Rookie Kelsey Plum leads San Antonio over Dallas in preseason outing
— WNBA (@WNBA) April 29, 2017
While you can characterize preseason WNBA games as basically glorified scrimmages, especially when they occur within the same week as the onset of training camps, the matchups do provide coaching staffs with valuable information. Coaches get to test rotations, rookies can get some valuable floor time and eliminate jitters plus veterans coming back from injuries can get back into their groove. In addition, fans have a chance to see their favorite players again after the long offseason.
In the first preseason matchup of 2017, San Antonio had the opportunity to showcase their first round draft pick, the all-time leading scorer in women’s college basketball, Kelsey Plum. The former Washington star did not disappoint as she led all scorers with 19 points plus 5 assists in nearly 30 minutes in the 87-81 win over Dallas.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Plum of her first pro game. “It was fast. I just got back into the locker room and thought, that went by really fast. I think it was good, and I am going to go back and watch the film. I felt okay in terms of my shoot. I usually make a couple more than I did tonight, but overall I was so grateful to have my teammates, they are so encouraging. We shared the ball really well, and like I said, the best part is the win.”
Rookie forward Nia Coffey (Northwestern) also had an impressive inaugural pro outing with 17 points plus 5 rebounds in 19 minutes for the Stars.
“I wasn’t nervous,” said Coffey about entering the game off the bench. “With six days of training camp, I felt very confident with what I was doing in practice. I prepared for this game, and was ready to follow what the coaches had for our game plan, and to listen to my teammates. As long as I did all that, I knew I would be fine.”
San Antonio third-year forward Dearica Hamby was in fine form after giving birth in the offseason. She finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Hamby missed the last few weeks of the 2016 season due to pregnancy. Other Stars in double figures included rookie center from Syracuse Briana Day and veteran guard Sequoia Holmes. They scored 10 points each.
After the game, the Stars announced that the team waived guard Courtney Williams. The roster now stands at 21.
The game marked the debut of Vickie Johnson as San Antonio’s head coach. Her take on the game:
“It was good overall,” said Johnson. “The team only had six days in in training camp. I think overall we played well as a team. I was a little nervous, but once we started I was okay. I think my team played very hard for me on both ends, both defensively and offensively. We had some breakdowns which is very normal because we only had six days of training camp. Overall I thought it was very important for us to come out and play hard every possession, attack them [Wings] in transition and play defense. I thought our defensive rotation was good, they shot 36 percent from the two. The first half they shot the three very well but they wound up shooting I think 30 percent from the three-point line. So overall I’m very pleased.”
As a new head coach, she had some wise words for the Stars newcomers.
“For me as a new coach I don’t take anything for granted. That’s what I just told my players. You guys are here for a reason, you know if you get two minutes, three minutes, you take advantage of it because you never know when you take stuff for granted. God takes it away from you so don’t take it for granted. Preseason, I don’t care, it’s a game and our goal was going out to win and we did that.”
For the Dallas Wings, two of the team’s first round draft picks (and products of NCAA national champion South Carolina), led the team. Guard Allisha Gray finished with 15 points while her college pal and fellow guard Kaela Davis added 13 points and 6 rebounds. Forward Kayla Thornton contributed 11 points and 6 rebounds.
Several veterans were not available or did not play in the preseason contest. Players that did not see action for Dallas included: Courtney Paris, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jordan Hooper (ankle injury), Glory Johnson and Aerial Powers. The Stars did not have Kayla Alexander, Sydney Colson, Erika de Souza, Clarissa Dos Santos, Isabelle Harrison, Moriah Jefferson, Kayla McBride or Haley Peters in action.
Teams have until May 12 to finalize their rosters and trim to 12 players before the regular season begins on May 13.
- San Antonio’s 87 points are the most scored by the Stars in a preseason game.
