Holding the first and third pick in the WNBA draft, the Seattle Storm have been preparing their draft boards for the past few months.
All that preparation got scrapped last week when Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd and Minnesota redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B. decided to turn pro. The two AP All-Americans made the rare choice to leave school early to enter the draft. Both turn 22 this calendar year making them eligible.
”The draft certainly got more interesting over the last couple of days,” Seattle Storm President Alisha Valavanis said. ”We’ll continue to analyze the best possible way to maximize our picks.”
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Seattle coach Jenny Boucek said there is a ”100 percent chance” that Seattle will take Loyd, Zahui B., or UConn forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with the top pick.
The Tulsa Shock have the second pick in the draft and coach Fred Williams said the team is leaving its options open.
”We could go either way,” he said. ”If there was a trade that was likable to our needs … but I like what I see in the draft. There are so many high-quality athletes, especially in the top tier, and we are still contemplating that.”
While it’s commonplace for underclassmen to enter the NBA early, it’s still rare on the women’s side and Loyd and Zahui B.’s decision has provided a buzz for Thursday night’s draft.
”It’s a nice shake-up for all of us,” Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan said. ”I’m thankful for the two additions because it drops players down that we really didn’t think we would be able to consider before. Zahui B? That wasn’t a huge shock. She’s an international player already. She’s a little bit older already. She’s kind of got a pro body, if you will.
”But Jewell Loyd, I’ll be honest, I was very surprised. I just didn’t think coming from Notre Dame that we were going to see that jump anytime soon.”
Donovan knows that there’s been a greater interest in the past week after the two turned pro.
”There’s a lot of people talking about this outside of WNBA, outside of women’s basketball,” Donovan said.
”So it’s bringing a different look into the league and it’s getting some outsiders that really haven’t paid too much attention to us to now talk about it and start to understand that the WNBA is here; it’s been around; it’s going to stay around, and it’s a very wanted product.”
WNBA President Laurel J. Richie is excited about the interest the underclassmen have created, but knows that this isn’t going to be a new trend.
”I think this is a very unique set of circumstances that have Jewell and Zahui B coming out and making that decision,” she said. ”These are decisions that individual athletes makes given their personal situations. As long as that is within the guidelines it truly is their decision to make.”
For Zahui B., she felt it was the right time to start a pro career.
”It’s really exciting. It’s been hectic, a lot of people texting and calling,” she said. ”I am blessed to be in this position and this situation. I don’t want to feel any kind of pressure or stress at all. I’m just blessed to be here.”
Other potential first-round picks include Duke’s Elizabeth Williams, Wake Forest’s Dearica Hamby, Cal’s Reshanda Gray and Brittany Boyd.
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