2015 WNBA Pre-Draft Media Conference Call Transcript
THE MODERATOR: With us to begin the conference call from ESPN are basketball analysts Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson. And we'd like to go directly to the question and answer session with Carolyn and LaChina.
Q. Can you guys just talk about the last few days and with the decision by Amanda Zahui B. and Jewell Loyd and how much you think this shakes up the top of the draft?
CAROLYN PECK: I think that it started out as a unique draft and turned into a very special draft. I think that no one could be happier about the change than Seattle. I think with those two players, with Jewell Loyd and Amanda Zahui B. coming into the draft, it shook players as far as where they sit on the draft board, and especially with Seattle having that first and third pick, they've got really three top options.
There are others, but those are three top options that could significantly impact their team.
LACHINA ROBINSON: I would agree with Carolyn. I think we just added two game changers to the draft list. I think everyone is going to be a step or actually two steps up from where they thought in terms of the quality of player that they can acquire. And I learned a lot I think about where the culture of the WNBA is headed.
I mean, to have two players that have eligibility remaining to decide to head to the league is something that we hadn't seen before, especially two players that change the draft dramatically. I think we kind of felt like Amanda Zahui B. may make the decision to go. But to be honest, Jewell Loyd was a total surprise to me. I do know that she had attended some practices with the Chicago Sky and I think this is a young woman who is very smart, who has evaluated this situation and thought she could have an immediate impact on the league.
And obviously it changes her position this season with a draft that is not as deep as what we may see next year. So Jewell Loyd goes from somewhere in the first round next year with the likes of Breanna Stewart coming out to a player that could go first.
Q. I'd like to ask both of you your opinions of where you think Zahui B.'s game is now and what she'll need to work on at the next level to be successful at the next level?
LACHINA ROBINSON: I'm very impressed with Amanda Zahui B., to be honest with you, and where her game has grown. I guess the number one area since coming I had an opportunity to watch her play some at practice before she became eligible at Minnesota, and I remember the team was on one end and she was on the other end and I was like, wow, who is this over here.
So at 6'5", she has soft hands. She has tremendous work ethic in terms of establishing herself in the post. She's very physical, which coming from Sweden, which is known for more finesse style of play, very physical.
She's transformed her body and lost a lot of weight and gotten herself into condition to be able to play for longer stretches in a game. I think where she will need to continue to grow is, number one, in experience.
I just think we have some great, savvy veteran players in the post in the WNBA and there's some tricks of the trade that I think with her youth she will need to learn.
I do think she wants to continue to transform her body and to get into even better shape to put in more muscle mass to be able to bang with the likes of Sylvia Fowles or Brittney Griner or …rika de Souza. But her step out game is what makes her unique. We saw Brittney Griner step out a little bit and shoot the 3, but just in terms of the 6'5" player that has the ability to score around the rim -- like we remember with Lauren Jackson -- and step out and shoot the 3, that just makes her very special.
CAROLYN PECK: I think that a couple of things. First, I think that what makes her extremely valuable is her experience, her international experience that she competed at at such a young age. And so I think that is the beginning steps of preparing her to be pro ready.
I think that at her height what makes her special is her energy. And when you look at her rebounding statistics, rebounds don't necessarily come to you, you gotta go get 'em.
And she's had multiple games of 20 plus rebounds in a game. To me, that's impressive. Because you've got to have that kind of energy to play in the WNBA and at the professional level.
I agree also with LaChina in that strength is going to be there's a big difference than playing in the Big Ten and playing in the WNBA and going against some WNBA style players. But she has shown that she can adapt to the environment, just find out what it is that she needs to do when she gets herself prepared to do that.
And I think that that's what makes her so extremely valuable going to the next level into the pros.
Q. How much do you guys watch or did you see of the Pac 12 to make an assessment on Jazmine Davis? I know she's not probably a first round, but just to kind of see what you guys thought about her in the league or her chances in the league?
CAROLYN PECK: I talked to just a couple of people that had really spent a lot of time in studying the Pac 12, and they feel like she's a hidden gem, with her abilities, her tempo, she's one of these players that I think that I don't know that a lot of teams specifically I think they're on the board, just not high on the board, but she would be one of those players that would go late second or probably third round.
Q. You've already talked about Amanda. I want to ask that question I want to ask about the latest decision that Candace Parker made to take off at some time at the end of the season. In your opinion, is that starting to be a growing trend in the league, and if it is, what can the league do about that especially when you've got Tauasi not coming in as well?
LACHINA ROBINSON: First and foremost, I would say that what these women athletes do year round is tremendous. From playing in the WNBA, most of them go right over and play overseas in Europe. And they're playing all year long.
