2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: WNBA Coaches

Opening Statements

CHERYL REEVE (Minnesota Lynx): I really enjoyed following the 2011 2012 college season, and I'm really excited to see how this young group of talent meshes with the players currently in our league, and we are excited about the draft picks that we have.

BRIAN AGLER (Seattle Storm): I’ll sort of second what Cheryl said. We had a chance to evaluate quite a few of the players that are in the draft pool -- some quite significantly -- and we are looking forward to Monday in terms of making our decision.

It's a big decision for us. We have not had a lottery pick since 2001, and this pick for us will be somebody that we feel doesn't have to be a starter right away, but at some point in their career, can be a significant piece of the puzzle for the Seattle Storm.

GARY KLOPPENBURG (Tulsa Shock): Thanks for having me on. This is great. We just got out of our lab – we’re feverishly working on this draft. We are waiting on Cheryl and Brian to get the dominos falling.

But I think it's a really good draft. I look even into the second round, there's some high quality players. I think our league, the women's game is almost at the level that we could have a D-League because there's some excellent players in the draft, and also some free agents floating around. But thank you for having me on.

Question and Answer Session

Q. How much impact or how much does it weigh that a player has a history of injuries, like Devereaux Peters with the knee injuries. Can you comment on what consideration that's given in the draft?

BRIAN AGLER: The WNBA, the league, does a good job of helping us make connection and contact with each program that has players in the draft. We will have access to all their medical history.

And I think it just depends on I mean, everybody sort of has a different philosophy towards that. Devereaux, obviously, has had issues in the past, but she's also had an excellent season.

I was listening to Carolyn and Rebecca earlier and I think Carolyn made a good point, for someone like Devereaux, she's not going to be asked to play the big minutes that she did at Notre Dame, especially her first year. So it will depend on what people's expectations are in terms of their evaluation.


Q. Cheryl, how do you approach this draft? You have the luxury of having won the Championship and now having the third pick in the draft and five of the first 26.

CHERYL REEVE: I think more than anything, the 2011 season is kind of in the books and now we have got to gear up to figure out how we can put ourselves in position again to contend in 2012.

If you look around the league, namely on our side of things, in the Western Conference, Seattle is loaded up and they are I think positioned to make a run at it.

So we will certainly try to utilize the draft to continue. I think we have got a great balance of veterans and young players, and we are going to continue down that road of adding talent that I think will be able to stick in the future and try to keep this thing going.


Q. When you have a player like Connecticut's Tiffany Hayes -- you've both won championships with Connecticut players at the forefront of your careers -- and you have this kid who has played alternately well and sub standardly in the Final Four…how do you evaluate her talent? What is the real Tiffany Hayes?

BRIAN AGLER: You know, obviously people that have coached Connecticut players, and I'm sure there's more players from different programs that are like this…but the one thing that I always say about players from Connecticut and also players from Tennessee, the rich tradition type programs is that they have always kept their college coaches, staffs in high regards; speak highly of them; they tended to be a big part of their lives, even once they get in the pro level. I think that's important in our evaluation, because they are very team oriented.

And Tiffany definitely is like that. She's had a great career there. I anticipate her going in the first round at some point. You know, she's got some versatility and some length. But definitely her pedigree going to that program for four years, playing on the great teams that she has will help her.

Each team in our league has high expectations. It's a very competitive situation, and that's what she comes from.

CHERYL REEVE: I think to add to that, I think for Tiffany, when you make that jump to the WNBA, the expectations of her as a player will change a little bit in terms of what she is asked to do or what they needed her to do, and I think that led to some of the inconsistencies that you mentioned.

For her, I'm sure she's better for it, all of the experiences that she had, and I think she'll be able to take all of those things and figure out how to be impactful in our league.

We have got a league that's very strong. We have got each team has quality players. These players that are about to be drafted are going to have to come in and find a role, find a way that they can to fit best on the team and be impactful; and I see Tiffany being able to do that.


Q. It's probably fair to say that this draft will certainly be dwarfed by next year's draft where you have two players right off the top that can be franchise players as rookies in (Elena) Della Donne and (Brittney) Griner. First of all, is it possible to try to manipulate your way into a spot where you might be able to grab one of those players (next year), and secondly, do you think there will be any effort on draft day to try to do that?

GARY KLOPPENBURG: Yeah, definitely. I think coaches, we are on the phone, on the calls and calling coaches about all kinds of different things right on up to draft day. I know a lot of those conversations would go on.

