Phoenix Mercury prepares to get younger Little by Lyttle.
The WNBA season has been bookended by retirement announcements out of the Phoenix Mercury camp. Early in the year, it was Camille Little who revealed that she would be walking away at the end of the summer. This weekend, it was the woman Little has affectionately referred to as her “cousin,” Sancho Lyttle.
Lyttle began her WNBA career in Houston with the league’s original dynasty. She was drafted by the Houston Comets in 2005 as the No. 5 overall pick and continued with them until the team was disbanded in 2008.
The Atlanta Dream took Lyttle first in the dispersal draft that sent the former Comets around the league. She remained with the team from 2009 until 2017.
For the last two years, Lyttle has found her home in Phoenix. Unfortunately, she hasn’t found a longterm place on the court. Injuries have kept the 15-year veteran from being a consistent factor for the Mercury in her two seasons with the team.
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Lyttle signed with Phoenix prior to the 2018 season, but she tore her ACL during the season and sat out 16 games. The club hoped for a strong recovery when they re-signed her in March, but it didn’t quite go that way.
Lyttle started slow, then once again dealt with injuries in 2019. While she played 20 games, she averaged a career-low 12.5 minutes per game and started in only two contests all season.
In fact, Lyttle was at or below season averages in almost every statistical category in 2019. Points per game (2.9), rebounds per game (2.9), and assists per game (0.3) were all career lows for her.
For Lyttle, the decline in playing time was not an isolated event. She has only appeared in 30 or more games five times in her 15-year career. The last time was in 2014 when she played all 34 games. She has appeared in 20 or fewer games four times, including a career-low six games in 2013 when she sat out with a foot fracture.
Over her WNBA career, Lyttle averaged 8.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. She shot 47.3 percent from the field and 70.4 percent from the free-throw line in 23.9 minutes per game.
The native of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines didn’t grow up playing basketball. In fact, she didn’t pick up the game until she was 17 years old and had come to the U.S. for high school. Prior to that, she had competed in netball and track.
Lyttle began playing in Spain in 2006 and became a Spanish citizen on June 26, 2010. She made her debut for the Spanish women’s senior team at the Women’s World Championship later that year, helping the team to a third-place finish and getting selected for the All-Star Five. She has been a part of medal-winning teams in FIBA competitions ever since.
Lyttle also spent eight seasons playing in Europe. She won four Euroleague titles with four different clubs and was named the FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year in 2013.
With the retirements of Little and Lyttle, the Phoenix Mercury can now look to get younger if they choose. For an organization that may be able to lay some responsibility for its instability in 2019 at the feet of an older roster, it could turn into a positive in the long-term.
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