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WNBA All-Star Game surrounded by opportunity

The 2015 WNBA All-Star Game will feature many players making their first appearance in the game. Not only is this a great opportunity for those players to showcase their talent, but this weekend is also a great opportunity for the league as a whole.

Photo by Chris Poss

Uncasville, CT -- The WNBA All-Star game has returned to Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Arena for the fourth time, and the thing that makes this year unique, is the amount of new faces that will appear in the All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon.

Ten players will be making their first appearance in a WNBA All-Star game, and not all are younger players getting their first chance to showcase their abilities.

The Tulsa Shock's Plenette Pierson was named a reserve on the Western Conference team for the first time since she entered the league in 2003.

"It's an amazing feeling to be here," Pierson said. "After 12 seasons in the league to get to come to the All-Star Game is just great for me. It's great to be a part of this elite group."

Three first-timers, in particular, will get the chance to play in Saturday's All-Star Game after being named replacements on the Western Conference team. San Antonio's Kayla McBride, Los Angeles' Jantel Lavender and Tulsa's Riquna Williams are replacing the Shock's Skylar Diggins as well as Minnesota's Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.

"It's a great honor," Williams said. "I'm not just here for me; I'm representing my whole town as well. It's a small town, so it means a lot to be here."

Some of the veteran players say they are happy to see all of the new faces at the All-Star festivities, and credit those players with taking advantage of the opportunities they've had.

"Everybody in this game deserves to be here, and I think it will be cool to have a lot of new people here," Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird said. "One thing about the WNBA that will always exist is it's about opportunity. This year has really presented a lot of opportunities for players who may not have had it otherwise."

Bird will be playing in her ninth All-Star game this weekend. Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, who will be appearing in her tenth All-Star game, says she has a very clear message for all of the young players who are here for the first time.

"I think the biggest thing that I've talked about is just have fun," Catchings said. "Enjoy it, because it only happens every so often. You get voted to be an All-Star this year, but you never know the next time you will be. Every single opportunity you have to just take advantage of it."

Older players, like Catchings, are also aware of another opportunity they have, as ambassadors of the league.

"The one thing we have to think about as players is a lot of people tune into All-Star games," Catchings said. "So what we want to do is put a good product out there, so that fans that are watching that have never seen the WNBA will want to come back. I think it's important for all us as we come out that we put a good product together and not just wait until the fourth quarter."

The All-Star game is an exhibition, so the players approach this game a little differently than others, but just like in other sports, there comes a time when the game gets serious.

"I think everyone wants to win," Chicago Sky forward Elena Delle Donne said. "Obviously we're all here to have a good time, but I think when the fourth quarter rolls around, if its close, that's when it could get a little heated."