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Dallas Wings players seek to erase injury-plagued first season

Dallas Wings 2017 Media Day

The Dallas Wings WNBA team held their 2017 Media Day Tuesday at their home court on the UTA campus in Arlington.
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The Dallas Wings WNBA team held their 2017 Media Day Tuesday at their home court on the UTA campus in Arlington.

Guards Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray are a month removed from helping South Carolina win the NCAA women’s basketball national championship in Dallas.

It’s been a quick turnaround from college to the pros.

The college teammates won the title on April 2, and 11 days later were drafted No. 4 and No. 10 by the Dallas Wings, who hosted a media day Monday at UTA’s College Park Center to tip-off their second year in the Metroplex.

“As they were announcing the 10th pick, I was in the corner with coach [Dawn] Staley and I heard them say Kaela Davis to Dallas,” said Gray, who went No. 4. “We’re going right back together again. I was very excited.”

In the NCAA final, Gray recorded 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Davis added 10 points and six rebounds as South Carolina beat Mississippi State 67-55 to win its first national title.

“Allisha and I have been a through a lot together,” Davis said. “To kind of turn around and see a familiar face and know you have someone to go through these different things and transition with, it’s fun and helpful.”

The pair led the Wings with 28 combined points in their first preseason game – an 87-81 loss to San Antonio on Saturday.

“The game is definitely physical,” Gray said. “It’s a big transition playing in the WNBA, a lot of stuff to learn, especially as a rookie.”

Dallas plays its final preseason game at College Park Center at 7 p.m. Saturday against Indiana. The regular season begins May 14 at Phoenix.

The Wings look to improve in their second season in the Metroplex and return to the playoffs after missing last year’s postseason with an 11-23 record.

One thing that might help head coach Fred Williams is that two-time all-star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith is 100 percent. She started last season recovering from an ACL injury and missed the team’s first seven games.

“After working with her in the off-season for two or three months – seeing her work out without the brace – I would say she’s 100 percent,” Williams said. “She’s a player that is ready to tackle a challenge this year and that’s to help this team to the playoffs and go for a championship run.”

After her early-season absence, Diggins-Smith averaged 13.1 points, 3.4 assists and 28.3 minutes over 27 games.

The recent newlywed is motivated to get the Wings back to the playoffs.

“This is the first year that I feel like we have people healthy and I think we’ve had the injury bug a lot with the squad throughout the years I’ve had with this franchise,” Diggins-Smith said. “It’s my fifth year, second in Dallas, and I want nothing more than to win a championship.”

Second-year forward Aerial Powers, veterans Erin Phillips, Courtney Paris, Karima Christmas-Kelly and Glory Johnson, and rookies Evelyn Akhator, Breanna Lewis and Saniya Chong are also on the training camp roster.

“I expect us to have the competitive edge to win games,” Williams said. “Working toward a championship is what we’re looking at this year, especially with the chemistry of players that we have.”

The WNBA has also announced a multi-year streaming deal with Twitter and to bring live games to that social media platform, starting with Dallas at Phoenix on May 14. The league will live stream 20 regular-season games each of the next three seasons.

Dallas will be a part of three other Twitter games: May 25 at San Antonio, July 12 at Chicago and Aug. 23 at Connecticut.

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