HeadbandNation to know. "I've got some new designs coming out so I'm excited!"

So now with her off-season workouts going swimmingly, her headbands all set for release, plus a few secret projects she's working on ("You'll just have to wait and see!") all lined up, you'd think Skylar would be looking forward to taking it easy.

"I'm just [ready] to get back to work. I hate this break."

Should've figured.

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WNBA Draft Lottery

WNBA Draft Lottery

NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2013 -- For the second consecutive year, the WNBA Draft Lottery will be televised live on ESPN. The 2014 WNBA Draft Lottery -- to be held in Secaucus, N.J. on Tuesday, Dec. 10 -- will be hosted by Kevin Negandhi and air at 4:30 p.m. ET during SportsCenter.

The Connecticut Sun, New York Liberty, Tulsa Shock, and San Antonio Silver Stars -- all of whom did not qualify for the playoffs this past season -- will be looking to secure the top pick in the 2014 Draft presented by State Farm, to be conducted next April.

Connecticut, which posted a record of 10-24, has the best opportunity (44.2 percent) to win the top pick in the 2014 Draft. New York and Tulsa, who both finished the year at 11-23, will have the second most chances to land the top pick (22.7 percent each). San Antonio, which ended the campaign at 12-22, rounds out the lottery-eligible teams and has a 10.4 percent chance to win the first overall selection.

WNBA officials and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young will conduct the Draft Lottery. The Lottery will establish the first four picks of the draft. The order of selection for the remainder of the first round, as well as the second and third round, is determined by inverse order of the teams’ respective regular-season records from 2013.

Fourteen balls numbered 1-14 will be placed in a lottery machine and mixed. Four balls will then be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that four-ball combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The four balls will then be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated to determine the second and third picks. The team that does not win one of the top three picks will be slotted fourth.

There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. One thousand of those combinations will be assigned to the four non-playoff teams based on their order of finish in the 2013 regular season. The remaining combination will be unassigned. If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls will be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated until an assigned combination is drawn.

Only once in history has the WNBA Draft Lottery, instituted prior to the 2002 draft, gone exactly according to the odds. The Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, and Chicago Sky, respectively, entered the eighth annual Lottery with the most chances to earn the top pick in the 2009 Draft, and came away with, in order, the first, second and third selections.

On two occasions, the team with the fewest chances of earning the top pick has come out on top. The Phoenix Mercury was the first to do so, winning the Lottery for the 2007 Draft. The Los Angeles Sparks also overcame the longest odds and earned the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. Phoenix used its No. 1 overall pick in 2007 to take Lindsey Harding of Duke; Los Angeles used its No. 1 selection in 2012 on Nneka Ogwumike of Stanford.

Phoenix also won the most recent WNBA Draft Lottery, conducted on Sept. 26, 2012, and subsequently selected Baylor’s Brittney Griner first overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. That pick was followed, in order, by Chicago (Elena Delle Donne), Tulsa (Skylar Diggins), and Washington (Tayler Hill).

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Results For January 2014

Draft Watch: Big Winners

Draft Watch: Big Winners

Things are heating up in the NCAA. This past Monday was a huge double header with big wins from Notre Dame and Stanford. Other big wins this week included Baylor’s overtime win over Oklahoma State and Tennessee’s thumping of Texas AM.

The usual suspects were still up to no good. Chiney Ogwumike had 30 points for Stanford and Odyssey Sims put up 25 points for Baylor's 92-43 win over Texas Tech. Meanwhile, Stefanie Dolson grabbed 13 rebounds for UConn against Temple.

Particularly notable, however, were big performances from Notre Dame's Kayla McBride, Louisville's Shoni Schimmel, and Tennessee's Meighan Simmons.

Kayla McBride (Notre Dame)

Kayla McBride will be a Top 7 WNBA draft pick according to WNBA draft expert and head coach of the New York Liberty Bill Laimbeer. Bill Laimbeer is probably right. Especially if Kayla McBride continues to play the way she did this week. The Notre Dame guard/small forward had 20 points in their win against Maryland and that’s even though she got into foul trouble early on in the game. McBride and the Notre Dame "trio" contributed 80 points to the team’s 87-point win.

"I think McBride played with a lot of confidence," Laimbeer also told the South Bend Tribune "She's playing solid basketball this year. She's taught herself to handle the ball a little bit better than she has in the past. That's a big step up for her for the next level. She gained a lot of confidence playing with USA Basketball. That really helped her out as far as knowing that she can play at a higher level."

McBride is averaging 16 points per game, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Shoni Schimmel (Louisville)

This week Shoni Schimmel was voted espnW’s Senior of the Week and for a very good reason. Schimmel scored 29 points in the game versus Memphis. Twenty-seven of those points were from beyond the arc. And those 9 three pointers tied the school record for the most 3s in a game.

But that’s not the only trick Schimmel has up her sleeve. ESPN has called her "explosive" and "dynamic" and has said that she "fears no one." Which is likely true if you recall that time she drove right into Britney Griner for an and-1 in a 2012 Baylor-Louisville game before getting up in her face a little bit. How could you forget?

But all that talking has served her well. Schimmel is a vocal leader for the Cards and is averaging 18 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Other notable seniors:

Meighan Simmons, out of Tennessee had a huge 26 point game against Texas AM. She is averaging 14 points per game, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Samarie Walker is averaging 10 points per game, 9 rebounds and 2 assists for Kentucky.

Bria Hartley has 15 points per game, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists for No. 1 UConn.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 18 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg

Tricia Liston (Duke) - 17 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 19 ppg, 9 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 12 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 20 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Chiney Ogwumike (Standford) - 26 ppg, 12 rpg, 1 apg

Odyssey Sims (Baylor) - 29 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg

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Cappie Checks in from Turkey

Cappie Checks in from Turkey

It’s not easy to keep up with someone like Cappie Pondexter. The Liberty guard is known for her determination to get and be better, on and off the court. When she’s not playing for the Liberty she’s either heading up her own business 4 Seasons Style Management or playing full-time overseas for Turkey’s elite Fenerbahce club in Istanbul alongside the Dream’s Angel McCoughtry.

This is Cappie’s fifth year with the club and she has found the competition getting stronger as more and more Americans have joined the Turkish league. "The competition’s not far off from the WNBA now. Obviously in the WNBA we only have 12 players on a team and all our 12 players are great. Here the completion is probably about half - or a little bit more than half - of what the WNBA has." And we can only assume it will keep getting better.

Fenerbahce, according to Cappie, is one of the best clubs in Turkey. And the statistics agree. This year the team is 15-2 in the Turkish Basketball League and a solid 7-0 in Group B of the Euroleague (the best record in the Euroleauge so far).

Of course it helps to have 2-time WNBA scoring champion Angel McCoughtry on your side.

"Angel, man, she’s funny!" Cappie laughed when I asked what it was like to play with the animated Dream guard. "It’s great though! I think she’s one of the league’s best at her position. She’s super athletic. Sometimes just watching her is amazing."

And while there is a lot to be excited about overseas, Cappie is still pumped for the upcoming Liberty season. "It’s been a long journey," she said of the last three Liberty seasons, "of being in New Jersey and now we’re headed back to the Garden. There’s a lot of excitement behind that and not just from me."

The past season was admittedly a rebuilding season for the Liberty, the franchise has the fourth pick overall in this year’s draft and head coach Bill Laimbeer has made it incredibly clear as to what they are looking for this season: "players."

But if anyone knows exactly what Laimbeer’s talking about now it’s Cappie: "I think our first year was just us trying to learn each other. Now we have a year under our belt and I know the system, what he expects, and I’m looking forward to it. I think we’re gonna have a super year."

And with all these expectations, you better be sure that Cappie Pondexter is working hard to get ready. She’s focusing in Turkey on elevating her shooting percentage for the coming season. Last year she was 36 percent from the field and she plans to get those numbers up.

Come May, Cappie and the New York Liberty will be on top of their game and there's every reason to expect that "super" year.

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EDD, Diggins Back on Court

EDD, Diggins Back on Court

NEW YORK, Jan. 29, 2014 - The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today stars from film and TV will take the court for the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2014 on Friday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. ET. Two-time MVP Kevin Hart will play alongside Victoria’s Secret model, actress and philanthropist Erin Heatherton; "America’s Got Talent" host Nick Cannon; ESPN Radio’s "Mike & Mike" hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg; Jesse Williams ("Grey’s Anatomy"); Columbus Short ("Scandal"); Michael B. Jordan ("That Awkward Moment"); U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; three-time NBA Champion and ESPN NBA analyst Bruce Bowen; "E! News" anchor Terrence Jenkins; NBA TV’s "NBA Inside Stuff presented by Samsung Galaxy" co-host Kristen Ledlow; ESPN anchor Stan Verrett; and WNBA stars Skylar Diggins of the Tulsa Shock and Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky. Tickets for the game, airing live on ESPN from Sprint Arena at NBA All-Star Jam Session, will go on sale today Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 11 a.m. ET/ 10 a.m. CT.

ESPN’s "NBA Countdown" hosts Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose will coach this year’s teams. An assistant coach will be selected through Sprint’s Assistant Coach For A Day Sweepstakes. The winning fan will be flown to New Orleans for NBA All-Star 2014 and serve as assistant coach for the West or East.

Tickets for the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2014 start at $50 and include admission to NBA All-Star Jam Session on Feb. 14, where fans of all ages will be surrounded by wall-to-wall NBA All-Star basketball action. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in basketball activities; meet celebrities, NBA stars and legends; and collect free autographs. General admission tickets for NBA All-Star Jam Session start at $10. Tickets for both events can be purchased at NBAEVENTS.com, Ticketmaster.com and at the New Orleans Arena Box Office.

For the 10th consecutive year, ESPN will televise the game beginning at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. Fans can also view the game on Watch ESPN, available on your computer, smart phone, tablet, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Apple TV and Roku. The game rosters are subject to change without notice. Visit NBA.com/allstar2014 for more information.

A $20 TICKET (STANDARD PRICE OF ADMISSION) TO JAM SESSION ON FRIDAY, FEB. 14, DOES NOT INCLUDE ADMISSION TO THE CELEBRITY GAME.

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2014 Draft Watch: Name Games

2014 Draft Watch: Name Games

With the NCAA regular season moving closer and closer to its conclusion in March, the name of the game these days - especially for seniors - is making a name for yourself. Whether that’s finally stepping into the spotlight like Uju Ugoka who came back her senior year for Virginia Tech to average 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, or whether it’s stepping out of the shadow of someone with your same name like Chiney Ogwumike has already proven she can do. But it’s also making sure that no one ever forgets your name. Which they certainly won’t if you’re Odyssey Sims who had another big game against Kansas State.

