For 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section will feature a column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series. This week: sticking it out
Noelle Quinn became a part of WNBA league history in 2007. The six-foot guard was the Minnesota Lynx’s top pick in that year’s draft held in Cleveland, the second straight year it was held immediately after the NCAA women’s title game in the same city as the Final Four.
It was a draft where, in the days leading up to it, two questions needed answers: First, will Candace Parker opt out of her final year at Tennessee and enter the draft? She was eligible due to it being her fourth year. If she had opted out, she rather than Duke’s Lindsay Harding most likely would have been Phoenix’s top choice.
After Parker announced her intention to stay in school, then a second question: Where would Harding go after the Mercury selected her? The guard was the presumptive top choice, and Phoenix had the top pick that spring. But with Diana Taurasi already in the fold — the team selected her as the 2004 overall pick — Phoenix really didn’t need another point guard in Harding but instead could use her for trade bait.
Therefore, when Quinn became the fourth overall pick, the top two picks — Harding and center Jessica Davenport, selected by San Antonio — were both picked by one team and sent to another. Davenport went to New York for Becky Hammon, and Harding was dispatched to Minnesota for forward Tangela Smith.
It was the first time in WNBA history that the top two picks were traded on draft day. And the MSR, the only local media in attendance, was there. We got exclusive dibs in speaking to both Harding, who unlike Davenport wasn’t surprised at being traded, and with Quinn, the guard out of UCLA whose actual selection by Minnesota was somewhat overshadowed by the wheeling and dealing as well as her now rookie teammate.
“Yeah, I remember that,” recalls Quinn, now in her 10th season — she has played with Minnesota, Phoenix and now Seattle. “It was an exciting time. Coming from school and having the opportunity even to be drafted is a dream come true.”
Always soft-spoken off the court, Quinn says of hearing her name called as a draftee, “It was a surreal moment, because that was something I dreamt about. My family was there. My agent was there. Some of my college teammates were there. That’s all I can remember.”
More importantly, Quinn has staying power. She has only missed two games in the last three seasons.
“I didn’t have any vision I’d be around a long time, and longevity is the key in this league,” says Quinn. “Ten years in [the league]… I actually didn’t know how [the W] would be or how Europe would be [where she, like most players, plays in the off-season]. I’ve seen a lot of countries. I played with a lot of great players. I’ve enjoyed it.”
A record 26 current WNBA players are in this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio. This broke the previous record of 22 in 2000.
Aside from the United States with 12 American players, Australia and host Brazil have the most W players with three each, and Serbia and Spain both feature two league players. A combined 40 former NBA and WNBA players, including seven members of the Australian National Teams and six Brazilians, are on team rosters in Rio as well.
Lindsay Harding (Phoenix) is also there but as a member of the Belarus team, as well as Latoya Sanders (Washington) for Turkey. Both are dual citizens and at one time played for Minnesota.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.