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  •   Mystics Select Holdsclaw With No. 1 Pick

    By Athelia Knight
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, May 5, 1999; Page D1

     Chamique Holdsclaw
    Chamique Holdsclaw, left, and WNBA President Valerie Ackerman.(AP)
    NEW YORK, May 4—The Washington Mystics today chose University of Tennessee standout Chamique Holdsclaw with the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, which was dominated in subsequent selections by former American Basketball League players.

    Holdsclaw is one of 12 college seniors selected in the draft and the only college player to be taken in the first 17 picks. Thirty-five ABL players and three international players were chosen. Each of the 10 established teams was allowed to select up to three ABL players and the two expansion teams, Orlando and Minnesota, could choose five ABL players.

    In addition to Holdsclaw, the Mystics, who went 3-27 last season, selected Seattle Reign center Shalonda Enis with the 13th pick, Philadelphia Rage guard Andrea Nagy in the third round and center Jennifer Whittle, an Australian professional player, in the fourth round.

    "A player like Chamique does not come along very often," Mystics Coach Nancy Darsch said. "I think she is the complete package as a person and as a player. She's just limitless in what she is going to be capable of doing."

    Holdsclaw, from Astoria, N.Y., said: "Being drafted as a professional athlete is kind of like a dream come true." She said she is excited about playing for the Mystics, which is where her grandmother and her coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt, wanted her to play.

    "It's three hours away from home," Holdsclaw said. "A lot of people wanted me to play in New York. But, I'm glad I didn't because I don't know if I could handle the pressure, the friends and the fans."

    Holdsclaw, 21, said she expects the Mystics to improve. "They have a lot of talent. They have a great coach coming in. . . . Hopefully we can win more games this upcoming season."

    Holdsclaw is expected to earn more than $200,000 annually, which includes her salary and a personal services contract with the league. League officials declined to say how much the WNBA will pay Holdsclaw.

    Some say Holdsclaw could eventually earn as much as $1 million annually with shoe and other sponsor endorsements. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' union, Holdsclaw will be paid a salary of $50,000 as a rookie.

    Today's WNBA draft, the league's third, had the deepest pool of talent because of the ABL players. The league folded last December in the middle of its third season.

    "It's an incredible group of players," WNBA President Val Ackerman said of today's draft picks. "It's going to have the effect of making each and every one of our teams better, more competitive, potentially playoff teams."

    The expansion teams were enhanced by the addition of veteran players. Minnesota Lynx Coach Brian Agler, who coached the two-time ABL champion Columbus Quest, selected four of his former players: guard Tonya Edwards, 7th pick; forward Andrea Lloyd, 31st pick; guard Sonja Tate, 43rd pick; and forward Angie Potthoff, 49th pick. Earlier this week, the league assigned another former Quest player, Katie Smith, to Minnesota.

    "They are not expansion teams any more," Ackerman said. "These are groups of players who have played together a couple of years. They have offenses that they know how to run. They are not starting from scratch."

    Ackerman said the selection of Holdsclaw "speaks volumes" about her. Holdsclaw was recognized as the most outstanding amateur athlete in the nation, becoming only the third basketball player in history to win the Sullivan award. She led Tennessee to three NCAA titles in four seasons.

    "She is the player of the present and the player of the future for our league," Ackerman said. "She is going to give an instant lift to Washington. . . . She brings a big boost to the league as well."

    "We proved last year off the court that we were the most successful team in the WNBA," said Wizards owner Abe Pollin. "This year we're going to prove on the court that we're going to be the most successful team in the WNBA. . . . This year we're going to hopefully lead the league in wins."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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