And of course - if you’re Connecticut - it’s all about trying to hold on to your good name. That is to say, keep beating teams by over 30 points, which they did in their 83-49 win over Memphis.

Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford)

We already knew there was something special about the Ogwumike name thanks to big sis and WNBAer Nneka Ogwumike, but what’s really in a name? Apparently, a lot more than just legacy. As Chiney Ogwumike really continues to make a name for herself, she talked with ESPN about the literal meaning of the name Ogwukmike in Nigerian: "he who does not tire."

Ogwumike dropped 30 points again against Arizona State, which bumps her average up to 27 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Odyssey Sims (Baylor)

Also still living up to her name this week: Odyssey Sims. Her stats continue to be nothing short of epic. Sims is now averaging 31 points per game. This week she helped Baylor sail past Kansas State 71-47 with 20 points. And while 20 points in one game is nowhere close to Odyssey's average, we're starting to see an Odyssey that responds to increased defensive pressure by freeing up her teammates for wide open shots.

Other notable seniors:

Uju Ugoka, who before her senior year only started 10 games, came back this year to start every game for Virginia Tech and is averaging 19 points per game and 10 rebounds.

Tricia Liston of Duke is still stepping up in Chelsea Gray’s absence and averaging 17 points per game and 6 rebounds.

Tyaunna Marshall, Georgia Tech’s 5’9" guard, is averaging 18 points per game and 8 rebounds.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 17 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 19 ppg, 10 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 13 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 20 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Kayla McBride (Notre Dame) - 16 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg

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Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 Set for Phoenix

Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 Set for Phoenix

NEW YORK and PHOENIX, Jan. 22, 2014 -Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 will take place at US Airways Center in Phoenix, on Saturday, July 19, and will be nationally televised on ESPN, with tip-off at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30pm PT), WNBA President Laurel J. Richie announced today.

In addition, Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 will be televised globally in more than 200 countries and territories.

This marks the second consecutive year that Boost Mobile, which became the WNBA's first league-wide marquee partner in 2011, will serve as the title partner of the All-Star Game. It’s also the second time the All-Star Game will be played in Phoenix. In July 2000, US Airways Center (formerly America West Arena) hosted the WNBA's mid-season showcase event.

"We're thrilled to again partner with Boost Mobile and bring the WNBA All-Star Game back to Phoenix," said Richie. "There has been significant demand for the All-Star Game to be held in the West, and we cannot think of better hosts than the Phoenix Mercury organization and US Airways Center. We look forward to an incredibly memorable All-Star weekend and to showcasing the extraordinary talent of the WNBA in front of the great fans of Phoenix as well as a national television audience."

"As an organization and a facility, we want to provide the best sports and entertainment experience to our fans, and we are committed to bringing the best events to US Airways Center," said Jason Rowley, Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury President. "Hosting the Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game 2014 will do both of those things, and it will give our great players and the league's great players the opportunity to play in front of the best fans in the WNBA."

The 2000 WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix saw the Western Conference defeat the Eastern Conference, 73-61, in front of capacity crowd of 17,717 fans. The West, led by a quartet of frontcourt stars - center Lisa Leslie and forwards Tina Thompson, DeLisha Milton, and Yolanda Griffith - helped the West dominate in the paint both in terms of scoring (46-28) and rebounding (60-40). Thompson earned Most Valuable Player honors after posting a game-high 11 rebounds and adding 13 points. Leslie led all scorers with 16 points while Milton added 10 and Griffith contributed a double-double off the bench (10 points and 10 rebounds). Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Tari Phillips led the East with 10 points apiece.

"The only thing that could top playing in All-Star games in front of the great fans in Connecticut, who have always treated me so well, would be the opportunity to play in front of my home fans, the X-Factor, in Phoenix this summer," said Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury Guard. "Hosting the WNBA All-Star Game is an honor and a reward that our fans and organization have earned. I can’t wait."

Mercury season ticket holders - exclusive X-Factor Members - have the first opportunity to secure their seats at the best price for Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014, reserved now through Feb. 7, by contacting their account experience specialist. Boost Mobile All-Star tickets are available now to the general public through the purchase of a 2014 Mercury season ticket package or a Mercury All-Star Pack that includes four can’t-miss regular season matchups and the July 19th Boost Mobile All-Star Game at US Airways Center. Log on to PhoenixMercury.com/allstar for more information or call 602.252.WNBA today.

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Draft Watch: Upsets

Draft Watch: Upsets

This week in women s college ball we saw two major upsets go down - Vanderbilt (No. 24) took down (then) No. 8 Tennessee and No. 25 Texas AandM pulled off an overtime win vs. (current) No. 8 South Carolina.

Meanwhile Duke broke out a stellar performance from Tricia Liston who had 21 points and tied her career-high with 12 rebounds. Duke still managed a blowout over Virginia (90-55) despite Chelsea Gray s first absence due to her season ending knee injury.

Also announced this week, USA Basketball posted the national team pool which includes Alyssa Thomas, Odyssey Sims, Kayla McBride and Stefanie Dolson. Alyssa Thomas (Maryland)

Maryland continues to slowly, steadily, and almost stealthily take down opponents, suffering their only loss to Connecticut earlier in the season. Alyssa Thomas is still putting up an average of 17 points per game and bringing down around 11 rebounds. This past week, Maryland put up a solid 77-62 win over Syracuse and

Thomas had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Thomas seems to be emerging as the league s most consistent all-around player. She doesn t quite have the flash of a player like Odyssey Sims or bring home half the praise of a player like Chiney Ogwumike, but Alyssa Thomas knows how to win basketball games.

I should also mention that Alyssa Thomas has put up two triple doubles so far this season.

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska)

Breaking out and onto the radar as another all-around player these past few weeks is no. 18 Nebraska s 6 2 forward with solid stats (20 points per game, 10 rebounds) and a killer last name to boot.

Hooper became the 4th player for Nebraska ever to reach the career mark of 2,000 points in Thursday night s OT win over Minnesota. Not only that, but Hooper has also racked up 1,000 rebounds as well. And, on top of that, she s No. 2 at Nebraska in career 3-pointers, looking at just shy of 50 more to break the current record.

Other notable seniors:

Christina Foggie, who helped lead Vandy past Tennessee this week, is averaging 18 points per game and 4 rebounds.

Tricia Liston, who stepped up for Duke in the wake of Chelsea Gray s injury, is averaging 16 points per game and 5 rebounds.

Karla Gilbert, who led Texas AandM to an overtime victory vs. South Carolina, is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds.

Updates as of 1/14/2014:

Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford) - 27 ppg, 11 rpg, 2 apg

Odyssey Sims (Baylor) - 31 ppg, 4rpg, 4 apg

Chelsea Gray (Duke) - Season ending knee injury

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 13 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 21 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Kayla McBride (Notre Dame) - 16 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg

Previous Draft Watches:

Draft Watch: Sister, Sister

Draft Watch: Opposites Attack

Draft Watch: The Odyssey

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WNBA Stars Dominate US Women Pool

WNBA Stars Dominate US Women Pool

USA Basketball has announced the pool of women's players who will represent the USA in internal competition for 2014 2016, and what a pool it is. The list includes veteran WNBA and USA Basketball players like Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, and Sue Bird, WNBA sophomores and USAB newcomers such as Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, and Brittney Griner, and 6 college players. USA Basketball will use this pool of talent to select a national team to compete at the FIBA 3x3 World Championship in Moscow June 5 7, 2014 , the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey Sept. 27 Oct. 5, 2014, the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto July 10 26, 2015, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil August 5 21, 2016.

Since women's basketball became an Olympic event in 1976, the United States has won 7 gold medals including an unprecedented five straight team Olympic gold medals, culminating with the legendary 2012 London Olympic squad. In 1976 the USA lost to the former Soviet Union and in 2006 they lost to Russia in the semi finals settling for bronze. The United States has also won a total of 8 FIBA World Championships since the tournament's beginning in 1953 and are the current defending champs after defeating the Czech Republic 89 69 in 2010.

The full list of players selected for the pool is below.

2014 16 USA Women's Basketball Pool

DIANA TAURASI

INTERNATIONAL 3 time Olympic gold medalist 2004, 2008, 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2004 , 5 time WNBA All Star 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2007, 2009 , 5 time WNBA scoring champion 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 , WNBA Most Valuable Player 2009 , WNBA Finals MVP 2009

TAMIKA CATCHINGS

INTERNATIONAL 3 time Olympic gold medalist 2004, 2008, 2012 , 2 time FIBA World Champion 2010, 2002 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006 WNBA

7 time WNBA All Star 2002, 2003, 2005 through 2007, 2009, 2011 , 5 time Defensive Player of the Year 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012 , Rookie of the Year 2002 , 2 time Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award 2010, 2013 , WNBA Most Valuable Player 2011 , WNBA Champion 2012 , WNBA Finals MVP 2012

SUE BIRD

INTERNATIONAL 3 time Olympic gold medalist 2004, 2008, 2012 , 2 time FIBA World Champion 2010, 2002 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006 , Jones Cup Gold Medalist 2000

WNBA WNBA All Decade Team, 7 time WNBA All Star 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2004, 2010

SEIMONE AUGUSTUS

INTERNATIONAL 2 time Olympic gold medalist 2008, 2012 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2006 , 4 time WNBA All Star 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013 , WNBA Finals MVP 2011

CANDACE PARKER

INTERNATIONAL 2 time Olympic gold medalist 2008, 2012

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2008 , WNBA MVP 2008, 2013 , 2 time WNBA All Star 2011, 2013 , WNBA All Star MVP 2013 , 2 time WNBA rebounding champion 2008, 2009

MAYA MOORE

INTERNATIONAL Olympic gold medalist 2012 , FIBA Gold Medalist 2010

WNBA 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA All Star 2011, 2013 , WNBA Rookie of the Year 2011 , WNBA Finals MVP 2013

TINA CHARLES

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2010 , WNBA All Star 2011 , WNBA Most Valuable Player 2012 , 3 time WNBA rebounding champion 2010, 2011, 2012

ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2012 , Pan American Games Gold Medalist 2007

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2009 , WNBA All Star 2011 , 2 time WNBA scoring champion 2012, 2013

LINDSAY WHALEN

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA 4 time WNBA All Star 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013 , 3 time WNBA Peak Performer Assists 2008, 2011, 2012 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013

