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Duke and ACC WNBA Players - 2010
By Rob Clough
October 5, 2010

Rob Clough Looks at the Season Past

This season was perhaps the most successful one ever for former Duke players, even with Alana Beard being forced to sit out due to injury. A record seven former Duke players saw action this year (eight if you include Brooke Smith, who was at Duke for a single year before transferring) and several of them also made the playoffs. Let's take a quick look at each player's season, and then see how the rest of the ACC's alumnae did:

Mistie Bass, Chicago Sky. Mistie (now back to her maiden name after she and her first husband divorced) had her best season as a pro. She had career highs in starts (20), minutes (18.9 per game), points (166, good for 4.9 per game) and rebounds (3.9 per game). She scored in double figures four times, including back-to-back games to close out the season. Mistie has done well to find a new home after her old team, Houston, folded. Playing next to powerhouse center Sylvia Fowles, Mistie established herself as a garbagewoman who can hit a short jumper. In today's competitive WNBA, she's found a home as a hard-working role player who can chew up minutes and who doesn't mind contact.

Alison Bales, Atlanta Dream. After a year out of the league, Ali landed a roster spot on the team that wound up as the WNBA's runners-up. She averaged 3.8 ppg and 3.9 rpg in 15.6 minutes of play per game. Atlanta was one of the biggest teams in the league and Ali served mostly as a reserve, though she did start three games when the Dream had some injuries. Her minutes (and corresponding stats) fluctuated wildly throughout the season. She played more in routs and less in tighter games or against bad matchups. Her best game of the year was a 9-point, 10-rebounds, 6 assist, 3 block performance in a tight win against Connecticut. After getting cut by Phoenix in 2009, Ali proved to be a valuable member of Atlanta's rotation. Sharing back-up post minutes with yelena Leuchanka, Ali was used wisely by Dream coach Marynell Meadors: a high-post screen-setter, passer, shooter and facilitator. She nailed 42% of her threes this season, a fact that made opponents respect her range and that helped keep the lane open for Angel McCoughtry's drives. I expect her to return next season for a team that did well in improvising its lineup (they had to waive a typically disgruntled Chamique Holdsclaw before the season), especially because she's still a defensive force and a great team player.

Alana Beard, Washington Mystics. Alana was sidelined all season after undergoing ankle surgery in April. Happily, the Mystics were able to bounce back thanks to huge seasons by former teammates Currie & Harding, along with free agent-signee Katie Smith. Alana is expected back at full force next season.

Chante Black, Tulsa Shock. Chante played quite well for a truly awful team. Starting in 23 games, she averaged 5.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 1.6 bpg. She played with great efficiency and intensity, improving her shooting percentage to 54% after shooting just 38% as a rookie. Traded from Connecticut to Tulsa after one season, her speed and conditioning made her a good fit for Nolan Richardson's running style. She burst out of the gates with a 10-point, 17 rebound, 6-block game in a rare win against Minnesota. She followed that up with 12 and 12 against Phoenix. Chante did not score in double digits the rest of the year. Her playing time and touches diminished as Tulsa's season went south (and gunner Ivory Latta joined the team). Another problem was that she rarely got to the foul line: she averaged just 1.5 attempts a game and was a dire 34% from the line once she got there. Still, she ranked in the WNBA's top ten in blocks and offensive rebounds and was #11 in rebounding overall. She proved that her quickness and agility make her the sort of handy glue player who can help good teams win games. Hopefully Tulsa will improve in year two of the franchise.

Joy Cheek, Indiana Fever. Joy was a late-season pickup for the injury plagued Fever, and she managed to get into 7 games. It wasn't too surprising for her number to be called by Indiana, given that she was drafted by them and was a late training camp cut. In five minutes per game, she scored 2 ppg. Her best effort was a 7-point outburst against LA in her second career game.

Monique Currie, Washington Mystics. This was easily Monique's best season as a WNBA pro, one where she averaged 14.1 ppg and 4.8 rpg. She made the All-Star team as an alternate, playing against Team USA. She roared out of the gates by dropping 21 on rival Indiana and 27 on Minnesota, leading the Mystics to a 3-0 start. She scored 20 or more points on nine different occasions, including 25 in an impressive win over eventual league champ Seattle. Mo was also held to single digits ten times, and that had less to do with her shooting than with her consistent foul trouble. She fouled out twice and picked up 5 fouls in 7 other games. This was unfortunate, given her tremendous efficiency as a player. She shot an impressive 45% from the three point line and 88% from the foul line. As always, she lived at the foul line, getting there 171 times. In a year when the Mystics needed her to step up and pick up Alana Beard's scoring slack, she responded magnificently. Hopefully, she'll be able to keep that up next season when Beard returns.

