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
“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
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
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
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
“Dave King has done an unbelievable job of putting this team
together,” Strohm said.