CAPPIE PONDEXTER

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2008

WNBA 4 time WNBA All Star 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2007, 2009 , WNBA Finals MVP 2007

KARA LAWSON

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2008

WNBA WNBA All Star 2007 , WNBA Champion 2005

SYLVIA FOWLES

INTERNATIONAL 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist 2008, 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA 3 time WNBA All Star 2009, 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA blocks leader 2010, 2011 , WNBA rebounds leader 2013

JAYNE APPEL

INTERNATIONAL FIBA World Champion 2010 , Pan American Games Gold Medalist 2007 WNBA

2010 first round draft pick for the San Antonio Stars

CANDICE DUPREE

INTERNATIONAL FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA 3 time WNBA All Star

DEWANNA BONNER

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA 3 time Sixth Woman of the Year

ELENA DELLE DONNE

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2013 , WNBA All Star 2013

SKYLAR DIGGINS

INTERNATIONAL 3x3 World Champion 2012

WNBA Third overall 2013 draft pick for the Tulsa Shock

BRITTNEY GRINER

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA All Star 2013

LINDSEY HARDING

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA First overall 2007 draft pick

BRIANN JANUARY

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA Sixth overall 2009 draft pick for the Indiana Fever

GLORY JOHNSON

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA First round 2012 draft pick for the Tulsa Shock

JANTEL LAVENDER

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA Fifth overall 2011 draft pick for the Los Angeles Sparks

NNEKA OGWUMIKE

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2012

DANIELLE ROBINSON

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA All Star 2013 , WNBA Peak Performer Assists 2013

COURTNEY VANDERSLOOT

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA All Star 2011

MONICA WRIGHT

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013

SOPHIA YOUNG

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA 3 time WNBA All Star

Also included in the pool Stefanie Dolson University of Connecticut , Kayla McBride University of Notre Dame , Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis University of Connecticut , Odyssey Sims Baylor University , Breanna Stewart University of Connecticut , Alyssa Thomas University of Maryland

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San Antonio Stars Reveal New Logos and Wordmark

San Antonio Stars Reveal New Logos and Wordmark

SAN ANTONIO Jan. 14, 2014 - Spurs Sports and Entertainment unveiled today an updated look for its WNBA franchise that will be reflected in the 2014 season. Changes include new logos for the San Antonio Stars, which were previously known as the Silver Stars. Additionally, San Antonio-based retailer H-E-B has signed on as the first-ever marquee sponsor for the Stars and will have the iconic H-E-B logo prominently displayed on the front of their jerseys. The updated logos and jerseys were unveiled today at a press conference held at the AT T Center.

The Stars new primary logo utilizes the familiar silver, black and white color palate and features the San Antonio Stars wordmark above a shooting star. The secondary logo contains a stylized S above the shooting star. Fans can check out the new designs and get the latest news on the Stars at SAStars.com, as well as via the team’s social media channels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

"The new look for the Stars provides an updated design that more closely aligns with the brand and feel of our entire Spurs family of teams," said Rick Pych, Spurs Sports and Entertainment President of Business Operations. "We have been very fortunate to have H-E-B as our business and community partner for well over 20 years and they are the perfect fit to be the first-ever marquee sponsor for the Stars."

Last year, H-E-B and SS and E announced a five-year renewal as corporate and community partners. H-E-B is the presenting sponsor of the Spurs 2013-14 season and will be the presenting sponsor for the Stars 2014 season. H-E-B also has a presence with the San Antonio Rampage AHL and Austin Toros NBA Development League.

"We’re elated to expand on our collaboration with Spurs Sports and Entertainment as the first-ever marquee sponsor for the Stars, " said Cory Basso, H-E-B Group Vice President of Marketing and Advertising. "The WNBA is the premier women’s sports league in the world and we want to continue to support women’s sports and make a positive impact in our community."

The 2014 campaign will mark the Stars’ 12th season in San Antonio. The team relocated from Utah in 2003 and was then known as the Utah Starzz, one of eight original WNBA franchises.

"Strong brands continue to be attracted to the WNBA, not only for its elite athletes, outstanding entertainment and high level of play, but also for its authentic connection to their communities," said WNBA President Laurel Richie. "Today's announcement marks a milestone in the long standing partnership between H-E-B and the Stars, and we look forward to the great things these two iconic Texas brands will do together in 2014 and beyond."

In celebration of the H-E-B partnership, Stars players Becky Hammon and Danielle Robinson will make an appearance today at the H-E-B plus! on Bandera Rd and 1604 for an appreciation event for Stars fans and H-E-B customers. Featuring free food, games and prizes, the fan appreciation event will be held from 4-6 p.m. and is open to the public.

Spurs Sports and Entertainment is the premier provider of sports and entertainment in South Texas. SS E owns and operates the San Antonio Spurs NBA, San Antonio Rampage AHL, San Antonio Stars WNBA and Austin Toros NBA Development League and also manages the day-to-day operations of the AT T Center.

The San Antonio Stars are one of four professional sports franchises owned and operated by Spurs Sports and Entertainment - the San Antonio Spurs NBA, the Rampage AHL and the Austin Toros NBA Development League - and play their home games at the SS E operated AT T Center. The 2014 season will mark the teams 12th year in San Antonio, as the Utah Starzz relocated to the Alamo City in 2003. In operation since 1997, the WNBA - which features 12 teams - is the most successful women's professional team sports league in the world.

H-E-B, with sales of more than 19.4 billion dollars, operates more than 350 stores in Texas and Mexico. Known for its innovation and community service, H-E-B celebrated its 105th anniversary in 2010. Recognized for its fresh food, quality products, convenient services, and a commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability, H-E-B strives to provide the best customer experience at everyday low prices. Based in San Antonio, H-E-B employs more than 80,000 Partners and serves millions of customers in more than 150 communities. For more information, visit www.heb.com.

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Draft Watch: The Odyssey

Draft Watch: The Odyssey

Last week, the NCAA finally entered conference play and we saw movement in the rankings. Among them, No. 7 Baylor, formerly No. 9, won their first two conference games over Kansas and Kansas State while No. 14 Baylor bought down Iowa and moved up from the No. 15 spot. Those wins can largely be attributed to the performances of Odyssey Sims for Baylor and Maggie Lucas with Penn State. Sims put up 30 points breaking the Baylor record for career 3 pointers in the process against Kansas and that was after her 40 point performance against Kansas State the game before. Meanwhile, Maggie Lucas scored 27 points against No. 22 Iowa, drilling 5 3 pointers.

Odyssey Sims, Baylor

After her 70 point conference start, Odyssey was named espnW's Senior of the Week. She is the first player to win the weekly honor twice. Sims is now averaging 30 points per game plus a solid four assists and four rebounds. When we first highlighted Odyssey on Draft Watch, Baylor was only eight games into the season and Sims was averaging 30 points per game. Today, Baylor is 12 and 1 and she has shown no signs of slowing down.

According to ESPN, "Sims is averaging nearly one-third of Baylor's points this season, has taken 27 percent of the Lady Bears' shots from the floor and 30 percent of their free throw attempts." Which speaks more than volumes for her role on one of the league's strongest teams.

Sims and the Lady Bears take on No. 1 Connecticut on January 13.

Maggie Lucas, Penn State

Maggie Lucas's nickname is Machine Gun Maggie. That's almost all I need to say about Maggie Lucas except that maybe you should watch this video. The 5 10 shooting guard was the Big Ten player of the year last season and is this season averaging 21 points per game, which puts her at No. 11 on the list of top senior scorers in in women's college basketball this year. Last month she scored her 2000th career point at Penn State.

Lucas is also known for being the face and energy of Penn State. You can read her blog posts over at espnW.

Other notable seniors:

No. 2 Notre Dame's Natalie Achonwa, who carried the Irish past Clemson in the ACC opener, is averaging 13 points per game and 8 rebounds.

Christina Foggie of Vanderbuilt is averaging 18 points per game, grabbing 4 rebounds and handing out 4 assists. Vanderbuilt is 12 3 this season.

Asya Bussie is averaging 14 points per game and 7 rebounds for West Virginia which 13 and 1

Updates as of 1.7.2012

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford, 26 ppg, 11 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Gray Duke, 11 ppg, 4 rpg, 7 apg

Stefanie Dolson UConn, 14 ppg, 10, rpg, 3 apg

Alyssa Thomas Maryland, 17 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg

Chelsea Douglas Wake Forest, 20 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Katherine Plouffe, Marquette, 19 ppg, 11 rpg, 2 apg

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Results For February 2014

Draft Watch: Grand Marshall

Draft Watch: Grand Marshall

It's off to the races for the rest of the women's college basketball season as records are starting to reflect who will be seeded where for the big tournament (and who won't be there at all). Georgia Tech was one of the teams that could have missed the NCAA tournament boat, but thanks to a season-changing performance from senior Tyaunna Marshall, the team is still in contention for a spot.

There's also much chatter about who will take the number one seed (besides Connecticut and Duke). There are 4 weeks left to play before the seeds are sewn. Kara Lawson and Rebecca Lobo discuss:

Tyaunna Marshall (Georgia Tech)

Tyaunna Marshall is a newcomer to espnW’s player of the week spotlight, but that doesn’t mean her season has gone unnoticed. The Georgia Tech senior is averaging a solid 20 points per game with 7 rebounds and 3 assists to boot. Although the odds didn't look too great for Georgia Tech going into two weeks ago, Marshall kept up her efforts throughout. But what could have been a dismal outlook for Georgia Tech for the second year in a row started to look a little brighter when Marshall, now Georgia Tech’s all-time leading scorer, lit up the court to put away No. 11 North Carolina.

Marshall put up 32 points, grabbed 8 rebounds with 5 assists and 3 steals. The Yellow Jackets took down the Tar Heels 94-91. To top it all off, the last two points of the incredibly close game were two free throws from Marshall with 4.2 seconds left to go. They officially sealed North Carolina's fate and Marshall's place in Georgia Tech history, bumping her up to the all-time leading scored for the Yellow Jackets.

Marshall was also recently named one of the 30 contenders for the Naismith Women’s College Player of The Year award.

Bria Hartley (UConn)

UConn is unsurprisingly still going strong at this point in the season. The Huskies are still putting teams to shame with huge wins by large margins. This past week they breezed by unranked South Florida with a 63-38 W. The spotlight fell on Bria Hartley, though, who had 18 points to lead the Huskies. Followed by another star senior Stefanie Dolson who put up 15. Hartley is now averaging 15 points per game.

