Draft Day Reaction

Posted: April 16, 2005

The Phoenix Mercury got their woman!

Minutes before WNBA Draft 2005 tipped off on Saturday morning, Mercury General Manager Seth Sulka said that the club was going to take Sandora Irvin out of Texas Christian University if she was still on the board at No. 3. Sure enough, the 6-3 forward was available to the delight of Sulka, Mercury Head Coach Carrie Graf and Irvin’s famous uncle, former NFL star Michael Irvin, who just happened to be in Phoenix AND at America West Arena for the draft.

Of course, the elder Irvin didn’t know that his talented niece was going to end up wearing Mercury red, but since he was in town for a charity event with some of his fellow Dallas Cowboys, he agreed to do a draft interview via satellite for ESPN 2 from AWA.

Following his interview in the basement of the building, Uncle Irvin made the short elevator ride up to the fourth floor to congratulate Sulka and Graf on their pick.

The following are excerpts from media interviews with the Mercury’ front office personnel, with the newest member of the team (via conference call from New Jersey) and with her ecstatic unlcle.

MERCURY GENERAL MANAGER SETH SULKA: “There are a couple of things that are very interesting about her. Number one, is that she has progressed and grown as a player tremendously over her time over college. You see the market improvement and we feel that she is going to continue to get better. You always like to see players, especially big players who develop a little bit more slowly to see that they have that ability to progress. Obviously her athleticism, her ability to play a couple different positions, her length.”

“The fact that she plays bigger than she is because of her arms and jumping ability which was evidence by the shot block record she set in the NCAA. She rebounds and defends. Big players, long players and that was one of our major deficiency’s last year was defending and rebounding in the post and she will address that and I just think she is a tremendous kid. Tremendous work ethic, she wants to be a great basketball player.”

(On choosing Sandora)
“It was really difficult; we thought we were going to go with a big player unless maybe Tan White had fallen to three. We really liked Tan’s upside in this league. When it came down to Kara Braxton or Little, we just went with the player we felt was going to be the best pro down the line. Maybe not this season, there might be a kid that was picked after us that might have a better rookie season, but we are aware of that. But in the long term we think that this kid can be an all star in this league and that is what is came down to.”

  • AUDIO: Click here to hear to more Draft reaction from Sulka

    MERCURY HEAD COACH CARRIE GRAF: “We’re really excited about having her, she is an exceptional athlete. She is versatile; she has a great work ethic. She comes from a pretty good gene pool; we’re excited about adding her to our group. I think she has a tremendous upside. We are a young team with a lot of upside and I think she fits by making us more athletic, she is long and I think it is a great pick for us.

    “We are going to have to make some tough cuts at camp, the way our roster looks now. Through free agency, we added some depth to our bench, some inside presence and now with Sandora we have another inside player that can run and defend and block shots, so I think with that combined with the talent we had last year, it is a really exciting time for us.

    “I think her athleticism and she has amazing sports instincts. If it wasn’t basketball, she was playing soccer or football or any other sports that involves conceptual things. I think she has a really natural feel for those. She is a rebounder and she has a great sense of timing and anticipation as a shot blocker and I think she really has an intriguing upside and she already has quite a polished game.”

    MERCURY DRAFT PICK SANDORA IRVIN: “I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get there. Getting to play with Diana Taurasi, she is a great player and being able to play on the same team instead of having to play against her. I’m sure I’m going to grow as a player and I’m coming into a program that is already a great program, one of the best teams in the WNBA and I’m excited about coming to Phoenix.”

    (On being a shot blocker)
    “One I started playing basketball it was the only thing I knew to do and I kept getting better and better at it and it has become my trademark. I know coaches have looked at it and said my shot blocking is tremendous and it is something I continue to do when I arrive in Phoenix.”

    (On what Coach Graf told Sandora when the two talked by phone)
    “Just to come in and work hard and play hard and I’m coming in as a rookie and I respect that and I’m definitely going to do that and I’m just going to come in and play basketball and enjoy myself and enjoy the game in Phoenix.”