And it's tough. It's tough mentally, physically. They're away from their families. So I think for me to even try to evaluate those decisions, which seem to be very difficult, I'm sure, for these athletes, I probably can't do. But what I will say is that Candace Parker in particular has some injuries that have plagued her over time. We even at some points looked at the difference between Candace Parker when she's playing a back to back, like on that second day and Candace Parker in that first game.
Because she has some aches and pains that have followed her, especially in these recent years as she gets up in age. So I think you have to listen to your body.
And if she's saying she needs rest, then that's what she needs. That may be the thing that allows her to play longer in the WNBA. And we've seen this happen. And again these women take on a tremendous schedule. It's tough on their bodies.
So I don't think there's anything the league can do, other than support these athletes and what they feel like they need to do. I think the difficulty is obviously with the coaches and the decisions that they have to try to make to continue to win even though you're missing a big piece.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch, what she brings to the league and how you think her game, what she might need to improve on once she reaches the professional level.
CAROLYN PECK: I'm a big fan of Aleighsa Welch. And first and foremost it's because of her motor. The energy that she plays with, she is high energy, extremely competitive. She's an undersized post player but can rebound with the biggest of players.
I also like her leadership and the maturity that she exhibits, what she did with her South Carolina team. And that kind of maturity is extremely valuable when you go to the next level and play professionally, because you have to have accountability for yourself. You also have to be able to rally a team and have everybody understand their role and go out and compete night in, night out.
I think the area there's two areas that I think Aleighsa Welch has got to improve in, and that's extending her range of scoring outside the paint and her free throw percentage.
But I think both of those two things are improvable or teachable, but you can't teach a work ethic like she has. And when that comes natural, that makes her a valuable player.
Q. Going back to Amanda Zahui B. I'd like to get your opinion if she's whether an player who can make an immediate impact in the league or is she someone that it may take her a season or so to really find her way in the WNBA and become her best self?
CAROLYN PECK: I'll go first. I think that it depends on the team that she goes to and what she's surrounded by. She goes to a team that already has veteran and talented post players, she may play that back up role as she learns and comes along, where if she goes to a team that really needs a center but can be surrounded by very talented perimeter players, I think that she can have an impact, because with the WNBA and having the three second defensive rule, it's tough to double team. So she could be playing a lot of one on one.
And she's active. She will run the floor. She's going to have offensive putbacks and second chance opportunities. But I think it depends on which team she goes to and what she's surrounded by.
Q. Carolyn, when you started off you were talking about three players that factor into Seattle's decisions with the two of the top three picks, and I'm wondering is Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis one of those three? And if you were Seattle and you had two of the top three picks, would you want to take a guard and a forward or would you take two players of the same position?
CAROLYN PECK: Well, I would take a post and a guard. And when you have a 6'5" player like Amanda, that's hard to pass up. And then with her upside that I think she still has, knowing that you have that No. 3 pick, you're not going to go wrong in having either a Jewell Loyd or a Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis.
And I think that Loyd and Lewis are two different players in that Loyd is more of a player who can create off the bounce, not that Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis doesn't, but she's more of that just perimeter oriented guard. What you get with Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis is a versatile perimeter player who can also post up. It's kind of like that swing position that Plenette Pierson and Swin Cash played, but she's an automatic from the 3 point line. So she's going to extend the defense.
And you look at players and a lot of question has been can she defend the 3? Well, you have teams that have the versatility where she may not have to do that, put her on a 4 because they have an athletic 4 player who can defend the 3.
So I think that that's where both of those players, Loyd and (Mosqueda-)Lewis, have extreme value, and I don't think Seattle those are the three players between Amanda, Jewell and Kaleena that I'm talking about in the top three picks.
Q. Ladies, could you talk about how you think Isabelle Harrison is perceived, given her injury, and also has Cierra and Ariel Messengale did they improve their stock with the season they had this year?
LACHINA ROBINSON: I think Isabelle Harrison is going to have a great career in the WNBA. I just think back to even a season ago what we had similar situation with Chelsea Gray and Natalie Achonwa. We knew they weren't going to have an impact right then. Both players are on track to contribute in major ways this season.
So I think she's still looked upon as a possible first round, maybe even early second round pick. And I think she just brings those intangibles in terms of her work ethic. She's got size. She's energetic on the glass. And I believe if she attacks this rehab with the same tenacity she has in improving her career over time, she will be just fine.
So she probably would have gone a few spots higher had she been healthy. But I don't think that she's going to drop dramatically.
