The Big 3 draft” was no surprise. Through the days and weeks, if not the last few years, leading up to Monday’s WNBA draft, top picks Britney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne were a three-headed Carly Simon anticipation trio of college stars that the league hadn’t seen before. The picks played out as expected.
It was essentially two drafts in one. The game-changers went first:
The 6’-8 Griner, “an impact player,” was picked first by Phoenix.
The 6’-5 Delle Donne, who went to Chicago at No. 2, is “one of those once-in-a-lifetime players” compared to Seattle’s Lauren Jackson.
The 5’-9 Diggins, who’s “got the whole package,” was selected third by Tulsa. “This class is special,” said Diggins. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”
The MSR was the only local media who spoke with all three draftees in a telephone interview with reporters after their selections Monday night.
“I’m excited and I am glad this day has come,” said Griner. We asked her what part of her game besides the dunks has been most overlooked. “I think a part of my game that is overlooked a little bit is my shot,” she responded. “That element of my game is something that I think is surprising [to some] — my soft touch around the basket and the hook shot.”
Delle Donne said she is looking forward to playing for Chicago Coach Pokey Chatman, the league’s only Black female head coach. “I will spend hours in the gym working with her,” the guard-forward said.
We then asked Diggins about her business management degree from Notre Dame. “I am currently working to finish my degree. I don’t have very long to go. I do have some classes to finish up, and I’ll be heading back to start on that soon.”
It’s way too early to judge this year’s draft class, which some have compared to the 2004 draft. Five of that draft’s first-rounders eventually played on championship teams — Diana Taurasi (1st), Nicole Powell (3rd), Lindsay Whalen (4th), Rebekkah Brunson (10th) and Shereka Wright (13th) — and eight top picks are still active today. In that same draft, four second-rounders and one third-rounder played more than a couple of seasons.
Furthermore, is there a Katie Douglas or a Michelle Snow, two players picked at No. 10, or a Penny Taylor at No. 11? Or a Tangela Smith and a Tanisha Wright, two former 12th picks. These players are still active in the league.
“That class you mentioned was so talented,” Diggins later told the MSR. “I think there is a huge buzz about this [draft] class. We are looking forward to the WNBA, our potential, and to make an impact and to make fans watch and put butts in the seats.”
Then “the other draft” took place, with Minneapolis native Tayler Hill being selected by Washington with the fourth overall pick. (More on Hill in this week’s “Sports Odds and Ends”) Save for a couple of selections, this year’s first round was again dominated by sistahs, maybe not as star-billed as Diggins and Griner, but players who could fill a team’s need.
However, with a short roster (only 11 players) and not many openings, drafted players aren’t a lock despite impressive college stats.
The Minnesota Lynx selected guards with their first two picks: Lindsay Moore of Nebraska at No. 12 and Ta’Shauna “Sugar” Rodgers of Georgetown at No. 14.
“I’m really excited to start playing with the Lynx,” announced Moore. “They have a great ball club with Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen. Lindsay Whalen has been one of my idols growing up… To play with her and learn from her, I’m super excited about it.”
Added Rodgers, “I’m just excited to be selected. I can bring some excitement. I have three weeks to train, so I’m going to train as hard as I can to get on the roster.”
Colorado guard Chucky Jeffery (24th overall) and North Carolina center Waltiea Rolle (36th overall) were the other Minnesota picks.
In a few weeks, all those college stats become historical talking points as the 2013 draftees must prove that they can indeed make the necessary adjustments upward to become rookie professionals.
“It’s a physical league,” said Bill Laimbeer, coach of the New York Liberty and known for his own physicality in his player days. “These are grown women that are much bigger and stronger than the college ladies out there.”
Delle Donne admitted that she will have to get “stronger and bigger, because it is a powerful league.”
“I will go in there with a competitive attitude and a good work ethic,” said Diggins. “I want to come in there as a leader.”
“I’m just ready to bring my best,” said Rodgers.
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