The 2001 WNBA Draft was an important one for the Utah Starzz, as it helped solidify them as a championship contender. The Starzz already boasted the likes of Margo Dydek, Natalie Williams, Jennifer Azzi and Adrienne Goodson in their starting five, and with the eighth overall pick in the draft, Utah selected LSU guard Marie Ferdinand.
Ferdinand began paying dividends immediately, averaging 11.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals during her rookie campaign. She was one of four players on the team to average double figures in scoring, as Utah improved its win total for the fourth straight year, and punched its first ticket to the WNBA playoffs.
The Starzz were swept by Sacramento in the conference semifinals, but came back the following season to post their first 20-win campaign. Ferdinand improved her game across the board, earning her first All-Star nod, averaging 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Utah advanced to the conference finals in 2002, but were swept by the Los Angeles Sparks two games to none.
The Starzz moved to San Antonio prior to the start of the 2003 campaign, and Ferdinand once again was named to the Western Conference All-Star Team. She averaged double-figures in scoring in each of the next three seasons, and was named to the All-Star Team for the third time in 2005.
Unfortunately, the Starzz fortunes began to falter in 2003. They fell from 20 wins in 2002 to 12 in 2003, nine in 2004, and seven in 2005.
Ferdinand missed the 2006 season after giving birth to her first child. When she returned in 2007, her scoring dropped off to 4.8 points per game.
She signed with the Los Angeles Sparks during the offseason, and had a bounce-back year of sorts, averaging 8.4 points per game.
Ferdinand-Harris, as she was now known following her marriage to former LSU baseball player Cedrick Harris, played for three years with the Sparks, before signing with the Phoenix Mercury for the 2011 season—her last in the league.
During her 10-year WNBA career, Ferdinand-Harris averaged 9.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
In the second round of the draft, the Starzz selected Michaela Pavlickova out of Denver. The 6-3 forward played in 10 games for Utah as a rookie, scoring one point, and grabbing six rebounds.
Pavlickova was waived prior to the start of the 2002 campaign, but in 2003, she signed with the Phoenix Mercury, seeing time in eight games, averaging 0.8 points and 0.5 rebounds. Although that was her final season playing in the WNBA, Pavlickova continued to play professionally overseas, and internationally for her native Czech Republic in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
In the third round, Utah took highly-decorated UConn guard Shea Ralph. The Fayetteville, North Carolina native helped lead the Huskies to the 2000 NCAA Championship, where she earned the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She was also named the Sports Illustrated For Women Player of the Year, and Kodak All-American for her efforts that season.
Five years earlier, Ralph was named the National Freshman of the Year by The Sporting News and the US Basketball Writer’s Association, but her season was cut short in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, when she suffered a torn ACL in her right knee.
She would suffer five ACL injuries in her career before being drafted by the Starzz, and rather than join the team, she opted to sit out the season so her knees could recover. She never ended up playing in the WNBA.
Cara Consuegra rounded out the Starzz’ draft day selections, as Utah took the Iowa guard in the fourth round. She saw action in 15 games as a rookie, scoring two points, grabbing six rebounds, and handing out 10 assists. The Starzz releases Consuegra prior to the start of the 2002 season.