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NBA TeamUp Chair Bob Lanier and other NBA execs attended The Presidents' Summit for America's Future in Philadelphia (NBA)....Orlando "continues its pursuit" of the NFL Pro Bowl as NFL Exec Dir of Club Administration and Stadium Development Joe Ellis toured the area last week (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 4/27)....The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships at the Walt Disney Sports Complex drew more than 15,000 for the week, including 4,600 for Sunday's final. In Orlando, Charean Williams wrote the new facility and "even the ball boys and girls made an impression on the players." Michael Chang: "I don't know whether they take a friendly course or what" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 4/28).
The WNBA held its inaugural draft yesterday as 32 players were selected by eight teams. The Houston Comets selected USC All-American Tina Thompson with the first pick. The WNBA begins its season on June 21 (WNBA). In S.F., Jake Curtis writes that "of the dozen top college seniors targeted by both the WNBA and the American Basketball League in their competition to sign high-profile players, [Stanford's Jamila] Wideman and Thompson were the only two signed by the WNBA" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/29). In Hartford, around 400 people greeted the ABL's press conference announcing Kara Wolters' signing with the Blizzard (Bruce Berlet, HARTFORD COURANT, 4/29). TALE OF TWO LEAGUES: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs compares the WNBA and ABL: "At this point, it's hard to determine whether the WNBA is a basketball league or the Jock Miss America Pageant. ... [the] WNBA seems content as arena- filler to jackknife between tractor pulls and indoor football." Jacobs, on the ABL: "Women's basketball might be huge in Hartford. But there's a bigger beast than the WNBA in much of America. It's called potential lack of interest" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/29). USA TODAY's Dick Patrick profiles the two leagues, noting "If the ABL has the edge with '96 Olympians and the class of '97, the WNBA counters with three marquee names" in Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo. But Patrick writes the WNBA's "reputation is less player-knowledgeable and player-friendly," and that it "alienated some players with its inflexible approach on salaries and decision deadlines." Jerome Stanley, agent for Tina Thompson: "It's hardball. It's the same as the NBA only it's dressed up because this is women and it's new" (USA TODAY, 4/29). In N.Y, Jack Cavanaugh calls the Wolters signing "another coup" for the ABL and a "balm of sorts" for Hartford which is "still reeling" from the Whalers' decision to relocate (N.Y. TIMES, 4/29).