Dude, Looks Like a Lady...Vol

The WNBA Rookie of the Year award should head to Los Angeles

By Jeff Lippman

CSTV.com



Jeff Lippman

Jeff is CSTV.com's lead women's basketball writer.
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The WNBA regular season is completed and as the playoffs get set to begin, another class of rookies have put the finishing touches on their first years as professionals.

 

While the year saw no rookies impact their rosters on a Most Valuable Player-type level, there were several who played very important roles in the growth and development of their young teams.

 

The WNBA's top teams, like Detroit and Phoenix, did not utilize a great deal of rookie talent, but the younger ones - like lowly 10-24 Minnesota - needed all the rookie talent they could get.

 

With that said, the four players with the best track record and the highest chance of lifting the WNBA's Rookie of the Year award all come from teams with records below .500.


 

 

 

Those players are: Minnesota's Lindsey Harding, Los Angeles' Marta Fernandez and Sidney Spencer and Chicago's Armintie Price.

 

The Candidates:

 

Marta Fernandez, G, Los Angeles Sparks

 

Fernandez averaged 26.2 minutes per game for a team that finished the season at 10-24. She started 20 games for the Sparks and averaged 8.7 points per game.

 

In perhaps her best game of the season, June 27 against Sacramento, Fernandez scorched the Monarchs for 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting.

 

An un-drafted signee, this 5-foot-11 European-style guard from Spain is also dishing the pelota at a rate of three dimes per game.

 

When the Sparks lost not one, but two superstars this season - Chamique Holdsclaw retired and Lisa Leslie took maternity leave - Fernandez was one of the younger players who really stepped it up for Hollywood's girl power.

 

Lindsey Harding, G, Minnesota Lynx

 

The reigning NCAA Defensive Player of the Year followed her stellar senior season at Duke by having one of the best years of any rookie in the WNBA.

 

Chosen No. 1 overall by the Phoenix Mercury and later dealt to the Lynx, Harding took her complete offensive and defensive game to the land of Kirby Puckett and giant indoor shopping malls.

 

The former Blue Devil averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and a steal per game for the Lynx and would have been a lock for the ROY until a July 10 game against Washington and a torn anterior cruciate ligament ended her rookie season prematurely.

 

Harding averaged over 30 minutes per game as a rookie starter for the lowly Lynx who have a young rookie-filled roster. They are clearly in a rebuilding mode, but with Harding at the point, that rebuilding should be finished in the not-too-distant future.

 

Armintie Price, G, Chicago Sky

 

Price burst into the national spotlight last season as the driving unstoppable force behind Mississippi's run past the likes of Maryland and Oklahoma on their way to the Elite Eight.

 

The 5-foot-9 soft-spoken athlete scored, rebounded, passed and defended her Rebels further than anyone predicted and in the process cemented her place as one of the best, most complete players in the nation.

 

And when Chicago drafted Price with the No. 3 overall pick in last year's WNBA draft, a complete player is just what they got.

 

Price started all 34 games for the Sky this season and in the process averaged a very solid near eight points, six boards, three assists, 1.2 steals and 33 percent from long range.

 

The Myrtle, Miss., native needs to perfect her game at the highest level against the best competition, but there is no question that Price is well on her way to becoming an annual All-Star in the WNBA.

 

Sidney Spencer, G, Los Angeles Sparks

 

The most unexpected player on this list might have also had the best season.

 

Sidney Spencer is the proud owner of a national championship ring which she won last season playing for the Tennessee Lady Vols. On that team, Spencer was a nice compliment to Candace Parker and even Nicky Anosike and Alexis Hornbuckle. In the WNBA, for the lowly Los Angeles Sparks, Spencer became a go-to player.

 

Doing whatever her team asks of her, Spencer needed to be more of a point producer this season for a team that lost its top two scorers. Her 9.6 points per game was good enough to finish second on the Sparks and her four boards per contest was good enough for third.

 

Spencer teamed with Fernandez and led the Sparks to a record of 10-24, impressive if you realize that the Sparks lost their best two players right as the season was getting started.

 

Spencer's role with Tennessee was play defense, distribute and hit the big three. In the best of world's that would have been her role with Los Angeles, dishing to Leslie and Holdsclaw and waiting for the kick back three. But as L.A.'s stars weren't around this season, Spencer's role changed, and her game changed with it, and she very swimmingly became the scorer and team leader--a spark, if you will--that held a team in turmoil together.

 

And The Winner Is...

 

Keep in mind this is my opinion and my opinion counts for precisely zero divided by infinity (that equals nothing for all you math whiz's like myself).

 

But I think it is clear that while Harding had the best numbers and Price may end up being the most complete player out of the bunch, the WNBA's 2007 Rookie of the Year Award should go to Sidney Spencer.

 

Spencer deserves all the accolades she will receive and more as you can bet it wasn't easy to go from winning a national championship in April and then immediately turning around to play for a team that couldn't compete on a nightly basis.

 

She went from a championship piece of the puzzle to the go-to player on a terrible team and did it with dignity and success beyond what was envisioned from the second to last pick of the second round. In fact, six players chosen ahead of Spencer are no longer on a WNBA roster. And more than that, only Price, Harding and Fernandez logged more minutes per game for rookies this season.

 

For no other reason than every team in the league is kicking itself for not taking Spencer earlier, does the former Lady Vol deserve to be crowned the Rookie of the Year. She had a wonderfully unexpected season for a woefully bad team.

 

 

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