Spotlight On Ketia Swanier

SportsUniversity of ConnecticutDefenseBig East ConferenceMike ThibaultHealthArmed Forces

Swanier is the only freshman to open the season as UConn's starting point guard and finished her career as the only player in program history to rank among the top 10 career leaders in games played, assists and steals. Swanier also won the first Big East Sixth Man of the Year Award as a senior.

WNBA highlights: Swanier was a first-round draft pick of the Connecticut Sun in 2008 and as Lindsay Whalen's backup she appeared in 25 games with six starts. But she averaged only 1.6 points, shooting 27.7 percent from the floor and 23.3 percent (7 of 30) on three-pointers. The Sun released her on June 1, 2009 and two days later she signed with the Phoenix Mercury, with whom she won a WNBA championship last season. Swanier appeared in 33 games last season and averaged 11.8 minutes and 2.8 points.

Charitable life: In 2008 she founded Ketia4kidz, which benefits children of military personnel. Her parents, Cornell and Rosie, served during Swanier's childhood. Ketia4Kidz helps provide support to children of deployed and injured active duty military service members. The foundation seeks excellence in academics and intends to create opportunity for college scholarships through enhancing participation in local military communities youth recreation programs. Swanier has already traveled overseas to military installations, hospitals and places where wounded soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families are housed.

New Start in Phoenix: Swanier admits she was somewhat shocked when the Sun waived her.

"It's not something you ever expect to happen, especially knowing the hard work you had put in during the offseason," Swanier said. "I just told myself, 'It is what it is, God has a plan for me. Everything happens for a reason.' So I decided to just keep working hard, keep my head up and continue to move forward."

Sun coach Mike Thibault offered suggestions for ways she could improve in the offseason. But after a short time playing professionally in Poland, she returned home and spent the rest of the winter focusing on Ketia4Kidz.

"They told me I needed to work on my shot in the offseason," Swanier said. "After I came home from Poland, I played, but mostly by myself or with my father. There wasn't really a lot of 5-on-5. But the only thing I honestly was worried about was maybe not being in basketball shape. And I figured that would come along once I started to run [full court]."

But on June 1, to make room for free agent Kristi Cirone, Thibault waived her.

"I told her she had been outplayed by the people who were here," Thibault said.

"Sometimes you get caught up in a numbers game. She didn't get cut because she was a bad player. Sometimes you need to get cut once to appreciate what you have. If it's taken away, you need to examine what you are doing to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Swanier drove 14 hours home to Georgia that night, uncertain of her WNBA future.

"I had no idea how long I'd have to wait," she said. "But the very next day [June 3], my agent said I was going to Phoenix."

"She is perfect for our system," Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. "She comes in with energy, helps us move faster than we may already be going because she ups the tempo. She's a great defender and a smart player who can score. She may miss a few shots, but I like the aggressiveness she brings because it keeps a defense on its back."

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