The mad scramble WNBA draft took place Thursday night at Nike Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, scattering three UConn players to different parts of the country.
No matter the years players spend preparing and dreaming, no matter the weeks and hours others spend on analysis, the process culminates with an unpredictable and chaotic period of names called and teams assigned.
“Where did Z go?” Gabby Williams asked of UConn teammate Azura Stevens while being pulled to different staging areas after being selected.
That Williams, taken by Chicago with the No. 4 pick, went ahead of Stevens, who went two picks later to Dallas, was a surprise. Kia Nurse was already in her new basketball home when it was announced she was taken 10th by the Liberty.
It is the third time UConn has had at least three players selected in the first round.
“It says so much about the program,” Williams said with a nod to Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey. “That’s because of what Coach and CD have done and what they’ve created and how they’ve developed us. I went to that program because I knew I was going to get better, better than anywhere else I would have gone.”
Some would argue Stevens would have been better off in that program for another year to help the Huskies chase a 12th national title, perhaps along the way developing into a player-of-the-year candidate and potential top pick in the 2019 draft.
After sliding to No. 6, she was asked if point of entry matters.
“I don’t think so, honestly,” Stevens said. “Once this dies down and gets back to reality, you’ve got to go out and play. It doesn’t matter if you’re 1 or 10 or not even called in the first 10. You’ve got to get there and display your skills and be ready. Would it have been a little bit cooler? I guess. But it didn’t really make that big of a difference to me.”
Stevens was expected to be taken as high as No. 2 after forgoing her final year of college eligibility. There were even whispers that WNBA teams had colluded by talking to her during the college season while she weighed a decision.
“It really was difficult, and no, I did not, despite all these rumors going around, I did not talk to anybody throughout the year,” she said. “It was just a decision I prayed on.”
A’ja Wilson of South Carolina, as expected, went to Las Vegas with the top pick, followed by Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State to Indiana, Diamond DeShields of Tennessee to Chicago, which then selected Williams, a two-time All-American who took on a number of rolls with the Huskies.
In Chicago, she will play with former UConn forward Stef Dolson.
“I hear people say all the time, are you comfortable moving to the 3?” Williams said of playing small forward. “I say, maybe I was a 3 in college. I don’t know what I was. I’m just a basketball player. I told [Chicago general manager and coach Amber Stocks] I’d be whatever you want me to be. I don’t need the ball 20 times to make something happen.”
The Connecticut Sun passed on Nurse with the ninth pick and selected Duke guard Lexie Brown, then added California forward Mikayla Cowling in the third round. Nurse joins former UConn players Tina Charles, Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley and Kiah Stokes with the Liberty.
“Just pure excitement, anywhere you get an opportunity to go and play, and this is a great city to be in,” Nurse said of playing in New York. “You’ve got to close the door on some chapters of your life and move to what’s now important and relevant.”
Former UConn player Natalie Butler, who transferred to George Mason and led the nation in rebounding, was taken in the third round by Dallas.
Williams, Stevens and Nurse became the 21st, 22nd and 23rd UConn players selected in the first round. This year’s draft marks the 12th time the Huskies have had multiple selections. Nurse and Williams were 148-3 at UConn, winning national championships in their underclassmen seasons.
“We’re really fortunate to get to go through this together,” Nurse said. “It makes a lot less awkward when you first get here. I’ve seen [Williams and Stevens] work their butts off every day in practice. On the court, off the court, they’re great human beings, I love being around them, so nothing but joy for them.”
Thirteen days earlier, the UConn players had experienced heartbreak, a second consecutive Final Four loss at the overtime buzzer to finish 36-1. But Friday was a celebration, a night to dress up and find out what uniform to wear next.
“My heart was pounding the entire night,” Williams said. “I just hugged my mom and said, like, ‘We did it.’ It’s been a long journey. To finally hear my name being called is amazing. Preparing for this draft, the media, the travel, all that, has been a good distraction for me after what happened [at the Final Four]. Now I’m just on cloud nine.”
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UConn Trio Now Pros: Gabby Williams, Azura Stevens, Kia Nurse All Go In Top 10 have 915 words, post on www.courant.com at April 12, 2018. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.