- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

The dunk is considered a great feat in women’s basketball and Washington Mystics center Jenny Mowe has been known to entertain her new teammates with a few jams in practice.

Recently though, the 6-foot-5 Mowe got more attention for her feet than her feat.

During practice last Tuesday, Mowe’s regular shoes were cutting her feet during drills. Mystics personnel frantically searched the Washington Wizards locker room for a pair of shoes that would fit Mowe’s size 15 feet and found a pair of Jerry Stackhouse’s Nikes bearing his No.42. Mowe moved well in Stackhouse’s loaners and even swished a Stackhouse-like 3-pointer from the left wing at the end of practice.

Mowe threw down four or so one-handed jams as part of training camp entertainment that day. She is the first Mystics’ player to be able to dunk and joins a handful of players in the league who can do so.

“It’s exciting. [Dunking] creates a lot of energy in practice, but you know how that goes,” Mystics star forward Chamique Holdsclaw said. “I played with Michelle Snow all through college, and she is probably the best dunker in the women’s game. Snow can do it backwards and a variety of ways.”

What has the Mystics excited is what Mowe can do near the basket, not so much above the rim. Her wide, broad shoulders help her set crunching picks. That big body in the middle is what the Washington team has lacked since it began play in 1998.

With offensive weapons like Holdsclaw and guards Stacy Dales-Schuman and Coco Miller, Mowe isn’t asked to score. For now, her role is to play defense, block shots, rebound and dominate the paint.

“We have a huge pick in Jenny Mowe — she’s going to be tremendously important in our success,” Dales-Schuman said. “We love her size. We haven’t had that much size.”

That Mowe, 25, is back in the WNBA, is no small accomplishment. Last year her playing days, at least in the United States, appeared to be over when her WNBA team, the Portland Fire, folded along with the Miami Sol.

Mowe, who grew up in Powers, Ore., and was the state’s player of the year in 1996, had a solid, but unspectacular career at the University of Oregon. She was a second-round pick (20th overall) in the center-rich 2001 WNBA Draft and spent her first two years for the Fire on the bench or the injured list, playing in a total of only 10 games. When the Fire disbanded, Mowe was without a team and knew she would have to wait several months before the dispersal draft.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Mowe headed overseas to play in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA) with Baiquanchun, where she averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds. Most importantly, she played 48 minutes a game and dropped 20 pounds in the process.

Mowe said the WCBA has its share of females like Yao Ming.

“A lot of their big girls are from northern China, and a lot of them have giantism,” Mowe said. “I had a teammate that was 7-foot. Get this: She was a wrestler in Mongolia.”

Chinese are no strangers to the WNBA. Zheng Haixia, a 6-8, 254-pound center, was one of the founding players of the league when the Los Angeles Sparks drafted her with the 16th overall pick in the 1997 WNBA Elite Draft.

Zheng, who lasted two years, had a difficult time with the fast pace of the WNBA and at times struggled to keep up. Mowe says that’s still a problem with big Chinese women, who she says tend to react slowly.

“I would shoot a shot, and then five seconds later I would get a hand across the forehead,” Mowe said. “They’re big, but they have a hard time running up and down the floor. I would say their centers average somewhere between 6-3 and 6-6. Their guards over there are pretty big, though.”

Holding her own against big competition was one of the few problems Mowe encountered while playing in northern China. She fell ill — luckily not with the SARS virus.

The Mystics selected Mowe with the eighth pick of the WNBA Dispersal Draft (players from Portland and Miami) last month. Desperate for a true center, the team is pleased with how much Mowe improved. She is quicker, more agile and should fit in well.

“We have a history, she and I,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. “I coached in the Pac-10 [California] when she was playing at Oregon, and I always felt if Jenny got in great shape and kept developing her skills, she could be a very strong player for somebody, whether it was Europe or the WNBA level. She’s such a nice person and such a hard working person that I’ve always kind of kept an eye on her, where is she and what is she doing.”

All Mowe ever wanted was a chance to prove she can play in the WNBA.

“This is incredible for me,” she said. “It’s really a good situation. I couldn’t have been put on a better team with my specific situation right now. I would like to get some playing time and see if I have what it takes to get out there and play, because for two years it’s been like, ‘No. No, you don’t have it.’”

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