LaToya Bond never really wanted to be in the spotlight.
So when the Sting took the 5-7 point guard from Missouri with the 27th pick overall in the second round of the 2006 WNBA Draft after taking Monique Currie and Tye�sha Fluker with the third and 10th picks, respectively, that was just fine with her.
�I don�t really like a lot of attention anyway,� Bond admitted after practice on Wednesday, �so that took a little bit of the pressure off.�
Three games into Charlotte�s 10th anniversary season, the light is beginning to shine a little bit brighter on Bond as Head Coach Muggsy Bogues, her teammates and Sting fans everywhere are realizing she might have been a steal in the second round.
In 23.7 minutes off the bench, Bond is averaging 10.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.67 steals while shooting 47.6 percent from the field, including 40.0 percent from three-point range.
She is one of only four players -- along with Currie, Candice Dupree (Chicago) and Erin Phillips (Connecticut) -- to rank in the Top 10 for rookies in points, rebounds, assists and steals. She is also the only first-year player to rank in the Top 10 in six rookie categories -- points, rebounds, assists, steals, field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
�She has a professional game,� Bogues said. �This game really suits her style of play. She�s great in the open court and good on the screen-and-rolls. I�m trying to get her to focus more on making her teammates better and seeing the floor more. We�re trying to get her to change her speed defensively as well, rather than playing one speed the whole time. But there is no question she�s proving to be one heck of a player out there.�
And if they haven�t taken notice yet, it won�t be long until opposing teams have to start game planning how to stop Charlotte�s high-octane point guard.
�Her ballhandling skills, first and foremost, are outstanding,� eight-year veteran and teammate Allison Feaster said. �She also has the ability to read the defense, penetrate, get to the basket and to score it. I think that once she switches from first gear to second gear and then on to third or fourth � I think she�s unstoppable one-on-one. That�s a great advantage for our team. Once teams start collapsing on her, it�s going to be open shots for other players.�
Bond admits she is surprised at the amount of playing time she�s seen early in the season but has enjoyed making the most of it each time she steps on the court.
�I didn�t come in here thinking that I was going to play right off the bat, but things have worked out for me so far,� she said. �I knew I had to come in here, work hard and show I was ready for this challenge.�
It didn�t take Bond long to make her initial impression on Bogues and the rest of the Sting coaching staff. She scored 10 points with three assists and two steals in her first preseason game on May 3 in Houston and finished the exhibition season averaging 10.0 points, 2.0 assists and 1.33 steals in three games.
�Her play in the preseason decided she would get minutes once the regular season started,� Bogues said. �When she got out there in the preseason, she was able to perform. With the ability and the capability she has, I just want to polish it and let her understand she can be a pretty good player in this league.�
It�s a concept Bond hasn�t had much difficulty grasping since her first day with the Sting.
�I was never really intimidated by playing at this level,� she said. �The first couple of games there was some nervousness, but I just had to get out there and relax. I know that I can play basketball with these girls. I�m confident that I belong here.�
That doesn�t mean there won�t be growing pains that almost every rookie experiences, and Bogues is willing to let Bond learn on the fly.
�We�re just trying to minimize some of the little mistakes she�s making, but she�s only a rookie, and the only way to get those mistakes out is by playing through them,� he said. �I�m going to allow her to do that. I just want her to play basketball and do what she does best.
�She can score the ball. I want her looking for her offense, but at the same time keep looking for her teammates. When she�s able to put the two together, she�s going to be something to watch.�
The Sting are also looking for the soft-spoken Bond to become more of a vocal presence on the court. As a point guard, she needs to be able to take charge of any situation that presents itself and direct the offense.
�She has that fire deep, deep, deep, deep down inside,� Feaster laughed. �Once we can get her to play with a little more emotion and be more of a leader at the point, watch out. She�s just a rookie, and that stuff will come with time, but it�s just a matter of time before she explodes.