- The 2018 WNBA draft offered a glimpse of hope for the future of Women's basketball with A'ja Wilson and Diamond DeShields coming in.
The WNBA painted Nike’s NYC headquarters orange as the women’s basketball world descended on the Big Apple for the 2018 WNBA draft presented by State Farm. Ten of the nation’s top women’s college basketball prospects graced the orange carpet decked in their best threads. Players stepped up to the dj booth and pretended to spin a few tracks as photographers snapped away to catch a glimpse of the women who would go from prospects to professionals in a matter of minutes.
Sounds of Beyoncé, Rihanna and various other artists reverberated throughout the venue as players shared some of their best dance moves while striking poses for the camera. The social atmosphere allowed for an intimate, yet exciting experience for the select group of people afforded exclusive access to the league’s premier event.
“We’re here at Nike headquarters. It shows growth, and I love that about the W,” said three-time SEC player of the year A’ja Wilson. “I love that about the WNBA and we just have--the sky's the limit and we’re just going to continue to grow.”
The night belonged to Wilson, South Carolina’s All-America forward, who the Las Vegas Aces selected with the first pick. The six-foot-five forward swept player of the year awards after averaging 22.6 points and 11.8 boards, a double double, her highest totals in her four years as a Gamecock.
“I just want to have a huge footprint in the league as soon as possible,” said the 2018 Wooden award winner. “The league is full of phenomenal women that do great things and I want to be a part of it, just to use my platform to help young girls out to know ‘hey you can hoop, you can still be a girly girl, you can still do whatever you want to do and love the game of basketball.’”
Standout Kelsey Mitchell went to the Indiana Fever with the second pick. The usually laid back and relaxed Ohio State guard was anxious until the President read off her name, though she did not have to wait long. She was later joined by Mississippi State guard Victoria Vivians whom the team took with the eighth pick.
Among the 36 women selected Thursday night were UConn’s Kia Nurse, selected 10th overall by the New York Liberty, and Tennessee's Diamond DeShields, taken third overall by the Chicago Sky. Both women have athleticism in there blood—Nurse’s father played football in the Canadian football league and her mother played basketball at McMaster University. To top it off, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is her uncle. DeShields is the third member of her family to be selected in the first round of a draft. Her father, Delino DeShields, played 13 years in the MLB, and her brother is Texas Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields Jr.
“[My father] said ‘welcome to the club,’ and I guess he meant the club of first-rounders in our family,” she said beaming. “I’ve got the bragging rights obviously. I was the highest pick out of the three of us so far so I’m happy about that.” DeShields’ brother went 8th overall in 2010 MLB amateur draft and her father went 12th overall in the 1987 MLB amateur draft.
As WNBA President Lisa Borders read off the final selections to close out the first round, Monique Billings, the last of the invited draftees sat on the converted 4,000 foot basketball court with her family waiting to hear her name called. As numbers 13 and 14 were announced, Billings’ nerves began to rise, but she was reassured that she would end up where she was destined to be.
The President took the podium one last time to announce the 15th pick which was held by the Atlanta Dream. The wait was over for Billings.
“I know that wherever I end up that I’ll be utilized,” said the UCLA forward. “I know that there’s a reason that I ended up in Atlanta, so I’m excited and I’m ready to bring a championship home to the A.”
Billings, like many of her fellow draftees expressed gratitude and thankfulness for their position and elevated platform, offering words of encouragement for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
“Dream. I was one of those young girls,” said the All-PAC 12 team member. “I used to go to Sparks games and see my idols, so now I’m in that position. I hope that young girls are able to dream to see that it’s possible. If you work hard, put your mind to something, it’s possible and just to keep growing and keep evolving the best that you can.”
Draft night, though primarily focused on the athletic achievements of the nation’s top female talent, was rife with glimmers of hope for the future of women’s basketball and women’s sports as a whole.
“I think our young people, especially our young girls, are our future and I know that I had great women help raise me and be role models, so now it’s my turn and I’m excited,” said Wilson echoing the draftees.
The 2018 season kicks off on May 18th with the Dallas Wings taking on the Phoenix Mercury in Arizona.