A ‘Latta’ Surprises For Shock
|Ivory Latta Video|
After the first three selections in Wednesday’s WNBA Draft - Duke’s Lindsey Harding to Phoenix, Ohio State’s Jessica Davenport to San Antonio and Mississippi’s Armintie Price to Chicago - Detroit Shock head coach and director of player personnel Bill Laimbeer prepared himself for some unpredictable moments.
“Now comes the madness,” said Laimbeer from the Shock’s draft-day war room.
When the madness subsided about 30 minutes later, Laimbeer and the Shock had landed arguably the most talented player in this year’s draft - North Carolina point guard Ivory Latta.
Laimbeer didn’t even have to move up to get her; Latta fell to the Shock at the 11th pick in the first round, their only selection of the day. It turned a ho-hum event into what could turn out to be a major moment for the Shock franchise.
“I don’t know how we got her,” Laimbeer said in pleasant disbelief as the second round got under way. “A month ago she was a top-four pick.”
Latta, a fiery 5-foot-6 point guard whose non-stop energy and prolific 3-point shooting drove the Tar Heels to back-to-back NCAA Women’s Final Four appearances the past two years, was expected to go in the top five, and certainly the top 10. In anticipation of such an outcome, no one from the Shock had even contacted Latta prior to the draft.
But after the Chicago Sky surprisingly selected forward Carla Thomas from Vanderbilt with the 10th pick, Laimbeer was able to select what most basketball observers would call the ideal candidate to ensure his backcourt's future.
“I said all along that we would keep our pick if we felt like we could draft a player who had the chance to make an impact in the WNBA down the road, and we got even more than that in Ivory Latta,” said Laimbeer. “She was at the top of most team’s draft boards at the start of the collegiate season because she can shoot the 3, penetrate and distribute the basketball, and she will bring all of those skills to the WNBA.”
With starters Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan returning and free agent Pee Wee Johnson brought into the fold this off-season, the Shock backcourt is solid but veteran-heavy, giving Latta plenty of time to develop into a playmaker at the next level.
“With a talented, veteran roster to play behind, she’ll have plenty of time to get acclimated to the level of play in our league, and learn from the best rotation of guards in the WNBA,” Laimbeer added.
Any disappointment Latta felt from her draft slide was comforted by going to a winning team, something to which she became quite accustomed after four years in Chapel Hill. When asked if she followed the Shock’s 2006 championship run, Latta said, “Oh, absolutely. They’ve got some great players. I’m just grateful to be in this position.”
Adding to the first-round madness was the trading of the top two picks in separate deals. Phoenix, which had no room in its backcourt for Harding, sent the No. 1 overall pick to Minnesota for forward Tangela Smith.
One pick later, the New York Liberty sent forward Becky Hammon and a 2008 second-round pick to San Antonio for Davenport, a center, and a 2008 first-round pick.
The Shock already has the option to flip-flop 2008 first-rounders with San Antonio as a condition of the Ruth Riley trade. Whether the Silver Stars keep their own pick or must take Detroit’s pick, that selection will now go to New York.