Leslie looks forward to opportunity to impact young women

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Lisa Leslie says she doesn't consider herself a pioneer of women's basketball, but she hopes she's able to lead more young girls into athletics. Leslie, who'll be the featured speaker for National Girls and Women in Sports Day in Oklahoma City next week, said too many women paved the way even before she started playing basketball for her to consider herself a trailblazer. But through the national event, the WNBA star hopes to encourage young women to get involved in sports. She said studies have shown athletics increase the likelihood that women will get better grades and be successful in life, while decreasing the chance that they will become pregnant early in life. Hundreds of fifth-grade girls are expected to participate in the event Feb. 10 at the Cox Convention Center. "If I only reach one, then I feel good about that," Leslie said. When she was younger, Leslie was impacted by basketball player Lynette Woodard at an event in California with the the Harlem Globetrotters. "Just to have her there in that clinic, it made me aspire to be better," Leslie said. Leslie said she's grateful for the growing success of the WNBA and women's college basketball. "With women's basketball being the No. 1 chosen sport among teens right now, it's just given us a great opportunity to reach the youth," Leslie said. Leslie said she never doubted the WNBA would survive once it got the backing of the NBA, but she never envisioned playing in first-class arenas. She had pictured a small league with players in reversible jerseys. "The growth has been probably the most amazing part to me," Leslie said. Leslie said she'd like to see the WNBA continue to expand -- but with more teams before it adds games to the schedule. "We don't want to put ourselves in competition with the NBA, football, baseball and hockey," Leslie said. "I think we have a good slot right now."

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