Battle of Texas pits young Stars against Wings

If the San Antonio Stars are going to move out of the bottom of the WNBA, the first step is winning games at home.

That effort continues when the Stars host the Dallas Wings on Thursday in a Lone Star shootout at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

It’s a matchup of two of the WNBA’s youngest teams in terms of age and experience. Dallas features five rookies, including three first-round picks.

San Antonio (0-3) has lost nine straight home games dating to the end of the 2016 season and is without its top draft pick, NCAA Division I career scoring champion Kelsey Plum (left ankle) and last season’s top draft choice, Moriah Jefferson (right knee soreness).

Star guard Kayla McBride, fresh off a trip to the championship series in the Turkish League and a cross-Atlantic Ocean trip back to the Alamo City, will get her first start of the season for San Antonio after coming off the bench to score 14 points in 26 minutes in its 78-72 home loss to Phoenix on Sunday.

It was McBride’s first game for the Stars since a left foot injury sidelined her last July. She was averaging a career-high 17.1 points per game last season before the injury.

“It was a good feeling to be on the court tonight,” McBride said. “I was really happy to be back in San Antonio. I was excited to put that uniform on, it didn’t really matter how tired I was, I was happy to be out there with my teammates.”

San Antonio will also be bolstered off the bench by veteran center Monique Curry, who is its leading scorer (20.7 per game) despite not being a starter.

“Being around 12 years, I know younger players, they’re quicker, they’re faster, but I like to think I’m a little bit smarter than they are,” Currie said. “I can be more efficient if I need to be. Just finding ways to use the least amount energy to produce the most effectiveness is the goal.”

Dallas (1-1) looks for their second overall win and second road victory of the season after losing 89-87 at home to Minnesota on Saturday despite 22 points from guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and 15 from rookie guard Allisha Gray, one of the Wings’ two draft picks from South Carolina, the NCAA national champion.

Dallas has decided it will take its chances this season with youth and ride the success of its five selections in April’s WNBA draft. No team since the Minnesota Lynx in 2000 had kept so many first-year draft picks on a roster.

“I love this situation because all these young players are so competitive,” Wings forward Glory Johnson said. “They push me. I’m used to being on a team with a whole bunch of older players. So it’s good for me.”

In Dallas’ season-opening road win over Phoenix on May 14, No. 10 overall pick Kaela Davis came off the bench to lead all scorers with 20 points. Gray, the No. 4 overall pick and Davis’ South Carolina teammate, was the only Dallas starter to score in double digits.

“You just have to focus on what you do best,” Davis said. “You just have to think of what’s the best way I can handle this situation. It’s just one big mesh that we’re all just trying to figure out as time goes on.”

Even with the season-opening victory at Phoenix, the Wings have lost eight of their past 10 road games.

“Working toward a championship is what we’re looking at this year, especially with the chemistry of players that we have,” Dallas coach Fred Williams said.