Stacey Dales-Schuman, a former first-round pick of the Washington Mystics and current ESPN analyst, will end her retirement and play next season for the Chicago Sky, the WNBA's newest expansion team, she said yesterday.

"I really put the word 'retirement' in quotes," Dales-Schuman said of her decision to retire after the 2004 season. "For me, really, I needed to just step away and take some time on my own and take a break. I think you could say the thought of playing was still alive in my mind."

Dales-Schuman, whom Chicago selected in yesterday's expansion draft after the Mystics opted not to protect her rights, said she decided "very recently" to return to the court next season. Although she was not under contract with the Mystics, the team still possessed her rights, according to her agent, Jeanne McNulty-King.

On Nov. 1 the Mystics submitted to the league a list of six players who were not available for selection. Because Dales-Schuman had not decided to resume her career by then, Washington did not protect her, Mystics General Manager Linda Hargrove said. She declined to disclose the names of the protected players.

"We would have looked at our list a lot differently if we had known she had interest in coming back," Hargrove said.

Dales-Schuman said she called to inform Hargrove of her decision a few days ago.

"I hadn't told anybody really, not even my family," Dales-Schuman said. "It's just me. My choice came to me. You know when it just feels right, and it just felt right."

Washington drafted Dales-Schuman third overall in 2002. She averaged 9.3 points in three seasons and was named a replacement to the 2002 all-star team. Dales-Schuman said she will continue working for ESPN as a women's college basketball studio analyst and a sideline reporter for college football and men's college basketball.

Chicago Coach Dave Cowens was ecstatic to have Dales-Schuman on his team's roster. "It was like pennies from heaven," he said in a conference call with reporters.