Saturday, August 9, 2008

A few notes on ... Ketia Swanier

This is the last of the rookies ...

Ketia Swanier
5-foot-7 guard
Averages: 1.9 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists

The Good: Swanier's offensive numbers may pale in comparison to those of this year's other first-round picks (she actually averages the fewest points and minutes of any of the other 12 selections). But Swanier was brought in under total different circumstances than most first-round picks. She was drafted knowingly as a back-up guard and would be counted on for her ball-handling and speed to make a difference in the minutes she got.

She's provided that -- the speedy guard has looked just as quick flying around in transition. But her defense, always solid at UConn, has been a difference-maker. In making six starts, Swanier has taken the assignments of some of the WNBA's top guards and has done a wholly commendable job. Twice she played 18 or more minutes against Cappie Pondexter and Phoenix. Pondexter got her points (22, 16), but shot 7-for-17 and 7-for-16, and more so, Swanier often made her defer. Her teammates just made shots (Pondexter had 10 assists between the two games).

I know all those numbers aren't great indicators of Swanier's impact, but her biggest performance came in the waning minutes of the Sun's 109-101 overtime win over Atlanta. Betty Lennox (a career-high 44 points that night) had 37 before Swanier entered with under three minutes to play in regulation. Lennox finished with one field goal and four points before hitting a meaningless 3 late.

But past that, Swanier has helped made Connecticut one of the league's deepest teams at point guard because she has been able to give more quality minutes as the season has gone on. Since late June, she's played double-digit minutes nine times, and in that time, she's committed just eight turnovers. (She actually has the fewest of anyone on the Sun.) As for filling the role she was designed for, Swanier -- who's also looks more cut and in shape in the last few months -- has done just that.

The Bad
: Besides proving herself as clutch performer late in her senior season, Swanier jumped up draft boards all over the league because she displayed a more consistent jump shot, especially on the open shots she was supposed to make. As she's adjusted to an extended 3-point line and more able defenders, that hasn't translated as nicely as other things. Swanier entered the break shooting 28 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3. Sun coach Mike Thibault said he found a flaw in Swanier's shot and the coaching staff has worked to fix it (one way to explain the inconsistent shooting). And Thibault is confident it will pay off. One time, during pre-game shootaround, the topic of halfcourt shots came up, and Thibault joked with Swanier he'd show her the right technique. When Swanier left to go prepare for the game, Thibault said he's been happy with the rookie's shooting progression.

"Mark my words," he said, "She'll be a 50-percent shooter."

That won't happen this year. But one day, maybe.

Outlook: If Erin Phillips is able to make as big as an impact as she is expected to, Swanier will probably be the one who stands to lose the most minutes. She's playing just under 10 now, but may be reduced to a late-game defensive replacement. She's been that at times now, though if she'll still make the occasional start seems less likely. I may be wrong. But between her, Carey, Whalen, Phillips and even Holt and Turner (depending on the lineup) that's a lot of guards for not enough minutes. Stay tuned.

On deck: Barbara Turner
In the hole: Lindsay Whalen

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