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Coaches pick Utah’s Williams as WNBA All-Star reserve

SHARE Coaches pick Utah’s Williams as WNBA All-Star reserve

Utah's Natalie Williams, who leads WNBA rebounding at 11.6 a game and double-doubles with 10, and who is fifth in scoring at 17.7, was selected by a vote of the league's coaches to play in next week's WNBA All-Star Game at Phoenix. Williams will be a reserve for the West team.

Starters for the All-Star Game were determined by fan voting and announced last week. Williams and the rest of the East and West teams were chosen by coaches' vote, which was announced by the league Wednesday morning.

Williams, a power forward who will play for the U.S. Olympic team in September in Sydney, said she is not hurt by not making the starting team, which is determined by fans. Players from big-city teams have a better chance of receiving that honor. Ask Sacramento. Monarch center Yolanda Griffith is the defending WNBA MVP but wasn't voted in by fans. She was selected along with Williams by coaches as a reserve.

"The All-Star Game is all about the fans," said Williams, who was the leading scorer in the inaugural WNBA All-Star Game last year with 14 points. "It's more important that you get nominated by the coaches because they're the ones that really count and that get to see you play every day and know what you can do. It means more to me that the coaches voted me in.

"Don't get me wrong," she added. "It would be nice to be a starter, but all of the coaches know my game and ultimately determine the players who have earned All-Star status."

Although the game will be played in Phoenix's America West Arena on Monday, the Phoenix Mercury did not have a single player named to the All-Star roster.

Another oversight to Starzz-gazers is that forward Adrienne Goodson was not selected. She's scoring 16.5 points a game, tied for 10th in the WNBA, and usually guards the opponents' best players. "She's got the numbers," coach Fred Williams said, but, "There's a lot of depth (in the league) at that spot."

Former Starzz forward Wendy Palmer, traded to Detroit last season, was named to the East reserve team. She is 10th in league rebounding at 6.8 and 19th in scoring at 13.6.

Three teams — New York, Los Angeles and Houston — each have three berths on the All-Star rosters. Sacramento, Orlando, Washington and Minnesota have two each. None of the league's four expansion teams got a roster spot.

Reserves announced Wednesday include, for the West, Sacramento's Griffith, Los Angeles forwards Mwadi Mabika and DeLisha Milton and Minnesota guards Katie Smith and Betty Lennox, the only All-Star rookie. For the East, the coaches selected Palmer, Orlando guards Shannon Johnson and Nykesha Sales, Cleveland guard Merlakia Jones, New York center Tari Phillips and Charlotte guard Andrea Stinson.

Starters announced last week are, for the West, the Houston trio of guard Cynthia Cooper and forwards Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, plus Los Angeles center Lisa Leslie and Sacramento guard Ticha Penicheiro. For the East, it's Washington forward Chamique Holdsclaw and guard Nikki McCray, New York guard Teresa Weatherspoon and forward Sue Wicks and Orlando center Taj MacWilliams. Coaches are New York's Richie Adubato for the East and Houston's Van Chancellor for the West.

The game can be seen on ESPN at 6 p.m. MDT Monday.

E-MAIL: lham@desnews.com