Unlikely hero Wyckoff nails shot of series

Updated: September 16, 2005, 2:15 AM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Connecticut's Brooke Wyckoff saw the ball coming to her from Taj McWilliams-Franklin, and her eyes got wide. Of course, all reporters who know Wyckoff got a little wide-eyed, too.

Brooke Wyckoff
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE via Getty ImagesKara Lawson couldn't stop Brooke Wyckoff's 3-pointer from the right baseline -- which tied the score at 70 and forced overtime.

We knew if she made the 3-pointer that tied Game 2 of the WNBA Finals, and the Sun went on to win in overtime, then Wyckoff would deliver in the postgame press conference.

It all happened, as Connecticut won 77-70 and changed the tone of the series by tying it.

If Wyckoff's shot with 2 seconds left doesn't go in, we're looking at a sweep on Sunday in Sacramento (ABC, 4 p.m. ET). Connecticut's Nykesha Sales acknowledged that after Game 2, saying, "To take it 0-2, you're kind of deflated."

Instead, the Sun got a needed dose of helium and probably could almost float to Sacramento. And Wyckoff was the perfect player to deliver that.

She smiles a lot, laughs a lot, talks a lot. We quote-hungry media people just love that. You won't hear Wyckoff saying, "Well, I just tried to step up at that moment in time and give 100 percent to help my team."

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Instead, here's Wyckoff on the big 3-pointer: "First it was a feeling of relief being like, you know, we were back in the game and that I actually hit the shot and wasn't the dork that missed it at the end with a wide-open shot."

That's how most role-player athletes feel, but not everyone comes right out and admits it. But Wyckoff is the kind who just says what's in her head. It's cool.

And it's neat to see a player like her get some limelight in the WNBA Finals. Wyckoff went to Florida State, starting her career there the same season Sue Semrau took over. That was after Chris Gobrecht's disastrous one-year "OK, this was a big mistake" stay in Tallahassee.

It has sure not ever been easy for Florida State's women's hoops in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Seminoles have long road trips in conference play. They're forever trying to climb in a league that always has at least one Final Four contender.

But in her senior season in 2001, Wyckoff helped lead Florida State back to the NCAA Tournament after a 10-year absence. It so happened I was at her final college game, when the Seminoles lost at Iowa State in the second round.

Semrau talked then about how she hoped that Wyckoff would get a chance in the WNBA, and I wondered if a team would be smart enough to pick her up for all the things she could bring as a role player. She was one those kids you knew just needed someone to crack open the door for her, and she would do the rest.

Those types of players can make all the difference on a pro team. Wyckoff played her first two seasons with Orlando, then came to Connecticut when that franchise relocated. Mike Thibault, who can always spot talent, recognized her value right away. He was extremely disappointed when she suffered a torn ACL in her right knee and missed all of last season.

"It's a very, very tough loss for our team," Thibault said then. "She's one of our most valuable players. She came to camp in great shape, and we planned to use her in a couple of different positions."

Wyckoff said Thursday she wasn't a "marquee player" and, of course, she's right. But … Thibault still called her "one of our most valuable" for a good reason. She's 6 feet, 1 inch, plays hard and has a great attitude.

That latter part showed even last year, when Wyckoff could only rehab, watch and cheer. In the locker room after the Sun's Game 3 loss in the WNBA Finals to Seattle last fall, Wyckoff was still the beacon of "upbeat." She was disappointed for her team, obviously, but eager to get back on the court and get ready for this season.

During this regular season, Wyckoff was 35-for-88 from beyond the arc (42.3 percent). She'd made just 1 of 4 3-point attempts in the Sun's previous five playoff games before going 3-for-4 from long range Thursday.

Afterward, she reflected on the faith the Sun had in her.

"Everybody in the organization just believed in me and said, 'Look, we're going to stick with you, you're going to get better, you're going to be an important part of this team,' " she said. "It's a dream, you know, just to come off an injury like an ACL tear and step back into this situation. It's great."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel@kcstar.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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