Detailed Notes from the 2016 WNBA Draft: History made, surprise trades, the Pac-12 seven and Canada on the rise

Captain Obvious and a UConn Sweep

The 2016 WNBA Draft took place Thursday night and no one was surprised that University of Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart, a 6-4 forward, went to Seattle as the No. 1 pick. The victor of four national championships and winner of every women’s basketball national player of the year award, was humble in her comments about being drafted first.

“I plan to go to Seattle, hopefully help them in any way possible, and make a mark,” Stewart said. “I’m just looking forward to going out to a great city and trying to make an impact.”

She joins a team that includes last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Jewell Loyd, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year.

Stewart’s UConn teammates, 5-7 guard Moriah Jefferson and 6-2 forward Morgan Tuck rounded out the top three. Jefferson went to the San Antonio Stars and Tuck stays in the state by heading to the Connecticut Sun.

The UConn sweep marked the first time in WNBA history that the top three players came from the same school.

Stewart, who received congratulatory tweets from Seattle’s other professional teams, will throw out the first pitch on April 30 when the Seattle Mariners play the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals.

Invitees Waiting

The WNBA has a custom of inviting 12 potential draftees to participate in a couple of days of activities before the draft. Attendees, the crème of the crop of college seniors, get to meet and mingle with WNBA executives, attend workshops and provide exclusives to ESPN talent.

The draftees arrived in Connecticut on Tuesday for the festivities at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. On Thursday, after the last name in the first round was called, there were two still undrafted: Courtney Walker (Texas A&M) and Talia Walton (Washington).

The Atlanta Dream selected Walker as the 16th overall pick and the Los Angeles Sparks chose Walton in the third round as the 29th overall selection.

The two draftees that did not get invited but got picked in the first round: No. 11 Bria Holmes (West Virginia) to the Atlanta Dream and No. 12 Adut Bulgak (Florida State) to the New York Liberty.

Holmes is the highest Mountaineer selected in the WNBA draft, surpassing the previous best of Asya Bussie’s 15th overall selection by Minnesota in 2014. The New Haven, Connecticut, native is also the highest draft pick selection for a native of Connecticut.

“It has always been a dream of mine to play in the WNBA, and to finally get drafted, especially in the first round, it was a bitter sweet moment,” Holmes said. “I wasn’t really expecting to go in the first round, but my dream actually came true. I couldn’t be happier and more proud of myself. All of the things that I have been through in high school and at West Virginia really paved the way for me.”

“Bria has worked extremely hard for four years,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “She has been loyal to the West Virginia program. We are very proud of her, and she has a great opportunity with Atlanta. I think her best basketball is ahead of her.”

Bulgak is a resident of Edmonton, Alberta and a native of Kenya. The trilingual 6-4 center is the tenth Seminole to earn a selection in the WNBA draft and the fifth since 2009. She is FSU’s first draft pick since former player Natasha Howard was chosen with the fifth overall pick in 2014 by the Indiana Fever.

Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer was practical in his selection of Bulgak.

Adut gives us something we don’t have – a potential stretch four,” Laimbeer said. “We want to be able to pick up the pace. She is a good athlete who can get out and run with Brittany Boyd, and is quietly physical for her stature.”

Prospects Left Out

The WNBA identified 50 prospects on its website before the draft as potential selections. Galdeira and Allemand were not on that list. Jordan Jones of Texas A&M, the No. 34 overall pick (Chicago Sky) was also not on the league’s list.

