Coach Nolan Richardson is hoping lightning will strike in season 2.
TULSA, OK– Tulsa, it’s just about time to get plugged in.
Season two of the Tulsa Shock is about to tip off and the team made a few significant changes over the long off season that may push the WNBA’s newest team over the top for 2011.
Coach Nolan Richardson nabbed what could be the steal of the 2011 WNBA draft when he took 6’8” Australian center Elizabeth Cambage with the second pick in the first round, making her the first first round pick in the organization’s history in its new city.
“I was like whooooo, finally I know where I am going and it’s all set in stone,” said Cambage immediately after being selected.
Cambage has been in New York for about a week now getting acquainted with the WNBA and the city and her experience has been exceptional.
“Yesterday it was really fun we were here at ESPN and we had WNBA Get Fit , it was so much fun," Cambage said. "But two days before that was really boring because we did lectures.”
Cambage has been getting acclimated to both the league and the city but is excited about her next step – coming to Tulsa. “Meeting all the fans and the coaches," said Cambage about what she is most excited about in Tulsa. "And I can’t wait to see what it’s really like in Oklahoma.”
In Australia, Cambage averaged 22.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game on 59 percent shooting from the field, leading the Bulleen Boomers to a championship in the Women’s National Basketball League in 2010-11 while also being named the league’s Most-Valuable-Player.
The first thing one notices about Cambage is her domineering size. At 6-foot-8, she has the potential to dominate WNBA paints immediately and for years to come.
Her potential appears limitless and if the brilliance she displayed against Team USA and throughout the FIBA Tournament last summer are any indication – her future appears extremely bright. Against the top competition in the world at the FIBA Tournament, Cambage averaged 13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.0 block while shooting 70 pecent from the fields, sparking women’s basketball royalty stateside to gush over her potential in the WNBA.
What makes Cambage extremely special is her outward drive and desire to get better. She has stated clearly that her goal is to play and excel in the 2012 Olympics for Australia and the desire to get better in preparation for the tournament is one of the main reasons for enterting the WNBA Draft this year.
For the Shock, Cambage can potentially fit right in at the center spot, filling a much-needed inside scoring and rebounding void for the team. Her ability to dominate the paint on both ends of the court is a much needed asset and could potentially result in instant improvement for the Shock in 2011.
Trade with LA brings a Cowgirl home.
In February a trade with the Los Angeles Sparks brought Oklahoma State standout Andrea Riley back to the Sooner…well…Cowgirl State.
The Shock acquired the Oklahoma State standout from Los Angeles for a 2012 second round pick. Riley was close to joining the Shock last year as she expected to be taken by Head Coach Nolan Richardson with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft but a Shock trade with the Connecticut Sun the day before the draft altered those plans and Riley fell to eighth overall to the Sparks.
Riley was happy to return to where she made a name for herself in women’s college basketball. “Well, first of all I really want to thank God,” Riley said. “I was thinking about this all last year. Things turned in a different direction and I went to LA and had a good experience but now I’m excited to be in front of the fans who watched me play for four years.”
Riley appeared in 29 games off the bench for the Sparks last year averaging 3.4 points and 1.0 assists per game in 7.7 minutes. In her two games in Tulsa last year, Riley averaged 11 points on 64 percent shooting from the field and 63 percent from three in 14.5 minutes a game.
As a senior at Oklahoma State, Riley was the second-leading scorer in the nation at 26.7 points a game and led the Big 12 Conference in assists at 6.5 a game en route to becoming the recipient of the Nancy Lieberman Award which recognizes the top point guard in women’s Division I basketball.
Now in her second year in the WNBA and playing in front of her hometown fans, as the potential point guard of the team, Riley hopes to earn a rotation spot on the roster and hopefully assert herself as one of the team’s leaders.
A WNBA legend signs in Tulsa.
Sheryl Swoopes is a Shock.
Swoopes brings a resume befitting a basketball legend to Tulsa. She was the very first player signed to a WNBA contract back in 1996. She has three Olympic Gold Medals and four WNBA Chmapionship rings. Five times she was named as the WNBA Most Valuable Player three times, the first player in WNBA history to earn that distinction.
The Brownfield, Texas native played college ball for Texas Tech, winning the womens final four for the Lady Raiders in 1993. The woman known as the female Michael Jordan spent the last three years in Europe, and is excited to join the Shock in their sophomore year in Tulsa.
“I’m excited and thrilled for the opportunity to come back and be a part of the WNBA again with the Shock,” Swoopes said. “With all of my experience and knowledge and everything that I’ve done over the years, hopefully I’ll be able to bring that to Tulsa and help the team win.”
The Shock will begin the 2011 WNBA season on the road in Seattle against the Storm on May 29th, they will travel to San Antonio and Minnesota before the home opener in the BOK Center on June 10th against San Antonio. Tickets for all Tulsa Shock home games are on sale now at the BOK Center box office or online at wnba.com/shock.
Photo by Kevin Pyle.