WNBA game should be part of Hall of Fame week­end

The Record (Troy, NY) - - SPORTS - By Doug Fein­berg

NEW YORK » The Women’s Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame and the WNBA are try­ing to think out­side of the box to help gen­er­ate more in­ter­est in the sport. Play­ing a reg­u­lar sea­son WNBA game in Knoxville, Ten­nessee, as part of Hall of Fame week­end would cer­tainly be a win-win sit­u­a­tion for both en­ti­ties. “It is an in­ter­est­ing con­cept and some­thing wor­thy of dis­cus­sion as we are con­tin­u­ally look­ing for new and in­no­va­tive ways to grow our fan base and build our brand,” WNBA Pres­i­dent Lisa Bor­ders told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “The week­end on which the Women’s Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame fetes its new­est in­ductees is al­ways spe­cial and the Knoxville mar­ket has, over the years, been a strong one in terms of tele­vi­sion view­er­ship for the WNBA.” The league is in its 22nd sea­son, and more former play­ers will be get­ting en­shrined in the Hall of Fame as they re­tire. Adding a reg­u­lar sea­son game to the week­end would be a great way to cap off the en­shrine­ment fes­tiv­i­ties. “I think it’s a fan­tas­tic idea,” Women’s Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame pres­i­dent Dana Hart said. “It fits our mis­sion state­ment to cel­e­brate the past with the present and ex­pos­ing young­sters in our com­mu­nity to pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball that they don’t get to see on a reg­u­lar ba­sis in Ten­nessee.” Lib­erty coach Katie Smith was part of this year’s Hall of Fame class as well as the Nai­smith Memo­rial Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame. She had an in­cred­i­bly busy week­end, fly­ing to Ten­nessee on Fri­day morn- ing and then re­turn­ing to New York on an early flight Sun­day to coach her team against In­di­ana.

She would have loved it if Sun­day’s game had been played in Knoxville.

“I think it would be great en­ergy, a great crowd,” Smith said af­ter her team beat In­di­ana on Sun­day. “To have some of the his­tory around you is great. I’m not sure how many peo­ple have been there to see the Hall. I think it would be a great part­ner­ship, some­thing you pre­pare to­gether. Folks in Ten­nessee would eat it up. I do be­lieve it would be some­thing spe­cial.”

There are some lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles. A WNBA team would have to give up a home game, and it’s an open ques­tion who would run game- day op­er­a­tions. Ten­nessee said it would con­sider open­ing the Lady Vols’ arena for a game ei­ther Satur­day or Sun­day, though, and the WNBA and Hall of Fame could split the rev­enue to cover travel costs, which on av­er­age for road games is $10,000.

“It would be great for the play­ers and great for fans to have that ex­pe­ri­ence at the Women’s Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame,” Smith said.

Ten­nessee has had one of the strong­est fan bases for women’s bas­ket­ball over the past 30 years. The Lady Vols were sec­ond in at­ten­dance this past year, av­er­ag­ing 9,184 fans at home. The Lib­erty game on Sun­day drew only 1,537 fans.

“The ( Ten­nessee) fans would come out and see any­one,” In­di­ana coach Pokey Chat­man said. “That’s a credit to what’s been built there in a power con­fer­ence in the SEC.”

It prob­a­bly would be dif- fi­cult to get a game in place for next year, but 2020 would be the per­fect time to get it started. That in­duc­tion class most likely will in­clude Tamika Catch­ings and Lau­ren Jackson, two of the best to ever play in the WNBA. Catch­ings is one of the most beloved Lady Vols’ play­ers all-time. She also had her first job in col­lege work­ing at the Hall of Fame.

It would be fit­ting for the Seat­tle Storm and In­di­ana Fever to play in Knoxville that week­end. Chat­man would be on board to play­ing a game in Knoxville in two years.

“When you think of what these phe­nom­e­nal in­di­vid­u­als have ac­com­plished and you cou­ple that with the Hall of Fame be­ing in the great city and state that loves women’s bas­ket­ball. It seems like some­thing in the near fu­ture could hap­pen.”

SEAN D. EL­LIOT — THE DAY VIA AP

Con­necti­cut Sun for­ward Alyssa Thomas, top left, beats Min­nesota Lynx cen­ter Sylvia Fowles (34) to a re­bound as Sun guard Court­ney Wil­liams (10) and for­ward Chiney Og­wu­mike, right, watch dur­ing the first half of a WNBA bas­ket­ball game, Satur­day at...

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