Last night 36 young women saw their wildest basketball dreams come to life as they were drafted into the WNBA. The circumstances were unusual, to say the least, but I’m sure that did not take away from the joy and excitement for the draftees. To open up the Draft the WNBA took the time to pay tribute to Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester with honorary draft selections and heartfelt messages from each of their families. The unique draft process was really a composite of what the WNBA and women’s basketball has always been about: flexibility, versatility, the ability to fight through adversity and looking absolutely stunning while doing it.
Simply put, it was a great night for the W. Commissioner Cathy Englebert and the league both did a phenomenal job to bring a resemblance of normalcy to the marquee event in the midst of these uncertain times. The ladies still got the opportunity to hear their names called and celebrate the moment with their friends and families. This wasn’t the night they envisioned as little girls playing ball in the driveway, but I had the chance to hop on a call with the draftees and their voices were filled with exuberance. The one sentiment that echoed with each player was their excitement to test their talents against the best players in the world.
As for the draft itself, things pretty much went as expected through the first four picks. Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally went with the first two picks, making it the third time teammates went within the first two picks in league history. Sabrina Ionescu aka “Ms. 2K-1K-1K” will start her pro career in the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge and Sabally will be in Dallas with the rest of the newly acquired young talent. Lauren Cox went to Indiana as the 3rd pick in the draft, where she will play under Marriane Stanley who is fresh off a championship run with the Mystics and the Hall of Famer herself, Tamika Catchings in the front office. The steal of the night may have been Chennedy Carter, who went to the Atlanta Dream with the fourth pick. Carter and Courtney Williams (acquired during the off-season) are going to wreak havoc on opposing backcourts and they will not be shy putting up shots with the Kalani Brown safety net down low, cleaning up on the boards.
Things did get interesting in the middle of the first round. The Lynx took Mikiah Herbert Harrigan from South Carolina with the sixth pick and her teammate, Tyasha Harris, was taken right behind her at #7 by the Dallas Wings. Neither were high on anyone’s draft board before the start of the college season and they were still doubted every step of the way despite being proven winners. South Carolina head coach, Dawn Staley, was quite vocal of this throughout the 2019-2020 season and supported her players to the fullest. I can only imagine their sense of fulfillment when the Gamecock pair went back-to-back so high in the draft.
It was widely reported that the Lynx would take a guard with their first-round pick but Cheryl Reeve (Head Coach, Minnesota) said they’d take the best player available. Coming in as a rookie this has to be a huge vote of confidence for “Kiki” that Minnesota thought that highly of her.
Now you know we couldn’t leave without some sneaker talk. As reported by Made For The W yesterday, Sabrina Ionescu confirmed she signed a shoe deal with Nike. This really comes as no surprise as she’s played for Nike programs for the better part of ten years. Her high school team wore Nikes and she played her college hoops at Oregon where none other than Phil Knight is a major contributor to the program. Ionescu also famously had a relationship with Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, before their untimely passing.
Steph Curry is cool and all but he wasn’t luring Sabrina away. Her teammate, Sabally, also stated in the post-draft press conference that she was weighing her options in regards to committing to a sneaker company, but by the looks of things and a couple of hints dropped on social media, she may be leaning heavily towards Jordan Brand.
With the recent changes in the CBA which will provide players with more off-season opportunities here in the states, I know we will start to see more advancement with creating visibility and growing the women’s game. I smell a signature shoe coming. Just saying, it’s about that time.
All in all, it was a victorious night for the WNBA. The league got better on the court and off. With the free agency whirlwind, we saw along with the young talent drafted last night, we are going to see some fireworks between the lines whenever the season gets underway.
We also saw the WNBA take center stage of the sports world last night. The 2020 virtual draft was broadcast on the big boy ESPN Network followed by Playoff games on ESPN.
NBA superstar Kevin Durant made sure to check-in and personally congratulate Megan Walker after she was drafted to the Liberty. We also saw Simone Biles check-in with Ruthy Hebard as well.
There is an excitement and a buzz around the league that probably hasn’t been there since its inception and it will be more than justified when the ladies lace them up again.