March 28, 2007 - Pre-Draft Camp Q&A with Head Coaches Paul Westhead (Phoenix Mercury), Dan Hughes (San Antonio Silver Stars), Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm) and Mike Thibault (Connecticut Sun).

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Coach Paul Westhead and the Phoenix Mercury are still weighing all of their Draft options.
Paul Westhead, opening statement: Having the first pick, you know we are in charge of our own destiny and we are looking forward to picking a player that will have an impact on our team this season. It's an exciting time for us and we're glad we are first.

Dan Hughes, opening statement: If Paul would like to describe his destiny I think we all would appreciate it and love to know it. This is, to me, a very exciting but unpredictable draft. I think there are a lot of variables, I think there is a lot of quality among prospects, but I think its exciting. I think there's some good players coming into the league and I think for us as head coaches and general managers, this is as unpredictable a process as I've seen maybe in my nine years, but its great for our league and I am really impressed with some of the players coming into our league.

Anne Donovan, opening statement: I'll reiterate what these guys just said…just really excited about this draft. I think we've got, at the 7th pick, we'll end up with a very quality player. And I think that the beauty of this draft is that there is, positionally, great players at every position. So if you need a point guard, there's a great point guard. If you need a big, there's bigs. And for us, we are probably looking at a wing-player/guard position. We don't know who will still be there, but we know we'll get a good one at seven.

Mike Thibault, opening statement: I am probably the most curious one in the draft, or on this conference call because the people in front of us are going to kind of determine for us which direction we go. I mean, when you're picking at the end of the first round, you're kind of waiting to see the priorities. We are in a fortunate situation in Connecticut in that we don't need to fill a particular position, so with back-to-back picks we can afford to take maybe a wing player and then maybe a four-five type that don't have to step in particularly this year and be huge contributors. We'd love it if they were, but there's not pressure on those two players to come in and do that for us.

So we are going to be interested spectators for a little bit in the draft and see what other people do.

Along the lines of what everyone else has said, particularly where we are, this is one of those drafts where there are not a lot of stars in it right now; there's a lot of really good basketball players and you have just as good a chance maybe where Anne is picking at seven to pick a player comparable to somebody at two or three. And where we are picking at twelve and thirteen, we might pick a player comparable to where Anne is picking; and you might have that same luxury at the sixteenth or seventeenth pick, so a lot of good players can make teams, but maybe they're not going to be the ones to turn around a team. Paul and Dan may be looking for that more than we are, but it's a very exciting time.

Operator: Our first question is from John Altavilla from the Hartford Courant.

Q: This is a two-pronged question. First, about the draft, do any of you think that the league has grown to a point where it needs to evaluate the rules concerning eligibility in terms of kids who haven't graduated that have the inclination to leave and play ball earlier than their 22nd birthday? And, the second question is, whether any of you believe that the recent events at LSU and Penn State will endanger in any way the growth the sport in this country or negatively reinforce stereotypes that people may have about it. The question about eligibility and underclassmen, perhaps Paul and Dan could address that, and the question about LSU and Penn State, perhaps Anne and Mike.

Paul Westhead: The question of eligibility…I am kind of relatively new to the league and the history of the number of players to come out in this process, but my feeling is that the process has worked well as far as I can see it. Perhaps some of the more experienced have an opinion beyond that, so I don't know if there is any great need to make any specific changes in how you become eligible for our draft.

Dan Hughes: I like the frame of our eligibility right now and I've used it both ways. I have drafted two 19-year olds in my day—one Australian and one Belgian—and the way an international player can enter the league is well-framed. And I also think a lot of good is maybe done in the way we have framed our collegiate players as well. Especially name recognition, especially degrees and different things that I find very meaningful, and I think I have found the way it has been framed to be very workable and good. I wouldn't necessarily push for any changes in it.

Follow-up question from Altavilla: And as for the issue with LSU and Penn State, for Anne and Mike?

Anne Donovan: I think both cases are very unfortunate for the women's game; in particular LSU's. It has been documented and will continue to be documented through the end of the season. It is a black mark on women's basketball. And the issue at Penn State has been ongoing for a while. Do I think that overall they will impact us, slow us down, stop us? No. But I think they have definitely been well-publicized and it has been a long-time stereotype, this whole gay issue. And any time it has been written about, talked about or there is a coach being exposed in either way in the pro or in the con of it, it just perpetuates that stereotype. So we will continue to battle that, but it is certainly not a great time for the LSU situation or for all of women's basketball.

