Baylor's Brittney Griner, left, and Delaware's Elena Delle… (Jessica Hill / Associated…)
Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins were the top three picks in Monday night's WNBA draft.
No surprises there, but still plenty of excitement among the players, the teams that selected them and the league itself.
“There's no question that this draft class has potential to be a moment in time and we'll look back 10, 20 years and remember that class that came in with Brittney, Skylar and Elena,” WNBA president Laurel Richie said.
In the 6-foot-8 Griner, the Phoenix Mercury get one of the top NCAA women's basketball players ever -- second all-time in scoring with 3,283 and first in blocked shots (748, which would be a record in men's college basketball as well) and dunks (18, including 11 this season).
“We have a team of All-Stars already,” said Mercury president Amber Cox, whose injury-plagued team finished with the second-worst record in the league last season. “To add her to the mix solidifies us for a long time. When Phoenix comes to town it will be must-see basketball.”
Phoenix star Diana Taurasi played in only eight games games last season, while Penny Taylor missed the entire year with an ACL injury and Candice Dupree sat out 21 games with a knee injury.
“I'm ready to get there and ready to learn from [Taurasi],” said Griner of Phoenix's top pick in the 2004 draft. “I got to play with her a little bit at USA Basketball. I'm ready to feed off her and give all I can to the Phoenix Mercury.
Delle Donne, the fifth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points, is just the second Delaware player to be drafted by a WNBA team. Tyresa Smith was selected by the Phoenix Mercury as the 18th overall pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft.
She joins a Chicago Sky team that is still seeking its first-ever WNBA playoff birth. But the multi-talented forward just might be up to the challenge after leading the Blue Hens into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
"Elena's complete skill set for a player that stands 6-5 along with her basketball IQ is what makes her such a special player,” Chicago General Manager and Head Coach Pokey Chatman said of the three-time Colonial Athletic Assn. player of the year and four-time All-American. “Simply put, she can hurt you in a variety of ways on the offensive end of the floor. She met the challenge of carrying her team into the national spotlight, and I believe that journey will serve her well as she embarks upon her WNBA career.”
“The Sky have a phenomenal team and I feel like I will fit in really well into that system,” Delle Donne said. “Playing alongside Courtney Vandersloot, Sylvia Fowles, Swin Cash and Epiphanny Prince will be awesome. I cannot wait to get to Chicago and start working with my new teammates and coaches.”
Diggins, who led the Fighting Irish to three Final Fours and two championship game appearances, landed with Tulsa.
“We are so excited to have Skylar join the Tulsa Shock,” Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “Her leadership and toughness fit perfectly with our style of play. I know our fans will make her feel welcome in Tulsa and our coaching staff can't wait to start working with her in training camp May 5th”
“When I entered Notre Dame we had lost in the first round of the tournament the year before,” said Diggins, who averaged 17.1 points, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals with the Irish. “At the end of my career we had brought the program back to an elite level. I'm looking forward to get to Tulsa and show my leadership skills and do whatever Coach Klopp wants me to do.”