When you have the top overall pick in any draft, especially a draft that clearly has the best player in America, the choice is so obvious. Yet not until Maya Moore’s name was called first Monday afternoon in the 2011 WNBA Draft could Minnesota Lynx fans finally stop being like Whitney Houston — “Waiting to Exhale.”
“She is going to come in and make an immediate impact,” said Roxanne Allen, Minneapolis, who attended the team’s draft party held Monday at a restaurant inside the downtown Minneapolis arena.
“We’ve seen what she’s done her whole career at UConn,” added Brandon Harston, Minnetonka, a first-year season ticket holder.
“She’s the best [player] coming out of college,” believes Derrick Howard, Crystal. He and his two daughters, ages 11 and 17, are frequent attendees at Lynx games. “I think we will get a lot more W’s [wins],” Howard surmised.
Unlike the unlucky Timberwolves, the Lynx have thrice won the right to pick first because their lottery ping-pong ball came up on top: Seimone Augustus in 2006, Lindsay Harding (2007 via trade), and now Moore, a 6’-1” forward. No other major league pro team in town can boast such honors.
Once she learned that Minnesota got the top ping-pong ball in last fall’s draft lottery, “I was happy to see that they had the first pick,” Moore told the MSR and other local reporters by phone shortly after being selected. “Minnesota is one of those teams that are on the border of breaking through. There is a lot of great talent and great potential to have a great season next season.”
After hearing her name called, finally fulfilling a prophesy made four years ago when she was a Connecticut freshman, Moore said proudly, “I gave my mom a hug. When the WNBA first came about, she was excited to see that I potentially have a professional career. That’s what I wanted to do. It’s a great moment for both of us, a very satisfying moment.”
There have been only a few transformational draft picks in the WNBA’s 15 years: Lauren Jackson (2001), Diana Taurasi (2004), Augustus (2006), Candace Parker (2008), and now Moore. These are players who are the “every once in a while” draft picks with greatness written all over them, explains Minnesota Coach Cheryl Reeve.
My only time watching Moore in person was at last summer’s WNBA all-star exhibition game in Connecticut, where she was the only college player on the USA squad, playing against league all-stars. I was very impressed.
“It did two things for me,” the now-Minnesota rookie recalls of that game. “It gave me confidence to see that I can be successful at the professional and international level. But also [I learned] that there is a lot more work to be done if I want to be very successful at that level. It gave me some hunger to continue to work on some of the little things that will be necessary to keep me successful at that level.”
Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen, who played with Moore on that USA squad, says, “She makes it look so easy because she is so smooth. She always is working hard, but she makes the game look so easy, and so easy for the people around her as well.”
Xavier forward Amber Harris was Minnesota’s second pick, fourth overall. Reeve notes that when Chicago took Gonzaga guard Courtney Vandersloot a pick before that, “We were ecstatic.”
“That definitely was a surprise,” admitted Harris during a brief phone interview after she was drafted. “I talked to the Chicago coaches, and I thought they were going to pick me. I am happy to go to Minnesota.”
“I was surprised that she was still on the market,” said Allen. “I thought Chicago would take her. I expect that they [the Lynx] will play Amber a lot.”
“What’s better than to get a 6’-5” versatile player?” concurred Harston. “That’s what every team looks for, somebody who can rebound, pass, shoot and handle the ball. I don’t think Minnesota went wrong at all.”
This longtime WNBA follower can honestly say that Moore brings to the Lynx the same type of athletic ability — a proven, no-nonsense scorer. Maybe she is that player who can finally help Minnesota break through the non-playoff ceiling and truly become a serious contender.
“I believe we’re the envy of the league with the depth we have,” claimed Reeve after the three-round draft concluded Monday. Now in her second year as head coach, she says matter-of-factly, “Phase two is winning.”
As the newest Lynx, who comes to Minnesota with a championship pedigree of two national titles and soon with a degree in sports media and promotion, Moore surmises of her new team, “The pieces are there — it is just a matter of putting them together to win a championship.”
“I’m really excited about this season,” exclaimed Allen, an 11-year Lynx season ticket holder.
Special thanks to MSR sports intern Onika Nicole Craven for her assistance with this week’s column.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.