- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother’s Day will be a day off for WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, who plans to spend it with 9-year-old son Jordan and her mom.

Other WNBA players are not as fortunate. San Antonio’s Helen Darling and Los Angeles’ Taj McWilliams-Franklin will be playing in preseason games far from their families.

“It’s always been special for me,” said Swoopes, who traveled for an exhibition game against the New York Liberty yesterday. “We go and spend it with my mom for a while. It’s kind of our day and our turn.

“[My son] decides where we go and eat, and I’m still the one paying. It doesn’t really matter, just the fact that I’m able to share that moment with him is all I could ever ask for.”

Darling and the Silver Stars were scheduled to play the Detroit Shock in Omaha, Neb., while her 5-year old triplets — sons Jalen and Ja-Juan and daughter Nevaeh — are with their father, Orlando Tot, in the family home in Memphis, Tenn.

“Their father has to work,” she said, “and it’s so expensive. If we were closer, they could drive. A flight is almost $350-$400 per child. Mother’s Day is nice but call me. Save me a couple of dollars.”

The separation is nothing new for the veteran guard starting her eighth season in the league and first in San Antonio.

“Usually I’m in training camp, so I really don’t get to celebrate Mother’s Day too much,” Darling said. “Orlando always sends me something from the kids and from him, so it’s always nice to get something in the mail.”

McWilliams-Franklin and the Sparks were scheduled to play an exhibition game today against the Minnesota Lynx in Baton Rouge, La. The Sparks are on a three-game trip that started with wins at Phoenix on Tuesday and Indiana on Thursday.

Her husband, Reggie Franklin, will be at home in Los Angeles with their 4-year-old daughter, Maia.

“I’m not around most Mother’s Days because of the WNBA season, so it’s normally not a big deal,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “I always have something waiting for me. My husband makes it a big deal. Other than that, I never think about it. For me, every day is Mother’s Day.”

McWilliams-Franklin, who also has a 17-year-old daughter finishing her freshman year at Arizona, is starting her first season with the Sparks after spending her first eight in the league with the Connecticut franchise. She was dealt to Los Angeles in February after requesting a trade to the West Coast.

Reggie Franklin just got out of the Army at the end of last month after spending more than eight years stationed overseas.

“It was a great move for us and our family,” she said. “My husband wants to try his hand at acting and modeling in L.A., so it made great sense.”

With her husband away in previous seasons, a nanny helped take care of Maia, who sometimes goes on road trips.

Swoopes’ son was born four days after the league’s first game and has been a fixture around the Comets, accompanying his mother throughout the season.

“He’s involved in everything,” Swoopes said. “He gets to travel with me to games and gets to be around my teammates and players throughout the league. That makes my job that much easier because I don’t have to worry about leaving him behind.”

Jordan also has traveled with his mother in past years when she played overseas in the WNBA offseason.

“It’s a great experience for him,” Swoopes said. “He gets to travel the world and see different parts of different countries and different cultures. And when he comes back home he’s able to share that experience with his friends.”

Darling’s kids aren’t around too much, making occasional visits during the season. She admits the separation is necessary for her to focus on basketball.

“It’s very difficult for me to concentrate when my kids are with me,” she said. “Even when they come to see me and I bring them to practice, it’s really hard for me because I’ve always got that one eye on the back of my head watching them.

“My kids don’t understand that their mom is out there working, and they can’t go, ‘Mommy, Nevaeh has to go to the bathroom’ or ‘Mommy can we get some water?’ ”

Maybe in a couple of years they will watch their mom play.

Until then, there are always phone calls from miles away, especially on Mother’s Day.

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