- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2003

The Washington Mystics keep stockpiling Southeastern Conference players. With the seventh overall pick in yesterday's hastily arranged WNBA Draft, the Mystics selected 6-foot-2 LSU forward Aiysha Smith. If Smith makes the opening day roster, she will become the Mystics' seventh player out of the SEC.
Coming off the first winning season in franchise history, one that included a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, the Mystics don't need much help especially at forward, where they have Chamique Holdsclaw, Asjha Jones, Vicky Bullett, Murriel Page, Tonya Washington and Maren Walseth.
"I'm still surprised," Smith said of being selected by the Mystics. "I'm going to come in and do what I've been doing. I bring an inside presence. I really don't know too much about them."
Last season in Baton Rouge, the long and athletic Smith averaged 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds.
The Cleveland Rockers selected Mississippi State's LaToya Thomas, the SEC Player of the Year, with the first pick, and the Sacramento Monarchs chose Vanderbilt center Chantelle Anderson second. Louisiana Tech center Cheryl Ford, the daughter of NBA star Karl Malone, was chosen third by the Detroit Shock.
Because of the WNBA's labor impasse, Smith said she didn't even know there was going to be a draft until Wednesday, when she was told to show up yesterday at draft headquarters in Secaucus, N.J.
Over the past two days, there has been much activity at the league's office. On Thursday, the league conducted a draft lottery, held a dispersal draft for players from the defunct Miami Sol and Portland Fire, and announced that there would be a college player draft.
Meanwhile, a labor deal, agreed to in principle on April18, finally was completed and signed early yesterday. Players gained free agency rights for the first time in the new pact, as well as enhanced marketing rights for individual players. But the league posted a resounding victory on the economic front with the setting of a hard salary cap of $622,000 per team.
In Thursday's dispersal draft, the Mystics helped themselves by selecting 6-5 Fire backup center Jenny Mowe, who gives the team a legitimate post presence.
Despite needing a point guard, the Mystics selected Smith in the first round. In one of the weaker drafts in WNBA history, there was no point guard worthy of going at No.7.
"The strength in this draft was at [power forward]," said Pat Summitt, the Mystics' player personnel consultant. "[Smith] is versatile more than anything and can play multiple positions. I played against her, and she is a fierce competitor. She will help us."
Summitt chose guards in the later rounds. With their second-round pick (21st overall), the Mystics selected Czech point guard Zuzana Zirkova. In the third round, the Mystics took Villanova guard Trish Juhline with the 32nd overall pick and Ball State forward Tamara Bowie with the 36th.
With Mowe and Smith on board, it may signal the end of Tausha Mills' unspectacular Mystics career. Mills, a fan favorite, has done little since the Mystics selected her with the second overall pick in the 2000 draft. Over three seasons, the 6-2, 225-pounder averaged 3.0 points and 2.9 rebounds.



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