And in terms of Cierra Burdick and Ariel Messengale, I think Cierra Burdick more than anything improved her draft position since Isabelle Harrison went down. We saw her go to another level of play in terms of rebounding, she was depended on more for scoring, and she answered the call.
I think the challenge for her is where does she sit on a WNBA team. She will have to be the undersized power forward or big guard where she may need to improve her consistency from outside and her ball handling. So she's a tweener. And figuring out where she fits best.
And Ariel Messengale, I think she's a steady point guard. The difficulty for her is that there's so many point guards in this draft.
And so you have to look at 5s, at ability to stretch the floor with your 3 point shots. But I believe she will get an opportunity to prove that she belongs at that level.
Q. Nneka Enemkpali, coaches around here early in the season thought that she would probably be a lock to be in the WNBA draft at some point. She was the heart and soul of the team. Led the Big 12 in rebounding and about halfway through the season tore her ACL. Two part question. One, do you believe that there's a chance that she would be drafted this season. And, two, if not, would she have some sort of future in the WNBA next season, the season after that, so forth? CAROLYN PECK: Nneka Enemkpali, with her skill and athleticism rebounding wise, especially coming out of the Big 12, she has demonstrated that she can rebound with the best of them. And I think that when it comes to rebounding, she may be among the most pro ready, before she tore her ACL, and I expect her to be back at 100 percent once she's rehabbed that.
And a team that can afford to hold her rights will benefit greatly. She'll not be able to play this season. But I think through rehab and through time and potentially having an opportunity to go test herself overseas will definitely be a player that could have an impact in the WNBA.
Q. LaChina, a follow up on South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch. She was known so much for her intangibles at South Carolina, leadership on the floor. Do those things matter at all as far as the draft is concerned and can they translate to the next level?
LACHINA ROBINSON: They do. I think one thing that we try to capture in the WNBA, or coaches try to capture, is that college environment, that type of energy, because it is very different.
And the WNBA, though we continue to enjoy the game of basketball, it does become a business for these women, where I think there is a great energy that spills over from the college level that coaches try to capture day to day.
And to have a young woman like Aleighsa, who already has the energy, the accountability, all of those things in place and is a leader, just adds to every dimension of what a team puts on the floor.
You don't have to worry about who is going to pick someone up you know she's going to follow whatever directions the coaches have.
I think any coach at any level will tell you that some of their time is spent trying to coach players into just playing, into being present, into bringing the type of energy that Aleighsa brings.
I think it's something very special about a player that motivates themselves and the people around them and you don't have to do that for them.
Q. I just wanted to ask the ladies if they were familiar with Vicky McIntyre of Oral Roberts University and where they thought she might fall in the draft and what they think of her?
CAROLYN PECK: I am familiar with Vicky from her playing for Oklahoma State to Florida to Oral Roberts. And 6'6" can be a value. You look at a player that has size who made a roster last season in Theresa Plaisance. That size, depending on which teams and where they fall in the draft, she would have an opportunity to potentially be drafted and if not drafted, invited to a training camp.
Now, she's got that nice sweeping hook shot, especially to the left. She's got good energy for a 6'6" player. So I think that she would be a player that teams would have to take a look at.
Q. Could you both talk about Samantha Logic of Iowa. I saw one mock draft where they have her going seventh overall. Could you talk about her skills?
LACHINA ROBINSON: Sam Logic is, I think, one of the best point guards, even though this is a point guard deep draft, she's one of the best in that list.
She reminds me a lot of Lindsay Whalen in her physical play. They call her Nails, I'm sure you know that, because of her toughness. She does not back down.
It's very difficult to keep her out of the paint, which is where she loves to deliver the ball. And I thought Lisa Bluder did a fantastic job of surrounding her with players that finished a lot of those beautiful passes that she made. Her vision is tremendous. And I think she's even worked hard over the course of her career to extend her shooting range, so teams have to respect her 3 point shots.
She's a very good rebounder. As you know, her triple doubles are well noted. She can contribute so many places on the floor. Again, reminds me a lot of Lindsay Whalen. And I think the one challenge, as is for most prospects making that leap to the WNBA, is the defensive end of the floor. And I think the WNBA presents some of the fastest backcourts in the world and just being able to contain, whereas Iowa has played a lot of zone is important.
So she'll have to get into a system, I think, where again she has players around her that can capitalize on her passing ability; but defensively she can grow.
Q. I spent most of the year covering Cheyenne Parker at MTSU before she got dismissed because of a failed drug test. I'm seeing mock drafts have her in the second round. Two part question. First, what are her prospects? How do you see her game translating to the next level? And then, two, how much will her off the court struggles or problems affect her draft position next week?
