The WNBA’s 19th season opens today, and there are five University of Tennessee graduates on rosters around the league as the 2015 campaign tips off.
UT’s total leads the Southeastern Conference, which has 18 former stars appearing on opening-day rosters.
The Lady Vol contingent includes Vicki Baugh (2nd season, Tulsa Shock), Tamika Catchings (15th season, Indiana Fever),Kara Lawson (13th season, Washington Mystics) and Shekinna Stricklen (4th season, Connecticut Sun). Two-time WNBA All-Star Glory Johnson (4th season, Tulsa Shock) is listed on her team’s roster, but she announced Thursday that she is expecting a child and will miss the 2015 season.
Three-time WNBA All-Star and two-time league MVP Candace Parker is absent from the Sparks’ roster, but it is expected she will rejoin the team later this season. Parker plays during the winter in Russia and is attempting to get her body healthy before resuming play with L.A.
Cierra Burdick (Los Angeles) and Meighan Simmons (Seattle) were among the casualties in the final cuts made by their respective teams and could wind up with other clubs before the season is over. Burdick was a second-round pick by the Sparks in the 2015 draft, while Simmons was a 2014 third-round selection by New York and was signed by Seattle in the preseason.
Isabelle Harrison, taken in the first round by Phoenix, and Ariel Massengale, chosen in the third round by Atlanta, are sitting out the 2015 WNBA campaign after having surgery. Both players should begin the 2016 preseason with those organizations.
For the third straight year, Catchings was designated the toughest player in the WNBA (33.3 percent) in a vote by league general managers. She also was tied with Lindsay Whalen as the players who are best at making their teammates better (33.3 percent each).
WNBA Tip-Off 2015 presented by Boost Mobile will feature 24 games from June 5 through Sunday, June 14, culminating with the launch of ESPN2’s season-long coverage of the WNBA. ESPN2 will debut its schedule of games June 14 with a doubleheader showcasing the league champions from the past three seasons and a multitude of MVPs and All-Stars.
The first telecast features Catchings, the 2011 MVP presented by Samsung, and the Indiana Fever hosting All-Star Elena Delle Donne and the defending Eastern Conference champion Chicago Sky at 1 p.m. ET.