With their selection of Kelsey Plum as the No. 1 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft, the San Antonio Stars gained one of women’s basketball’s most prominent stars, and it is likely on Plum that San Antonio’s success in the approaching season will depend.
Plum, who recently signed an endorsement deal with Nike, set a new NCAA all-time scoring record while at Washington with 3,527 points and was named the Associated Press Player of the Year for 2017.
In her first preseason game with the Stars, an April 29 win over the Wings, Plum scored a game-high 19 points — including going 7-for-7 at the line — to go along with five assists.
Fellow rookie Nia Coffey, whom the Stars drafted fifth overall, also put forth an impressive performance, scoring 17 of 6-of-10 shooting.
But San Antonio’s loss Saturday to the reigning champion Los Angeles Sparks was a different story. Coffey went just 1-for-6 from the field to record four points, and Plum, who sprained her right ankle Thursday, according to a team-issued report, did not play.
To use two preseason games to predict how the Stars might fare for the rest of the season would be illogical, but the performance of San Antonio’s rookies certainly affected the team’s success within those two games.
The Stars, who last season finished last in the league with a 7-27 record, will undoubtedly need their newly acquired talent if they hope to have a better year this upcoming season, but relying too heavily on young players could prove problematic for them.
Plum’s status currently remains up in the air, and if her ankle injury turns out to have consequences bad enough to sideline her for more than a few days, San Antonio could see themselves off to a rocky start when their regular season opens May 13.
Another big change affecting the Stars in the upcoming season will be guidance from new head coach Vickie Johnson, who served as an assistant coach for six seasons prior to accepting the head coaching position in December.
Johnson is no stranger to the game or this team, spending four seasons playing for San Antonio, one of which included an appearance in the Finals. Her experience could prove to be a significant advantage in steering her players, and perhaps most importantly her rookies, back in the winning direction.
One more key to look out for this season is the return of Kayla McBride, the fourth-year guard whose season-ending foot fracture halted her in her tracks in July.
The injury restricted her to just 17 games in the 2016 season and was an unfortunate blow for the Stars; McBride had been scoring 17.1 points per game to lead San Antonio, and while her scoring figure was at a career high, the fact that she was driving the team offensively was nothing new.
McBride has led the Stars in scoring since her arrival in the league in 2014, so having her back on the roster should be a major boost for San Antonio.
Between Plum, Coffey, Johnson and McBride, the Stars have the energy, experience, and leadership to potentially turn their organization around in the 2017 season.