Other notable seniors:

Kendra Suttles led Oklahoma State to a 73-57 win over Oklahoma with 13 points.

Tricia Liston and Duke rolled past Alyssa Thomas's Maryland 84-63.

This week Odyssey Sims threw down yet another 30 plus point game with 34 points to fend off Texas.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 18 ppg, 10 rpg, 3 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 19 ppg, 9 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 12 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

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Hammon Pops in on Spurs

Hammon Pops in on Spurs

It’s hard for anyone - even the most optimistic among us - to find a silver lining to a season-ending injury like Becky Hammon’s torn ACL last year. But while Hammon herself admits that it was tough to watch from the sidelines last season (and watch from afar this offseason) her injured knee was "actually a big blessing in disguise." In fact, the Stars’ star guard said that when she wasn’t rehabbing her knee or working on her strength, she was sitting in on practice with the San Antonio Spurs, learning from none other than Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

"It’s actually been a very, very good situation for me," she told WNBA.com at the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. "I’m just kind of a fly on the wall. I listen in on the Spurs’ film sessions and go to their practices and just kind of see how Coach Popovich runs things. It’s just really interesting to me to see how he interacts and how he coaches the team."

Coach Popovich doesn’t have the warmest of coaching styles. In fact, he is known for his brief and often rather terse halftime interviews as well as his straight-to-business "motivational" strategies. His fierce knowledge of the game shows as does his sometimes frustrating (or "boring") rudimentary approach to the game. He’s all drive and no flash. Gregg Popovich is the Honda Civic of basketball coaches.

"They obviously have a couple championships," says Hammon on the matter. "To me, the Spurs just play the game the way it’s supposed to be played with the movement and the cutting and stuff like that. So to me, I really love watching them play. Some people think they’re boring, I think that some of the cutting and the passing that they do is exceptional. And they win," she added, "so you can’t argue with that."

And from an insider’s perspective, it seems that not much is different. Hammon says it’s no surprise, really, that what you see is what you get with Popovich.

"Obviously there are things that go on behind the scenes in the huddle and stuff that the general person wouldn’t get to see," she let on. "At that point I feel like a lot of times Pop’s prepared them - they’re very well prepared, they know what’s gonna happen, and they know their system and they know what they’re supposed to do so. Then it’s just a matter of getting them to do it perfectly as a coach. So it’s not reinventing the wheel or anything, it’s basketball."

Hammon and the Stars seems to share Coach Pop’s general "it’s not rocket science" attitude, which serves the team well. And that’s not the only shared quality between the two franchises. "We run a lot of the same stuff," Hammon said. "Coach Hughes is right there watching a lot of the Spurs games." (In fact, in a previous setting Coach Hughes had told me that he worked closely with Popovich and considered him to be one of the smartest coaches in basketball.)

But then of course even Gregg Popovich can’t be successful without healthy players. The Spurs "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been plagued by on and off injuries in the recent weeks and racked up a few losses in the process.

And so Becky Hammon spent most of her time making sure her body - her knee in particular - was in good enough shape for the vigor required of a professional athlete.

"The first five months it’s just a lot of strength training," Hammon said, "these little muscles that you never think to train and just getting confidence in the knee. I’ve been working on jumping and just trying to get those muscles to bounce back and respond. But now I’ll get back on the court and start getting comfortable in the brace and what that feels like getting hit. You know, you can be cleared to play but it doesn’t really mean that you’re ready to play - that’s two different things."

And that goes for not only Becky Hammon but also the Stars’ Sophia Young, who was out last season with a knee injury as well.

For the Stars that meant a less-than-spectacular season, which ended with 22 losses and just 12 wins - the fourth worst in the league. But there’s a silver lining there as well: the Stars landed the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.

Plus with Hammon and Young back on track, this season is already looking up.

"I feel really good about the players we have," Hammon said, "the experience they got last year. Bring in the people that were injured, at least if we just stay healthy we’ll have as good a shot as anybody. It’s a tough league, it’s gotten better, it keeps getting better, so now it’s just a matter of getting the pieces to gel as quickly as possible and staying healthy."

And I think Popovich might agree.

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Cash, Bosh, Wilkins Win 2014 Shooting Stars

Cash, Bosh, Wilkins Win 2014 Shooting Stars

Winner - Team East: Chris Bosh (Miami), Dominique Wilkins (Legend) and Swin Cash (Chicago Sky)

Team Bosh wins with 31.4 seconds in Championship Round

Team East's win resulted in a $100,000 donation to the American Heart Association & U.S. Fund for UNICEF

Team East: Chris Bosh (Miami), Dominique Wilkins (Legend) and Swin Cash (Chicago Sky) dropped Team Durant - Kevin Durant (OKC); Karl Malone (Legend); Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock) - in the final round to defend their 2013 title.

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2014 All-Star Celebrity Game

2014 All-Star Celebrity Game

East 60, West 56

MVP: Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education)

NEW ORLEANS - As usual, Duncan and Jordan were the best players on the floor.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and actor Michael B. Jordan led their respective teams at the Sprint Celebrity Game on Friday, with Duncan's East prevailing 60-56. Duncan filled the box score with 20 points (a Celeb Game record), 11 rebounds and six assists - the last of which was a sweet, behind-the-head dish to a cutting Skylar Diggins of the WNBA for a critical bucket down the stretch.

A couple of possessions later, Diggins found musician/actor Romeo Miller on the right wing for a 3-pointer that put the East up for good. The West missed six free throws and several lay ups in the closing moments and simply didn't have the chemistry that the East had with Duncan, Diggins and Miller.

"I'm just happy to get a win," Duncan said afterward. "This was a really competitive game."

Beyond the East's big three, NBA TV's Kristen Ledlow earned some redemption for her Inside the NBA performance (when she lost a free-throw contest to Shaquille O'Neal) by hitting two first-half buckets that helped the East climb out of a 10-point hole.

"I wasn't thinking about anything except scoring a couple of buckets in order to redeem myself after losing to Shaq on national television," she said. "Shaq could not do what I just did. Well, he could at one point. But not anymore and I know that."

Jordan tried his best to lead the West to victory, but was the focus of the East's aggressive defense. He finished with 16, to go along with seven rebounds.

"He's not the best Michael Jordan I've ever seen," Ledlow said. "But he's a pretty solid Michael Jordan."

That wasn't enough for the West, who were undone by Kevin Hart's over-dribbling. Fittingly, Hart was voted as MVP by the fans for his selfish play that helped his opponent pick up the victory, but he smartly and selflessly gave the due to the game's true MVP, Duncan.

Also representing the WNBA, 2012 WNBA Finals MVP Tamika Catchings and 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne who played well but admitted to toning down the competitive drive a little in the spirit of having fun.

"You know that's what it's all about," Catchings told WNBA.com after the game. "Everybody's like 'we need you to take over' and I'm like 'I'm trying not to get hurt, how about that?' But it was fun and it was great to have Skylar and Elena out there."

You can catch Diggins and Delle Donne as well as Swin Cash and Becky Hammon tomorrow in the Shooting Stars contest.

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Defending Champ Minnesota Tips Off WNBA’s 18th Season as League Releases 2014 Game and Telecast Schedules

Defending Champ Minnesota Tips Off WNBA’s 18th Season as League Releases 2014 Game and Telecast Schedules

NEW YORK, Feb. 6, 2014 - The defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx tips off the league’s 18th season as part of WNBA Tip-Off 2014 presented by Boost Mobile on Friday, May 16 when 2013 WNBA Finals MVP Maya Moore leads the Lynx into the nation’s capital to face the Washington Mystics at 7 p.m. ET.

WNBA Tip-Off 2014 presented by Boost Mobile will feature 22 games from May 16, through Memorial Day (May 26), culminating with the launch of ESPN2’s season-long coverage of the WNBA. ESPN2 will debut its schedule of WNBA games with a matchup of three of the top four vote-getters in last year’s MVP race - Minnesota’s Moore, who finished second, and the Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles, who finished third and fourth, respectively. The Sky will host the Lynx at Allstate Arena at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The national television schedule includes Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014, with ESPN showcasing the best women’s basketball players in the world on Saturday, July 19. Tip off at US Airways Center in Phoenix, is set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

ESPN2, ESPN, ABC, and NBA TV will televise over 80 regular season and postseason contests, showcasing the league’s most talented players and highlighting the top rivalries.

ESPN2 will air 19 games throughout the regular season and cap it off with extensive coverage of the WNBA Playoffs and Finals presented by Boost Mobile. All games will be available in high definition, and telecasts on ESPN2 and ESPN will also be available on WatchESPN. In addition, WNBA LiveAccess provides online and mobile viewing of live and archived WNBA games all season long.

In March, 2013, the WNBA and ESPN announced a six-year extension to their current eight-year deal, extending through 2022 the agreement that allows ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 to televise games. The deal extends the league’s relationship with ESPN, which commenced in 1997, to 26 years.

NBA TV will broadcast more than 40 games throughout the regular season and provide additional post-season coverage. The NBA TV schedule will be announced at a later date.

Other must-watch television match-ups during the 2014 WNBA regular season include:

- Five ESPN2 telecasts featuring former league MVPs going head-to-head - June 3, when Seattle (Lauren Jackson, 2007, 2010) visits Phoenix (Diana Taurasi, 2009); July 6, when Taurasi and Phoenix visit Los Angeles (Candace Parker, 2013), July 15, when Parker and the Sparks visit the Indiana Fever (Tamika Catchings, 2011), July 22, when the Taruasi-led Mercury takes on Jackson and the Storm in Seattle; and July 29, when Parker leads Los Angeles into Phoenix to meet Taurasi and the Mercury.

- The Lynx, Sky, Sparks, and Mercury will each appear on six ESPN2 telecasts. Minnesota is led by past WNBA Finals MVPs Moore and Seimone Augustus, while Chicago’s roster features reigning Rookie of the Year Delle Donne, and Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles. In addition to Parker, the Sparks feature 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year Nneka Ogwumike and 2012 WNBA Most Improved Player Kristi Toliver, while Taurasi teams up in Phoenix with the WNBA’s No. 1 overall draft pick a year ago, Brittney Griner.

- Western Conference rivals Minnesota and Phoenix, which met for the right to advance to the WNBA Finals in both 2011 and 2013, tip off on June 15, at Target Center (ESPN2, 1 p.m. ET).

