When I was originally invited to the WNBA Draft, I had no idea what to expect.
Sure, from following the NBA Draft for years, I expected this one to be similar on some levels. But with only 12 teams, I did not expect the draft to be as busy as far as player movement was concerned.
Boy, was I ever wrong!
Perhaps only having 12 teams makes the league a bit more close-knit, therefore allowing easier negotiations. This draft turned out to be one of the busiest I have watched unfold, with the Connecticut Sun making rapid-fire moves to obtain four draft picks, including two out of the top three.
That was all on Thursday afternoon.
My journey started Wednesday night at the WNBA’s pre-draft event at the NBA Store in New York City.
Upon walking in and being greeted, I was taken upstairs to the designated media area by Seattle Storm center and current WNBA intern Ashley Robinson.
Am I the only one who finds the dual roles pretty interesting?
Wednesday was certainly a day for me to find my footing in time for Thursday’s big event. Still unsure about how things would pan out on day one, Ashley eased my mind with a light conversation about the Liberty’s marquee acquisition that week, Cappie Pondexter.
After I got settled in, the WNBA’s quite accommodating public relations staff brought two prospects over to speak with me: Virginia’s Monica Wright and Iowa State’s Alison Lacey.
I spoke to Lacey first. She conveyed to me how after growing up in Australia, playing in the WNBA had just recently became a reality to her.
The NBA blogger inside me instantly compared her to all the international players that had come through the league.
I began to think about how much of a pioneer Lacey could be for the still young WNBA in comparison, but she expressed to me that she was simply looking forward to learning from the league’s already present international players, most notably fellow Aussie Lauren Jackson.
When you start thinking about how each prospect could affect the different teams in the league, you forget that most, if not all, of these girls are still college students looking ahead to graduation.
After my first chat, I was able to relax a bit more with Wright. She and I conversed about college life and how excited she was to move forward.
Like Lacey, she was interested in learning from the league’s best, but said she was trying not to be over-anxious or worry about her draft position. After all, being a projected top-three pick could bring on some anticipation.
I was experiencing a big moment of my own, so I was certainly able to relate.
League President Donna Orender said a few words before the prospects sat down for a Q&A session, as well as autograph signings.
“Well, I know we’re joined by all the parents today. Oh my gosh, how much hard work? How many trips back and forth did you have to make to that gym? I know. I’m a mom! This is a lot of work, and we’re grateful to you.”
Was that really her first comment, a thank you to the players’ parents?
I sat there a little befuddled, but that was probably the coolest and most sincere thing I had ever seen.
Then and there, I realized the biggest difference between the WNBA and the NBA. In a time where competitive nature and contractual negotiations take first priority, the WNBA was recognizing its prospects’ parents for helping them get where they were.
I had an immediate understanding. The WNBA draft was a celebration, and I was going to be part of it.
With 30 teams in the NBA, I suppose you take for granted the roster spots available for players.
The WNBA limit of 12 teams makes it that much more difficult to make a roster. Because of that, college programs do not always place a big focus on getting its young women to that next level.
These young women and their families were celebrating that accomplishment. The fact that this was the main focus makes the league so endearing, a side you don’t always see in sports.
Heading into Thursday, I felt comfortable and extremely welcomed into the event because of this.