Rookies Shine on Opening Night
So much for first-game jitters. Taking a cue from last year�s Rookie of the Year and MVP Candace Parker � who had the best debut in the history of the league with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists � four of this year�s rookies turned in outstanding performances on opening day.
And while none of them matched Parker�s brilliant performance, each of these four players were key contributors throughout the game and in crunch time as their respective teams each opened the 2009 campaign with a victory.
In a tightly contested game between San Antonio and Phoenix - the last two Western Conference champions � No. 5 pick DeWanna Bonner was on the floor late in the fourth quarter and looked nothing like a player playing in her first game as a pro. Mercury coach Corey Gaines trusted Bonner with the game on the line and she delivered with a double-double � 16 points and a team-high 11 rebounds � in 25 minutes off of the bench as the Mercury defeated the Silver Stars, 90-79.
�I�ve been saying this all preseason, DB [DeWanna Bonner] she�s going to be phenomenal,� said Mercury teammate Cappie Pondexter. �I�m going to challenge her to win rookie of the year because she has that potential in this class.�
Bonner wasn�t the only rookie to impress on opening day of the 2009 season. No. 1 pick Angel McCoughtry played 26 minutes in her WNBA debut, including critical minutes in the fourth quarter and two overtime periods, as the Dream edged out the Fever, 87-86. McCoughtry finished her WNBA debut with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
In Connecticut, the Washington Mystics spoiled the Sun�s home opener behind a team-high 16 points from No. 2 pick Marissa Coleman. The rookie out of Maryland caught fire from long range, connecting on all four of her 3-point attempts. She also added five rebounds during her 26 minutes off of the bench.
�She�s awesome. She is a special player, she does it all,� said Mystics head coach Julie Plank after the game. �She is a competitor and we count on her three-ball and she is not afraid to take shots.�
Also putting in an impressive performance off the bench was No. 4 pick Renee Montgomery for the Minnesota Lynx. After watching the Chicago Sky jump out to an early nine-point lead, Montgomery entered her first WNBA game and was part of an offensive explosion for the Lynx that gave them a comfortable lead as they cruised to a 17-point win.
After falling behind 15-4 just five minutes into the game, the Lynx caught fire and outscored the Sky 17 to 6 to close the quarter tied at 21. The Lynx kept things rolling in the second quarter, winning the period 35-24 to head into the locker room with a double-digit lead. Montgomery scored eight of her nine points in the decisive run, capped off by a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
So what will these four players do for an encore? We�ll have to wait and see. But like they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and these four players do not need a second chance.