Mike Thibault: I don't know that I can really add to that. I mean, I think Anne has stated what it is right now. I think at any time in any sport that you have negative publicity, it puts doubt there for some fans or for some observers. I don't care what the issue is and there are going to be people that are out there that judge our sport solely by those things and there's not much that we can do about it. Do we wish they hadn't happened? Yes. But maybe along the course it will also force everyone to evaluate where we are with the game and the standards that we have. It's not a simple cut and dry issue by any means.

Operator: The next question comes from Vin Cherwoo of the Associated Press.

Q: Coach Thibault, I just wanted to ask you how the departure of Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Erin Phillips will affect your draft priorities?

Mike Thibault: Well let me go back…Erin (knee injury) has not departed from our team and there is a chance that she will play this year, so as far as drafting to fill a need for her, we probably won't necessarily be doing that. You know, there is not…I don't see a lot of value in taking a first round pick and using it to draft a point guard who is not a first round-caliber point guard just to have someone temporarily when you already have Lindsay Whalen and Jamie Carey and Erin about to rejoin your team at either some point this year or the following year. So I don't think that would be a great use of a first pick.

There are probably, in most people's consensus, two really good point guards in this draft and others who may turn out to be, but no one would say the rest of them are first round-caliber right now. I don't see that. As far as Taj, I think it effects what we do a little bit in that it effects our bench. Asjha Jones is going to be our starter and she has earned that spot; she is on the verge of being an all-star in this league, and so I think the loss of Taj is not as great as some people have imagined it to be. Secondly, we've signed Kristin Rasmussen as a free agent who can play several positions. I think we are looking for young athletes in the draft who are not necessarily the best player available, but we are going to look more long-term than short-term. Taj will be missed but not in the same sense that maybe other people think.

Operator: The next question will go to Jerry Hill of the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Q: I have a question for Dan Hughes. I was just curious as to if you had and evaluation of Baylor's player Bernice Mosby?

Dan Hughes: Watching Bernice play, I think this is a player that probably, as I read things, is a little bit underestimated. I think a lot of WNBA people watching this draft are very, very high on Bernice and she has demonstrated in the one year at Baylor a real potential to play in our league. As I watch her and see her obvious athletic ability, she has a skill set to go with it. She may migrate more towards a three position in our league in some ways and I think people in our league have grown fond of her. I look for her to be drafted very high to be honest with you and on a lot of people's short list as they make these decisions. I think she is an example of a player who has made our decisions at the upper part of this draft hard because of the type of year she has exhibited. I think she is going to be a feature part of our draft.

Operator: The next question comes from Arthur Sherman of the Norwich Bulletin.

Q: This question is for Anne. I'm just curious if you can comment on what the benefits of the Pre-Draft Camp are?

Anne Donovan: You know, I think it's a great opportunity for us to see these players that might not play in the stronger conferences against strong competition. They are going against the top 40 or 50 players and selling in a drill set and in a lot of games situation. We'll see them go head to head.

I don't really anticipate for any of us that we go into pre-draft camp and completely change the work we have done over the last couple of years, but it is nice to solidify. In particular, I think that in the second or third round you can really start to get more clarity on the picks. And of course there is always the underdogs, if you will, that are invited to the Pre-Draft Camp to get an opportunity to showcase.

Follow-up question from A. Sherman: I know you said you don't anticipate that a lot of work changes, but are there any examples maybe you can think of in the past where someone possibly moved up a little higher on everyone's board because of their performance in that Pre-Draft Camp?

Anne Donovan: You know, coaches, you guys can help me with this. Ashley Battle had a great Pre-Draft Camp last year and you could say she helped herself last year in that camp, or two years ago I guess that was.
I think Margo Dydek when she showed up in what, ‘98' or something like that. I think that pretty much changed the draft back at that time.

Mike Thibault: For us, we got a chance, it was a decision, although we didn't draft her, Jamie Carey playing there helped us decide to pick her up when she was released that year to come in and make our team. I mean, everyone knew her, but she really played well at the Pre-Draft Camp and moved up at least an entire round.

Operator: This question is from Jayda Evans with the Seattle Times.

Q: Coach Thibault kind of talked a little bit about this, but I wanted to see if the other three can mention--in the past the drafts have had impact players that have been able to either come in and start or make and impact, and it seems like this season we might get more of the role-players or maybe get true rookies. Do you agree with that and how do you see these players falling into place now that the WNBA teams are more settled?

