By Charles Hallman
Tayler Hill, the first Minneapolis City Conference player to be a WNBA first-round pick since Tamara Moore in 2002, was among 12 invited prospects to attend Monday’s draft at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
During last week’s pre-draft media conference call, the MSR asked Hill, the 5’-10 Minneapolis South graduate who played her college ball at Ohio State, about any anxiety leading up to the clear possi
bility of hearing her name be called. “I’m a little excited, but I am anxious too at the same time,” she admitted. “I’m trying not to over think it. Whatever team I get drafted to, it’s going to be a blessing.”
That team that drafted Hill Monday night was Washington. She essentially was selected “first” by Coach Mike Thibault: “I’m the first pick of the other draft,” he said of the Mystics’ first pick and fourth overall. “We won’t go wrong in getting a player that will fit our need one way or the other.”
“I’m so excited,” exclaimed the former Ohio State player who led the Big Ten in scoring this past season.
“I’ve seen her play several times,” noted Thibault of Hill.
New York Coach Bill Laimbeer called Hill one of the fastest players in this year’s draft, and her on-court fearlessness also is impressive, especially her ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. “She creates contact, which is good,” says Laimbeer. “Those are good characteristics to get to the next level.”
“Once you’re playing against the best players night-in and night-out, you’ve got to come with it,” confirmed Hill. “You’ve got to bring it every day or you’re going to get embarrassed.”
After her selection, Hill spoke to the media, including the MSR, via phone Monday night. “I think I will make a big impact,” she pointed out. “I really trust Coach Thibault and the rest of the coaching staff to put me in a position where I can be successful.”
Like most rookies, Hill fully understands that whatever she did in college will mean little in the pros, as she must prove herself again. But the Mystics’ first pick says she’s ready for the challenge.
“I think it’s going to be like any other transition,” continued Hill. “You are going to have challenges. You’re going to have good days; you’re going to have bad days. But as long as you fight through and stay confident and your coaches are pushing and your players are pushing for you, it should be fine.”
She’s done it before — Hill briefly talked about that during last week’s media call. “Every year [at Ohio State] I had to play a different role,” she recalls. “I think in college my college coaches did an excellent job of putting me in positions where I had to learn how to play off the ball. I think overall my game has evolved offensively and defensively to be ready for this next level. I’m so excited.”
It doesn’t bother Hill that the draft’s “Big 3” — Britney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins — got the lion’s share of the attention.
“I think Elena, Skylar and Britney deserve all the credit they’ve been getting,” said Hill. “They’ve brought their teams to places that a lot of people don’t bring their teams to, and they’ve done things…in the women’s game to show versatility.
“But the players that they [brought] to the draft are all top players. They wouldn’t be invited if they weren’t top players,” she pointed out.
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