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Breanna Stewart top pick in WNBA, leading 1-2-3 UConn sweep

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) It took three picks for Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck to make WNBA history.

The UConn trio, who led the Huskies to four consecutive national championships, went 1-2-3 in the draft Thursday night. It’s the first time that three players from the same school were the top three.

“It shows how special of a group we are. When we do something with the three of us, we do it together,” Stewart said. “We went in as freshmen together. We won four national championships together. Now, we all were drafted together.”

Stewart – the three-time AP Player of the Year – went first to Seattle, Jefferson second to San Antonio and Tuck third to Connecticut. Stewart was talking to the media when she heard that Tuck was drafted third by the Sun.

“I’m so happy,” she said. “That might have me more happy than being No. 1 overall. To see her go through all that she’s been through, to leave with us and then for us to go 1-2-3, that’s picture perfect.”

No draft in any major sport has ever had the top three picks come from the same school, according to information provided to the WNBA by the Elias Sports Bureau.

“We’re sisters for sure,” Jefferson said. “I heard her name and I stopped, started clapping. I got so emotional. To go through the journey the way we have and make history on the college level and history here, it’s unbelievable. I can’t think of anything being any better.”

The WNBA has had two of the first three players come from the same school on three separate occasions. The closest to the top three being from the same team was in 2002 when UConn had players taken first, second, fourth and sixth.

The 6-foot-4 Stewart averaged 19.4 points and 8.7 rebounds to lead the Huskies to a fourth consecutive national championship earlier this month. She became the first player in NCAA history to earn most outstanding player of the Final Four all four years.

When her name was called by new WNBA President Lisa Borders, Stewart hugged UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who was sitting at her table. She then gave a hug to Jefferson and Tuck with her other former UConn teammates applauding from the crowd at Mohegan Sun. It was the third straight season that the draft was held at the home of the Connecticut Sun. There was a loud crowd on hand to cheer on the former Huskies and draft picks.

The league’s 20th anniversary season will tip off May 14. Training camps open April 24.

Rachel Banham went fourth to Connecticut. The Minnesota guard tied the NCAA record this season with 60 points in a game.

Here are some other tidbits from the draft:

MOTHER/DAUGHTER: Texas center Imani Boyette went 10th to Chicago and could be the first daughter of a WNBA player to make a roster. Her mom, Pamela McGee, was the No. 2 pick in the 1997 draft and played for Sacramento and the Los Angeles Sparks. Yolanda Griffith’s daughter, Alicia DeVaughn, attended training camps in 2014 and 2015 but didn’t make the regular-season roster.

“It’s a lot to know that I can do the same thing my mom did,” Boyette said. “Hopefully, in a better way. I’m blessed to be here. I watched a lot of WNBA growing up. … I’m excited that it’s my turn to be the one getting watched.”

CONNECTICUT MAMBA: Banham had a chance earlier this month to meet her idol Kobe Bryant when she was out in Los Angeles. Banham was known as the Maroon Mamba when she played for the Gophers. She joked that she’d be happy with whatever nickname she’s given in Connecticut.

QUICK CHANGE: A few minutes after getting drafted by Los Angeles, Jonquel Jones was traded to Connecticut. She kidded when she got back in the press conference room that she had no memories of Los Angeles.

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AP source: Liz Cambage traded from Dallas to Las Vegas

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The Liz Cambage trade saga is finally over.

The 6-foot-8 Australian has been traded from Dallas to Las Vegas for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison and the Aces’ first two picks in 2020, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Cambage, who finished second behind Breanna Stewart in WNBA MVP balloting last year, said in January she no longer wanted to play in Dallas. Potential deals the past few weeks that never materialized had weighed on Cambage, who took to social media with emotional posts this week. Cambage is in Australia and is expected to get to Las Vegas this weekend.

The 27-year-old center set a league record last season by scoring 53 points against New York. She averaged 23 points and 9.7 rebounds last year.

The move gives the Aces a formidable frontcourt by pairing Cambage with rookie of the year A’ja Wilson.

Dallas receives a point guard in Jefferson and a talented post player in Harrison. Jefferson was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft by the franchise when it was in San Antonio. She averaged 13.9 points as a rookie but injured her knee in 2017.

She was limited to just 16 games last season. Harrison was the No. 12 pick in 2015 by Phoenix, but missed her rookie season with a knee injury. She had a breakout year in 2017, averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. She sat out last season because of a medical issue.

Cambage was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. She played that season and in 2013 for the Tulsa Shock but sat out in 2012 and again from 2014-2017. The franchise moved to Dallas in 2016. Cambage returned to the WNBA last season with Dallas and hit it off with Wings coach Fred Williams. Cambage took it hard when Williams was fired a few weeks before the end of the season. Williams is an assistant with the Sparks.

After last season, Cambage left the door open to not returning to the WNBA, citing the league’s low salaries. She excelled for Australia at last fall’s FIBA World Cup, helping the team earn a silver medal. Cambage told the AP at the World Cup she would take some time to decide whether she wanted to come back the WNBA.

Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg

Lynx star Maya Moore to skip ’19 WNBA season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore has decided to skip the upcoming WNBA season, seeking more time to devote to her family and her faith.

Moore announced Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune website that she’ll sit out in 2019. She already had taken the fall and winter off from international competition. The five-time first-team All-WNBA honoree has helped the Lynx win four championships since her rookie year, 2011.

“The success that I’ve been a part of in basketball truly blows my mind every time I think about it,” Moore said in her post. “But the main way I measure success in life is something I don’t often get to emphasize explicitly through pro ball.”

Raised by a single mother with strong Christian beliefs, Moore has spoken often about her desire for a well-rounded life steered by biblical principles . She quoted from scripture in her brief essay and, without citing specifics, said she plans to invest time in “some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Reforming the justice system has been a particular passion of hers , including a personal interest she has taken in the case of Jonathan Irons , who was imprisoned in Missouri in 1997 by what his supporters contend was a wrongful burglary conviction at age 16.

“I’m sure this year will be hard in ways that I don’t even know yet, but it will also be rewarding in ways I’ve yet to see, too,” Moore wrote. “I’m thankful to my Lynx family and others close to me who have been walking with me during this shift, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Last season was only the second time since Moore was drafted first overall that the Lynx didn’t reach the WNBA Finals. Moore was eighth in the league in minutes and seventh in points in 2018. She has missed one game in eight seasons, with career averages of 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We support her in this exploration and will continue to provide her the love and care she has always known from her Lynx family,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said in a statement distributed by the team.

Moore, who went to high school in the Atlanta area she now calls home, was given the franchise tag last month by the Lynx, preventing her from becoming a free agent. The 29-year-old, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2014, expressed her fatigue — and her eagerness for some extended rest — near the end of the 2018 season, which saw the Lynx ousted in the first round of the playoffs. The league compressed the 34-game schedule by three weeks from the 2017 slate.

Moore was the top vote-getter for the All-Star game last summer in Minnesota, but she passed on the team captain responsibility that would have required her to draft from the 22-player pool. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks took her place, joining Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics in assembling the sides. Moore had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the exhibition to earn her third straight All-Star Game MVP award.

Moore also opted out of the Women’s Basketball World Cup, the first major event she wasn’t on the U.S. national team for since the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place before the start of her sophomore season at powerhouse Connecticut.

The Lynx, too, are in flux following the retirement of five-time All-Star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who became coach at her alma mater, Minnesota. They start their season May 25 against Chicago.