Lindsey Harding, Washington Mystics. Lindsey continued her evolution into one of the best point guards in the WNBA with another solid season, averaging 12.1 ppg, 3 rpg and 4 apg. Lindsey's shooting was up and down throughout the year. There were a few 0-7, 2-10, 2-11, and 3-13 shooting nights this season, along with 10-15, 7-11, and 9-12. She scored 20 or more points on 4 occasions, including a career-high 33 points against rival Indiana. Lindsey brought the Mystics back from an 11-point deficit, scoring the final 13 points for her team in a game that snapped a 3-game losing streak at a crucial juncture of the season. She proved to be a steady playmaker who applied a lot of defensive pressure on opponents. Lindsey hit clutch free throws and was usually at her best when the game was on the line. Lindsey was also considered for Team USA's World Championship team but didn't make the final cut to 12. Harding played in the All-Star game as an alternate against Team USA, a testament to how much of a leader she's become in such a short time. There's no question that Harding has been a key element in Washington going from a joke as a franchise to finishing first place in the East. Their early exit from the playoffs was disappointing, but there's no reason why this group can't continue to get better--especially with Beard coming back.

Brooke Smith, Phoenix Mercury. Brooke may have transferred to Stanford, but she did play at Duke for a season. She was a deep reserve for Phoenix, playing in 16 of their games. She put up 2.5 ppg and 1.8 rpg, scoring 10 points in a game against future league champion Seattle.

As for the rest of the ACC, let's look at the UNC pros first. Camille Little (Seattle Storm) has been a consistently solid role player as Lauren Jackson's sidekick, scoring 10 ppg and grabbing 5 rpg. Ivory Latta (Tulsa Shock) started the season without a contract, but wound up averaging double-figures for the hapless Shock, starting in 16 of her 18 games. Of course, Tulsa went just 3-15 in those games, but Latta did average a career-high 12.4 ppg and 3.9 apg, with a 37% shooting percentage. Disgraced former Olympian Marion Jones was a fellow Shock teammate, playing just 9 minutes a game as she was more of a conversation piece than a real part of the rotation. That said, she hadn't played organized basketball in nearly 13 years, and averaged 10 ppg in the last three games of the season. Considering that she's 35 years old, she did reasonably well, but it's obvious that she's not the player she was in college. Rashanda McCants was traded from Minnesota to Tulsa, where she averaged about 6 points and 2 rpg. She scored in double figures in five of her first six games, but was soon relegated to the bench when injured starters returned.

The Maryland contingent from their 2006 national title team has been playing quite well. Marissa Coleman (Washington Mystics) became a solid backup in her second season, averaging 6.5 ppg. She scored 18 points in Washington's second playoff loss. Washington's Crystal Langhorne became an all-star and second team all-WNBA in her third year, averaging 16 ppg and 10 rpg as the Mystics' go-to force inside. Her improved defense, ballhandling and range made up for her lack of size and power. Laura Harper tore an ACL before the season and wasn't able to play. Kristi Toliver (LA Sparks) averaged 8.6 ppg, but her shooting went from 44% to 34% in terms of threes, and she continues to have a negative assist/turnover ratio. She was fairly inconsistent over the course of the season.

Looking at the rest of the ACC, NC State's Chasity Melvin (Washington Mystics) continues to play in the twilight of her career, averaging 5 ppg and 5rpg mostly as a backup for size-starved Washington. This was the 13th WNBA season for the 34-year-old center. FSU's Jacinta Monroe rounds out Team ACC, aka the Washington Mystics. The rookie center battled an injury for much of the season, but came back to play in 17 games and average 2 ppg in 7 minutes a game. More will be expected of her next season. Fellow Seminole Roneeka Hodges started 19 games for San Antonio, averaging 8 ppg & 3 rpg. She had some big scoring outbursts, including 24 against the Sparks and 17 in a playoff loss to Phoenix. Kerri Gardin, formerly of Virginia Tech, continues in her role as a defensive-minded role player, averaging 1 ppg and 8 mpg for the Connecticut Sun. The Virginia Cavaliers were represented by sterling rookie Monica Wright (Minnesota Lynx) and DeMya Walker (Connecticut Sun). Now in her 11th season, Walker mostly came off the bench to average 4 ppg and 2 rpg. Wright went through some highs and lows this season as she struggled in the month of June but picked it up starting in late July. She averaged 11 ppg and 3 rpg for the year, with a season-high 32 vs Phoenix. It was a solid season for the ACC's 2010 player of the year.

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