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WNBA Scores Big by Landing Staley

September 01, 1998|EARL GUSTKEY

HOUSTON — What's next for Dawn Staley?

Condo shopping in Marina del Rey? Santa Monica? Why not Beverly Hills?

Hold on, Dawn. Not yet.

The WNBA announced Monday it had signed Staley--an ABL all-star with the Philadelphia Rage and a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic team in 1996--to a three-year contract, but made it clear she'd have to take her chances in next spring's player draft.

Gulp. You know what that could mean--the 3-27 Washington Mystics.

So Staley becomes the third ABL player to jump leagues, leaving the Rage for . . . whomever.

Staley would like to wind up on the Los Angeles Sparks and rejoin Olympic teammate Lisa Leslie. And the Sparks are very interested. But their draft position--fourth--might not be high enough.

WNBA President Val Ackerman said Monday the method of dispersal of Staley, plus Kristin Folkl and Nykesha Sales, won't be determined until the WNBA Operating Committee meets in October.

Folkl, from Stanford, and Connecticut's Sales were held out of last spring's draft because they suffered injuries late in their senior seasons that also kept them out of this WNBA season.

The operating committee--comprised of eight NBA owners--will decide, Ackerman said, if those three go into the regular college draft or a pre-draft lottery for non-playoff teams.

The committee also could recommend that Folkl and Sales be assigned to expansion teams at Orlando and Minneapolis and that Staley be placed in the draft, Ackerman said.

Staley, 28, said the shorter WNBA season (30 games to the ABL's 44) was a factor in her decision to jump leagues.

"I don't claim to have 16-year-old knees," she said.

"I think I can play longer in the WNBA. Playing three- and four-month seasons [in the ABL] were not helpful to me. And part of it is I definitely want to play in the 2000 Olympics."

Staley said she made her decision based on "what was the best personal choice for me and my family and for my foundation, at this stage of my career."

She operates The Dawn Staley Foundation in Philadelphia, her home town, raising and distributing funds to Philadelphia youth sports groups.

The league didn't release contract terms other than length, but a source called it "comparable" to Staley's ABL deal. Top ABL players make $150,000. It's believed Staley also received an NBA personal services contract.

Staley said recent indications of ABL economic woes (staff pay cuts, the folding of the Long Beach franchise) had no bearing on her decision.

In fact, the ABL's vital signs may be dropping, but you can't find any flat-lining in the area of player loyalty.

She's only the third ABL jumper, following the flights of Cindy Brown (Long Beach to Detroit) and Nikki McCray (Columbus to Washington).

ABL chief Gary Cavalli said one player does not a league make.

"Dawn is a fine player and we wish her the best," he said. "The ABL is much bigger than any one player. When we tip off our third season in November, the majority of the world's best players will still be in the ABL. Of the 31 players we wanted to re-sign this year, we lost only two--Dawn and Shelley Sandie [San Jose], who returned to Australia."

He added the league would soon announce a major re-signing. It was presumed that meant the ABL's last unsigned premier player, New England point guard Jennifer Rizzotti.


Remember this about Houston tonight, win or lose: The Comets went 27-3 with their third-string center.

"If it wasn't for Monica Lamb, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you now," Chancellor said Monday.

Lamb, who played her collegiate senior season at USC in 1987, was the 40th and last pick in the WNBA draft April 29 by Houston.

Lamb, who is 6 feet 5, became the starter when Wanda Guyton was declared out for the season because of back trouble and the Comets' first-round pick, Polina Tzekova of Bulgaria, decided to skip the season to take care of her ailing mother.

Tzekova, 6-4, promised the Comets she'll join them next season.

Comet assistant coach Kevin Cook, for one, can't wait.

"We've looked at a lot of tape on her and she looks like a million-dollar player," he said.

"She's a big, strong, low-post power player with great, soft hands--she catches anything thrown near her. She's a banger, she plays like a female Shaq. She's mobile and she's a big time scorer."

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