WNBA draft to be held April 17


We knew all along Diana Taurasi's name would probably be called first when the 2004 WNBA draft was held.

Now we know what time the Mercury will make Phoenix Taurasi's new home as the draft tips off at noon ET Saturday, April 17, at the NBA Entertainment studios in Secaucus, N.J.

For the first time, ESPN will televise the first round of the draft, leading into its coverage of the 2004 NBA Playoffs. NBA TV, WNBA.com and ESPN.com also will cover all three rounds, providing complete analysis on all 13 teams' selections.

WNBA.com's pre-draft coverage begins in mid-March and will include a game-by-game prospect tracker, prospect analysis from NBA TV's Rebecca Lobo and Washington Mystics forward and ESPN analyst Stacey Dales-Schuman. Insider reports from WNBA pre-draft camps and current WNBA players' NCAA memories also will be featured.

The Phoenix Mercury have the first overall selection in the draft after winning the WNBA draft lottery Dec. 3. The Washington Mystics have the second pick in the draft, and the Charlotte Sting acquired the third overall pick and 18th selection in a trade with the Indiana Fever in exchange for Kelly Miller and the ninth selection in the draft.

Taurasi and Duke guard/forward Alana Beard, ESPN.com's 2004 national player of the year, headline this year's draft class. Taurasi has led the Huskies to back-to-back NCAA titles and was the 2003 consensus player of the year. Beard recently became the Blue Devils' all-time leading scorer, and the first player in ACC history to be named to the all-league first team four years in a row.

Other top players in the draft are Penn State guard Kelly Mazzante, Kansas State forward Nicole Ohlde, Stanford forward Nicole Powell, Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen and Purdue forward Shereka Wright. Mazzante is the all-time leading scorer in Big Ten history, and is a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. Ohlde is the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer,
rebounder and shot-blocker as well as a second-team academic All-American

Powell was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year and has six triple-doubles on her Cardinal résumé. She ended the 2003-04 regular season as one of only two Pac-10 players to average a point-rebound double-double. Whalen is Minnesota's all-time leading scorer and averaged 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists during the regular season, while Wright led the Big Ten in scoring in conference games, earning All-Big Ten first-team honors for the third consecutive year.

The WNBA opens its eighth season on May 20 with three Western Conference games. ABC will air the first of seven regular-season Saturday afternoon games on May 22. A week later, on May 29, ABC will televise a rematch of last year's WNBA Finals with the Los Angeles Sparks traveling to Detroit to take on the Shock.

ESPN2 will televise 10 regular-season contests in 2004..