- The Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever, which battled in the Eastern Conference Finals in two of the past three seasons, continue their rivalry when they meet in Atlanta on July 1 (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).

- Season-long coverage on ESPN2 will include a total of seven doubleheaders, with six of those airing on Tuesday evenings. The 2014 WNBA regular season runs from Friday, May 16, to Sunday, Aug. 17. A complete listing of the game-by-game schedule is available at http://www.wnba.com/schedules/index.html .The ESPN2/ESPN game telecast schedule follows:

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WNBA Announces Sale of Sparks to Investment Group Led by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter

WNBA Announces Sale of Sparks to Investment Group Led by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter

NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5, 2014 - The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors have unanimously approved the purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks by an investment group led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark R. Walter, WNBA President Laurel J. Richie announced today. The investment group includes Dodger co-owners Todd L. Boehly, Robert L. Patton and Stan Kasten. Richie was joined by Johnson at the press event at STAPLES Center.

The franchise will remain in Los Angeles and play at STAPLES Center. The WNBA’s 2014 game and television schedule will also be announced this week.

"We are thrilled to welcome Magic Johnson and Mark Walter to the WNBA," said Richie. "With their proven track record in the business realm, their commitment to the city of Los Angeles through civic engagement, and their passion for the game of basketball, we look forward to partnering with our new owners to usher in a new era for this iconic team. This is a great day for Los Angeles, the Sparks franchise, its players, and of course, the loyal fans who have been so supportive of the team for 17 seasons."

"This is a great day for the city of Los Angeles and the Sparks," said Johnson. "The leaders of this great city came together quickly to keep this franchise right where it belongs - in the city of Angels. Thanks to my sister, Evelyn, playing college basketball, I have a great appreciation of the talented players that represent the WNBA. Our group will now work together to bring our loyal fans another WNBA championship."

"Earvin came to me and said we need to help save the Sparks and keep them in Los Angeles," Walter said. The decision was quite easy for our investment group due to the passion Magic has for this city, these great athletes and our phenomenal fans. This team and its great players should remain a part of the sports fabric of this wonderful city."

One of the league’s original eight teams, Los Angeles won the WNBA championship in 2001 and 2002, and is the last team to have earned titles in consecutive seasons. Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference Finals in three of the past six seasons, most recently in 2012. A trio of WNBA All-Stars - forward/center Candace Parker, forward Nneka Ogwumike, and guard Kristi Toliver - headline a talented roster. The reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player, Parker also earned the honor during her rookie season in 2008. Ogwumike took home the WNBA Rookie of the Year award in 2012, the same year Toliver earned the WNBA Most Improved Player award.

About Mark Walter: Mr. Walter is Chairman and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a controlling shareholder of Delaware Life Holdings. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Guggenheim Capital, LLC. Mr. Walter serves as a trustee or director of several organizations including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Security Benefit Corporation and the EquiTrust Life holding company. Mr. Walter grew up in Iowa and received a B.S. from Creighton University and a J.D. from Northwestern University.

About Earvin "Magic" Johnson:

An NBA legend and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as well as a noted entrepreneur, philanthropist, and motivational speaker, Johnson serves as part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and, most notably, as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE). Following his playing career - during which he amassed a national championship at Michigan State (1979), five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988), and earned the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award three times - Johnson began a meteoric rise through the business world. The driving force behind MJE, whose multiple business entities and partnerships provide products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities through strategic alliances, investments, consulting and endorsements, Johnson and MJE have partnered with or invested in the likes of Sony Retail Entertainment, Starbucks, Founders National Bank, Burger King, Cadbury Schweppes, Aetna, Best Buy, and AON among others. After divesting himself of his interest in Starbucks and the Los Angeles Lakers beginning in 2010, Johnson invested in Vibe Holdings, LLC, becoming Chairman and focusing on Vibe (the multi-cultural media company that houses the Vibe, Uptown, and Soul Train brands), and in 2012 launched the ASPiRE television network and notably joined Guggenheim Baseball Management to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club. He also serves as Chairman and Founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation, one of the most recognizable philanthropic organizations around the world.

About the WNBA:

The WNBA - which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world - is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. The league, which counts Boost Mobile as its leaguewide marquee partner, will tip off its 18th season in May 2014. Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women’s health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

Press Contacts:

Dina Skokos, WNBA Communications, 212-407-8840, dskokos@nba.com

Ron Howard, WNBA Communications, 212-407-8641, rhoward@nba.com

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From the Desk of WNBA President Laurel J. Richie

From the Desk of WNBA President Laurel J. Richie

Dear Los Angeles Sparks Fans:

I know that the past few weeks have been full of uncertainty as we looked to find a new ownership group for your beloved Sparks. I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your patience and ongoing support.

Today, I have some very good news to share. The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors have unanimously approved the sale of the Los Angeles Sparks to an investment group led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Mark Walter, Chairman and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

We are thrilled to welcome Magic, Mark and their partners to the WNBA. As owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, this group is no stranger to the L.A. sports community, and Magic is clearly no stranger to L.A. basketball, having spent his entire professional career with the Lakers. We are proud to have them join the WNBA family, and we are equally proud to be joining their family.

The future for the Sparks couldn’t be brighter under the leadership of this new ownership group. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the season to begin.

Thanks again for your patience, and here’s to a terrific 2014.

Laurel J. Richie, WNBA President

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Phoenix Mercury Announces Marquee Partnership with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort

Phoenix Mercury Announces Marquee Partnership with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort

PHOENIX - Today, the Phoenix Mercury entered into an exclusive, multi-year marquee partnership with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort that includes branding on the Mercury’s home and away jerseys. The new agreement also designates Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort as the presenting sponsor of the Phoenix Mercury.

The partnership was announced this morning by Mercury President Jason Rowley, Mercury VP Ann Meyers Drysdale and Casino Arizona’s Senior Director of Marketing Peter Arceo, during a press conference inside the Casino Arizona Pavilion at US Airways Center.

Highlighting the partnership is the appearance of the Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort logo across the front of the Phoenix Mercury home and away jerseys, as well as on the team’s warm-ups. Images of the jerseys are below. With the deal, the Mercury remains one of five WNBA teams with a corporate-branded jersey, after becoming the first team in WNBA history to sign a marquee partnership in 2009.

"The Phoenix Mercury is thrilled to announce our new marquee sponsorship with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort," said Mercury President, Jason Rowley. "Having served as the presenting partner for the Mercury’s 2007 WNBA Championship run, Casino Arizona has been a loyal supporter of women’s basketball and we are excited to take that collaboration to an unprecedented level."

Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort’s logo will also be featured on the Phoenix Mercury’s home court at US Airways Center, and incorporated into the team’s official logo. Images of the court and logo are attached. The new co-branded logo will appear on Mercury tickets and other collateral.

"The partnership between Casino Arizona and the Phoenix Mercury is truly an obvious fit," said Peter Arceo, Senior Director of Marketing for Casino Arizona. "We both provide the ultimate entertainment in our respective fields. We are proud to be a part of all the excitement the Mercury will bring this season and beyond."

In addition to marquee placement on player jerseys and on-court logo recognition, Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort will receive brand exposure on the team’s website, in-arena signage and throughout various in-game promotions. During each Friday and Saturday home game, one lucky Mercury fan will compete in the Casino Arizona Lucky 7’s Shootout for the opportunity to win up to $77,777.

IT’S OFFICIAL! The Phoenix Mercury will host the 2014 WNBA All-Star games on July 19, 2014 at US Airways Center. Secure your tickets today. Log on to PhoenixMercury.com/allstar for more information or call 602.252.WNBA.

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Results For March 2014

2014 WNBA Draft at Mohegan Sun

2014 WNBA Draft at Mohegan Sun

NEW YORK, Mar. 28, 2014 - WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm will be held on Monday, April 14, at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. ESPN2 will provide coverage and analysis of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET and ESPNU will air the second and third rounds beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

"WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm will be a significant milestone in the life of these talented young players," said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. "Through ESPN2’s in-depth coverage, our fans will have the opportunity to see these players as they embark on their professional careers and make their mark on the WNBA."

"ESPN is pleased to present the WNBA Draft in primetime for the second straight year," said Doug White, ESPN senior director, programming and acquisitions. "The 2014 draft class will be an impressive addition to an already strong league. We look forward to showcasing them on our 2014 television schedule."

The Sun holds the top pick in the draft for the second time in franchise history after garnering the top selection in this year’s WNBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm, which aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter in December. Rounding out this year’s top five picks are the Tulsa Shock (second), San Antonio Stars (third), New York Liberty (fourth), and Indiana Fever (fifth).

"We are delighted to be the host for such a significant event for women’s basketball," said Connecticut Sun CEO Mitchell Etess. "This will be an outstanding opportunity for our fans to see the draft in person, welcome the Connecticut Sun’s Number one pick, and see the next phase in the career of some of their favorite collegiate players."

Last year, the excitement generated by the "3 to See" - Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins - made the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm one of the most followed drafts in league history. Delle Donne, selected No. 2 overall by the Chicago Sky, went on to earn the WNBA Rookie of the Year award and became the first rookie in the history of the WNBA to lead all vote-getters for the All-Star Game presented by Boost Mobile. Griner, taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the top pick, and Diggins, selected third overall by the Tulsa Shock, each went on to earn a place on the 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team.

This year’s telecast will also be available on computers, smartphones, tablets, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku via WatchESPN to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.

Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. is the home of the Connecticut Sun and has hosted the WNBA All-Star Game three times (2005, 2009, and 2013).

WNBA.com, in addition to providing comprehensive draft-day coverage, will serve as the web destination for fans who want to track the top seniors in advance of the draft.

About State Farm:

State Farm and its affiliates are the largest provider of car insurance in the U.S. and is a leading insurer in Canada. In addition to providing auto insurance quotes, their 18,000 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts - more than 79 million auto, home, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 44 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com or in Canada http://www.statefarm.ca.

About the WNBA

The WNBA - which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world - is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. The league, which counts Boost Mobile as its league-wide marquee partner, will tip off its 18th season in May 2014. Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women’s health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

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McCarville Re-Signs With Lynx

McCarville Re-Signs With Lynx

The Minnesota Lynx got their storybook ending last season when they beat the Atlanta Dream in three games top clinch the 2013 WNBA title. For Janel McCarville, however - who was a clutch player for the lynx in the finals - the storybook ending led to the beginning of uncertainty and free agency.

Thankfully that story now also has a happy ending - one where McCarville gets to stay with the Lynx to help defend their 2013 title. The team has announced that they have resigned the center to a new multi-year contract.

