- Rebecca Lobo, Women's Basketball
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Five things fans should watch for Saturday (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET) during the Stars at the Sun game between the U.S. women's national team and the WNBA All-Stars:
1. Reunited and it feels so
Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter were teammates for four years with the Phoenix Mercury, winning two WNBA championships together (including last summer). This past offseason, Pondexter asked to be traded and was sent to New York. The players were friends until they played against each other last week, when Pondexter was ejected for a flagrant foul on the Mercury's Penny Taylor. When Taurasi went to help her teammate off the floor, Pondexter gave Taurasi an unnecessary shove. The players had to be separated.
Taurasi and Pondexter are teammates on the U.S. national team while Taylor is playing for the WNBA All-Stars. It'll be interesting to see the dynamic between the three on the court.
2. Will they pick up where they left off?
Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Swin Cash were teammates on the UConn team that went undefeated and won a national championship in 2002. That team is widely considered to be the best college team of all time.
They also played together on the 2008 Olympic team, but this is the first time they are playing together again for UConn (and 2012 Olympic) coach Geno Auriemma. Huskies fans will delight in seeing the three on the floor together and it will be fun for the casual fan to watch players with this kind of chemistry.
3. How hard will they play?
Players often cruise through all-star games until the fourth quarter. This one should be much different. Most of the players on Team USA do not have a secure roster spot and will be using this opportunity to impress the USA Basketball coaching staff and selection committee. Many of the WNBA all-stars will be looking to show that they, too, are worthy of a look by the USAB folks. The game might not go down to the wire, but the effort should be excellent -- especially by all-star game standards.
4. How will "the kid" fare?
UConn senior-to-be Maya Moore will be the only college player on the floor, and it'll be fun to see how she does playing with and against the WNBA's best. She has trained with the national team in the past, but this will be the first chance for most people to see her perform in a game while wearing a United States uniform. Don't be surprised if she walks away with the MVP.
5. Who will be inducted?
The six members of the 2011 class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame will be announced at halftime of the Stars at the Sun game. It's only appropriate that the best players, coaches and contributors in women's basketball history will be linked to a game showcasing the brightest stars of today. All the women playing in Sunday's game are benefiting because of those who paved the way. Who are the chosen ones this year?
Rebecca Lobo won the 1995 Naismith National Player of the Year Award after leading the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to its first national championship. She was the youngest member of the 1996 gold-medal-winning Olympic team, and now, after seven seasons in the WNBA, she covers basketball for ESPN. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, Steve Rushin, and their three children.
Don't expect Saturday's Stars at the Sun to be your average all-star game. Team USA players are looking to lock up a spot on the U.S. national team roster, while WNBA players might be out to prove something.