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Unrau’s WNBA dream realized

Sunday, April 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:49 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hundreds of seniors played women’s college basketball last season, but only a few get a chance to continue playing the game professionally.

Evan Unrau, who completed an outstanding four-year career at Missouri in March, has an opportunity to extend her career at the game’s highest level. The Washington Mystics drafted Unrau with 28th pick in what some analysts are calling the deepest WNBA Draft in the league’s eight-year history.

After seeing the first two rounds of the draft come and go, Unrau got a call from Missouri coach Cindy Stein telling Unrau to stay near her phone and expect a call from the Washington front office. It came minutes later after Unrau was selected with the second pick in the third round.

“There are no guarantees right now, but I am really excited about the opportunity,” Unrau said. “I’ve been to Washington, D.C. a bunch of times before and it is a great city so I’m excited about that and I think the team is great. Another good thing is they are a pretty young team for the most part.”

Unrau's spot on the roster not guaranteed

Unrau faces a tough road in her quest to make the Mystics’ 11-player roster. She will leave Columbia on Thursday to report to Washington’s preseason training camp and she hopes to survive a series of cuts and be in uniform when the Mystics open the regular season against the Charlotte Sting on May 22.

Unrau, a versatile 6-foot-1 forward, will try to earn a spot with a Washington team that has several talented forwards.

Chamique Holdsclaw, a three-time WNBA All-Star, and Stacey Dales-Schuman, a former standout at Oklahoma, will likely reclaim their spots as Washington’s starting forwards. Despite the Mystics’ apparent front-court security, Stein said she thinks Unrau’s work ethic will impress members of the Washington organization.

“The way I see it is once the coaches see Evan for a couple weeks they will see what makes her tick and what makes her such a good player,” Stein said.

“I also think Washington needs some help on the perimeter, which Evan can provide and with great players like Chamique Holdsclaw and Stacey Dales-Schuman, Evan won’t need to score so much but her ability to do all the other little things could compliment those players well.”

Another factor playing in Unrau’s favor is Washington is looking for a fresh start under new coach Michael Adams, a former NBA All-Star who hopes to help the Mystics improve their 9-25 record and last-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season.

As expected, the Phoenix Mercury took Connecticut guard Diana Taurasi with the first pick in the draft. Washington took Duke guard Alana Beard, the 2004 Player of the Year, with the second overall pick.

“Of all the people in the draft Alana Beard is probably the one I would probably want to play with most,” Unrau said. “She is a real passionate player and that fits me.”

In the second round Washington picked Kaayla Jones, a center from North Carolina State.

Unrau, a psychology major, said her plans to graduate will need to be put on hold. She will try to find a way to complete this semester’s class work and finish her degree either this summer or next fall depending on what transpires in the coming weeks.

Unrau, whose 1,597 points rank seventh and 945 rebounds rank third in the Missouri record book, is the third former Missouri player to be drafted into the WNBA.

In 2001, Amanda Lassiter was the Houston Comets’ first-round pick and Marlena Williams was the Indiana Fever’s third-round pick. Lassiter averaged 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in her first three years in the league and was traded to the Minnesota Linx on Thursday. Williams is no longer in the WNBA.

Unrau was one of five former Big 12 Conference players drafted in the third round. The Lynx drafted Nicole Ohlde, who became the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer this past season at Kansas State, with the sixth pick. Ohlde was the only Big 12 player selected in the first two rounds.

HOPES NOT DASHED:

Although forward Stretch James was not drafted, she has a chance to earn a spot with a WNBA team. James will workout with Charlotte on Tuesday with hopes of earning a spot on the Sting’s training camp roster.

James averaged 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds as a senior and her 71 blocks broke Missouri’s season record.

THE NEWEST TIGER:

Missouri added Tonya Morris to its 2004-05 recruiting class Friday. Morris, a 6-0 sophomore forward, averaged 12 points and 5.1 rebounds at Eastern Oklahoma Junior College last season.

Morris joins three high school recruits on what will be a different looking Missouri team after losing five seniors from the team that finished 17-13 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Stein said she hopes to fill one more roster position in the coming weeks.


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