Facebook Twitter

Starzz chemistry has positive spin

SHARE Starzz chemistry has positive spin

As the Utah Starzz ended practice Monday prior to their first exhibition game - tonight at 8 MDT vs. the Mercury in Phoenix's America West Arena - they seemed a united bunch.

They were 16 players about to board a plane knowing that, within the next 10 days, six of them won't have jobs with the team that was the WNBA's 1997 doormat (7-21).Yet wordzz from veterans and newcomers were "chemistry" and "confidence."

"I see a lot of good chemistry here, a lot of nice personalities," says guard Trise Jackson, who came to the Starzz with a "never give up" motto after being waived by the Los Angeles Sparks. "We're still learning, but we're having fun and we're competing.

"A lot of other places, players look out for themselves instead of team goals," says Jackson, who was a member of the White team in Monday's practice.

The Purples (veterans Dena Head, Tammi Reiss, Chantel Tremitiere, Fran Harris, Kim Williams, Wendy Palmer and draftees Malgorzata Dydek and Olympia Scott) were the top squad (draftee LaTonya Johnson missed Monday's practice for a doctor visit). Palmer, Dydek, Harris, Reiss and Head are tonight's starters, says coach Denise Taylor.

But Jackson (on the Whites with returnee Greta Koss and newcomers Kari Gallup, Tracy Connor, Samantha Tomlinson, Teresa Hinz and Tricia Bader) was upbeat. "It's very competitive. The attitudes are wonderful here," she says.

Six WNBA teams had weekend exhibition games, L.A. beating Sacramento's Monarchs twice, the Charlotte Sting downing the Detroit Shock and Washington's Mystics dropping the New York Liberty. Also tonight, Cleveland is at defending-champion Houston. The Starzz and Mercury meet again Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Delta Center for their final tuneup. The season starts June 11, and teams must pare rosters to 11 players before then.

Taylor may make cuts after tonight's game or may wait until next week.

Players seemed oblivious to that.

"Much more confident in our team's abilities. Just a lot happier, attitude-wise," says Reiss. "We've got a very nice mix here: good people, very confident people, intense. We've got a winning attitude. It felt great going into last year's (exhibition opener), too, but just the mix of people wasn't the right chemistry, where this year is a better overall attitude," says Reiss.

"I'm excited about the enthusiasm and the amount of talent that's on this team," says Head, the Starzz first-ever draft pick in 1997, who says she has a new self-confidence. "When you have your level of confidence, it helps your game. If you're confident about yourself and have the confidence of your teammates, you will play a lot better," she says.

"There is a load of talent at every position, and I believe that it's definitely going to bring an exciting style of play," Head adds.

There are still huge questions, and nobody's predicting anything.

Taylor hopes tonight will clear up some things, though the Mercury will be without players like top draft choice 6-8 Maria Stepanova, playing in the FIBA Women's World Championships with her Russian teammate, Elena Baranova of the Starzz. Phoenix could also be without German draftee Marlies Askamp and veteran Michele Timms (Australia).

Taylor doesn't care what Phoenix has. Her focus is on Utah. "We want to look at everybody, showcase their skills," she says, calling tonight "a good measuring stick."

It should shed some light on how much impact the 7-2 Dydek, who has played with her Polish national team as well as professionally in France and Spain, will have. Dydek is highly skilled but hasn't encountered rough WNBA con-tact.

"I'm not sure," Taylor says of Dydek's ability to take lumps, though "Mega" simply stepped away from a bump and made a 10-foot jumper Monday. "They're going to beat her up a little," Taylor says, "really challenge her."