Jan 212004
 
Authors: Justin Goldman

When the newest members of the National Women’s Basketball

League stepped onto their new home court Saturday night at the

Budweiser Events Center, almost half of the 16 players already felt

at home.

“This place is outstanding,” said Colorado Chill head coach Jade

Strohm about their new home court. “It was a nice boost for us,

having the crowd behind us.”

Approximately 3,740 women’s basketball fans gathered at the “Bud

Barn” to witness the first professional basketball game in Northern

Colorado. Despite the new team, many CSU fans saw many familiar

faces.

Strohm, as some fans in this area may remember, helped coach the

CSU Rams women’s team from 1997 to 1999 and was a big part of

molding some of the team’s best players.

Becky Hammon, last year’s NWBL leading scorer (411 points) with

the Tennessee Fury, was a first-team All-American at CSU as a

senior. She holds school records for most points scored and

continued to standout in the WNBA before signing with the

Chill.

Angie Gorton-Nelp also had a standout career with CSU, as she

was named the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year

as a senior.

Katie Cronin is also a member of the Chill. She is second behind

only Hammond for points all-time for the Rams. She amassed 1,881

points and is also second on CSU’s career list in steals (232) and

third in rebounding (857).

Then there are Teresa Hinz and Shannon Randles, both of whom had

standout careers with CSU. They both signed local contracts with

the Chill, meaning they will not travel for away games.

 

A TEAM FILLED WITH TALENT

Although the NWBL is only in its fourth season of

professional-level competition, the Colorado Chill is already the

sixth team in the league.

The NWBL is an affiliate league of the more popular Women’s

National Basketball Association, as players are allowed to play in

both leagues since the WNBA does not begin its season until May.

Since it is an affiliate of the WNBA, the NWBL gives players such

as Hammon and Cronin the chance to further pursue their

professional careers.

Chill center Ruth Riley is one of the team’s players to have

played in the WNBA. Last season she was the starting center for the

Detroit Shock. Ranked second in the league with a .498 field-goal

percentage, Riley led the Shock to a WNBA Championship and was

named the game’s MVP.

“Especially as a young player this is an opportunity to play

with different players and different veterans,” Riley said.

“Players like Katie (Cronin) can use this to get a look in the

(WNBA). Hopefully they’ll get a look in the league this year.”

So while the Chill play in hopes of bringing a NWBL Championship

to Northern Colorado, many players keep their hopes up of one day

signing with a WNBA team.

HOW IT ALL CAME TOGETHER

April 16 was the date when Chill owner Dave King announced in a

press conference that Larimer County would in fact have a second

professional sports team.

King, who owns Triple Crown Sports, a business located here in

Fort Collins, has been working on creating a professional women’s

basketball team for almost a decade.

Then on April 25, King and the Chill signed their first players

to contracts. They were Hammon and Cronin, two of CSU’s most

talented basketball players in history.

“Becky Hammon had a very strong impact in my decision,” King

said during a press conference. “She provided us with so much

feedback that we couldn’t not make the deal.”

At first, King was not even sure that a basketball team could

even play at the Budweiser Events Center.

That was until King realized that Jay Hardy, an old friend and

companion through the family of CSU women’s basketball, was the

director of The Ranch at Larimer County.

After negotiations and an overwhelming response from his staff

at Triple Crown Sports, King purchased the newly named Chill on

April 15.

“Dave King has done an unbelievable job of putting this team

together,” Strohm said.

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