CAROLYN PECK: She's 6'4". And she is a talent. I was kind of doing research on her, and if you can learn from your mistakes and not repeat them, then I think that she could have a terrific professional career. And it sounds like to me she's on that path.
I think that as players are drafted, invited to training camp, there will be a lot of interviews and communication between GMs, coaches and the player to finding out where that player is, where their maturity level is and where they want to go with their professional career and what that means to them.
And I think that Parker has an opportunity to prove herself and redeem herself as she makes that next step professionally.
Q. Can you please speak about what Wake Forestís Dearica Hamby would bring to the WNBA and if you have any thoughts which team might be the best fit for her?
LACHINA ROBINSON: I think that Dearica is very special in this draft because of her mobility at the power forward position. We have a lot of true centers, back to the basket post, but not as many with size at 6'3" that can play the power forward. And I think Dearica's strengths are she's got quick speed. She's mobile in the post. She's relentless on the glass because of that speed and reaction time.
What impresses me the most is how she can get out in the passing lane; she's always been very good at getting steals, and she can switch, if you're playing for a coach that wants to switch 1 through 4 or 1 through 5. She could play a little at the 5 spot, but I think her value is going to be at the 4. And as she continues to extend her shooting, she can hit shots from the free throw line, but her 3 point shot will continue to improve. As we know in WNBA, the power forwards are now expected to do so much. Many coaches are running their offense through the 4.
I think she's unique. She's gotten herself in great shape. She put on a lot of muscle. She was a thin and wiry kid coming into college. So I expect to see Dearica go somewhere in the top half of the first round. Obviously with this week's development, that has fallen a little bit.
But I definitely think she's a first round pick and would fit with a team that had a defensive team, that would allow her to use that mobility and footwork defensively on the perimeter.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We will now bring in to the call our four WNBA coaches. We'll welcome to the call from the Seattle Storm, head coach Jenny Boucek; from the Connecticut Sun, head coach Anne Donovan; from the San Antonio Stars, head coach and general manager Dan Hughes; and from the and Tulsa Shock, head coach and general manager Fred Williams. Thank you all for joining us.
Q. Jenny, what would you say the chances are that two of the three players you're going to take next week are going to be named Loyd, Zahui B., and Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis?
JENNY BOUCEK: It's hard to answer that. I think there's a 100 percent chance that we'll take one of them at 1. And at 3, we're really exploring a lot of options with that pick.
Q. Carolyn Peck was saying if it was her she would take a post and a guard. You've got so many holes to fill now. Is that sort of what you're looking at, or are you not restricting yourself to a position?
JENNY BOUCEK: We are not restricting ourselves to a position. We're going to try to take who we think are the best players in those spots and really try to add two pieces for the future.
Q. Jenny, when you say you're exploring options, does that include potentially trading that 3 pick?
JENNY BOUCEK: Yeah, I think anytime you're in a draft you try to maximize the draft by comparing the value of who you perceive, the perceived value of the player you're going to take there versus what people are offering you for that pick. So, yeah, we're analyzing everything.
Q. Can I ask, what have the last few days been like in terms of your draft corps? You spend months trying to evaluate and figuring out what you want to do with that No. 1 pick and in the last few days things have changed dramatically?
JENNY BOUCEK: Yeah, a couple of things changed. Our No. 3 pick just became our No. 1 pick in terms of analyzing that choice. And both picks got a lot more popular.
Q. Maybe each of the coaches could comment on what is their biggest need in this upcoming draft, what need are they looking to fill on the respective teams?
DAN HUGHES: People that can come in, come in the middle minutes of the first quarter and help my team. That would be the place to start.
FRED WILLIAMS: I think we just need somebody to help us with our bench drift coming in, helping out with defensive scoring and athletic type of player. It can be post or perimeter.
ANNE DONOVAN: I agree with Fred. We could go either way. We have a need for a strong guard or a strong post. So we're thankful with the two additions, because that drops players down that we really didn't think were in our consideration before.
Q. As you know in the Bay Area, we had for the last four years two fantastic point guards who will be somewhere in the draft, with Brittany Boyd and Amber Orrange. Just a general question, I'm wondering how important are point guards in the complexion of the WNBA? Sometimes these people aren't the leading scorers on teams but they play a real important role in the general sense.
ANNE DONOVAN: I'll attack it. I'm a big girl by trade so I'm always looking for the biggest player in the draft, the strongest, most dominant paint player.
But there is only one position that makes your team go. And that's the value of a really strong point guard. And I don't think any coach undervalues that position at all. It's huge.
