April 30, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - As the opening of the 2014 WNBA preseason schedule draws near, Tennessee once again has a strong presence with alums playing for eight of the league's 12 franchises.
With the first exhibition contest scheduled for Friday, 12 former Lady Vols currently hold down roster spots around the WNBA. Three teams have more than one UT player suiting up.
Meighan Simmons became the 38th Lady Vol to enter the league, going to the New York Liberty with the 26th overall pick in the third round of this year's WNBA Draft on April 14. She isn't alone in the Big Apple, joining UT products Kamiko Williams (2.6 ppg., 2.1 rpg.), a 2013 draft pick by the club, and Nicky Anosike, a free agent in her sixth year who has averaged 8.9 ppg. and 6.6 rpg. for her career.
Tulsa and Washington both have a pair of Tennessee products. Glory Johnson (15.0 ppg., 8.9 rpg. in 2013) is back for her third year with the Shock after earning WNBA All-Star acclaim last season, while Vicki Baugh is trying to make the team after missing the last two years due to injury after being drafted in the third round by the Shock in 2012.
In Washington, there are 25 seasons of WNBA experience between two Lady Vols. Michelle Snow (5.1 ppg., 4.8 rpg. in 2013) returns for year two with the Mystics and her 13th season overall, while Kara Lawson came to D.C. from Connecticut via a trade during the offseason and begins her 12th year in the league. Lawson averaged 13.8 ppg., 4.2 apg. and 3.7 rpg. last year.
Tennessee has one player each in Los Angeles and Indianapolis, but those two are WNBA icons Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings. Parker, last season's WNBA MVP and the WNBA All-Star Game MVP, averaged 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Sparks in her sixth pro campaign and has enjoyed good health and great productivity the past two seasons after being limited by injuries in the three previous three.
Catchings, an eight-time WNBA All-Star and the league's MVP in 2011, is embarking on her 13th season in the league. She averaged 17.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a year ago, and the five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year was an integral part of the Indiana Fever winning a WNBA Championship in 2012.
Shekinna Stricklen is coming off a scoring average of 10.0 ppg. in 2013 with the Seattle Storm, marking the first double-figure production of her two-year professional career. Alexis Hornbuckle, meanwhile, is back for her third season in Phoenix and seventh year overall in the league after averaging 3.0 ppg. in 30 games for the Mercury last year.
Kelley Cain, a first round pick by the Liberty is 2012, is vying to get back in the league after sitting out the 2013 campaign. She is in camp with the Connecticut Sun and hoping to continue a Tennessee presence in Uncasville after Lawson's departure for D.C.
Johnson and Baugh's Tulsa squad hosts San Antonio in the first exhibition game of 2014 on Friday. Other games follow and continue until the preseason slate concludes on May 13.
On May 9, Catchings and Hornbuckle will be involved as their Fever and Mercury take part in the first-ever WNBA Preseason Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla. Indiana will battle Chicago at 6 p.m., while Minnesota and Phoenix meet at 8:30 p.m. at HP Field House.
The title game will be held on May 11 at 1 p.m. ET, preceded by a consolation contest at 10:30 a.m.
The WNBA regular season tips off on May 16