May 26, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) It's the year of the lefty among WNBA rookies.

Five of the first-round choices last month are southpaws, including three of the top five picks. A high number when you consider under 15 percent of the world's population are lefties.

''I never thought about that, but that is kind of cool,'' said left-hander Kelsey Plum, who was chosen first. ''When I was younger it definitely was an advantage, but as you get older you play well with both hands and people are more used to guarding you.''

San Antonio also spent its No. 5 pick on another lefty, Nia Coffey. The Stars' first-year players were joined by fellow southpaws No. 4 pick Allisha Gray, No. 11 Sydney Wiese and No. 12 Alexis Jones in the opening round.

''I had no idea there were so many lefties in the first round,'' said Wiese, who was taken by Los Angeles. ''It definitely has its advantages on the court.''

Last season there were no lefties drafted in the first round. Next year, expected top pick A'ja Wilson is left-handed as well as Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell, who also could go in the top five. Despite it being a statistical anomaly, taking so many lefties was no surprise to ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson, a left-hander herself.

''Research suggests that left-handed people are right-brained, which means they are more artistic, innovative, creative, perceptive, and spontaneous,'' she said. ''Those qualities may result in that lefty ball-handler seeing the court and defenses through a different lens. Athletes are creatures of habit and develop muscle memory so if you are repeatedly drilling defensive close outs on a right-handed shooter, or forcing a player to drive left, there is a mental adjustment a defender must make in a short amount of time if they're guarding a lefty.''

Dallas coach Fred Williams has been around the league for awhile and has coached his fair share of lefties, including current Wings star Skylar Diggins. He has definitely seen the number of them increase.

''It's starting to grow more over the years. You look in the league and look at the percentage of the left-handed players, it's up,'' he said. ''And those are players who are marquee players for their team. I just think it's like in boxing, going against a southpaw guy. It's like a different fight and it's a different feel guarding a left-handed player defensively because you're so used to playing people right-handed. It's an advantage.''

Williams had a starting backcourt over the past few years of Diggins and Odyssey Sims - another lefty.

''I'm used to it. I'm almost left-handed,'' he said with a laugh. ''I'm drinking coffee left-handed now.''

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AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this story from Arlington, Texas.

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