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Starbird Signing to Give ABL Another Victory

Women's basketball: Rivalry between leagues is heating up as WNBA loses out on Stanford standout.

April 22, 1997|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The American Basketball League, caught in a bidding war with the Women's National Basketball Assn., will announce in Seattle today its second major signing in a week--Naismith Award winner Kate Starbird of Stanford.

ABL sources confirmed Monday that the 6-foot-2 Starbird has agreed to a three-year deal and will play for the Seattle Reign next season. Starbird's hometown is Tacoma, Wash.

Last week, the ABL signed Katrina McClain, the No. 2 scorer on the 1996 Olympic team.

ABL sources also said the league is "in good shape" on possibly signing two more All-American seniors, 6-2 DeLisha Milton of Florida and 6-7 Kara Wolters of Connecticut.

The war for Wolters' signature is perhaps the hottest.

In the ABL, she would play for New England, a team that averaged more than 5,000 paid last season but one that says it would average 8,000-10,000 with Wolters, who is from Holliston, Mass.

Said one agent, "The WNBA has drawn a line in the sand over Wolters--they'll sign her no matter what it takes."

USC's 6-2 All-American, Tina Thompson, is still wavering between the leagues, although one source late Monday night described Thompson as close to signing with the ABL.

The ABL has promised her a spot on its new Long Beach franchise, whereas the WNBA would put her on the Lakers' team, the Sparks, with former USC teammate Lisa Leslie.

Several agents agreed last week that both Starbird and Thompson will make more than $100,000 next season, no matter which league signed them.

Long Beach's first marquee player may be Tennessee's Michelle Marciniak, most valuable player of the 1996 Final Four. She has asked to be reassigned, from Portland to Long Beach.

She began last season in the ABL as Portland's point guard but was benched when Lin Dunn became the coach at midseason.

There have also been discussions on moving former Long Beach State star Cindy Brown from the ABL's Seattle franchise to Long Beach.

Former USC guard Nicky McCrimmon has also signed with the ABL and is expected to be assigned to Long Beach.

Starbird is a major catch for the ABL. She's a two-time Kodak All-American, the Women's Basketball Coaches' Assn. player of the year and twice Pac-10 player of the year.

McClain, leading rebounder on the 1996 U.S. women's "Dream Team," also signed a three-year ABL deal last week with the Atlanta Glory.

The WNBA did pick up a teammate of Starbird's on Monday, Stanford guard Jamila Wideman.

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