AP Video: Players test out first WNBA video game

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Sugar Rodgers, far right, holds the controller alongside Shavonte Zellous, center, while they play NBA Live while Tina Charles and other New York Liberty teammates look on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at the team's practice facility in Tarrytown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Doug Feinberg)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) Sugar Rodgers always wanted to play as herself in an NBA video game, but had to settle for putting "Rodgers" on the back of a male player.

Not anymore.

For the first time, all 12 WNBA teams, plus All-Star rosters, are available in the new NBA Live 18 game, which will be released Friday. The Associated Press brought an advanced copy to a New York Liberty practice Saturday and let Rodgers and teammate Shavonte Zellous give it a test run.

First impressions?

"If you're a little girl, you've got to be excited," Rodgers said. "As a grown woman, I'm excited."

Both players immediately checked their ratings. Rodgers, who earned the AP Sixth Woman of the Year award, was a little disappointed with her 80 overall grade.

"I think I'm an 85, almost a 90," she said. "It is what it is."

Minnesota star Sylvia Fowles has the highest rating among the women, earning a 93. She's followed by Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne, who are one point behind.

"It feels good to know I'm rated at a high rate," Fowles said. "The way I performed this year had a lot to do with that. I'm excited to play this game for the first time."

WNBA teams and players can only be used in exhibition mode this year, and users can't create new female players yet, either. The plan is to add new features for the women in future versions of the game.

The Liberty were still impressed by some of the details programmers got right, including their choice of shoe and hairstyle Stefanie Dolson's purple hair even made the cut. Officials will recognize the glare they get from Taurasi's character after a foul call, and Brittney Griner has all of her tattoos. There's even the WNBA's "Watch me Work" campaign on the video boards and the WNBA Pride logo on the scorer's table.

"To have our shoes that we wear in the games is awesome," Zellous said. "Some of the players don't look exactly how they look off the court, maybe next year they can get my dreads a little longer. It's the first year, and it's great."

Rodgers did notice that players in the game tended to use their left hand more than in real life. Maybe that's because WNBA rookie Kelsey Plum, who is left-handed, was one of the main people used by EA Sports for motion capture. She went to the studio in British Columbia in the summer of 2016 after her junior year of college.

The players were grabbed by the quality of the game. Zellous was animated at the controls, whooping and cheering each time her video game character touched the ball. Curious teammates stuck around to check their ratings, and many used their phones to post photos and video on social media.

"It's going to continue to help our league grow," Zellous said. "When they first announced this, everyone was so amazed. Finally something for the women, not just the men. When you have little kids looking up to us, and you have a video game to help that, it's amazing."

___

Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

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