The general feeling I get from talking to coaches is that nobody really wants to give up any picks for next year's draft just because of those reasons, the high quality of players that are coming out next year. There definitely will be a lot of talk and coaches and GMs trying to maneuver to do that.


Q. This draft seems to me to be really full of question marks, kids that might end up being good WNBA players but a lot of them have question marks, either because of we are not sure how they are going to develop or whatever. Can you talk about the difference between high school players going to college, how you gauge how they are going to develop in college, versus when you look at a college player at the end of their college career developing in the WNBA. What I mean by that is how higher the ceilings of players just on an average basis? Are there a lot of players that surprise with you how they develop or can you pretty much have a pretty good idea right now how they are going to develop?

CHERYL REEVE: I think you hit the nail on the head in the description of the draft, because it will be very subjective in terms of most of the selections.

In regard to trying to determine a player's ability to improve or whatever the areas or question marks could be, I think we have seen in our league that we have seen surprises on both sides, in terms of maybe a player that got drafted lower that came on to be a very good player, but also, it takes often times three or four or five years for a player to really come into their own. I think it's so situational; whether you have time to wait, that sort of thing.

With regard to the high school to college and then college to pro, I think high school to college, there's a greater margin of error that you can kind of take a chance and put the time in and kind of let that player blossom.

I think in our league, going from college to pro, again, depending on the situation, that there's less margin of error. You've got to be pretty darned close to your evaluation. These picks were all very meaningful and in your ability to pick a player and then grow with them and hope that they develop into that player that you anticipated, I think that's probably the biggest difference.

BRIAN AGLER: The way that I sort of explain it to people that look at our league and our evaluation of the draft is when a player comes from high school into college level, they are going to compete with the people that are basically still in their age range, 18 to 20 years old.

When they come in from the college ranks into the WNBA, now all of a sudden, they are thrown in and they are competing against people that are aged from 20 all the way up to 36, 37, 38 years old, maybe even more veteran than that. And that is a big leap.

I was listening to, like I said, Carolyn and Rebecca, and Carolyn made note of how difficult it is just to make a team any more, because of the 11 person roster, there's many more players who come in than retire. Probably in some places, the biggest influence on a young player making a team is the amount of money that they are going to be asked to take from the salary cap. That helps them in a lot of ways.

But there's players in this draft that will make rosters and it will be very difficult and demanding on them to play a significant role off the bat. From our standpoint, we are looking for somebody that can help us and we are looking for somebody that we have the ability to take our time with and can mature within our system and develop into a quality player down the road.


Q. Gary, can you just talk about when you faced Tulsa as an assistant coach and what you were watching? This team has had a lot of different identities because they’ve had so much turnover in personnel just in the short time they are in Tulsa. What do you feel like this team can do to develop as an identity and what can you do on draft day to help that?

GARY KLOPPENBURG: Their first year, we came down and we had a very good team at Indiana and came down to Tulsa and got beat, and I thought even then, they could develop into a very good team. I mean, I didn't think the talent was that bad. You know, for whatever reason, they never really got a solid foundation with their roster and the kids turning over.

But now, there's a good, young core of players that have all been in winning programs throughout their career. They know how to win. I think that's going to be our biggest challenge is to add to that, increase the talent level through the draft and free agency, and put together a good training camp and really try to get out of the gate on a winning note.


Q. What do you expect from the No. 3 pick, and what are you going to do about those other draft picks?

CHERYL REEVE: You know, I think we are in a unique situation in that we feel like we have talent and depth at each position. I think when we describe our greatest need, we talk about, we need a player that is certainly first and foremost is talented.

But we are looking for a second component, which is somebody that can understand playing a role or even a diminished role on a team. So the quality of the individual and their history in being able to step outside of being the best player on team, which most of these guys have been throughout their careers.

So we are hopeful that we are able to combine the talent with the mind set of being selfless, which was such a big part of our championship run. And then we certainly expect that player to be somebody to be helpful to us; it may not be in the immediate future, but we would certainly have a plan for that player that would require patience.

With regard to the picks outside the first round, we are in the same boat as everyone else in that none of us have very many positions available, and we will look to add what we believe is the best player in those positions, at 18, 19, 20, that will make for extremely quality training camps and hopefully put themselves and be in positions to actually compete to knock somebody off, but that will be tough to do, I think in all of our situations.


Q. If the coaches could talk about just a quick scouting update, what you think of Miami’s Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams, and do you think her (Williams’) suspension in the postseason will affect her draft ability?

