May 7, 2010 9:57:00 AM
It''s not a good time to be a rookie trying to earn a roster spot in the WNBA.
Former Mississippi State women''s basketball standout Armelie Lumanu has learned that fact, and former teammates Chanel Mokango and Alexis Rack hope they don''t suffer the same fate.
But Boris Lelchitski, the agent for all three players, said Mokango (with the Atlanta Dream) and Rack (with the San Antonio Silver Stars) are doing well and remain in competition for roster spots.
The problem is the folding of the Sacramento Monarchs left the WNBA with 12 teams. The loss of a team means more veterans are competing with rookies like Rack and Lumanu for one of the 11 roster positions on each team.
Lelchitski said WNBA teams also don''t have the luxury of putting a player on injured reserve, which makes it even more difficult for a player to stick with a team.
Lumanu, who was drafted 23rd overall by the Indiana Fever in the second round of last month''s WNBA draft, already has discovered how difficult it is to make a WNBA team. The Fever waived the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year on April 30, which was near the end of the first week of training camp. The move came nine days after Lumanu was featured on the team''s website in a question-and-answer session.
Lumanu averaged 11.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game in her two-year stint in Starkville. The Kinshasa, Congo, native was a member of the All-SEC Defensive Team the past two seasons.
But Lelchitski said teams aren''t able to devote time to players who might be considered "projects," or need time to develop.
"Armelie is very talented and very athletic, but she is a little raw and needs to work on her game," Lelchitski said. "I am not saying she is not going to play this summer. It depends, but a lot of players are going to be waived in the next week and the only reason is the rosters are very small."
Lelchitski said people in the Fever''s organization told him they liked Lumanu''s athletic ability and how hard she played. But he felt the team might have been looking more for an outside shooting threat.
Despite the fact Lumanu was cut, Lelchitski said Thursday he was trying to get Lumanu an opportunity with another WNBA team. He wasn''t sure how many options would come open, especially since many teams are welcoming back their veteran players from the teams they play on overseas. He said many of those veterans have guaranteed contracts.
Lelchitski said Lumanu will play overseas. He said seasons in France, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe start in October and run through April. He said he isn''t sure where Lumanu will end up, but he said all three former MSU players will play overseas.
"Armelie just needs to keep working on her game and playing with professionals," Lelchitski said. "She has to keep herself ready because she could be called up."
Lelchitski said all three players have attracted a lot of interest from teams overseas. He said Mokango, a 6-foot-5 center who averaged 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds a game this season for MSU, likely will earn the biggest salary of the three. He said she could earn a six-figure salary when she signs a contract to play overseas.
Mokango was selected to the Southeastern Conference All-Defensive Team both seasons and set a Lady Bulldog record for career and single-season blocked shots.
Mokango scored eight points and had three rebounds in 14 minutes in the Atlanta Dream''s 86-79 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.