NEW YORK, April 20 — Van Chancellor calls her one of the five best players in the world. And this morning, Lauren Jackson became the first pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft. The Seattle Storm selected the 6-5 Australian to lead off a first round filled with college stars and talented international players.
“It hasn’t hit home yet,” Jackson said. “I’m still really nervous, actually, for some reason. I don’t know why. But I’m really excited about playing and being in Seattle. I’ve never lived in America before, so I think the next few months are going to be a real big test for me, but hopefully I’ll be able to rise to the change.”The 19-year old starred for Australia in the 2000 Olympics, averaging 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. A versatile, all-around player, Jackson can play all three frontcourt positions, and was the most coveted player in the draft.
With the second pick, the Charlotte Sting selected guard Kelly Miller, one of three Georgia players chosen in the first round, including guard/forward Deanna Nolan, who was chosen by Detroit with the sixth pick, and Miller’s twin sister Coco, another guard, who went ninth to the Washington Mystics.
“I’m just extremely excited about going to the Charlotte Sting,” Miller said. “I love playing with Coco, so I think the best would have been playing together, but obviously that probably wasn’t going to happen, so, I’m looking forward to it anyway.”
Rounding out the top five were Tennessee forward Tamika Catchings, who went third to Indiana, Southwest Missouri State guard Jackie Stiles — the NCAA’s career scoring leader — who was chosen fourth by Portland, and NCAA champion Notre Dame’s star center, Ruth Riley, who went fifth to Miami. Catchings, who is recovering from a torn ACL injury in her knee, was one of two injured players to be drafted in the first round. Uconn forward Svetlana Abrosimova, who will undergo foot surgery, was drafted seventh by Minnesota.
“[I’ll be back] hopefully by the start of the season, but I’m not trying to rush it, so we’re looking at maybe the beginning of the season, maybe a month into it.””My knee feels really well,” said Catchings, the daughter of former NBA player Harvey Catchings. “I’m going to rehab every day and hopefully get back within the next couple of months so I can join my team. I feel great, though. If it were up to me, I probably would be playing right around now.
Abrosimova indicated that she will undergo surgery next week, and hopefully be set to play by the middle of June. The Russian was one of four international players chosen in the first round, including Jackson and fellow Australians Penny Taylor, a forward who was chosen 11th by Cleveland and guard Kristen Veal, picked 13th by Phoenix.
Other first round picks included guard Marie Ferdinand (eighth, Utah); guard/forward Katie Douglas (10th, Orlando), who was reunited with her former coach at Purdue, Carolyn Peck; guard/forward LaQuanda Barksdale (12th, Portland); center Kelly Schumacher (14th, Indiana); forward Amanda Lassiter (15th, Houston) and center Camille Cooper (16th, Los Angeles).