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Friday, April 19
Bird becomes first guard to go No. 1

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Storm added a much-needed perimeter scoring threat when they chose Connecticut point guard Sue Bird with the first pick of the WNBA Draft Friday.

Sue Bird
Point guard Sue Bird led UConn to NCAA titles in 2000 and '02.
Bird's selection marks the first time a guard was the top player drafted.

Bird, The Associated Press Player of the Year, led UConn to the national title and a 39-0 record this season, averaging 14.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. She led the nation in free-throw shooting at 89.2 percent.

Bird, from Syosset, N.Y., scored 1,378 career points and dished out 585 assists, including a career-best 231 this season.

Seattle chose center-forward Lucienne Berthieu of Old Dominion with the 19th overall pick and guard Felicia Ragland of Oregon State with the 28th pick overall, both in the second round. Seattle selected Louisiana Tech forward-center Takeisha Lewis with the 35th overall pick, in the third round. The draft is held in Secaucus, N.J.

Seattle coach and general manager Lin Dunn entertained trade offers but said it would take a lot for her to give up the chance to put Bird in a Storm uniform.

"We felt we could not pass on this young woman," Dunn said. "She is absolutely special."

Dunn believes the 5-foot-9 Bird will complement a frontcourt featuring Australian center Lauren Jackson, the top pick in the 2001 draft. With Bird, Seattle could become a playoff contender in its third season, Dunn said.

Bird is a proven scorer from the perimeter, and a leader. The Storm did not make many outside shots last season, shooting just 37.8 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from 3-point range.

"I really do plan to wait and see what the team needs from me," she said. "I am a point guard and look to distribute the ball a lot."

Bird has awards banquets to attend in Detroit and Kansas City before coming to Seattle, probably next week. She hopes to attend her college graduation May 19 in Storrs, Conn.

"In listening to what coach said, I got really excited," Storm guard Charmin Smith said. "We need Sue Bird. Whether she's a point guard or an off guard, she's a leader and she's a winner."

Jackson is 6-5 and the team's returning leading scorer. An All-Star last season as a rookie, she scored 15.2 points per game and pulled down 6.7 rebounds. No other Storm players averaged double figures in scoring.

But Jackson missed the final two games because of lingering shoulder trouble. She had off-season shoulder surgery and is healthy now, Dunn said.

When asked what she knows of Jackson, Bird quipped: "She's Australian. I know that."

Seattle lost 15 of its last 18 games last summer to tie with three other teams for the worst record in the WNBA. The Storm placed last in the Western Conference.

Seattle has selected first in the draft for two years in a row. The Storm finished 10-22 in 2001, just four wins better than the franchise's inaugural season the previous year when it finished last in the league at 6-26.

Seattle opens its preseason schedule at home against the Utah Starzz on May 19. The team's first regular-season game is May 30 against the New York Liberty in Key Arena.

In addition to the Storm's selections, the Charlotte Sting chose Baylor's Sheila Lambert with the seventh overall pick. She is a guard from Seattle's Chief Sealth High School.

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