Anne Donovan: I definitely believe that this is a draft of very solid players as Mike said. I don't know that there is anybody coming in that is a true starter. We have a couple of kids — I think Lindsey Harding is going to be a great player in the league, but I think that even Harding or Davenport, some of the more solid, more proven WNBA-type games, I think are still going to have to come in and earn their minutes.

Paul Westhead: Our situation is a little bit different. We have the first pick and we'd like to have a starter. A little bit because of a need situation, so our first pick in the draft, whoever we finally decide on, they are going to get a great window of opportunity to come out and play a lot of minutes.

Dan Hughes: I would agree with Mike and Anne a lot. I mean, personally, I would like this person to impact our team in more than a role situation, if not starting, at least a substantial minutes-per-game player. But there is a reality as I study our choices; people that I like may not fall into that situation and we're a team in the lottery. So I think their statement is very realistic. . It is that kind of draft.

A year ago I think there were four or five players that—boom—came in and made incredible presence on teams, including ours with Sophia Young. But I don't see that same type of impact. But I do see some quality in some of the mid-picks and some of the later first round picks and I see good players where Paul and I are sitting, but I'm not sure I see the same punch in the upper part of the draft that I saw a year ago.

Follow-up question from Evans: If I may ask Anne one more question, you do have the seventh pick which you can get a quality player. Are there any thoughts of trading that pick and getting a veteran?

Anne Donovan: We have really looked at a lot of different scenarios, but at this point it looks like we will keep seven and get a good player there.

Operator: Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times.

Q: I wondered if Mike could identify the two “real good point guards” he referred to and then I wondered if Paul could talk about the three players with L.A. ties: Noelle Quinn of UCLA, Eshay Murphy of USC and Lindsey Medders of Iowa State.

Mike Thibault: I think that the consensus, unless I am missing the boat somewhere here, that between Harding and Ivory Latta would be the point guards that are likely to go in the first round. I would be surprised if there is another point guard taken in the first 14 or 15 picks. I may be wrong, but that would be a surprise to me.

Paul Westhead: I saw UCLA and USC on different occasions over the past couple of years, so I have a pretty good feel. Noelle Quinn is a very talented player. She is kind of an all-purpose player that does a little bit of everything very well. She can score; she's a terrific passer. So I think she's going to be a good player in our league. Shay Murphy is comparable in that regard. Shay Murphy is maybe a tad faster, sometimes shoots downtown very well, and she can shoot the three. They are both interesting players so I have a sense for both of them and I think they are both going to be players in our league. I can comment on the two of them for you.

Follow-up question from Crowe: Can anyone comment on Lindsey Medders?

Anne Donovan: I think Lindsey, in particular, had a great senior year…but in particular, in the tournament, she showed, epitomized what kind of kid she is, which is just tough, hard-nosed competitive with the best of them. And besides being a deep, deep shooter, which she is known for, she can run a team; she can find ways to a score outside of the three point line, so I think she has stepped up her game the latter part of this year.

Dan Hughes: I think Lindsey has probably, in my opinion, in the latter part of the season played herself more at the top than any other point guard. Her passing ability is the part that I like so much. I think she brings out some of the strengths she may have and I think she made some good movements through the latter part of the regular season and certainly into the tournament in our evaluations of her.

Operator: Now we'll go to Mel Greenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Q: Hi. First, a question for Paul…any chance somebody is going to take a run at you and try to do a trade or are you picking all the way?

Paul Westhead: You know, we're going to be open probably to the very moment of the draft for any possible trade movements. And so, yes, that is possible. We also would be keenly set on picking a terrific player for us out of the draft. We'll just make that last-minute evaluation depending on what our opportunities are.

Follow-up question from Greenberg: A question for Mike -- your opinion on Kamesha Hairston of Temple? Some people are saying she could either go the lower part of the first round or high second round?

Mike Thibault: I think that the consensus would be that she is in the group of about seven or eight players of what we call wing players, the two's or three's that people right now are considering for the first round of the draft. She is that range you are talking about. She could go to where Anne's picking, that high, or go early second round, but I don't see her going much later than that. She is a terrific shooter, knows how to come off screens and get her shots and she's well thought of.

Operator: We'll move onto Vin Cherwoo of the Associated Press.

Q: This is a question for Paul. Whether you want to disclose or not, are you set on who you plan to pick if you hold onto the pick, as you said you are considering you might do a trade. What is your thought process now?