Players on the list that did not get drafted:

  • Madison Cable (Notre Dame) – 2016 ACC Tournament MVP
  • Brea Edwards (Middle Tennessee State)
  • Malina Howard (Maryland)
  • Chanise Jenkins (DePaul)
  • Michaela Mabrey (Notre Dame)
  • Xylina McDaniel (North Carolina)
  • Kelsey Minato (Army)
  • Cassie Peoples (Florida)
  • Megan Podkowa (DePaul)
  • Shereesha Richards (Albany)
  • Tabatha Richardson-Smith (Seton Hall)
  • April Robinson (Duquesne)
  • Rachel Theriot (Nebraska)
  • Janee Thompson (Kentucky)
  • Aaliyah Whiteside (Georgia Tech)
  • Courtney Williams (Texas A&M)
  • Kaylon Williams (Oklahoma)
  • Deva’ Nyar Workman (Duquesne)

Pac-12 Leads the Way

The Pac-12 continued its banner year with the most players drafted at seven. The seven selections were the most for the conference since eight were selected in 2002. The Big Ten had six players selected and the Southeastern Conference had five. The American Athletic Conference and the Big 12 had four players each picked in the draft while the Big East had three. The Atlantic Coast Conference had two players scooped up. The Atlantic 10, the Atlantic Sun and the Colonial Athletic Association had one each.

Last week, Seattle Storm head coach Jenny Boucek talked about how the Pac-12’s success this past season would help the draft potential of players in the league.

“I think the PAC-12 showed that it’s one of the best conferences in the country, maybe the strongest in this particular season,” Boucek said. “I mean, that’s obvious with the fact that they had two teams in the Final Four. So I mean, I think there’s some good players. I think they helped their stock because they showed that on the national stage, and a lot of times East Coast people, just because of the hours, have a harder time seeing the West Coast players. I think that was hard for them. I think Talia Walton really showed what she can do and probably was one of the ones that people didn’t know as much about that probably helped herself a lot.”

Four of the Pac-12 players were drafted back-to-back in the second round:

  • 17th – Jamie Weisner of Oregon State to the Connecticut Sun
  • 18th – Ruth Hamblin of Oregon State to the Dallas Wings
  • 19th – Lia Galdeira of Washington State to the Washington Mystics
  • 20th – Jillian Alleyne of Oregon to the Phoenix Mercury

Galdeira left Washington State after her junior year (2014-15) to play overseas this season. She competed in Bulgaria and averaged 22.8 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per contest while dishing out 5.1 assists each game. She is the first-ever player to be drafted from WSU and the first player from Hawaii to get picked.

Weisner and Hamblin were the first two Beavers selected since Felicia Ragland was taken as the 28th pick (second round) in the 2002 draft. The two did not get to hear their names announced as ESPN coverage primarily focused on announcing the first round and interviewing the top three picks during its two hours coverage split between ESPN2 and ESPNU.

“It happened during the commercial break, so I didn’t even know until after the break,” said Weisner. “It showed the board and we were the next two picks, it was just our names up there so it was really cool to see our names up there going back-to-back. I’m just really proud of her and all that we’ve accomplished together and excited for the next step for both of us.”

“I think it’s amazing,” said Hamblin, a center from Houston, B.C. “People are talking about this being the Golden Age of Canadian basketball and for us all to be a part of it is an amazing moment. It’s just so exciting to have so many (Canadians) playing in the top league in the world.”

The other Pac-12 players selected:

  • 29th (3rd round) – Talia Walton, Washington (Los Angeles Sparks)
  • 32nd (3rd round) – Nirra Fields, UCLA (Phoenix Mercury)
  • 35th (3rd round) – Temi Fagbenle, Southern California (Minnesota Lynx)

Walton became the highest drafted player in UW history and second player all-time. Fields was the first Bruin to be selected since 2008 and ninth all-time. Fagbenle was the fourth Trojan in five years to be selected in the WNBA draft.

Big Ten Holding Strong

The Connecticut Sun selected the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer and 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year, Minnesota’s Rachel Banham as the No. 4 overall pick. Her former teammate Amanda Zahui B. was selected in the first round with the second overall pick in 2015.

The Dallas Wings selected Michigan State’s Aerial Powers in the first round as the No. 5 overall pick. Powers becomes Michigan State’s highest draft pick in program history. With the seventh pick in the 2016 WNBA draft, the Washington Mystics chose Rutgers’ Kahleah Copper. Her teammate Rachel Hollivay opened up the second round of the draft as the 11th overall pick by the Atlanta Dream.