"It's like something out of a fairytale movie," McCarville said in a media conference after the announcement."Who would've thought I could be thrust into the situation I was in in a matter of months. This just fell right into place and hopefully we can keep that momentum going."

It's no secret that Minnesota has always been the end goal for McCarville, who is a Wisconsin native and a University of Minnesota alum. "I made it pretty clear I wanted to play in Minneapolis with the Lynx and finish my career here if possible," she said to that regard. But it's also no secret that McCarville's return to the league was a little rusty after a two-season hiatus after her tenure with the New York Liberty.

The Lynx acquired McCarville as part of a three-team trade in order to fill a void left by Taj McWilliams-Franklin's retirement. The move also allowed for McCarville to reunite with her former University of Minnesota teammate, starting Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen. And despite initial rust, McCarville (whose career is one of many comebacks) successfully gelled with the team, averaging 6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game (2nd best for centers in the league).

McCarville really stepped up for the Lynx in the finals where she averaged 9.3 points per game and shot 61 percent from the field. Not to mention 3.7 assists (including the between the legs pass to Rebekkah Brunson embedded above). It's safe to say that with her finals performance in consideration, Minnesota would have been hard pressed not to re-sign her.

"I'm thrilled Janel has decided to remain a Lynx," head coach Cheryl Reeve told lynxbasketball.com. "Her personality and her on-court talent are a perfect match for our team. To have players that teammates love to play with and players that coaches love to coach has been the trademark of our successful teams and Janel embodies this."

In turn, McCarville said that the deal was "comforting... It shows me that they want me, that they have faith in me, and I'm gonna go out there and thank them in my own way."

Comfort, however, should not be mistaken for complacency. McCarville has a game plan for next season and unsurprisingly it centers on getting the ball to her teammates in scoring positions.

"Along with conditioning and consistently trying to get on the boards," she said when asked what she'd be working on for next season, "I want to be opening up the court more than ever for Whalen to get in there and for Maya to get in there."

Can't argue with a strategy that works.

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2014 Free Agent List

2014 Free Agent List

The following is a list of Core Players, Reserved Players, Restricted Free Agents and Unrestricted Free Agents that were on team rosters at the end of the 2013 season.

Teams can begin to negotiate with their own Core and Reserved Players and any Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents on March 16. Deals may not be finalized, and Contracts and Offer Sheets may not be signed, until March 20.

Players who ended the 2013 season on the Suspended List remain suspended and can negotiate only with their prior team.

CORE PLAYERS

Swin Cash (CHI) Erika DeSouza (ATL)

RESERVED PLAYERS

Abby Bishop (SEA) Alysha Clark (SEA) Courtney Clements (ATL) Briana Gilbreath (PHX) Jasmine Hassell (IND) Jasmine James (PHX) Ha Eun Joo (LAS) Lynetta Kizer (IND) Ewelina Kobryn (SEA) Emmeline Ndongue (LAS) Jenna O’Hea (LAS) Chelsea Poppens (SAN) Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (WAS) Krystal Thomas (PHX) Joselyn Tinkle (SEA) Avery Warley (CHI)

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Jayne Appel (SAN) Tina Charles (CON) Marissa Coleman (LAS) Kalana Greene (CON) Kelsey Griffin (CON) Allison Hightower (CON) Quanitra Hollingsworth (WAS) Erlana Larkins (IND) Courtney Paris (TUL) Allie Quigley (CHI) Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (WAS) Monica Wright (MIN)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Mistie Bass Agnieszka Bibrzycka Michelle Campbell Sydney Carter Iziane Castro Marques Jessica Davenport Katie Douglas Kristen Haynie Armintie Herrington Ebony Hoffman Alexis Hornbuckle Chelsea Hopkins Catherine Kraayveld Edwige Lawson-Wade Camille Little Janel McCarville (Signed with Minnesota, March 20) Shay Murphy Deanna Nolan Ruth Riley Ashley Robinson Katie Smith Michelle Snow Tina Thompson Jana Vesela Tan White Candice Wiggins

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WNBA, Players Sign New CBA

WNBA, Players Sign New CBA

NEW YORK, March 7, 2014 - The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) announced today that they have entered into a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement, commencing with the 2014 season and continuing through 2021.

"I am pleased to announce that we have concluded the collective bargaining process and have reached an agreement with the WNBPA that provides the league with a long-term foundation for growth while also guaranteeing increases in player salaries and benefits," said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. "This agreement caps a successful 2013 season both on and off the court, and we are now focused on delivering the best basketball in the world."

The new collective bargaining agreement includes an additional 12th roster spot, salary cap increases and reduced revenue sharing thresholds, making it more likely that the players will share in league revenue growth.

"We are pleased that we have a completed collective bargaining agreement in place and that 2014 free agency negotiations and signings can begin. Although the additional roster spot was the players’ primary goal, we expect all of the league’s constituencies to benefit from the teams’ ability to sign a 12th player," said WNBPA Director of Operations Pamela Wheeler. "Throughout these negotiations, as always, the players demonstrated a strong commitment to the growth and success of the league."

The following are additional points agreed to by the WNBA and the Players Association in their new collective bargaining agreement:

- A new "Time Off Bonus" of up to 50,000 dollars that players can earn for limiting their overseas play to three months or less during the offseason.

-The number of times that a player can be subject to a "core" designation has been lowered from 5 to 4, shortening the path to unrestricted free agency for star players. (Each team can designate one of its players as a core player and receive exclusive negotiating rights to that player in exchange for an offer of a one-year, fully-guaranteed maximum salary contract.)

-The term of the agreement is eight years with both the WNBA and the WNBPA having the ability to opt out after the sixth season.

"As players, we are certainly pleased to conclude our business with the owners. We can now focus on the upcoming season and build on the momentum from last year. We are committed to promoting the growth of the WNBA and helping this league get to the next level," said WNBPA President Tamika Catchings. "Over the past eight months the players on our Negotiating Committee have put in tremendous time, effort and thought into these negotiations and we hope that every player in the league will be the beneficiary of those efforts."

The collective bargaining announcement follows a successful 2013 season in which the league experienced double-digit growth in television viewership, increase in attendance and soaring traffic on WNBA.com. In addition, the 2013 campaign introduced a new brand identity and was highlighted by a new six-year television agreement with ESPN, extending the league's relationship with the network through 2022.

About the WNBA

The WNBA - which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world - is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. The league, which counts Boost Mobile as its leaguewide marquee partner, will tip off its 18th season on May 16, 2014.

Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women’s health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

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Draft Watch: Totally Bias

Draft Watch: Totally Bias

It's almost March now and there are fewer and fewer surprises to speak of when it comes to college basketball. Teams have (for the most part) already showed us their true colors and, in turn, so have those teams' star players. Of course we all know, though, that anything could happen. Especially as we get closer and closer to the NCAA tournament where tension runs high and so do the stakes.

Perhaps feeling a little bit of that pressure this week, No. 8 Penn State fell to No. 16 Nebraska 94-74. Everything else went mostly as planned with Notre Dame, Baylor and Stanford putting away Duke, Oklahoma and UCLA respectively. Also unsurprising by now, Norte Dame's Kayla McBride dropped a career-high 31 points, Odyssey Sims scored 38 points for Baylor, and Chiney Ogwumike put up 26 points and grabbed a stunning 15 rebounds to lead Stanford.

Also this week, Oklahoma State pulled off a gripping one-point win over Texas Tech where OK State star Tiffany Bias went coast-to-coast for the winning layup - a testament to her focus, resilience and determination in all aspects of the game.

Tiffany Bias (Oklahoma State)

Tiffany Bias could be the toughest guard in the country, but you'd never know it from her demeanor. The Oklahoma State star is small (5'6") and youthful (albeit astute and well-spoken on camera). But Bias has played in all 40 minutes of 9 out of the 11 conference games that the Cowgirls have played this season. She is averaging a more than solid 14 points per game and 6 assists. Last year she became the 20th Cowgirl to score 1,000 career points. That aside, though, Bias has an incredible mental and physical endurance that can outlast any of her opponents'.

It should also be noted that Bias and her teammates have dealt with a remarkable tragedy off the court; in 2011 - after Bias's first year with the Cowgirls - Head Coach Kurt Budke and Assistant Coach Miranda Serna died in a devastating plane crash returning from a recruiting trip in the fall of that year. Bias and her teammates handled the news with incredible strength and integrity and went on to win the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

"A lot of the grief, a lot of the internal stuff, came later. And it affected us all differently," Bias said of the accident in an interview with Kansas.com. "I know it changed me as a person, changed my personality."

And either in spite of or because of this change, Bias has managed to push herself to an even greater level of toughness and resilience that can't be matched.

Aaryn Ellenberg (Oklahoma)

Aaryn Ellenberg is a sharp-shooter on and off the court. The senior for Oklahoma was highlighted by espnW this week for both of her talents. Ellenburg is known for her excellent outside shooting (she's averaging 18 points per game for the Sooners) and her aspiring career as a filmmaker and sports photographer. Ellenburg says that knowing the game of basketball really helps out her photography - and I'm willing to bet that her photographer's eye also informs her incredible court presence.

Other notable seniors:

Kayla McBride led Notre Dame to a 81-70 win over Duke with a career-high 31 points.

Odyssey Sims and Baylor rolled past Ellenberg's Oklahoma 96-89.

This week Chiney Ogwumike put up a 26 point game with 15 rebounds to seal the deal for another Cardinal Pac-12 title.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 18 ppg, 10 rpg, 3 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 20 ppg, 9 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 13 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

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Results for April 2014

 Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike: Coast to Coast Sibling Rivalry

Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike: Coast to Coast Sibling Rivalry

Sisters Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike were inseparable the whole day. If you saw one of them without the other, you could usually hear the other one. The moments after Chiney was selected by the Connecticut Sun as the number one draft pick of 2014 were no exception.

When Chiney burst into the WNBA media room, she was breathing heavily as if she’d just played a game. She was followed by an almost equally hysterical Nneka of the Los Angeles Sparks, who circled the room once before sitting down (and then standing up again.)

"Holy smokes. WHAT?" Chiney said when she caught her breath. "I can’t even think."

It’s hard to understand the emotions these players go through during a live draft. Of course they all have an idea of when they might be selected (or in Chiney’s case maybe more than an idea), but no one knows for sure. And with all the movement surrounding the Tina Charles trade which was announced just before the draft, we didn’t know what kind of surprises could still be lurking.