And I think both of the players you mentioned have shown how efficient they are at running their teams and both offer different things. But both are, I think, going to be good WNBA players.
FRED WILLIAMS: And I'll add on to what Anne said. I think your point guards are really developing sometime into being your 2 guards for you, too, because of the style of play in the pro game.
And they're the quarterback for you. So with collegiate players coming out having that mindset of being a big quarterback, you want a good college player to come in and really develop and guide an experienced veteran pro team.
Q. Here at the University of Texas, most people thought Nneka Enemkpali would be a lock to be in the WNBA draft. It's a two part question. One, do you think somebody would roll the dice on somebody who tore her ACL halfway through the season, and, two, if not, do they see that she would still have a future in the WNBA at some point?
FRED WILLIAMS: I think with any player that's on the board, you can do a collegiate year, even having a certain injury, they always have a high value at some point in the draft, but also at some point in the future.
I know there's been a couple of players in the past that has been drafted and were able to come back and utilize their skill to help an organization. So we never rule out any player.
DAN HUGHES: I think Fred's correct. It's a shame. I thought Nneka was gaining incredible momentum in her senior year, and I think she'll return to her health. It's just, when does the opportunity for a team come about that they could either add her by drafting or in subsequent seasons.
But she's sure going to have a chance, I think.
Q. Fred, I covered Cheyenne Parker with MTSU for most of this year until she was dismissed for off the court stuff. Rather than get into her prospects or anything, I'm wondering how much when you have a player like that who has some off the court issues, how much of that affects your draft board and how you are evaluating her or any player that may have some issues not related to the game of basketball?
FRED WILLIAMS: Well, I just think if one player especially young players they go through things in their college life, they learn a lot of life lessons. And the other is that we still keep a high value on that player on the board for the college draft.
But those things are workable. They're doable. I think it happens a lot in baseball, pro baseball, pro football. And we've got one here in the WNBA. So she'll still be a high commodity for somebody to look at to be drafted.
Q. If two of you maybe could talk about Samantha Logic of Iowa.
ANNE DONOVAN: Sam Logic has had a tremendous career. Throughout her senior season she stepped it up another notch. The triple doubles shows she's a strong point guard that does more than just pass the ball around the team. She's capable of scoring herself. Capable of adding boards. So I think she's had a tremendous career, done a lot for herself, and showing that she's a heady point guard.
I think the next level is a different level and she's going to have challenges, especially defensively, and from an athleticism speed standpoint. But her intelligence will make her very interesting in training camp. I think my guess is that she's a quick study and a quick learn.
So I think when she gets into training camp, returning players in that position should be aware.
Q. Dan, I wondered if you would comment on what do you think the perception is of Tennessee, Isabelle Harrison in light of the knee injury she suffered this season?<br />
DAN HUGHES: Well, the perception is unfortunate, because I thought I think all of us were excited to watch her come back from knee injury and start playing. And I think all of us see the potential there.
So it's just a shame, just a shame that health didn't follow the whole season. But I think all of us realize there's potential in the future. She's going to get healthy again. It's just a matter of when in the draft can you find availability to take that knowing that it's going to be a while before she plays.
But there's real value in her. And sometimes these situations work out, but it might take a second year. I mean, Tamika Catchings is an example; and players from last year's draft (Chelsea Gray and Natalie Achonwa). I think the coaches understand her value. We all know at some point she's going to be a contributor to this league.
Q. Anne, this is a question for you. You've been here for the Pac 12 tournament. I wanted to see your opinion on Jazmine Davis, and also just general players who how likely there's a few players undrafted that made rosters and fought really hard, how likely is that anymore as the WNBA goes forward?
ANNE DONOVAN: Can you ask the question again?
Q. Jazmine Davis, I wanted to ask about her and I guess the assessment as pro player, WNBA player, and then also just in general there have been a few players that have worked their way to rosters without being drafted or drafted late, how likely is that going forward with all the challenges coming into the WNBA that you can kind of work your way on to a roster just out of the training camp?
ANNE DONOVAN: Davis is one that people have evaluated. And I think she's got another one that it depends on the camp that she gets into and how well she performs in camp and then who is around her.
You know, some of these players, and in particular this draft, it really does depend on who drafts them, what the needs of the team are, and do they hit the ground and run, how quickly do they transition into the league and can do the 3 point line. There's some factors there that will determine how successful she'll be when she gets to training camp.
So the other part of your question, it is. It's gotten increasingly harder. And I think there's so many people that don't understand, once upon a time we had 18 players in training camp. A, it was easy to get into a training camp. And B, you could fight your way in and prove yourself.
