UConn’s Breanna Stewart is all but assured of being the Storm’s No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft Thursday, and even Rebecca Lobo believes she’ll be an immediate star.
She has held the worst-kept secret for seven months, but Storm coach Jenny Boucek still isn’t ready to confirm what has been practically a foregone conclusion since the team secured the top pick in the WNBA draft — Breanna Stewart is headed to Seattle.
“We’ve actually had some interesting offers,” Boucek said last week during a teleconference call. “We’ll keep taking offers until the last possible minute, but it would take a lot.”
Boucek’s comments elicited an outburst of laughter from a few WNBA coaches on the line. While chuckling, one coach said: “C’mon now.”
4 p.m. Thursday, ESPN2
Storm picks: No. 1 first round and No. 2 pick in third round (26th overall).
Prospects: First round: C Breanna Stewart (Connecticut). Third round: F Talia Walton (Washington), G Lia Galdeira (Washington State) and F Tabatha Richardson-Smith (Seton Hall).
Boucek didn’t budge. She repeated it would “take a lot” for the Storm to pass up on selecting possibly the greatest women’s basketball player ever.
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But the chances of that happening are next to nil.
The Storm drafting Stewart has been a fait accompli since September’s lottery established the order of Thursday’s draft, which begins 4 p.m. PT at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Stewart is a once-in-a-generation player with unmatched credentials.
The 6-foot-4 post concluded a brilliant career at Connecticut that included a 151-5 record, four NCAA championships and four Most Outstanding Player awards for the Final Four.
No other player has more than two MOP awards.
Stewart ranks third all time in the NCAA tournament in points (446), third in rebounds (207) and second in blocks (71). She averaged 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks during her four-year career.
The 21-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., native also has proven to be clutch when it matters most. In her four championship appearances, she averaged 19 points and 10.3 rebounds.
Stewart capped her college career with a game-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the Huskies’ 82-51 destruction of Syracuse in the NCAA tournament championship game.
Stewart has nothing left to prove in college. Yet she is saddled with grand expectations of resurrecting a once-proud franchise that needed to overhaul an aging roster.
“She’s going to be great right away,” said WNBA analyst Rebecca Lobo, a former UConn star. “She’s the only player who’s had extensive experience playing already with and against pros because of her experience with the national team.
“She’s going to make an immediate impact, kind of like Elena Delle Donne did her rookie year. I think she’s going to be pretty great right away.”
Delle Donne, the second overall pick in 2013, led Chicago to its first playoff appearance and three postseason berths. Her 23.4 scoring average in 2015 led the WNBA.
Storm fans hope Stewart delivers similar results. Seattle finished 10-24 and was fifth in the Western Conference last season.
Despite flashes of brilliance from point guard Jewell Loyd, last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick and the 2015 Rookie of the Year, and a solid rookie outing from forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the No. 3 overall pick, the Storm missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The last time Seattle finished with a winning record was 2011. And the last time the Storm won a playoff series was 2010 when it captured the WNBA title — the second in franchise history.
Back then, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson — the No. 1 overall picks in 2002 and ’01, respectively — formed one of the most dominating guard-center tandems in league history.
Now the Storm is on the verge of adding a cornerstone player in Stewart.
“I would say that it’s a pretty good chance that she’s going to do at the next level exactly what she’s been doing,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma told The Hartford Courant last week when asked about Stewart’s pro potential. “And obviously it’s going to be more difficult. … (Seattle) is quite different than the (team) she’s playing on. The players that they’re playing against are quite different. The entire life is different. And that takes some getting used to.
“I like the fact that if everything holds true and she goes to Seattle that she’ll be around some really good people. I know Sue will take great care of her, and Jewell Loyd is a great kid and is going to be a heck of a player, and Kaleena is up there. And there’s a lot of people she’s familiar with. And they’ll help her grow.”
|Storming through the draft|
|Storm first-round draft picks, including overall selection, school or country and year:|
|1||Jewell Loyd||Notre Dame||2015|
|10||Alison Lacey||Iowa State||2010|
|12||Tanisha Wright||Penn State||2005|
|8||Jung Sun-Min||South Korea||2003|
|9||Kamila Vodichkova||Czech Republic||2000|