"A lot of people projected that I’d go number one but of course there are always surprises and everything so I didn’t want to get my hopes up," Chiney said, talking at a mile a minute still, "But more so I knew that Connecticut was a place I could contribute and I’m so excited to have that opportunity."

Chiney was breathing slightly less heavily now thanks to Nneka’s efforts.

"Nneka was calming me down like she always calms me down," Chiney said of her sister’s support. "I could barely breathe, you know, the first 40 minutes waiting up until the draft I was like ‘ok I’m fine I’m just dancing to the music’ and suddenly I realized and was like ‘oh it’s coming. Oh my gosh it’s coming.’"

Chiney continued, unprompted:

"I worked really hard to get to where I am and she Nneka always tells me I can do it, I can do it, I think sometimes I’m like my biggest doubter, I don’t think I can do it a lot, but it happened because I worked really hard and I think this is a big example worked hard to put myself into a position to be the number one pick and I don’t think it’s gonna happen because life’s unfair at times but life is so fair, sooo fair when it happens."

It’s really hard to comprehend just how close these two are, that is until you put them on opposite sides of the country.

"I’m absolutely not excited to play against Nneka," Chiney (who played with Nneka at Stanford) said, "Just as I’m signing a contract, we’ll be signing a contract between each other saying ‘if you block my shot, you’ll get fouled hard next time. Be ready’ Or something. I’m excited though. Now that she’s on the west coast and I’m on the east coast, at least we’ll play each other less."

And so begins an East coast-West coast sibling rivalry to end them all.

Chiney’s gestures (which are always boisterous) were getting grander again as I think she remembered what had just happened. So what does one do when you’re feeling invincible and hanging out at a casino?

"Oh I don’t know. I know for sure I’m gonna hit up a slot machine. I’m only gonna use, like, one dollar though that’s it," she said. "But of course I haven’t started making money yet so maybe not."

She got up abruptly and left the media room in the same manner she arrived: "What is happening?" she asked under her breath as if she still couldn’t believe it.

"This is for real," Nneka reminded her. And with her sister’s words it finally seemed to sink in: she was the number one pick in the 2014 WNBA draft.

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Sun Make Chiney Ogwumike No. 1 Pick

Sun Make Chiney Ogwumike No. 1 Pick

UNCASVILLE, Conn., With the first overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, the Connecticut Sun chose 6-foot-4 Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford on Monday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Ogwumike and her sister Nneka, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft, join Peyton and Eli Manning as the only siblings chosen first overall in an NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball or WNBA draft.

"Chiney has been a charismatic and dynamic player who we have thoroughly enjoyed watching," Sun head coach Anne Donovan said Monday. "We are very excited to welcome her to the Connecticut Sun."

A three-time WBCA Coaches' All-American, Ogwumike averaged 26.1 points and 12.1 rebounds per game this season, collecting 27 double-doubles while leading Stanford to a 33-4 record and its sixth Final Four in seven years. Ogwumike was the Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season and was the 2014 recipient of the John R. Wooden Award.

Off the court, Ogwumike was the Capitol One Academic All-American of the Year and was named to the Academic All-America Team for the second straight year. Prior to the Pac-12 Tournament, she earned Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors.

"Chiney is someone we have coveted for a long time," Connecticut Sun Vice President and General Manager Chris Sienko said. "Her ability as an athlete is second only to her personality. She’s a positive force. Her teammates will love her, as will our fans. She is a skilled presence in the post who can compete with anyone."

Ogwumike finished her career at Stanford with 2,737 points and 1,567 rebounds, averaging 18.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. She broke Kayla Pedersen’s program record for career rebounds (1,266) this past January 3rd, and Candace Wiggins’ record for career points (2,629) on March 22nd. She is just the fifth Stanford player to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Her career rebounding total puts her fifth-all time at the NCAA level, and her 967 points scored during the 2013-14 season is the sixth-highest single-season total in NCAA history.

"She has been a proven winner with Stanford, leading them to three Final Four appearances as well as earning several gold medals with USA Basketball," Donovan said. "Her versatility in the post, her rebounding prowess and her leadership are just a few of the characteristics that led Chiney to be our number one pick."

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Tina Charles Heads to New York Liberty in Big Trade

Tina Charles Heads to New York Liberty in Big Trade

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - The gasps in the arena said it all at the 2014 WNBA Draft as news broke the Connecticut Sun were trading their franchise star Tina Charles to the New York Liberty.

Trading Charles, the 2012 WNBA MVP and 2010 Rookie of the Year, is likely to be one of the biggest game changing transactions in WNBA history. In exchange for Charles, the Sun received rookie Alyssa Thomas, chosen by New York with the fourth overall pick on Monday night, second-year center Kelsey Bone and the Liberty’s first-round selection in 2015.

The move is no doubt a shock to WNBA fans everywhere and was requested by Charles herself, the Sun said.

"Learning that Tina was willing to sit out unless she was traded to New York was a shock to our organization and extremely unfair to a fanbase that has supported her efforts on and off the court," Sun GM Chris Sienko said. "We made significant changes to our roster this offseason based in part on her feedback. For our fans and this team to be left in the lurch was not an option. New York stepped up with a significant offer that will pay dividends now and in the coming years."

Charles could not be reached for comment and was silent on Twitter Monday night as the news broke.

Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer expressed his excitement in the acquisition saying "You don't get the chance to acquire players like that very often." Charles, a New York native, joins All-Star guard Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson, who will return this season after an injury curtailed her contributions in 2013.

"Tina is obviously one of the best players in the league," Laimbeer said. "Our franchise felt we needed to add All-Star caliber players, especially with our return to Madison Square Garden, to put a competitive team on the court. With Cappie, Essence and Tina, we have a sound nucleus to build a championship caliber team." Charles leaves the Sun as the team selected Chiney Ogwumike with the No. 1 overall pick. A Charles-Ogwumike pairing could have created a nasty-frontcourt unrivaled by any team in the Eastern Conference.

Just minutes after getting selected, Ogwumike said the pairing would have been great, but her focus is on the roster she is joining now.

"I would have loved to play with Tina Charles," she said. "But I put trust in the management, in the team and the coaches that they're trying to build a great championship team. Whatever happens, I'm going to come every day to practice with the players we have and really strive for greatness and bring that winning attitude."

Although Charles is returning to her native New York City, she had become somewhat of a celebrity in Connecticut. Charles played at UConn and helped the team win back-to-back national championships before joining the Sun.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was at the draft and said he hadn't spoken to Charles about her decision.

"My first reaction when I heard the news tonight was "Wow, I didnt know that," he said. "But, when these guys get away, stuff happens. Unfortunately, it's a part of the business side of basketball."

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Draft Preview: Storm

Draft Preview: Storm

This Seattle team has been riddled with injuries and retirements of late (last year Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Ann Wauters were out; this year Lauren Jackson is injured again and Tina Thompson retired), but that’s not to say that the team is without true veteran talent this year. Sue Bird will make her return to the league for her 13th season and Tanisha Wright for her 10th.

Last year (and the year before that) the Storm were ousted by the Minnesota Lynx in the first round of the playoffs. This year, they hope, that curse will be reversed.

And while they’re looking to makeup some of that lag in Lauren Jackson’s post absence, according to Coach Agler "one person can't fill that whole void."

What’s tough, though, is knowing exactly how to navigate a draft where you have a void to fill and three middle-of-the-round picks.

"Everybody has a plan going in but we're sitting at number 7 so who we draft will rely on who's still there. We certainly have an idea who will be drafted early, but really we have to make a decision at the time."

But if there’s one thing that Coach Agler is definitely looking for, it’s "someone that fits our culture and a need we have specifically."

He says, however, that "it's really tough for rookies to come in and be a starter right away." Meaning that they’re looking for someone (or several people) who can fill a specific need without filling Lauren Jackson’s shoes completely.

But that doesn’t worry Agler who says he "feels good about his core group" as well as the team’s "solid defense and two exceptional point guards."

And while Seattle seems to be waiting with bated breath for the draft to happen, Coach Agler encourages fans "to be there in in an excited sort of way but with an open mind because anything could happen."

The Storm just like to keep everyone on their toes. Which is a good thing, come basketball season.

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Draft Preview: Mercury

Draft Preview: Mercury

Phoenix does not have a first round draft pick this year (they traded it to Indiana for Australian point guard Erin Phillips), but rest assured head coach Sandy Brondello still has a plan for the draft.

"Trading for Erin Phillips was great for us as we needed to add a quality point guard to the team and thus giving away our first round pick made sense," Coach Brondello said. "We have two second round picks where they should be good players available for us to take. Who we pick will depend on how we complete our team in lead -up to the draft this next week but I would like for us to have another back-up guard or another athletic wing player to compete for a spot in training camp."

Which makes sense because Phoenix spent their 2013 draft first pick building up their frontcourt with Brittney Griner.

But let’s not forget (and who would?), Phoenix has savy, dynamic veteran Diana Taurasi who has led the franchise to 2 WNBA titles in the past 7 years. The last of which was in 2009.

Since then, the Mercury have made it to and lost in the conference finals 3 times (and once did not qualify for the playoffs). But what does the team need to get over that hump?

"Toughness, defense, depth and staying healthy," Coach Brondello emphasized.

And what to do with their first pick (No. 17 overall)?

"We would like to add a player that is different from what we have," Borndello said. "Ideally, one with athleticism, creativity and who plays hard."

Knowing the Phoenix Mercury, they will do just that.

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2014 WNBA Draft Attendees

2014 WNBA Draft Attendees

NEW YORK, April 10, 2014 - Odyssey Sims of Baylor, winner of the 2014 Wade Trophy as the NCAA Division I Player of the Year, and Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike, a four-time First Team All-American and two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, headline a list of 12 prospects who will attend the WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm, which will be held on Monday, April 14, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Live coverage of the first round will begin on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET. Coverage of the second and third rounds will be televised on ESPNU from 9-10:30 p.m.

Center Stefanie Dolson and guard Bria Hartley will represent the 2014 NCAA Champion Connecticut Huskies, while center Natalie Achonwa and guard Kayla McBride will be on hand for the runner-up Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Rounding out the list players are guards Chelsea Gray (Duke), Shoni Schimmel (Louisville), and Meighan Simmons (Tennessee); forwards Natasha Howard (Florida State) and Alyssa Thomas (Maryland); and center Markeisha Gatling (North Carolina State).