And now it's two factors. We're down to 15 on a training camp, which most of us have a lot of returning players and then the addition of draft picks, free agent here or there. So the No. 15 starts to come up pretty quickly.
And then also this season we have all of our returning players back for the most part. So it's not a season where the European overlaps with the WNBA training camp.
So this season in particular, it's going to be really hard for an undrafted player or a third round pick to come into camp and find her way. I think it's definitely getting harder and harder with every year, and this year in particular, I think it's very tough.
Q. Coach Donovan, I was wondering if you can comment on your arena and venue being the host site again for the second year in a row for the draft, how you feel like the energy impacts your fans and just in general momentum for your organization?
ANNE DONOVAN: Yeah, really, I think most everybody recognizes that the state of Connecticut is just unique with women's basketball. Tribute to UConn and Connecticut Sun how well they've done marketing and the product they've put on the floor.
So us hosting the draft two years in a row, it brings great excitement. And it brings to our fans who care, they care about the draft pick, not just who Connecticut is picking, but who Seattle who is picking, who the second round picks are. They really truly care.
Our arena will have people come in be a part of that process. They're excited to see where Kaleena ends up in this draft and Kiah Stokes. So there's a real vested interest with our fans, and it's awesome they've been rewarded that way.
I think anybody who was at the draft last year saw that it was really well done. Our organization, our management, just does a terrific job. So I think the college players coming in with their families, with their coaches will be very impressed again, and it's just an exciting time. It's a great kickoff to the 19th season.
Q. This is a two part question. First, with each of you, I know no one's is going to give away what your total draft board is, but if you could say what you think are the top two needs of your team and name a couple of players that are on the board this year that you think you'd be looking at closely, and also especially for Coach Hughes, are there international players that maybe obviously other than Zahui B. who have not been part of the NCAA scene that would be players to keep an eye on?
DAN HUGHES: Our needs on our team, honestly, we've kind of waited on the draft to kind of fill some depth. So we can go back up at the wing. We can go back up at the post. We can go back up at the point.
And we made a trade to give us an opportunity to get at six, which has turned into a little bit better pick than we thought originally. That's what we're trying to do. And we can go any of those ways, maybe two of those three ways will be really good as we kind of build a core of a team that's kind of young and allows this to be part of that core.
In relation to a couple of players, Jewell Loyd and Zahui B. would be wonderful, not likely for me to pick, but if you need me to name two, I'll shoot for the top and I'll name those two. They would fit in nicely for us. In relation to international, yes, I think it will play a part in this. I'm not at liberty maybe to throw names at you, but I think what's going to happen, there's some 19 year olds in this draft that you're going to find are going to be part of this draft. And you may not realize seeing them until down the road.
If like someone we took Astou Ndour last year who ended up the last month with us. She's going to be in training camp this year. Those players have a little longer trek to being well known, but, boy, they've got a good chance, and I think you will see a part of that in this draft. Although it might be the latter part of the draft.
Q. Anne and Dan, I'd like to get your thoughts that we had two players with eligibility remaining enter the draft this year. Do you see this as a watershed moment that we might see this happening more frequently and do you see it as good or bad for basketball?
ANNE DONOVAN: I have to say 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.
It's definitely further along than a lot of college sophomores in terms of translating into the professional game. So I don't think that one really shocked me.
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.
So I have to say I'm really pleasantly surprised. There's a lot of people talking about this outside of WNBA, outside of women's basketball. 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.
So very excited. Do I think it will be a trend moving forward? I don't see that. But then again I'm old school. I'm the one that was shocked when Jewell jumped. I guess I'll be shocked when the next underclassman does it as well. DAN HUGHES: I think each of the situations are unique and you can't just put a blanket statement out about is it good or bad. So many factors, I think, have got to be considered by the player, by the school that they're involved with, what have you.
So it's just unique to me. I think every young player that has to think through that has a unique story that's got to apply. What I find whether it's good or bad -- is I like player development. I've drafted more than a few 19 year olds in my time from way back in Penny Taylor and those people. And I think that part of our programs in the WNBA have got to continue to develop players. So I think it can be good, but the players have got to understand they've got to keep getting better.
If they do, then they make it work. And we see examples of that in the NBA every year.
Q. Coach Williams, I wonder if you could give me an idea how a player like Aleighsa Welch from South Carolina fits in the WNBA, given that she's known less for scoring and more for rebounding and work ethic and intangibles and things like that.
