Saturday, May 01, 2010

SPORTS >> 7A-Central race stays jumbled, Cabot in hunt

Leader sports editor

There was a notable absence when the UALR women’s basketball team made an appearance at North Little Rock’s Dickey-Stephens Park on Tuesday.

The Trojans were on hand to be honored before the Arkansas Travelers game for their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year. But they were without guard Kim Sitzmann — and for a good reason.

Sitzmann, of Cabot, was in Oklahoma going through training camp with the new WNBA franchise, the Tulsa Shock, coached by Arkansas Razorbacks legend Nolan Richardson.

“We only practice 1 ½ hours in the morning and 1 ½ hours at night, but you’re always running,” Sitzmann said by phone Tuesday night.

Sitzmann, 5-10, a four-year starter from Cabot, wrapped up her run at UALR with a second-round tournament loss to Oklahoma this season but has a solid chance to continue her career in the professional ranks. After going through the two-day tryout camp with Tulsa, she made the training camp roster of 15.

“I am really excited,” Sitzmann said. “I am glad that all the hard work has paid off.”

Richardson has to whittle the roster to 11, and Sitzmann, who has a training camp contract, hopes to remain with the Shock when the season begins May 15.

“I’m proud as a peacock,” said Sitzmann’s father Todd, who with his wife Luan joined the Trojans in the stands after the team was recognized during the pregame at Dickey-Stephens on Tuesday.

“She showed up like crazy,” Todd Sitzmann said of Kim’s tryout performance. “Nolan came out and said he wanted a girl that had great court awareness and could shoot threes and moved all the time. And they did the motion offense all the time at UALR so that was nothing new for her.”

There were 54 women from around the country who attended the initial tryouts at the Mabee Center on the Oral Roberts University Campus on April 21.

Sitzmann made the group of 12 invited back for the second round of free-agent tryouts then made it to the group of five invited to join the returnees, veterans and contract players in training camp. Richardson is allowed to have 15 players in camp to contend for one of the 11 spots.

“See the roster is the thing that hurts you,” said Richardson, who led the Arkansas men to the 1994 NCAA championship and a runner-up finish in 1995. “With the roster only being 11 you can only invite four more players.”

While Sitzmann’s former coach Joe Foley was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday and her former teammates were joining broadcaster Phil Elson to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, Sitzmann was getting an insider’s look at the world of women’s professional basketball.

That included some hazing rituals in which Sitzmann was forced to buy lunch and deliver it to the veterans, then had her car keys stolen and had to pay a one-day per diem of $70 to get them back.

And, of course, Sitzmann had to get used to playing for the demanding Richardson.

The hazing may actually have been tougher. Sitzmann is already used to the motion offense after playing for Foley, known for being somewhat demanding himself.

“I think that would be awesome,” Foley said of the possibility of Sitzmann making the Shock and playing for Richardson. “As good a coach as he is and the things he’s done. Getting to play for a coach like that would be awesome.”

Sitzmann was a four-year starter at UALR and finished her career as the team’s all-time leader in assists (430), steals (128) and three-pointers (115).

“I know this, I know that Kim is going to give it her all; she’s going to work hard,” Foley said. “She’s kind of like Nolan’s players. She’s in great shape; I think that’s one of the things they’ve seen during the tryouts is how great a shape she’s in so I think that gives her an opportunity to make it.”