The Connecticut Sun holds the top pick in the draft for the second time in franchise history after garnering the top selection in this year’s WNBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm, which aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter in December. Rounding out this year’s top five picks are the Tulsa Shock (second), San Antonio Stars (third), New York Liberty (fourth), and Indiana Fever (fifth).

The left-handed shooting Sims was a consensus All-American and finalist for all major National Player of the Year awards the last two seasons. A four-time All-Big 12 First Team and three-time All-Defensive Team honoree, Sims’ 1,054 points as a senior were the second highest single-season total in Division I history (Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles,1,062), while her career total of 2,533 points surpassed former Baylor teammate Brittney Griner’s Big 12 record.

Ogwumike, whose resume also includes three Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, is the younger sister of Nneka Ogwumike, whom the Los Angeles Sparks made the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 Draft. Chiney entered the recent Final Four as the only Division I player to rank among the top 10 in the nation in scoring (third), field goal percentage (fourth), double-doubles (fourth), and rebounding (ninth), and leaves Stanford as the Pac-12’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

Dolson and Hartley, a pair of AP All-American Second Team picks - as well as roommates for the past three years at Connecticut - helped the Huskies to four straight Final Four appearances and were key contributors during each of the past two seasons as UConn won consecutive national titles, raising the school’s total to a record nine championships. In 2014, both were finalists for multiple National Player of the Year awards and members of the All-American Athletic Conference First Team. Dolson also was named the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Achonwa and McBride helped the Irish to a berth in the NCAA Championship Game in each of the past three seasons. As seniors, the duo led Notre Dame to the first undefeated regular season in program history and to a third straight regular-season conference title (BIG EAST crowns in 2012 and 2013, and an Atlantic Coast Conference title this season). Achonwa, an AP All-America Second Team pick, ranked third in Division I in field goal percentage as a senior, while McBride earned a spot on the AP’s All-American First Team and was voted by ACC coaches as the league’s 2014 ACC Player of the Year.

Gatling led all Division I players in field goal percentage (.663) and was an All-America Honorable Mention pick (AP) and All-ACC First Team selection. She leaves NC State as the school’s all-time career leader in field goal percentage (.628). Gray, despite having the past two seasons cut short by knee injuries, earned Co-ACC Player of the Year honors as a junior and All-America Honorable Mention (AP) as a senior. At the time of her injury in January, she was sixth in Division I in assists and was just 35 shy of Duke’s career record. Howard ranks as the Seminoles’ all-time leader in rebounds (1,047), is No. 2 in both points (1,811) and double-doubles (41), and No. 3 in blocks. She capped her senior season as a finalist for the Wade Trophy and was selected to both the All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team.

Schimmel finished her Louisville career with 387 made three-point shots, five shy of the Division I mark of 392 held by Kansas State’s Laurie Koehn. The first player in Cardinals’ history with 2,000 points and 500 rebounds, Schimmel was an All-America Second Team pick and an All-American Athletic Conference First Team honoree as a senior. Simmons was voted by AP as the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Year as a senior (AP), one year after being named Co-Player of the Year by the conference’s coaches along with A’dia Mathies. She finished her Tennessee career as the fifth Lady Vol in history with 2,000+ points, joining such luminaries as Chamique Holdsclaw, Candace Parker, and Tamika Catchings. Thomas, a four-time All-American, three-time ACC Player of the Year, and a candidate for multiple national Player of the Year awards, joined former Duke star Alana Beard as the only players to follow up ACC Rookie of the Year accolades with three straight ACC Player of the Year honors (2012-14). As a senior, Thomas led Division I with four triple-doubles, bringing her career total to seven.

Last year, the excitement generated by the "3 to See" -- Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins -- made the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm one of the most followed drafts in league history. Delle Donne, selected No. 2 overall by the Chicago Sky, went on to earn the WNBA Rookie of the Year award and was the first rookie in history to lead all vote-getters for the WNBA All-Star Game presented by Boost Mobile. Griner, taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the top pick, and Diggins, selected third by the Tulsa Shock, each earned a place on the All-Rookie Team.

This year’s telecast will also be available on computers, smartphones, tablets, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku via WatchESPN to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.

Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. is the home of the Connecticut Sun and has hosted the WNBA All-Star Game three times (2005, 2009, and 2013).

WNBA.com, in addition to providing comprehensive draft-day coverage, will serve as the web destination for fans who want to track the top seniors in advance of the draft.

The players invited to attend WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm are:

Natalie Achonwa Notre Dame Forward 6’3"

Stefanie Dolson Connecticut Center 6’5"

Markeisha Gatling North Carolina State Center 6’5"

Chelsea Gray Duke Guard 5’11"

Bria Hartley Connecticut Guard 5’8"

Natasha Howard Florida State Forward 6’3"

Kayla McBride Notre Dame Guard 5’11"

Chiney Ogwumike Stanford Forward 6’4"

Shoni Schimmel Louisville Guard 5’9"

Meighan Simmons Tennessee Guard 5’9"

Odyssey Sims Baylor Guard 5’8"

Alyssa Thomas Maryland Forward 6’2"

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Draft Preview: Lynx

Draft Preview: Lynx

The Minnesota Lynx are not going away anytime soon. In fact, the 2013 WNBA Champs are looking to build up their roster even more with this year’s group of draft hopefuls.

This year Minnesota finds itself with the last pick in every round - as well as the third pick in the second round (from Tulsa) - which shouldn’t leave them feeling anxious as they boast one of the strongest rosters in the league. Janel McCarville and Monica Wright just signed contracts to return and Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Agustus will all be back as well.

"(With) Monica, (we have a) luxury there, we have something no other team has," head coach Cheryl Reeve told LynxBasketball.com. "We have four players that we can put on the floor at any given time." But how do you navigate a draft with 4 late picks and still find someone to gel with a system that - in theory - already works?

"It's funny," Lynx Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson said, "but some people say ‘you guys don't need anything,’ but you always need something."

"I don’t know if there's as much of a strategy when you pick as late as we do," she continued. "You have to do your homework and hopefully you can get someone to kind of compliment the players you already have."

That said, Patterson adds: "We need to bump up our post play." As well as: "We need to strengthen the bench."

But with the 12th pick, who that next addition to the team will be is anyone’s guess.

"Depends on who’s left by then," said Patterson.

Whoever it is though, you can be sure that they’ll be a good fit for the Lynx whose team atmosphere Coach Patterson describes as a "family" that "trusts each other completely."

Which (don’t tell) is probably the biggest secret to the Minnesota Lynx’s success.

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Draft Preview: Mystics

Draft Preview: Mystics

Last year, the Washington Mystics fell one draft pick short of nabbing a member of the "Three to See" with the No. 4 pick in the Draft. The Mystics had just hired Mike Thibault as the new head coach and were ready for an improved season.

Then, Washington went on to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, but fell short of advancing to the Finals after losing to Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Coach Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, was later named the 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year. Now the Mystics hope the winning continues for the 2014 season.

"The first goal we put on our board is to get better every day," said Thibault. "Obviously we’d like to get back to the playoffs and go farther--but just being more consistent everyday than we were last year. I thought we kind of played in streaks last year--players getting used to me, me getting used to them--kind of believing in what we’re doing. We’ll have a better jumping off point to start training camp this year in that they know what to expect from me and vice versa."

So, with the sixth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Thibault hopes to fill some holes that can help the team get better every day--and with multiple needs, that player could be any position.

"Probably because of where we draft, I’m going to be in a situation where I take whoever I think is the best basketball player," Thibault stated. "Because we have needs throughout our team, it’s not necessarily going to be by position."

With the middle pick in the first round, the Mystics still have multiple players to choose from.

"I think there’s a consensus that there’s a group of eight right now that are a little bit above everybody else--not that somebody else couldn’t crack that group...I think it’s a draft that has some depth to it. Throughout the first round, people are going to get good players. You might not have the same household names this year (as last year), but you’re going to have players down at the ninth and tenth pick who could help teams right away."

With the playoff experience that last year’s core group gained and leaders in Ivory Latta, Crystal Langhorne, Kia Vaughn and newly acquired Kara Lawson, this year’s rookie class will have a good foundation to start the season in hopes of grabbing a Finals spot.

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Draft Preview: Sun

Draft Preview: Sun

In 2012, the Connecticut Sun came close to making it to the WNBA Finals but slipped up in the Eastern Conference Finals. The next season, the Sun hired a new head coach in Anne Donovan, and behind double-double machine Tina Charles, hoped to continue their winning ways. Unfortunately, some injuries derailed those plans and the team failed to make the playoffs. But with the luck of the draw, the Sun now have the first pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.

Last year, Tina Charles had another stellar season--ranking second in the league for double-doubles, second in rebounds, fifth in points per game and fourth overall in points, rebounds and assists together. But even with those numbers, the whole team couldn’t pull it together.

This season could change that. In her second year, Coach Donovan and her players have learned how to work together and the Sun even added former Connecticut Sun guard/forward Katie Douglas to the roster--bringing another strong leader to the team.

In addition to the added leadership, the Sun have the chance to scoop up the best player with the No. 1 pick in this year's Draft.

"To have the No. 1 pick is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often," said Donovan. "And based on the season we had last year, we feel like we deserved that pick and we know that we can really build around it and get some momentum. So, we are super excited about that."

The Sun would like to fill a couple of roles with this year’s picks--at the point guard position or in the post--and being at the top of the Draft, there is plenty to choose from.

"Players at the top of the draft: Odyssey Sims, Chiney Ogwumike, Alyssa Thomas, Kayla McBride [have caught our eye]. There’s some really good quality college players that I think will be great WNBA players."

Having taken the time during the past year to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the team, Coach Donovan is ready to fill the gaps and focus on the main goal: Winning championships.

"That’s what our mindset has always been," said Donovan. "And even last year with the injuries and a less than successful season, it’s never wavered. So as we move forward, that’s exactly what we’re trying to build--A championship team and a championship personality that will get that done."

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Video

All-Access: WNBA Draft 2014

A behind the scenes look as the WNBA’s newest draft class had their moment to shine at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

All-Access: WNBA Draft 2014

A behind the scenes look as the WNBA’s newest draft class had their moment to shine at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

The Tulsa War Room

Go inside the Tulsa war room as the Shock select Odyssey Sims with the second overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.

Katie Douglas on 1st Overall Pick

Katie Douglas talks about welcoming the first overall pick, Chiney Ogwumike to the Connecticut Sun.

2014 WNBA Draft Bus Q and A

Chelsea Gray leads an entertaining Q and A on the bus with fellow members of her draft class.