By Charles Hallman
Only four times in 11 previous WNBA lotteries have the worst teams actually got the top pick. Therefore, if the lottery didn’t exist, the Tulsa Shock would’ve had the top overall pick the last two years.
Some hinted that Phoenix, whose lottery ball came up first last week, might have lost a few more games in order to put themselves in a better position. As a result, once again the lottery bandits robbed the season’s worst team, Washington, of the right to draft first — the Mystics instead will draft fourth.
No such “not playing hard” talk about Tulsa, who got the third draft slot and who might have been the league’s best nine-win club this season. “We don’t give up,” said Shock rookie guard Riquna Williams. “We’re a scrappy team, and we never lay down. We come back on a run to give the other team a hard time.”
The team played all season without last year’s top pick Liz Cambage, but their two rookies this season, center Glory Johnson (second overall) and Williams (the 17th pick), finished one-two in steals among rookies. And fifth-year guard Ivory Latta, who led Tulsa in scoring this season, seemed to have finally found a pro home.
With Cambage expected back next year, along with another high pick next spring, and with Johnson, Williams and Latta among the returnees, the Shock might be a more competitive club next season for the first time since they left Detroit three years ago.
The 5-7 Williams (nearly 11 points a game) was one of only four first-year players who finished with double-figure scoring averages. She also was first in three-point shooting, second in free throw shooting, and third in assists, along with finishing second in steals.
“I thought it would be a lot tougher, a lot more physical,” admits the former Miami player on her first pro season. “But we as rookies don’t get calls, no matter how hard we go to the basket. That’s a ‘welcome to the WNBA,’ but you try to keep your cool.”
Indiana rookie Sasha Goodlett, however, summed up her first year in the W as an elevator ride: “It’s been up and down,” she points out, adding that she especially appreciated her teammates helping “in their own way to help me grow and become a better player than I was when I first came in.”
The 6-5 center from Georgia Tech noted that she still needs to adjust to “the little details” of the professional game. “Now every little detail is looked at — how you position yourself for a cut, or how you set a screen. Things that you wouldn’t think about, you have to pay attention to here.”
Both rookies will head overseas for the off-season: Williams plans to play in Slovenia, but Goodlett hasn’t decided where yet. Nonetheless, her focus will be on improving her game “so I can come back here [next season] and contribute to my team.”
San Antonio Assistant Coach Vickie Johnson completed her “sophomore” year on the sidelines, two years removed from her playing days.
“The big transition for me as a player to a coach is actually explaining to them and not being able to show them. Now I actually have to go and speak with them, and be clear on what I want them to do, how to execute and how to defend,” she points out.
“She’s made a huge jump from year one to year two,” notes Silver Stars Coach/GM Dan Hughes on his former player now assistant coach. “It was fun having her last year, but she really worked hard to improve in her overall coaching methods in so many ways, whether it’s coming to me with information or taking it to the players.”
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