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May 15, 2010 at 9:38 AM

WNBA tip-off by the numbers

WNBABall.jpgThe WNBA is set to tip-off its 14th season Saturday with Los Angeles and defending champion Phoenix headlining the day’s action with a game on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. Both teams have new looks with legendary center Lisa Leslie gone from the LA lineup and emerging legend Cappie Pondexter out of Phoenix, traded to New York in March 2010.
The dramatic player shifts this season made perusing final rosters submitted Friday entertaining. Of course, the much ballyhooed Marion Jones made the cut in Tulsa. At 34, she’s the oldest rookie in the league. You can checkout her debut on WNBA’s Live Access.
And as much as people have opinions about Jones’ spot among the WNBA’s coveted 132 players this season, former Oregon star Taylor Lilley, a three-point specialist, and, Ashley Robinson, a defensive specialist, also made the cut. So, coaches really sought what would help overall.
“There are WNBA players in this league that have to play a role and that’s my role, to keep the team together and not care what other people think about my game,” said Robinson, a six-year veteran. “I think this (Seattle) is a championship-caliber team and I want to be a part of it.”
Facing a second season with the 11-player limit, final decisions were tough and the names littering the waiver wire are wild. Like Ashley Walker, Shannon Bobbitt and the Paris twins. But it’s not the full story.
Taking an assist from Terry Miller, former Rivals.com writer (1999-2002), here’s an analytical look at how teams chose to begin the season — strictly by the numbers. I hope you enjoy his work:
How many free-agent rookies made opening day rosters?
Five: Lilley (Phoenix), Abby Bishop (Seattle), Jana Vesela (Seattle), Natasha Lacy (Tulsa) and Marion Jones (Tulsa).

How many 2010 draft picks made opening day rosters?
Sixteen out of 36 total.
Nine of 12 first rounders: No. 7 Danielle McCray, No. 9 Chanel Mokango and No. 12 Bianca Thomas were cut.
Four of 12 second rounders: No. 13 Kalana Greene (New York), No. 15 Allison Hightower (Connecticut), No. 16 Ashley Houts (Washington), and No. 19 Amanda Thompson made final rosters.
Three of 12 third rounders: No. 26 Gabriela Marginean (Minnesota), No. 28 Abi Olajuwon (Chicago) and No. 33 Brittainey Raven (Atlanta) made final rosters.
How many total newcomers does that make?
Twenty-one.
How many of former Sacramento Monarchs are still around?
Six: Kara Lawson (Connecticut), Hamchetou Maiga-Ba (Minnesota), Ticha Penicheiro (Los Angeles), Nicole Powell (New York), DeMya Walker (Connecticut), and Scholanda Robinson (Tulsa).
How many players/coaches have TRUE Washington connections?
NOTE: That nixes Lin Dunn (Indiana), Gary Kloppenburg (Indiana), Anne Donovan (New York), Sandy Brondello (San Antonio) and players who just “passed through”. High school and/or college experience only, please.
Four: Cathrine Kraayeveld (Lake Washington High/Chicago), Leilani Mitchell (Kennewick High/New York), Briann January (Lewis & Clark High/Indiana), Mike Thibault (asst men’s coach at St. Martin’s/Lacey, WA/Connecticut).
Where are the 132 players from?
Twenty-two are from foreign countries (Australia 7, Brazil 2, France 2, St. Vincent 2, Mali 1, Canada 1, Romania 1, Czech Republic 1, Latvia 1, Liberia 1, Spain 1, Russia 1, Portugal 1) while 120 have college affiliations. (Six players have crossover status)
How does NCAA connection breakdown by conference?
27 SEC
21 Big East
19 ACC
13 Big 12
12 Pac-10
9 Big 10
6 Mountain West
5 Colonial Athletic
2 Conference USA
2 Sun Belt
1 Atlantic 10
1 Big South
1 WAC
One player is from a D-II school: Taj McWilliams-Franklin (New York), St. Edward’s (Texas)
OK, but who has real bragging rights for comprising the league’s top talent?
11 from Connecticut
10 from Tennessee
6 apiece from Rutgers, Duke, and LSU
4 apiece from Stanford and Georgia
3 apiece from Maryland, USC and North Carolina
NOTE: These 10 schools have produced 56 players, or 47 percent, of the college players in the WNBA. Fifteen other schools have two players apiece.
Whew! Well, that’s the numerical breakdown. We’ll see how it shapes up on the court.

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