September 22, 2005

WNBA title is special for Lawson

Former Lady Vol's voice mail filled up by calls from friends

Kara Lawson could learn to like sleep deprivation.

"I'm not one to stay up late at all,'' the former Tennessee women's basketball guard said.

That was before she won a WNBA championship as a member of the Sacramento Monarchs. She played a key role in the team's title march, which concluded with Tuesday night's 62-59 victory over the Connecticut Sun.

The joyous celebration for Lawson and her teammates was spilling into a second day on Thursday morning. The Monarchs were making the rounds of the local morning television shows in Sacramento.

"We haven't really slept,'' Lawson said. "It hasn't sunk in.''

Lawson has started the process by reviewing the video of her performance in the postgame celebration. Again, she was a key player, dancing on the scorer's table and slapping hands with courtside fans.

In a phone message, a friend of Lawson's described her as a "raving idiot.''

"It was the first time for a lot of us,'' Lawson said. "We didn't care how we looked.''

Lawson's voice mail is serving as a generous source of perspective. She's received messages from every Tennessee coach (Pat Summitt and assistants) she played for and, by her estimation, at least half of her former UT teammates.

"Maybe more,'' she said, "I didn't count.''

Lawson recognized ex-Lady Vol Shyra Ely's voice only by her message ID.

"Ely didn't say a word,'' Lawson said. "She just screamed all the time.''

Everyone from former UT team managers to former roommates have crowded into her cell phone.

"It means a lot,'' Lawson said. "A lot of them said they feel like they won, too. They're very happy for me.

"So much of who I am as a person and a player is because of what happened when I was in college.''

Or what didn't happen. Despite playing in two national championship games, Lawson never won a title at UT.

She left Tennessee with a great appreciation for the difficulty of the quest. As if she needed any reinforcement, this season has deepened her appreciation. It began with a sprained ankle that cost her seven games and required nearly two months of rehabilitation. The season nearly ended prematurely with a shoulder injury right before the playoffs.

"I think you envision everything going right and you having your best year,'' Lawson said of a championship season, "or at least a good year.''

But that's just how it ended for her as well as the team. The third-year player set playoff game career highs for minutes (35), points (18), field goals made (six), field goals attempted (13), 3-pointers made (four) and free throws made (six).

"I have a championship,'' Lawson said. "I was part of something special.''

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