- Attendance: 2,834
- Points in the Paint: Wings 24 (12/26), Stars 26 (13/25)
- 2nd Chance Points: Wings 12 (3/9), Stars 5 (2/7)
- Fast Break Points: Wings 16 (5/8), Stars 17 (6/12)
- Biggest Lead: Wings 2, Stars 13
- Lead Changes: 6
- Times Tied: 7
- Officials: Jeff Wooten, Jeff Smith, Maj Forsberg
Remaining Preseason Schedule
Stars Head Coach Vickie Johnson:
(On the Stars offense in the game…)
“I thought overall we did well offensively. I think we get our timing down a little bit better this week going into Los Angeles. I think you’ll see an even more effective offense.”
Stars Guard Kelsey Plum:
(On the excitement going into the game…)
“Yeah I was super excited to just get out there and finally put the uniform on. I actually took a minute when I saw my name on the back of the jersey. It’s just a moment you have been waiting on for a long time. So, getting through training camp, playing our first game, getting our feet wet was nice, and of course the icing on the cake with the dub (win).”
(On having no turnovers in the game…)
“I just try to take care of the ball. I am a point guard right now, and when Moriah comes back I might be moved to the two, I don’t really know, but that’s my job; taking care of the ball and get my teammates involved, so I tried to do that as best as I could. Coming into the game, that was an emphasis for me personally, taking care of the ball.”
Stars Forward Nia Coffey:
(On the game in general…)
“It was an amazing experience. The veterans and everyone on the team were very inviting and gave me a lot of positive words that made me feel really well. It was really fun out there.”
(On confidence on taking shots as a rookie…)
“I have been playing basketball for a long time, so it is a game to me. As long as I stick to my roots and the coaching, and what they are telling me to do, I feel confident.”
Stars Forward Monique Currie:
(On the new editions to the Stars team…)
“Starting from the top with Vickie Johnson as the head coach, she’s come in with a lot of intensity and I think that it’s translated to the rest of us. There’s a lot of new faces here and a lot of learning to do on the fly. The young ones have done a great job, Plum, Coffey, they both adapted really well with everyone else. So we’re looking forward to it. We’re glad we got a win we know it’s preseason but it helps with our momentum going into practice next week.”
(On Coach Johnson’s strategy to shoot the ball …)
“Coach Johnson was a player so she understands the game very well and she’s one for pushing the ball, if you’re open you shoot. As long as it’s a good shot, if not, she’ll get on you. Not feeling tight or pressure, just being able to play your game helps free up a lot of things for a lot of players.”
Wings Head Coach Fred Williams
(On thoughts of the first preseason game…)
“I thought it was a good test for both teams to play a lot of players in combinations. It was one of those games that could go either way. I felt our younger players were a little nervous but fought hard out there. I thought it was a good contest for both parties.”
(On how training camp is going…)
“Great. When you have seven rookies out there and you’re trying to implement them with the veterans; we have it. Takes a little bit longer than what you want to do but it’s good to have preseason games to get a good test, get a good gage, get things on film, and evaluate from there.”
(On what he thinks of the team after today…)
“They fight hard. They still play hard; we still have a lot of timing things to get down, especially in the post area. We’re still trying to find our way with a couple of players not here. I felt good all the way around. We still scored in the 80’s; we just have to take care of the ball when it comes to crunch time. I think the young players realized that as the game was coming towards the end.”
Wings Guard Erin Phillips
(On the game…)
“I thought it was a solid game; pretty typical first preseason game. There’s always going to be some mistakes; trial and error. I thought there were some really good things; a lot of positives to come out of there as well. We just keep moving forward and get better.”
(On advice to the rookies…)
“Just really encourage them. Obviously they’re here because of a great skill set and they bring something to the team that is going to make us better. They don’t have to do anything above and beyond what they’re capable of, they’re just going to keep growing as basketball players; they’re going to get better by just being in the league. It’s a faster league and definitely a big step for them; they’re doing really well so far.”
Wings Guard Allisha Gray
(On the game…)
“I played well. There are a lot of adjustments. The three-point line is definitely further back and the girls are way stronger and physical than they were in college. You just have to push through. Some of the fouls you get in college you don’t get in the WNBA.”
“It’s going well. Finally feeling healthy, in shape. Still have a lot of adjustment to do and still learning the ropes. But pretty good so far.”
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