Paul Westhead: I wouldn't say we are set. We have a group of probably four players, maybe five to the outside that we have considered, that we are considering, and we are just kind of letting the next few days run its course and we'll be geared up for the start of next week to see how things unfold with possibilities. If we had to pick today I don't think we're 100% set, but that's a good thing. We have a handful of players we can pick from and can't make a mistake.

Follow-up question from Cherwoo: Dan, how about for you?

Dan Hughes: What Paul said; that's got a lot to do with our situation and I think we're set on three scenarios. But to be honest with you usually at this time I could tell you exactly what we're going to do. I've been very predictable in prior drafts.

I can't tell you exactly; I can tell you the three likely scenarios and I could tell you the decision I'd make today. But the decisions aren't as strong as they've been in other years. But I am going to use the Pre-Draft Camp and just the events that take place between now and the draft a little bit more into consideration than I have in the past. I think we know who we'd pick today based on Paul's scenario, but I'm just here to tell you that they are not so strong that they couldn't be impacted by things between now and then.

Operator: The next question comes from Ron Snyder with the Baltimore Examiner.

Q: With everyone talking about Lindsey Harding and Ivory Latta being really the top two guards, where does Shay Doron fit? How do you see her game translating to the pro level and what do you feel she brings to the pro game?

Mike Thibault: I think that, and the other coaches can correct me, I didn't say that Harding and Latta were the top two guards – I said they were the top two point guards. I think most people in our league see Shay Doron more as a two in our league who can play a little bit of the point guard; so I think you have to evaluate her as a player who is maybe more two than one. I think that maybe that is how she is going to be evaluated.

Dan Hughes: The thing that I am impressed with Shay, because I remember Shay coming in as a freshman, she's a player that has been very adaptable to different roles during her time the last four years. I think that serves players kind of well…trying to work their way into our league because you don't always come in and have everything be easy for you. And she has been a joy to watch, whether she was the feature player or whether she was a support player among other good players; and I like that about players. She has exhibited that and that will serve her well in our league.

Operator: Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee.

Q: If you guys could comment on why these players who are eligible to enter the draft early choose not to and whether you think that will change in the future.

Anne Donovan: I think that the women's game is not the same as the men's game, most obviously financially. And so making the jump to leave school early—and people talk about Candace Parker and how she would graduate this December which means if she entered the WNBA she would have to go back to school at some point to finish her degree. But I think that you still have the female athlete that is very aware of education and enjoys not just the educational process, but the camaraderie and the campus environment and athletics at the level they are at. And that the WNBA and the overseas contracts that I think are getting bigger and fatter all time will be there. But I still don't think it overrides the education at this point for most of these girls.

Operator: We'll move on to Jim Nancey of the Columbus Dispatch.

Q: This is for maybe Dan and Anne. Jessica Davenport—what do you think of her game and what does she bring into the draft and what would see her like to improve to be an impact player?

Anne Donovan: I really enjoyed working with Jessica in the minimal time that we had last spring with the national team. We had her for a couple of weeks so that gave me insight on Jessica and into how she works as a player, what her mind is like, what her intellectual capacity for the game is like and what her work ethic is like.

I really liked working with her am thinking that this kid is a kid who wants it, is very competitive, who is a bright kid and physically can withstand the contact of our game and the pace of our game.

I truly believe that, and I think that one of the knocks that people have from the outside when they look at Davenport — is is she mobile enough? I believe that she is. I think that Ohio State plays a lot of zone and so that has pigeon-holed her into back-to-the-basket, into a lane player and I think she has enough mobility to defend in our league. And she is a great presence with great accuracy offensively to be a force in the paint in our league.

Dan Hughes: I tell you what…the skill that I really appreciate in her is her passing. The thing that I constantly walk away from her performances or her tape evaluations is how well she can pass the ball for a young player and how well her teammates would enjoy playing with her in that regard. She is a marvelous passer that can obviously finish at goal level. When I look at her I would like to see…in our league she is going to be asked to guard face-off players and that would be the area that would be a bit of a wonder for me. But I am a fan of Jessica's. I like her personality and demeanor towards the game as I study it, and I love what she does on the block. I love her length. She has very good length in different situations and I absolutely love her passing. I really enjoy watching her and I see her playing.

Follow-up question: Do you see her as a top five pick?

Dan Hughes: Yeah, I do.