GARY KLOPPENBURG: Shenise is obviously very high up on the list. She is so skilled and can score and she can handle the ball. She's one of those versatile players that we all look for that can play a couple of different positions. I think with her tough mindedness, she's somebody that can come into a program and help the team right away.

Regarding Riquna, it was obviously a difficult situation at the end of their season. I think that in my mind, you definitely want to know exactly what happened there and why that happened, and is that going to affect her going forward at the next level.

But no question, she's talented enough and can score the ball. I think we all as coaches and GMs, we definitely look at how is this young player going to come in and affect the chemistry in the locker room, of the team.

CHERYL REEVE: I think it's well documented, Shenise's versatility. She certainly has the attributes to be successful. She's in the mix with a couple other players that would be named, outside of the Stanford players, that would be in the mix for those next picks.

I think with Riquna, she certainly shows the individual talent. I think the situation that was so unfortunate at the end of the season, while none of us will know exactly what happened because we were not there, I think all of us have information that we'll rely on. And it will be very subjective as to how we think we'll be able to handle it.

And I think more than anything I think what we have been trained as professional coaches is, what happens between the college system and the player, it does not usually carry over to the pros. We have to look past it; our job is to win games. But again, this comes down to individual franchise's tolerance for maybe questionable situations.


Q. As you said, you guys will all be subjective in how you use that information, but if you look at a couple of players, whether it's just their mental toughness or showing up in games or whether it's inaudible how much are you kind of evaluating character this season for a draft pick versus maybe what you have done in the past?

CHERYL REEVE: You mean specifically for the Lynx?


Q. For all three of you for your teams versus seasons past. Seems like there might be a few more players that have character issues than in the past.

CHERYL REEVE: For us, as I said we are trying to marry the two, the talent with good character, good locker room person.

I think it all depends on what situation you're in. For us, we will place a premium on that aspect of a player. Other people might be in a different situation. If I were not here in Minnesota with this team, I might feel differently about that.

BRIAN AGLER: Well, our thoughts in Seattle, we always place a premium on that situation.

I think all three of the coaches that are on the call have been part of championships games, and you know, I think that when it's all said and done, some of these intangible things of work ethic, high character, we believe all are very important. And I know what are our expectations here and our thoughts within our organization. So we have place a very high premium on that aspect of things.

GARY KLOPPENBURG: I would second that. I think especially in a situation where in this draft, you have a lot of players, probably close in talent. They are obviously different players and bring different skills. And that could be the intangible that sways you; how are they going to get along with their teammates, are they going to work hard, are they going to be on time.

Those are really important things for our league, just because you're together, you're in the trenches together and I think it's really important that you have committed players that are dedicated to each other.


Q. When you pick a player at No. 3, how difficult is it going to be to preach patience and to have that player be content with a role on a loaded team? After all, these are top players who are used to being stars. And the second part is on draft day, do you anticipate you and Roger Griffith are going to be aggressive, or are you going to be in a position to sit back and field offers?

CHERYL REEVE: You know, with your thoughts on No. 3 and preaching patience, it is something that we have been talking about and even publically, especially around these parts where I think our fans understand the situation that we are in. We are very excited to be adding a lottery pick to our team. There is nothing that isn't important about that.

I think, again, it really depends on the player that you're talking about in terms of how hard it will be. But what I'm really, really confident in with our group is not only as a staff, I feel like it will be clear in our communication with them.

But we have such a great group of players that it will be very easy for the player that's drafted to the Minnesota Lynx to be able to trust the situation.

You know, I think whether it's our situation, which might seem more extreme than the others, but really for every player that's going to be drafted, there's going to be a challenge with regard to it's not going to resemble the same thing that has been for them throughout their college career, most likely. It's very rare that that happens. That's where we are in the league.

I think our situation is a little more exaggerated. But I have got such a great group of veterans that I think we will be able to handle that very well. And again, the player will be disappointed. I never want them to be content.

But certainly there's a lot of work to be done, and when their number is called, then they will be taught that's what pros do…they are always ready. I suspect the person we draft will really fit into our group.

With regard to the second part, I don't know if I would ever describe Roger to be aggressive in any way. And I certainly don't think that this draft pick will be any different for him in that there's communication with a number of teams and often times how the draft plays out, if suddenly there's a player available that maybe a team can anticipate and would like to have that player, the phone rings. If not, then we are ready to make our pick and we move on.