FRED WILLIAMS: It's a player that's shown a lot of improvement over the years. Good team leader. Pro body. Pro ready. And you have a quality player who is high in the draft to be selected. I think she's been a great leader for South Carolina and Dawn Staley and her program, and the kid has shown a lot of good tools. I think whoever gets her will get a fine athlete.
Q. Fred, as Jenny said that Seattle had seen an increased interest in their No. 3 pick, I just wonder if you guys have seen increased interest in your No. 2 pick and if it alters maybe the idea that you're definitely going to build in the draft, maybe this is something that you could look at dealing the pick?
FRED WILLIAMS: We looked at it both ways there. I think we can go either way if there was a trade that was likable to our needs.
But I like what I see. I know what we have. But I like what I see in the draft and some of the high quality athletes that are coming out, especially in that top tier, and safe to say that we're still contemplating on that up until draft day.
Q. To follow up on the question from a few questions ago about the two underclassmen joining the draft. For the coaches, since players are basically given until a week before the draft to declare, would you like to see a bit more time between the declaration date and the draft? And with those announcements happening so soon, did that kind of shake up your draft process and draft strategy going into just under a week left before the draft?
ANNE DONOVAN: I don't know who spoke who answered the previous question, I'll just jump in. For me, it's just added excitement to this last week before the draft.
It's not given the situation of the college game, it's probably not ever going to happen or be changed or need to be changed in terms of how early the college player needs to declare.
Does it mix things up? Absolutely. But it also is it's a nice shakeup for all of us. So I think happily we all rework our draft boards to figure out where we're going to go.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to excuse the coaches and bring on our players. Welcome to the call Elizabeth Williams from Duke University and Amanda Zahui B. from the University of Minnesota.
Q. Amanda, can you just talk for a couple of minutes about what your thought process was why you decided you wanted to come to the WNBA at this point in your career?
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: Well, I really thought that this was the right moment and this was what was going to be best for me individually in my own career, and it was something that took time to think through and weighing the pros and cons.
I'm grateful for this opportunity and this chance and I feel great about it.
Q. Amanda, what was your reaction when you learned this week that Jewell had declared early as well, and do you think that it's something we may see a bit more in the future in terms of college players who are able to leave school early to make that jump?
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: When I saw that Jewell came out, I was really excited for her, something that she wanted to do, and she was confident in it. Just like myself.
And I'm not really sure we'll see a lot of this. I think it will be as long as players are comfortable and sure that this is something they want to do and think it through, I think it is a great opportunity, especially we can finish our school and education online.
But with that I'm super happy for Jewell and she's confident and we've been talking, and I'm supporting her just as much as she's supporting me.
Q. Amanda, I wanted to know the story behind why you wear the jersey No. 32 and, are you tied to it?
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: In high school I played with the No. 15, and when I came to America, my teammate was wearing it. So I decided to start a (indiscernible) a new jersey. It was a new step into my life.
And also somehow I was connected to Trent Tucker who played at the university and he wore 32. So he had a great career. I thought maybe that number would give me a little bit of luck and help me have a great career as well.
Q. Elizabeth, first of all, what do you think you'll be able to bring to whichever team takes you in year one, and then just if you could talk about your aspirations to be a doctor after your career ends?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMS: I think one thing that I'll bring is just being a really strong athletic post and really good passing post. I think those are some big things for me. And seeing a lot of double teams in college, I had to really pass the ball well.
And as far as medical school, I mean, I obviously want to play basketball for as long as I can, and medical school is just something else that I really love. So I think it's cool that I have a chance to play and then when I'm finished playing that I can go to school.
Q. Elizabeth and Amanda, Amanda, you heard the coaches say that the post position is the most difficult to make the transition from college into the WNBA (indiscernible). And I'm wondering if either of you has spoken to somebody who plays your position who is both in the pros and any ideas of where you would like to improve your game as you head into training camp?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMS: I haven't talked to too many people in my position about the pro game. I talked to Tricia Liston a little bit. She played for the Minnesota Lynx this past year, and she's a guard. But I definitely think there will be a lot of physical play and that's something that we'll have to adjust to.
Q. What areas of your game would you most like to improve as you head toward training camp?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMS: For me, just expanding my range is something I want to work on, just consistently hitting that mid-range jump shot and moving out to the 3 point line and being a more consistent free throw shooter.
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: I haven't really talked to anybody in my position on the pro level right now but what I want to what I know, it will be more physical contact and it's something that I'm ready for, but it's something also that I want to improve and get better at. And like Elizabeth said, I want to extend my range and be able to shoot more consistently but also be a threat from the perimeter.
