When the WNBA first started, it gave young women the opportunity to play professional basketball, but, most importantly, the audacity of hope to follow their hoop dreams. In 2000, the city of Seattle was overwhelmed with excitement for the inaugural season, bringing hardwood legends to the Pacific Northwest.
I remember opening night at KeyArena. The defending WNBA champion Houston Comets pounded the Seattle Storm by 30 points. For my 16th birthday, my parents gave me a Sheryl Swoopes jersey that I wore proudly to the game. Standing 6 feet tall, dressed in a vibrant red jersey with the number 22, I was mesmerized by her silky smooth jumper, tenacious defense, and amazing athleticism. That night, I learned a lot about basketball and teamwork. From then on, I tried to mimic my game after players I watched that summer.
Even though I was never fortunate enough to put on a WNBA jersey or wear a pair of the infamous league socks, I still continued to study the game from these players. The 2010 WNBA Finals will get underway later this week in my hometown, Seattle. Here are some things that can be learned from some of the top players who played for this year's final four:
Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty) -- Pull-up Jumper
Pondexter kills the competition with the lost art of a pull-up jumper. Her ability to explode past a defender and pull up at the drop of a dime to rise above the defense is rare. Because you're not always going to get to the rim, a pull-up jumper is necessary to avoid redundant charges or blocked shots.
Lauren Jackson (Seattle Storm) -- Versatility
She runs the floor like a guard and bangs inside like a post. Watching L.J. go to work inside and out is the future of women's basketball. She's one of the few players who can post up one play and, the next possession, shoot the 3. Adding versatility to your game raises your stock for college and separates you from the competition.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) -- Scorer
Taurasi is an all-around baller. She has a mean-lean walk and backs every step of it with her game. From deep NBA threes to graceful fadeaway jumpers, she has the all-around package of an all-star. Don't mistake her confidence for cockiness. Taurasi's unmatched swagger is the most lethal part of her game. Believing in yourself is the first step to teammates trusting you to make plays.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) -- Baller
Most people didn't know how good McCoughtry was until she carried Louisville to the NCAA national championship game. Her petite and slender frame is only a cover to the massive strength she carries inside. McCoughtry works extremely hard and gets the job done. She might bring an attitude to the court but every team needs a solider to dive head first into battle.
You don't always have to spend time in the gym working out to improve your game. Watching some professional athletes should motivate you to get to the next level. Keep dreaming about big lights, screaming fans and championship rings. Who knows, you might end up playing with or against some of the same players you're watching now in the league.
This column is dedicated to my former teammate turned angel Shawntinice "Polkey" Polk who passed away five years ago this month. You are truly missed but never forgotten. #00
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Joy Hollingsworth is a first-year assistant women's basketball coach at Seattle University. A native of Seattle, Wash., she was a standout guard at Seattle Preparatory High School, earned WCC Freshman of the Year and honorable mention freshman All-American at the University of San Francisco and was a two-year starter and honorable mention All-Pac-10 at Arizona. Hollingsworth played professionally in Greece and earned an M.Ed. from the University of Washington. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.