WNBA Draft 2018: Player and Social Media Reaction

Photo Credit: David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images

Another WNBA Draft is in the books with 36 of the premier collegiate and international basketball players seeing their dreams come true as they are about to step foot in the W.

Reality hits WNBA players moreso than it does other sports given the short time there is between the end of the college basketball season, the draft and the start of the WNBA campaign.

It has been something that A’ja Wilson has been dealing with for a good while now as she was tabbed as the number one overall pick in this year’s draft since the conclusion of last year’s which saw three of her South Carolina teammates selected in the first round.

It’s such a great feeling. It means a lot to me to kind of just cap off my collegiate career with this. This is a great class. Just to be at the top, [it] really makes my heart warm. I’m pretty sure you could see my heart pounding through my jumpsuit when [Lisa Borders] was announcing [my name]. This is a great feeling. The nerves are gone now. It’s truly a blessing.

When asked if Wilson has had a chance to speak with her new head coach, Bill Laimbeer, yet, she said she has not – but she believes both Laimbeer and her South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley are cut from a similar cloth.

I’m pretty sure his expectations are kind of the same as Coach Staley’s. You have to come in and be effective as soon as possible. That’s something I have to be ready for. I have to get my body right. Have to get my mind right because this is a whole different league.

On who she is really excited to play, she says she cannot wait to take the court against one of her fellow Gamecock alums.

I’m looking forward to Allisha Gray. I’m looking forward to playing against her. I probably won’t guard her if that’s technically a matchup. That’s my roommate and that’s my best friend. I’m just going to love to see her in the league.

Along with Wilson, Kelsey Mitchell was another one of the draftees that got a glimpse of what basketball can be like at the next level through her experience with USA Basketball. Mitchell, who was selected second overall by the Indiana Fever, is confident this will transition well to the W.

I got a lot of true experience with USA Basketball. Watching vets like Sue Bird and Skylar Diggins-Smith. They kind of showed us the ropes. I’ve enjoyed every part of it. In particular how the game goes. What to do. What to not. The persona. The body language, being open to learn. Knowing that, that aspect alone will help me a lot in the long run.

As far as the emotions were when she heard her name called by WNBA president Lisa Borders, she too had butterflies in her stomach.

It was kind of crazy. I was sweating a lot. It wasn’t like that at first. We were kind of chilling. The closer it got, the more intense it got. Once my name was called, I was kind of like jittery.

The Chicago Sky selected Diamond DeShields with the third overall pick. Windy City dwellers are very familiar with the last name DeShields as her father, Delino, was once a Chicago Cub for a few seasons. On heading to the Sky, DeShields believes her familiarity with some of the team personnel will help as she transitions to the City of Broad Shoulders.

First of all, the location – I’m happy with that. I’m happy where I’m going. I already have a relationship with the head coach [Amber Stocks]. I’m looking forward to working with her and I’ve also gotten to know Gabby [Williams]. So, I think those are just my first impressions so far. I think I have a pretty good feeling for them and they have a pretty good feeling for me. So, I’m looking forward to it.

Along with playing at Tennessee, DeShields also got international experience prior to entering the WNBA. She mentioned how Stocks went to Turkey to see her play and that she is the sister-in-law of her trainer. DeShields feels getting that global experience can only help her game.

It just gives you that chance for trial and error. I think I’ve been able to polish my game way more than I ever could have on the collegiate level. So, moving into this WNBA season this summer, I think I’ll come in way more prepared than I ever could have had I not done it this way.

The Sky have notably endured some hard luck as of late since Elena Delle Donne decided to go back closer to her home state of Delaware and join the Mystics. DeShields feels with new players (along with a new home arena) that “Skytown” could be on the rise like one of Chicago’s buildings.

It’s just nice to have super talented players at each position. You have Stefanie [Dolson], Gabby, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot at the point – incredible. I’m just looking forward to getting out and learning from those guys. Building that cohesiveness, I think that will lead up to a lot of success in Chicago.

Joining DeShields with the Sky is Gabby Williams, who was selected fourth overall. As is the common with most potential draftees, she too felt it was surreal to hear her name called into the WNBA.

My heart was pounding the entire night. I just hugged my mom and said we did it. It’s been a long journey. Just to hear my name being called, it was amazing.

Williams was the first of a number of UConn players who was selected in the draft’s first round. UConn is coming off another Final Four appearance that resulted in that dramatic defeat to Notre Dame in the semifinals. Williams understands that the last few days from that to the draft in New York City have had to feel like a maelstrom.

It’s been a whirlwind. Preparing for this draft and everything that comes with it, it’s been a good distraction for me with everything that has happened. Now, I’m just on cloud nine.

She was also elated to know that she was not the lone Husky who was drafted.

That’s awesome. That says so much about the program. Teams want UConn players and that’s because what Coach [Auriemma] has done and how they developed us. I went to that program because I knew I was going to get better.

The fifth overall selection was Jordin Canada who will be staying on the west coast, but will head all the way up I-5 from UCLA to the Seattle Storm. On staying in the western time zone, Canada says she is excited to remain in Pac-12 country.

I’m so happy to stay on the West Coast. Just represent for the West Coast and just being able to shed light on West Coast basketball.

