Minneapolis native Nia Coffey, who played at Northwestern; Baylor’s Alexis Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough of Maryland, are among 10 invited prospects who will be “in the heart of New York City” for Thursday’s WNBA Draft, one month before the 2017 regular season tips off May 13.
Coffey, Jones and Walker-Kimbrough are likely first-rounders in a guard-heavy draft. “The draft is a launching point for our 21st season and represents a cherished moment for these players as they begin their quest to make a mark on the WNBA,” said League President Lisa Borders in a released statement.
During the April 6 WNBA Media Conference Call, Coffey told reporters, including the MSR, that she has kept busy in preparing to hear Borders call her name Thursday evening. “I’ve been just trying to work on anything that would just help improve my game: just shooting, dribbling, just post moves, just making sure I keep my conditioning up,” said the 6’-1” forward.
“My dreams are finally coming true,” added the 5’-11” guard Walker-Kimbrough. “So just soak it all in and appreciate the moment.”
“I’m excited for this draft just like everybody else,” admitted Jones, a 5’-9” guard. “I’m just excited to be at this next level, and I’m just blessed to have this opportunity.”
Most observers see this year’s draft as heavy on “depth” rather than stocked with star power players. “Even though some of the juniors [who were draft-eligible but are staying in school] didn’t come in, but I think it’s still a deep draft, especially in that first and second-round, to really get some good quality players,” noted Dallas Coach Fred Williams.
“Our options are open,” said San Antonio Coach Vickie Johnson. Her Stars have the first and fifth overall pick. “It’s very important that we pick the right players because those players are our future.”
Some have projected Kelsey Plum (Washington) who set the NCAA women’s record for career points and points in a season is the possible overall pick. “I think Kelsey Plum is the greatest value. You’re going to get your bang for the buck as the number-one pick, whether you keep her or trade her,” noted ESPN Analyst LaChina Robinson on the 5’-8” Plum.
Robinson also likes Coffey, the first Northwestern player to be a four-time, all-conference player not as the top pick, but possibly for Chicago, who picks second and ninth. “I think she is the player that could make the biggest jump from college to what she will eventually be as a pro,” said the analyst on Coffey, the only local-born player in this year’s draft. “Her size, her length — she can drive it, she can shoot it, pull up off of a pick-and-roll, which is a Proud Mary form of offense in the WNBA.
“She has a great knack for the ball in rebounding. She has a lot of the intangibles and physical attributes that make a WNBA player successful,” noted Robinson.
“I haven’t talked to Chicago,” said Coffey. “I love Chicago a lot. It would be amazing to stay in Chicago. But making any team would just be a dream come true for me.”
Finally, Dallas has three picks — Nos. 3 and 4, then later No. 10: “There [are] a variety of talent that we can select from, from a big to a small guard,” concluded Williams. “We’re looking at players who are really pro-ready to come on in and really help us right away. I think that’s very important.”
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.