The Indiana Fever selected Maryland’s Brene Moseley, the 2016 Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year, as the 21st pick in the second round. The New York Liberty chose Ohio State’s Ameryst Alston as the 24th overall pick.

The Big Ten has had at least three selections in each WNBA draft with 10 selections in 2000 and 2002.

Conference and Program Notables

  • The Indiana Fever took South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell as the ninth pick in the first round for the first Southeastern Conference player of the draft. The SEC has had a first round pick every year except 2014.
  • In the American Athletic Conference Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck were the 17th, 18th, and 19th UConn Huskies to be selected in the first round of the draft.
  • The Big 12’s four players selected included No. 10 Imani Boyette from Texas. Boyette became the first player to have a mother who played in the WNBA, Pamela McGee. With the selections of McGee and Holmes, the Big 12’s all-time total of draftees is at 105 for the 20-year history of the league.
  • For the Big East St. John’s had a pair of selections in Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant. Seton Hall enjoyed its first-ever WNBA pick in Shakena Richardson. The three selections are the most for the league since conference realignment.
  • Syracuse’s Brianna Butler, selected at No. 23 by the Sparks, joins Kayla Alexander (2013) and Beth Record (2001) as the only players in program history to be selected in the WNBA Draft. Butler broke the NCAA Division I single-season record with 129 3-point field goals made during the 2015-16 season.
  • Tennessee leads all schools in overall number of players drafted in WNBA history with 37. The Lady Vols’ Bashaara Graves was the 10th pick in the second round (22nd overall) heading to the Minnesota Lynx. UConn is second with 33 players. While Stanford had no seniors drafted this year the Cardinal remain in third overall at 24. Georgia is fourth at 21 edging out Duke’s 20. Shacobia Barbee was the very last pick in the draft, selected by New York, adding to Georgia’s total.
  • Julie Allemand was the only player selected who did not attend college in the U.S. The Indiana Fever selected the 19-year-old Belgian point guard in the third round as the 33rd overall pick. Two other Belgians are currently on WNBA rosters: Emma Meesseman (Washington) and Ann Wauters ( Los Angeles). Wauters was the No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft, selected by the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers.

Trades Made

The draft included two trades. An exchange between the Sparks and the Sun opened up the second round. The Sparks acquired guard Chelsea Gray, the 15th and 23rd picks in the 2016 WNBA Draft and the first round pick in the 2017 draft from the Connecticut Sun in exchange for the draft rights to guard Jonquel Jones (the sixth overall pick) and the 17th pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft.

In 34 games with Connecticut, Gray averaged 6.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists and shot 81.6 percent from the free-throw line last season.

The second trade saw the Lynx acquire veteran guard Jia Perkins from San Antonio in exchange for the draft rights to Jazmon Gwathmey, a guard from James Madison who was the 14th overall pick Thursday night.

Canadian Connections

Canada had a strong showing in the draft with a record number of players from the country selected. Canadians picked included Bulgak, Fields, and Hamblin. Before Thursday, there had never been more than two Canadians drafted in the same year. Basketball Canada also claims Hamblin’s teammate Weisner. While Weisner is from Clarkston, Washington she has participated in Team Canada events and senior team camps. She helped the development senior women capture first place at the 2014 Jones Cup.

Fields was part of back-to-back gold medal triumphs at the Pan-Am Games and FIBA Americas Championship last summer, when the senior national team qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Bulgak and Hamblin won silver with the development senior team at the 2015 FISU Games.

The Canadian draftees received shoutouts from national team member, UConn guard Kia Nurse.

WNBA Key Dates

  • April 23-24: Training camps open
  • April 29: Preseason games begin
  • July 23: Start of Olympic break
  • August 24: End of Olympic break
  • August 26: Second half schedule begins
  • September 18: End of regular season
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One Comment

  • Madison Cable from Notre Dame makes me wonder if she told teams she did not want to play in the WNBA and instead is going to just be with her boyfriend who is a future NHL player…

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