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UCLA's Willis Will Get to Stay in Town

The senior guard who averaged 17.8 points this season is chosen by WNBA's Sparks, who had the fifth pick. Louisiana State's Augustus goes first, to Lynx.

April 06, 2006|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — Lisa Willis is leaving Westwood for Staples Center.

The UCLA guard was selected by the Sparks with the fifth pick of the WNBA draft Wednesday.

"It doesn't really get any better than this," Willis said at the league's draft headquarters at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. "This is more than what I've dreamed of. I'm just happy and hope everything plays out well, which is my dream."

Willis averaged 14.2 points in her college career and 17.8 points as a senior this season when she was most valuable player in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament and the Bruins won their first NCAA tournament game in seven years. Willis scored 23 in the Bruins' first-round victory against Bowling Green.

"From watching the Sparks, I think I can spread out the floor a little bit, bring my shooting and that will definitely open things up for Lisa Leslie. And play defense," Willis said.

"That's what I like doing, shooting and playing defense."

As expected, the Minnesota Lynx selected Seimone Augustus of Louisiana State with the first pick. Augustus scored in double figures in 132 of the 140 games she played for the Tigers, leading them to the Final Four three times in four years. This last season, she led the nation with an average of 23 points a game.

Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers was taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the second pick, followed by Duke's Monique Currie, who went to the Charlotte Sting, and Baylor's Sophia Young, who was chosen by the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Spark General Manager Penny Toler said she was happy to get Willis when she did.

"I had the luxury of watching Lisa develop over four years," Toler said. "I love the little mean streak she has. That is that edge you need to make it at the next level. She has a great midrange game, she plays defense, and she can shoot from the parking lot. She is a pure shooter.

"With Chamique Holdsclaw, Lisa Leslie and others, people are going to pack it in on us, so we wanted a pure shooter. Lisa can also handle the ball and create her shot. But her first thought is 'shoot' when she touches it, and then put it on the floor."

The Sparks took Willnett Crockett of Connecticut and Tiffany Porter-Talbert of Western Kentucky with their second- and third-round picks. Both have local connections. Crockett played at Harbor City Narbonne and Porter-Talbert played at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa.

UCLA's Nikki Blue was taken in the second round by Washington with the 19th overall pick.

"I'm not disappointed at all because not too many people get this opportunity," said Blue, a four-time All-Pac-10 selection. "It will be motivation. I'm going to try and take it to all the teams that overlooked me.... I still have confidence, my swagger and I'm ready to go."

UCLA Coach Kathy Olivier predicted Willis and Blue would do well in the WNBA.

"Lisa is staying in L.A. and she's excited by that," Olivier said. "She just got better and better every year. And Nikki going to Washington, I think that will be a good place for her."

There were two draft-day deals.

Houston traded the rights of second-round pick Ann Strother of Connecticut to Phoenix in exchange for the rights of second rounders Liz Shimek of Michigan State and Mistie Williams of Duke.

Detroit traded the draft rights of second-round pick Ambrosia Anderson of Brigham Young to Minnesota in exchange for veteran forward Jacqueline Batteast and the Lynx's third-round pick in the 2007 draft.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The first round

*--* Team Player Pos. College 1. Minnesota Seimone Augustus G LSU 2. Phoenix Cappie Pondexter G Rutgers 3. Charlotte Monique Currie G-F Duke 4. San Antonio Sophia Young F Baylor 5. Sparks Lisa Willis G UCLA 6. Chicago Candice Dupree F Temple 7. Minnesota Shona Thorburn G Utah 8. Washington Tamara James G Miami 9. Indiana La'Tangela Atkinson F N. Carolina 10. Charlotte Tye'sha Fluker C Tennessee 11. Seattle Barbara Turner G Connecticut 12. New York Sherill Baker G Georgia 13. Sacramento Kim Smith F Utah 14. Sacramento Scholanda Hoston G LSU

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