Guru's WNBA Report: Season Opens With Familiar Faces In Brand New Places
And so as season No. 16 gets its WNBA curtain raised Friday night, here is a look at the change in wallpaper in terms of personnel since the end of 2011.
First, overall, in terms of the draft, 10 of 12 first-round picks made it to opening nght, though the Connecticut Sun's Astan Dabo from Mali is remaining with her national team.
LaSondra Barrett, the former LSU star, was cut from Washington, and it is unclear, per coping with the WNBA.com site what Minnesota did with its foreign player but those were the two not on team rosters.
Only three players made it from the second round: Tiffany Hayes, the former UConn star and 14th overall pick, will play with the Eastern playoff champion Atlanta Dream while Riquana Williams, the former Miami star and 17th overall pick, will play with the Tulsa Shock, the only team, not surprisingly, to retain all its rookie picks from the three rounds.
Chay Shegog of North Cariolina, the 21st overall pick, made it to Connecticut to complete the second round group.
As for the third round, just former Rutgers star April Sykes, the 28th overall pick, will open Friday night with the Los Angeles Sparks in Seattle with the Storm, while Lynetta Kizer, the former Maryland star and 29th overall pick, will open with Tulsa.
However, several rookies will be making debuts as free agent signees. One is Sonja Petrovic, a native of Serbia, who is with the Chicago Sky, but had been previously drafted by the San Antonio Silver Stars but had never played in an official in-season WNBA game.
Liberty graduate Avery Warley is a free-agent rookie with Phoenix joining first-round pick Samanta Prahalis, the former Ohio State star.
Zioma Morison, a native of Chile and graduate of Abilene Christian is a free agent rookie with San Antonio, while Alysha Clark, a former Middle Tennessee star, is opening as a free agent rookie with Seattle joining first-round pick Shekinna Stricklen, the former Tennessee star.
Also, Aneika Henry, a former Florida star, is a free-agent WNBA newcomer, joining Hayes on the Atlanta Dteam.
That makes five to go with 14 of 36 draft day picks who made rosters.
The league has gotten much younger, though the Guru's cut-off on double-digit experience was at 13 seasons, though some more have reached 10-12 seasons of WNBA performance.
Seattle free-agent Tina Thompson, the original overall top draft pick in 1997 with the former Houston Comets, is the only one still around from the inaugural season, though she mised parts of seasons due to pregnancy and injury.
Katie Smith, also on Seattle, has 13 seasons of WNBA experience, though she was a pro when the league launched, playing in the former American Basketball League. The same holds true for Minnesota's Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who has played with a slew of teams in the WNBA after the ABL folded.
Tangela Smith on San Antonio has 14 seasons of WNBA performance, while Tully Bevelaqua on the Silver Stars has 13. Ticha Penicheiro on Chicago has 14 seasons in the WNBA, while DeLisha Milton-Jones on Los Angeles has 13 and also had a season in the ABL.
Dominque Canty on Washington is at 13 seasons while DeMaya Walker on New York is at 12.
New York has just one rookie, former Tennessee player Kelly Cain, who went seventh overall though she keft the Lady Vols prior to her final season and played overseas.
Washington pick Natalie Novosel, the former Notre Dame star with the two-time NCAA runnersup, is the only rookie on the Mystics who have a host of changes. Her Irish teammate Deveraux Peters, another first-rounder, is the only rookie on the loaded defending WNBA Minnesota roster.
Sykes joins overall No. 1 pick and former Stanford star Nneka Oguwmike as the two rookies on Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, factoring draft picks, free agents and trades, here is a team-by-team look at newcomers on the 12 WBBA franchises.
Atlanta: Five fresh faces: Rookies Tiffany Hayes and Aneika Henry, are joined by free-agents Laurie Kuehn, Cathrine Kraayeveld, and Ketia Swanier.
Chicago: Five newcomers: Rookie Sonja Petrovic, veterans Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham (trade with Seattle), and free agents Ticha Penicheiro and Ruth Riley, the former Notre Dame star in 2001.
