Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Double celebration

Last night, on the eve of National Girls and Women in Sport Day, the Minnesota Lynx held its first "Slam Bash," celebrating both this annual event and the upcoming 10th year of the team's existence.

The Lynx brought in such legends as Nancy Liberman, Anne Donovan and Cheryl Miller, along with WNBA President Donna Orender, former Lynx Katie Smith, now with Detroit, and Lindsay Harding, who starts her second year with Minnesota.

"There never has been a better time for girls in sports," gushed Orender.

Girls today "can follow your dream," notes Angela Taylor, who grew up in Iowa, played college ball at Stanford, coached for a time, then was among the founding front office personnel when the WNBA began over a dozen years ago. Taylor is now the Lynx's vice-president of business development, and the first female person of color in either the Lynx or the Minnesota Timberwolves front office. "I had no idea on what impact sports would have on my life," she points out.

It's been proven that athletics isn't just for males, adds Smith. "We bring that effort -- we put in as much work (as the men)."

"I'm living a dream come true," says Harding, the WNBA's top pick of 2007.

Liberman came along just as Title IX was born. "I'm fortunate to be a Title IX baby," she says.

Miller, who Liberman calls "the greatest player, bar none," admits by watching players like Liberman and Donovan as a youngster growing up in Calfornia, "gave me the idea that (basketball) transcended gender." Growing up in the middle of a family of brothers, she used sports as "survival," she adds.

University of Minnesota Head Women's Basketball Coach Pam Borton began her basketball playing on a fifth grade boys' team. "I wanted to be just like them," she says.

In a taped statement, Lynx owner Glen Taylor told the gala attendees one of his reasons for buying the Lynx: "It's important to my daughters and granddaughters to have role models," he says. Timberwolves Vice-President Chris Wright reminded the crowd that Taylor's still-standing commitment to the WNBA is as firm as ever. "Without him, this franchise would not be in this market. He is committed to gender equity," says Wright.

On a Super Tuesday night, these women took center stage this night.

Other WNBA news:

--the Lynx will soon announce that Jennifer Gillom will join the coaching staff this season, replacing Teresa Edwards.

--the Atlanta expansion draft will be held today at 3:00 pm CST: each WNBA team submited a protected list of six players to the league last week. The new Atlanta team can select at least one player from each club. Lynx President Roger Griffith says it would might have been better if each team could have protected seven players, instead of six, because this would have assured them of keeping most of its key players.

--on the new six-year CBA, Orender says it came together because all sides wanted what was best for the league.

--Harding is now cleared to play by team doctors, she says: She plans to try out for the USA team this spring.

--after today's expansion draft, Minnesota can better hone in its scouting efforts for the college draft, says Coach Don Zierdan.

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