The incessant beeping didn't stop until the last name was called. You would have thought the Storm had the No. 1 overall pick the way coach...
The incessant beeping didn’t stop until the last name was called.
You would have thought the Storm had the No. 1 overall pick the way coach Anne Donovan’s phone buzzed a new text message every few minutes.
Was it trade talk? Nah, just previous No. 1 picks Lauren Jackson (2001) and Sue Bird (2002) looking for the scoop on who their team was picking up.
After losing teammates Kamila Vodichkova, Sheri Sam and Tully Bevilaqua to free agency, the returning members of the defending WNBA champions are very interested in what the team is doing to retain the title. Donovan said Bird, who is playing overseas in Russia, helped sign Russian forward Natalia Vodopyanova and sent scouting reports on yesterday’s picks — a virtual thumbs-up.
Donovan, also the team’s director of player personnel, chose Penn State guard Tanisha Wright with the 12th overall pick in the first round; Ashley Battle, Bird’s former Connecticut teammate, with the 25th overall pick in the second round; and Baylor forward Steffanie Blackmon with the 38th overall pick in the third round.
The rookies will be folded into a hodgepodge training camp that could see 24 faces on the court before final rosters are set May 20. The talent will include five international players signed this offseason, along with nine returning players from last summer.
“I’m just big on experience,” Donovan said. “International experience is the next best thing over college experience. But what I love is going into training camp and having options.”
The Storm, which finished 20-14 last season, will have plenty of decisions to make. Several veterans and newcomers are under contract with overseas teams, and many don’t have confirmed arrival dates for training camp. That could bode well for the rookies as far as court time, but coaches won’t have much time to stack them up against competition.
Size is an early concern for Donovan. After the predraft camp, many players were measured and were a few inches shorter than their college listings.
Wright was listed at 5-foot-11 but is actually 5-8, a concern at the shooting guard position. But Bevilaqua is 5-7 and Finals MVP Betty Lennox is, ahem, 5-8, and both have been successful in the WNBA. And Wright, a three-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, has been compared to both players.
She also has passing and scoring abilities, which were in ample display in 2003-04 when Wright was playing with former Penn State guard Kelly Mazzante, now with the Charlotte Sting.
“This year, there was nobody else really to connect to,” Donovan said of why Wright’s field-goal percentage and assist numbers were down in 2004-05. “She had to score for that team to win. (But) we’ve watched Tanisha all year and didn’t talk about her a lot because we didn’t think she’d be available. She’s a great team player.”
Donovan described the 6-0 Battle as the best athletic body at the predraft camp. The forward is another addition to help with defense, but she has offensive skills.
Battle is among a long list of UConn players to enter the league, including most notably Diana Taurasi, the No. 1 overall pick last season, and Bird.
“From the feedback that I’ve received from my former teammates, it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of fun,” Battle said. “You’re meeting new people and becoming part of a new system, but we still have the Connecticut family.”
The draftees have to wrap up college courses before attending a rookie orientation in Chicago on Thursday and beginning camp on April 25.
Blackmon’s schedule is especially hectic, with her recently missing weeks of school while leading Baylor to the NCAA women’s championship. She will graduate with a degree in marketing.
“It’s going to be hairy the next three days, because I don’t think I’m going to be going back to school between now and graduation [in May],” Blackmon said. “I’m going to try to get as much as I can done now and see how understanding teachers are going to be.
“It’s been crazy. This year has been a real boost for women’s basketball. It’s hard to get students to support a women’s sport, especially if it’s not a tradition like Tennessee and Connecticut. So, it’s been fun having people come up to you and say, ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Good luck in the WNBA draft.’ They’re true fans now.”
The Storm opens its season May 21 against Los Angeles at KeyArena.
• Players aren’t the only ones eligible for training camp. Stormfans.org and the Theater off Jackson are hosting a fan’s boot camp at 3 p.m. April 24 at the theater, 409 7th Ave. S in the International District. The camp is free, and hot dogs and drinks will be provided.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org