One of the faces of West Coast basketball and the Storm altogether is Sue Bird. The Storm drafted a point guard in part because they are anticipating when Bird decides to call it a career. Canada knew that when she got the nod from the Storm that playing alongside Bird was one of the first things that immediately came to mind.

Yes, I love Sue Bird. She’s one of my role models. I enjoy watching her play. The way she leads her team and is able to create for others. That’s something I really want to learn from her and just continue to grow my game through her. Just the fact that I get to play with her, it’s just a blessing.

She believes that out of the league’s many veteran players, the Storm’s resident #10 is one of the WNBA’s standard-bearers.

There’s so many, but I think Sue sets the standard. Why not learn from somebody who has the highest expectations? I’m just ready to learn from her.

The second of the UConn Huskies to be selected was Azura Stevens, who was an out-of-nowhere 11th hour draft entry with some draft boards even having her going second overall behind Wilson. Stevens was selected sixth overall by the Dallas Wings and will be part of a talented, on the rise squad that includes Skylar Diggins-Smith, Liz Cambage, and the reigning Rookie of the Year in Allisha Gray.

Really excited, honestly. I’m just excited to get there and work with the team and the staff. It’s honestly just surreal. I’ve dreamed of this moment since I picked up a basketball, so for it to actually be happening is pretty amazing.

Stevens is especially excited about playing alongside Cambage, given the interior presence it could give the Wings in 2018.

It’s going to be awesome. She’s a really talented player. She’s really big too. It’s going to be nice to be able to learn from her, honestly. She’s a great player. I think her game and my game will complement each other well.

Another hoopster that became no stranger to playing on the big stage was Victoria Vivians, who was instrumental in leading the Mississippi State Bulldogs to back-to-back national championship games. Vivians was selected eighth overall by the Fever who, of course, picked Mitchell second overall.

It feels just like I’m going to be on my college team again. I had scorers around me, so it’s going to be just like I’m in the same situation again and helping each other play well together. And I’m hoping we have great chemistry.

Those last two seasons of getting so close to winning a national title had to have been heart-wrenching as they were for virtually everyone in Starkville. The turnaround from that to the preparation for the draft, Vivians says, was nothing short of a situation where plenty of moving parts were all going at the same speed.

My college career didn’t end short because I played until the last game. We just didn’t end up with the win. But the past couple of weeks have been kind of hectic. I’m still in school interning and trying to meet with agents and talk and just try to get everything together before this day. It’s been kind of overwhelming, but I’m glad it’s here now.

The ninth overall selection was Lexie Brown, who will going from Duke to the Connecticut Sun. Brown will be joining a team that includes the reigning Coach of the Year in Curt Miller as well as the 2017 Most Improved Player who was Jonquel Jones. Brown is elated to be joining a team that, arguably, has one of the brightest futures in the entire WNBA.

I know that they’re a team that’s on the rise. A lot of young talent. Super excited. I loved watching them play. They like to play fast. They like to play defense. I’m just excited to be apart of the core they’re building.

Another element of her upcoming stint with the Sun that has her optimistic – her initial chat with the Sun’s head coach.

The conversation I had with coach was awesome. He asked me what outfit I was going to wear, which I really loved that. He described to me what he’s going to need me to bring to the table if I end up on his team. He told me I might be a role player for a little bit and if I could handle that. Absolutely I’ll be able to handle that. I want to bring as much positive energy, defense, and scoring, if necessary to this team.

Kia Nurse will not have to travel far for her next basketball destination as Storrs is only a two to three hour drive from New York. The Liberty selected her with the tenth overall pick and was the third of the UConn Huskies to be picked in the first round. While it may not have been the Sun she is going to, heading to the Liberty, she believes, is not a bad thing either.

No, if you ever get the opportunity to go to any kind of draft in your life, it’s where you get to play, wherever somebody picks you. I think I feel most fortunate and most blessed to have the opportunity to play in New York.

For Nurse, it was not about where she would eventually play, but being somewhere where she feels she can fit in with a team’s system and culture. The Liberty are one of those teams with a consistent winning culture, but are looking to take that next step forward.

Absolutely. I think for me, personally, it wasn’t about what number you get to go. Anybody can go at any number and any team. I think, with me, it was about going to a place I was not only wanted but a place where I could fit in really well and I could take and learn that each and every day.

One of the surprises of this season’s draft was Monique Billings falling to the second round and landing to the Atlanta Dream when many draft boards had her as a late first-round pick to either New York or Los Angeles. But if it wasn’t Gotham or Hollywood that would come calling for UCLA’s very own Billings, the ATL may fit her like a glove.

Absolutely. My agent was telling me that it’s a really good fit. I know that wherever I end up, I’ll be utilized. I know that there’s a reason I ended up in Atlanta so I’m really excited and ready to bring a championship home to The A.

The Storm drafted Canada, Billings’ teammate at UCLA fifth overall. Atlanta may be three time zones away from Seattle, but the two have certainly built a bond in Southern California.

That’s a blessing as well. Having Jordin with me is like having my sister with me. We got dressed together today. We got ready together. Helped each other. She’s just a big supporter to me. I support her. So, it’s just a level of comfortability that we have amongst each other.

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It’s a wrap!

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Be sure to check out our chat with Ohio State’s (and now Indiana Fever draftee) Stephanie Mavunga on Episode 16 of The W Podcast!

By: Akiem Bailum (@AkiemBailum on Twitter, Instagram)

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