Connecticut: Two newcomers: second-round oick Chay Shegog and free-agent signee Misty Mims, the former Duke star.
Indiana: Three newcomers: Draft pick Shasha Godlett from Georgia Tech is joined by free agent Erlana Larkins and Roneeka Hodges, courtesy of a trade with San Antonio.
Los Angeles: Five newcomers: Rookies Nneka Oguwmike and April Sykes are joined by Nicky Anosike and Marisa Coleman via swaps with Washington and Sharnee Zoll.
And taking a quick timeout, the Guru has a WNBA preview on philly,com done for the Inquirer sports section, which has a heavy dose of localize to Philadelphia. He did forget, in case the paper can;t add the slight, that Zoll, the former Virginia star who broke Dawn Staley's collegiate assist record with the Cavaliers, was born in Philadelphia, lived quite a bit across the river with her military folks at McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey and went to Marlboro High for three seasons before transferring to Blackwood Regional as a senior.
Minnesota: Two newcomers: Rookie Deveraux Peters and free agent Erin Thorn, who played last with Chicago.
New York: Three newcomers: Rookie Kelly Cain is joined by free-agents Kelly Miller, the former Georgia star whose sister Coco was cut by Atlanta; and DeMaya Walker.
Phoenix: Five newcomers: Rookies Samantha Prahalis and Avery Warley are joined by Alex Hornbuckle, the former Tennessee star who was dealt from
Minnesota; and free-agents Charde Houston and Zane Tamane.
San Antonio: Four newcomers: Rookies Shenise Johnson, the former Miami star; and Ziomara Morison are joined by free agent Sameka Christon and
Tangela Smith, who was traded from Indiana.
Seattle: Five newcomers: Rookies Shekinna Stricklen and Alysha Clark along with free agent signees Ann Wauters and Tina Thompson besides Victoria Dunlap, the second-year pro out of Kentucky who was dealt from Washington.
Tulsa: Five newcomers: Rookies Gory Johnson, Lynetta Kizer and Riquana Williams along with free agents Jene Morris and Scholanda Dorrell.
Washington: Seven newcomers: Rookie Natalie Novosel is joined by free agents Dominique Canty, Michelle Snow and Noelle Quinn, while Natasha Lacy came in a trade with Los Angeles and Ashley Robinson was taken in a deal with Seattle, and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton was claimed on waivers. Latoya Pringle is on the suspended list while attending a family matter.
Though the highlight of the regular season will be outside the WNBA involving WNBA players when the Olympics are played, the league has now gotten to the point in which almost any game is worth anticipating, though slightly less so involving Minnesota if the Lynx run roughshod again, though many outcomes were close; and involving Tulsa unless the Shock really look to build substantially on the three-loss effort of a year ago.
This weekend Friday night's singleton with Los Angeles at Seattle is worthy.
Connecticut and New York have a back-to-back with the host Liberty making a brief return to Madison Square Garden Saturday after being kicked out of the Prudential Center across the river in Newark, N.J., because of the NHL playoffs, thus playing in the arena they are in the middle of being kicked out of for three summers while the Garden undergoes renovations.
It's only the first weekend but if either gets a sweep it already will have a long-range baring on the Eastern race. Connecticut hosts Sunday afternoon in its opener and then the two won't see each other again until they play their first two games, which are right after the Olympics, against each other.
Elsewhere on Saturday: Chicago visits Washington with each team wanting to show they are playoff-worthy; while Indiana and Atlanta meet for the first time since the the visiting Dream topped the Fever to win the Eastern final for the second straight season. San Antonio at Tulsa completes the Saturday action and the host Shock can make a quick opening statement against the visiting Texans.
On Sunday, besides the Connecticut game, Minnesota hosts Phoenix, which is the first meeting since the Lynx eliminated the Mercury in the Western playoffs.
That's it for now. The Guru will be on the scene at the Connecticut-New York home-and-home but will be tracking all games. The ongoing coaching carousel action at the collegiate level will continue -- nothing new -- and he does want to weigh in on the retirement announcement of longtime Tennessee women's basketball media relations operative Debbie Jennings.
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