One of the most anticipated drafts in WNBA history began precisely as predicted Monday when Baylor’s Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-8 center and national player of the year, was selected by the Phoenix Mercury.
Elena Delle Donne, the 6-5 forward who became a two-time All-American at Delaware after transferring from UConn two days into her freshman summer, was taken with the second pick by the Chicago Sky.
“This is a dream come and I can’t wait to get started,” said Delle Donne, who will likely join a starting lineup that will include Sylvia Fowles, Epiphanny Prince, Courtney Vandersloot and Swin Cash. “It’s an awesome feeling. At one point [after leaving UConn] I didn’t know if I’d ever pick up a basketball again. I am so glad I was able to figure things out.”
And Skylar Diggins, the fiery senior guard who helped Notre Dame reach two national championship games and became its leading scorer, went to the Tulsa Shock with the third pick.
“I just want to do my job as a point guard,” Diggins said. “I want to be a leader for this team.”
Some considered this two drafts in one and that the Washington Mystics would begin the second phase with their pick, the fourth in the first round.
Mike Thibault, the former Sun coach, selected Ohio State guard Tayler Hill with that selection. In the second and third rounds, the Mystics took St. John’s guards Nadira McKenith and Shenneika Smith, both coached in college by former Red Storm assistant – and now Mystics assistant – Eric Thibault.
“Washington is going to be very competitive,” Sun GM Chris Sienko said. “And Chicago, with Delle Donne and Fowles playing side-by-side is going to be a tremendous team. The Eastern Conference is going to be a much more difficult conference than it has been in the past.”
After the selection of Bone, the New York Liberty selected center Kelsey Bone of Texas A&M. Bone declared for the draft after her redshirt junior season. She sat out a season after transferring from South Carolina.
Seattle, which will play this season without both Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, took Maryland forward Tianna Hawkins with the sixth pick. New York then supplemented its rebuilt team with Toni Young, a 6-2 forward from Oklahoma State.
San Antonio took Syracuse center Kayla Alexander with the eighth pick setting up an interesting decision for Indiana, the defending WNBA championship.
The Fever could have taken UConn’s Kelly Faris, a native of Plainfield, Ind. But they selected Cal guard Layshia Clarendon, a scorer who distinguished herself in the NCAA Tournament.
“We know what Kelly is capable of doing,” Sienko said. “Her job is not to come here and start for us. We need a solid role player who can contribute to the group that we now have. She’s an intelligent, smart player who is fully capable of doing everything we need her to do.”
Los Angeles followed with Kentucky’s A’dia Matthies with the 10th pick and then Connecticut selected Faris, the defensive player of the year in the Big East.
Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round (14th overall) adding another great scorer one of the deepest teams in the league.
Not taken in the draft were a trio of other state players; New Haven’s Chantell Alford, the co-America East Player of the Year from Boston University, New Britain’s Symone Roberts of Providence or Bianca Simmons of Mercy-Middletown, who played for UMass-Lowell.