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Sheryl Swoopes pregnant, will miss opening of WNBA

January 9, 1997

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) _ Sheryl Swoopes, perhaps the biggest star of the fledgling Women’s NBA, will miss most of its inaugural season for a reason that never plagued the men’s league: She is pregnant.

The 25-year-old Olympic gold medalist is due to deliver shortly before the WNBA season begins June 21, and will resume playing in August. The season ends Aug. 30.

Swoopes said she and husband Eric Jackson, her high school sweetheart whom she married in 1995, are looking forward to their new arrival.

``I’m very excited about it,″ she said Thursday. ``People can have a lot of injuries, and this is one sort of an injury we know about ahead of time.″

But it is a setback for the WNBA, which will be competing for fans with the rival American Basketball League. The ABL began a 40-game season in October.

WNBA president Val Ackerman and other league officials declined to discuss the impact of losing Swoopes, whose all-around skills have earned her comparisons with Michael Jordan.

``We are very happy for Sheryl and Eric and hope that she has a comfortable and healthy pregnancy,″ Ackerman said. ``We look forward to having Sheryl play in the WNBA as soon as she feels she is ready.″

The league, which owns teams in eight NBA cities, has ballyhooed the signing of such stars as Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo and Ruthie Bolton Holifield.

The league will assign stars like Swoopes to teams based on regional appeal and competitive considerations, and it’s been widely assumed she would play for the WNBA’s only Texas franchise in Houston.

Angela Blakeney, a spokeswoman for the Houston Rockets, who will operate the team, said she couldn’t comment because the player allocations haven’t been made.

``I don’t want people to assume that she has been assigned to this team, because she hasn’t,″ Blakeney said, adding she expects the league’s star assignments to come this month. The WNBA hasn’t set a firm date.

Swoopes reiterated Thursday she wants to play for Houston, though she realizes her early-season absence will create a temporary void for her team.

``I’d love for them to get their 10 players, and when I get back I’ll kind of prove myself to that team,″ she said.

In the meantime, Swoopes said she’s on a strict diet and exercise regimen, and she’ll continue playing in pickup games as long as she’s able.

Marsha Sharp, her coach at Texas Tech, shared her former star’s excitement.

``I think that’s awesome,″ she said. ``I told her if it’s a girl, I want to sign her to a letter of intent the day she’s born.″

Swoopes, a 6-foot forward, scored a record 47 points in the 1993 NCAA title game, and finished that season as the NCAA’s second-leading scorer, averaging 28.1 points a game. In the 1993-94 season, she played in Bari, Italy, and averaged 23.0 points.

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