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League defends honor in draft

Even while stocking its eight existing teams and two expansion franchises with some of the nation's top college players, the American Basketball League felt compelled to defend its honor.

As the women's league held its third annual draft Tuesday, ABL co-founder Gary Cavalli methodically disputed reports he said were unfair to the league _ which competes with the rival WNBA for top players.

No, Cavalli insisted, ABL players don't travel long distances between games on buses and they don't stay in lousy hotels. And Cavalli said the ABL never even offered a contract to Malgorzata Dydek, who was the top overall pick in the WNBA's draft last week.

Cavalli said players who were recruited by both leagues heard tales of second-class conditions in the ABL, and it was time to dispel such ideas.

"It was significant enough that I wanted to make a comment today," Cavalli said. "I wanted to dispel all the fairy tales and myths about the ABL."

But Cavalli admitted the ABL lost the recruiting battle to the WNBA this year. He said the ABL signed a large majority of the most sought-after players last year, but got just six of the top 15 players it had identified this year _ while the WNBA signed the other nine.

The top picks in Tuesday's draft all expressed their delight at being ABL players, with No. 1 selection Danielle McCulley saying she chose the ABL because of its longer season.

The ABL season runs from October to March. The WNBA is a summer league, and some of its players head to Europe after completing the season.

"I wanted to stay here in the states so that my family and friends would be able to see me play," said McCulley, who was chosen by the Portland Power.

McCulley, a 6-foot-3 forward from Western Kentucky, was one of three first-round picks by Portland.

Philadelphia made Chasity Melvin, who led North Carolina State to its first Final Four appearance this year, the second pick in the draft. Barbara Farris of Tulane was chosen third by New England.