    (On what Sandora’s uncle, Michael Irvin has taught her)
    “My uncle is at a lot of my games. Even though he is a football player and he thinks he knows a lot about basketball and he tells me to be confident and battle with the post players and at the same time use my outside game and my versatility. I’m very versatile player and I feel I can post up and bang. I’m going to have to get a lot stronger, banging with a post like Lisa Leslie, but I will go up fighting. The other thing he has taught me is to just enjoy the game and have fun. The one thing that he has always taught me is that you never know when it is going to be your last time to play your sport because he couldn’t play in the NFL after injury. And he has told me to love the game and have fun doing time.”

    (On who was more excited, Sandora or Michael Irvin)
    “He loves Diana. My dad and him talk about Phoenix and they said I hope Phoenix gets you and my whole family is really excited about. I’m definitely in awe right now and I’m soaking it all in. I can’t wait to get there. Everybody is excited.”

    (On playing against Diana Taurasi in college)
    “I can remember playing against her in my sophomore or junior year and we were in the NCAA tournament and we played them at home and I remember being up by one point at halftime and we took a picture of it. In the second half, she came out and she just went to work and she was unstoppable and she ended beating us of course. She is so smart, she has only been in the league for a year, but she has so much experience and she is like a coach out there and I’m hoping she can teach me a lot of things and help me and I think we can be a great combo, like a Kobe and Shaq back in the day.”

  • AUDIO: Click here to hear the full media teleconference with Sandora

    FORMER DALLAS COWBOYS GREAT MICHAEL IRVIN: “I’m very proud of her right now and I was thinking earlier the biggest step you make in life is that step you make when you leave the amateur ranking and enter the professional ranking. It is what she is doing now and I know she is excited. I’m in here Phoenix right now and it was God’s perfect timing for me to be here so I can go upstairs and sell her some more to the Phoenix media.”

    (On advice he has given Sandora)
    “The one thing I always tell Sandora, you can be a superior player, but the best players, the players that win championships are talented leader. She is a talented leader, she is a good player and she matches real good with her teammates and I think that is very important and I love Diana Taurasi. I love her to death and I always wanted Sandora to play with her, so I’m blessed that she is finally getting that opportunity to play with another great player like Taurasi.”

    (On playing against her)
    “Sandora is a great shot blocker. I try to take it out and be real physical with her and I talk with her about playing physical basketball.

    “It is such a great thing for her to play with Diana. I think Diana is a phenomenal player and can make her a better player, but even more than making her a better player can help her prepare to be a better player because when you look at a player like Diana Tarausi she is the type of person that knows how to train, knows how to play, and studies the game. And Sandora going to TCU, I always thought she needed somebody like Diana Taurasi.”

    (On Diana Taurasi and the impact she will have on Sandora)
    “I’m a huge Taurasi fan. I even told her this one time, I had her on and I said I’m such a big fan of yours and she said you don’t even know about women’s basketball and I said oh really and I started naming what happened with Tennessee and about Sandora and she said, ‘Oh really you watch?’

    “I just love the way she plays the game and I think for Sandora that will be great. It will be great to be around. She loves playing the game and she will learn a lot. When you’re a young guy coming in or a young girl coming in any league the best thing you can have is someone to watch and emulate because now you are a professional. You never knew how to be a professional before. You had juggle school and juggle practice and now you have some downtown and now you need people to emulate that uses their downtime to work toward their game and I guarantee you that is what Diana Taurasi does and I guarantee it Sandora will pick that up and that will help her game. I’m very excited about it.”

    (On being in Phoenix right now)
    “Its Gods timing, it is not a coincidence. It is perfect timing and I’m here to sell it. I’m so happy. It is a blessing.”

    (On how Sandora plays)
    “Sandora could even be a three. She is a big girl that cam move well and she has ball handling skills, she can shoot the jumper. All of these things I think match well with Diana and there is so much she can learn. She is playing well now, but I think there is a lot more she can learn now and a great upside to her.”

    (On what advice he has given her)
    “Everything you compete. You could be my best friend and we could go out and play a friendly game, but you would get mad about it. Competing is not something you can turn on and off, it is something you do everyday. And that is how she has to go about things. No matter what you do, you have to be competitive about it. Those people that you see playing hard every play down are the people that always win. The ones that play hard, compete all the time and you win most of the time.”

  • AUDIO: Click here to hear the emotion of a proud uncle