Q. Reshanda, two questions for you. When you look at almost any WNBA draft, there's a lot of players, post players who are about 6'3", right in the place you are. So I'm wondering how does somebody heading into a draft like yourself figure out how to distinguish yourself, have some sort of distinction to sort of rise above that, being that kind of just another 6'3" player? And the second question, do you have a strong preference about where you might go? And how exciting is it to a lot of people are projecting you're going to be in the top 10.
RESHANDA GRAY: As far as your first question, I noticed a lot of post players (indiscernible), but then again there's like I just have to continue to do the little things I do like talk and be more vocal, just always trying to be in the gym and get extra shots up and just try to do little things to make myself stand out from all the other position players.
As far as team wise, no, I don't have an idea where I want to go, but I'm pretty excited that I even have this opportunity to get drafted. And I'm pretty sure like I'll just make the best of whatever position I'm put in.
Q. As the countdown comes to the draft, what things are going you to do to keep yourself as calm as possible as you are waiting for your name to be called?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMS: I think for me, stay calm, just being around my family will calm me down. My brother and my sister and my mom will all be at the draft. Just having them around me and being reminded about how humbling the experience is is something that I think I'll try to stay relaxed. Obviously it's a really exciting time, but just try to stay humble is something I'll be thinking about.
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: Pretty much what Elizabeth said. Just keep calm and be reminded how blessed I am to be in this position and situation and just wait and don't feel any kind of pressure or stress at all, just stay humble and keep reminding myself that I'm really blessed to even be here right now.
RESHANDA GRAY: You know, like the same as these two ladies. Just being around my family is definitely helping me keep my mind off of things as well as just my school academics. Now that basketball is all over, I'm just trying to finish the semester strong because I graduate in May, and that's just what my attentions are going towards more than worrying about the draft because I really can't control anything at this point.
Q. I just wonder if you've done any research at all about the various towns in the league or if you knew about them before and what you think or what you've heard about the experience of playing in Tulsa might be like from other players around the league or anybody else?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMS: I haven't really researched the cities too much, just kind of what I've picked up by ear. And I don't really know, honestly, about Tulsa. I can research more wherever I end up once the draft comes and once I figure that out. So something I think I'll focus on a little later.
RESHANDA GRAY: I have been doing a little research and I heard it's a very, very basketball atmosphere, (indiscernible) full supportive and a base fan of women's sports (indiscernible).
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: I haven't done a lot of research either because I feel like I really can't control where I'm going. So wherever I know where I'm going, that's when I'm going to do more research and put more time into that. I'm just staying very calm right now.
Q. Amanda, what has this week been like for you since you made the announcement? What kind of feedback are you getting from people and what has the excitement been like for you?
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: Well, since the announcement, it's been hectic. A lot of people calling and texting. It's really exciting as well and it's been a lot of different feedback, mostly positive, and supporting, which I really appreciate and I'm grateful for.
Q. Amanda, I just wanted to know what your thought process was about making this decision, how long have you been thinking about it and considering it before you decided?
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: I've been thinking about playing professional since I started playing basketball about 12 years ago. But then I started thinking about it a little bit later into the season, and when the season ended I took time and I sat down just talked to the people who really means a lot. And it was a roller coaster of different thoughts. And when I decided, it felt great and it felt right.
Q. Could you all talk about what strengths and assets you're going to bring to whatever team that happens to draft you?
ELIZABETH WILLIAMS: I think (indiscernible) in the post is one thing, and then running the floor is something that I try to do really well. I'm someone who plays hard defensively, just trying to be really versatile and block shots and I'll be able to defend a lot of different positions, a little bit of that in passing on offense.
RESHANDA GRAY: Iíve definitely been like a post player the majority of my college career but we all know I'm not a true center. I'm more of a 4 player. And one thing that I've been working on is extending my game out to the 3 point line and being able to handle the ball when needed.
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: I really think I can bring physical play. And also for my team leadership even though I will be one of the young ones, I think I could bring leadership. Also passing, rebounding and play a little bit defense, but definitely the physical part I'm ready to play that and be physical with whoever I'm playing against.
Q. Amanda, I wanted to also ask, as far as the national reaction, did that surprise you at all, or did you think that when you were going to turn pro that this is maybe just something for yourself, or was the reaction by people who are associated or fans of the WNBA a surprise at all?
AMANDA ZAHUI B.: Well, I knew it was going to become a big thing since I'm only a sophomore. And I was expecting a lot of different reactions and thoughts around the whole situation.
I didn't think it was going to be something that would stay super low and just to myself. I was prepared for that. And, I mean, it's an exciting moment, not only for me but for my family and everybody who helped me get to this part from the beginning until the ending of my college career.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.