Aces History: Feeling A Draft (2000)

For the Utah Starzz, the 2000 WNBA Draft was more notable for a series of trades prior to draft day rather than the draft itself.

The first came on December 16, 1999—the day of the WNBA Expansion Draft—when Utah traded Elena Baranova and the team’s second round pick in the 2000 Draft to the newly-minted Miami Sol in exchange for Kate Starbird and the eighth overall pick in the 2000 Draft.

The Starzz followed that up with an April 24, 2000 deal, which sent Utah’s two first round picks (Nos. 3 and 8) to the Detroit Shock in exchange for 1996 US Olympic point guard Jennifer Azzi (pictured), and the Shock’s first round pick (No. 12 overall).

A 1990 Stanford graduate, Azzi played two-plus seasons for the ABL’s San Jose Lasers before joining the WNBA in 1999. Her first year with the Starzz was shortened due to injury, but she still averaged 9.6 points and 6.1 assists per game, while connecting on a blistering 51.7 percent of her three-pointers.

She went on to play three more years with the franchise—two in Utah and one in San Antonio—helping lead the Starzz to their first postseason appearance in 2001, and their first conference finals appearance in 2002.

Azzi retired following the 2003 season, and still remains the leading three-point shooter in WNBA history, making 45.8 percent of her shots from beyond the arc for her career.

In her five season in the WNBA, Azzi averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists.

With the No. 12 pick acquired in the deal for Azzi, Utah selected center Naomi Mulitauaopele (nah-OH-mee MOO-lee-TAH-wah-oh-PEH-leh) from Stanford. The Cardinal won four Pac-10 championships during her time at Stanford, and “Omi” played the final truncated season with the ABL’s Seattle Reign, before making her way to the WNBA.

Omi, the first Pacific Islander to play in the WNBA, saw action in 22 games for Utah as a rookie, starting three, while averaging 4.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. She connected on 59.4 percent of her field goal attempts as well, but was cut prior to the 2001 campaign due in part to a series of injuries to her knee. Omi went on to play overseas in Turkey, Korea and Spain, and played in preseason action for the Los Angeles Sparks and Orlando Miracle in subsequent years, but did not make a WNBA regular season roster again.

In the third round of the 2000 WNBA Draft, Utah chose Iowa State guard Stacy Frese. Frese also lasted just one season with the Starzz, averaging 3.0 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists while connecting on 34.6 percent of her three-point field goal attempts. She was released prior to the start of the 2001 season.

The Starzz fourth round pick, Kristen Rasmussen out of Michigan State, played in just one game before being released, but she was picked up by Miami, and would go on to play in 276 games over her well-traveled nine-year WNBA career.

After three years with the Sol (2000-02), Rasmussen went on to play two seasons in Indiana (2003-04), partial seasons in Houston (2005) and Charlotte (2006), and single seasons in Phoenix (2006), Connecticut (2007) and Minnesota (2008).

She averaged a career-high 6.8 points per game for the Fever in 2003, and grabbed a career-high 6.1 rebounds per game for the Mercury in 2006.

For her career, the Lansing, Michigan native averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds, while connecting on 41.5 percent of her three-point field goal attempts and 78.7 percent of her free throws.

Next Up: The Stars Acquire The Final Pieces To Their Playoff Puzzle In The 2001 WNBA Draft