A seven-game stretch threatened to derail the pro prospects of Washington’s Talia Walton and ruin the Huskies’ season. But Thursday she’ll get a front-row seat for the WNBA draft.
Since the Washington women’s basketball team’s magical Final Four run ended two weeks ago, Talia Walton’s life has been surreal.
“Things have been pretty hectic,” she said. “I went back to class and focused on that. I’ve been working out. I took a few days off to rest, but it’s been school and basketball and getting ready for these next couple of weeks.”
In addition to preparing for Thursday’s WNBA draft — where she’ll be one of 12 prospects in attendance at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. — Walton is slowly getting adjusted to her newfound popularity.
“There have been (a) few different incidents,” she said. “A couple of us went to the movies downtown and this lady kind of just stopped me and she went crazy. She was like, ‘Oh, my God! You play for the Huskies!’ It was hilarious.
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“You get a lot of those. People definitely know who we are now. It’s pretty cool. I get a bunch of high-fives wherever I go. Even a homeless guy told me that he heard about what we did. It’s been kind of cool.”
It remains to be seen if Walton will cash in on what has been a “dream season” for the 6-foot-2 forward from Federal Way.
Her invitation to the draft suggests that she’ll be one of the 36 players chosen in the three rounds (4 p.m. PST on ESPN2).
“She’ll get drafted,” said UW coach Mike Neighbors, who compared Walton with Indiana Fever six-year veteran Marissa Coleman. “They draft the best players available, and she’s one of them.
“She’s the prototype big guard. She makes tough shots. She runs the floor. She’s versatile. She creates mismatches. That’s when people thrive in that league. Her size and shooting skills is what people look for at the professional level, and she’s got both.”
It also helps that Walton is coming off an amazing NCAA tournament, where she averaged 21.8 points, including a 29-point performance during a loss to Syracuse in the semifinals.
She made eight three-pointers in that game — a Final Four record — and was selected to the All-Final Four team.
“There’s a direct correlation in the past with 10 WNBA drafts that a deep run benefits players who played in the NCAA tournament because of visibility,” Neighbors said.
“I’ve talked to virtually every WNBA team and they all talk about what a great tournament she had.”
That was a bit of a surprise, considering Walton’s midseason shooting slump that threatened to doom the Huskies’ season and sink her pro prospects.
The Huskies went 4-3 while Walton slogged through a seven-game slide. She converted just 25.7 percent of her field goals during that stretch, including 28.9 percent on three-pointers, while averaging 10.7 points.
“I was concerned about playing after college professionally and I was letting every little thing affect me,” Walton said.
One-on-one talks with Washington assistants Morgan Valley and Adia Barnes helped.
“They reminded me that nobody is going to remember these games as far as coaches and scouts go,” Walton said. “They’re going to want to see how you bounce back and how you perform and finish. Once I stopped thinking so much, I was able to get back into my rhythm and play like myself.”
Walton, who shot 46.1 percent from the field and 39.3 on three-pointers as a senior, averaged 18.5 points in the final 13 games.
“There’s definitely more in me,” Walton said.
“I’m never satisfied as a player, and there’s a lot of things I can get better at. I want to get to the point where I’m great.”