FEELING A DRAFT


CLEVELAND, April 4, 2007 -- My life became eerily similar to a SportsCenter commercial yesterday.

As I plugged away on my computer in our makeshift WNBA office trying to educate myself on the potential draftees (my favorite was easily Ole Miss guard Ashley Awkward, she is just a Saturday Night Live skit waiting to happen), I took a break to crack my neck and a couple of seats away from me, there was Rebecca Lobo, all 6-4 of her, taking notes for her interviews as the roving reporter for ESPN’s draft coverage.


Rebecca Lobo interviews the No. 2 pick, Jessica Davenport.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

Rebecca Lobo, of UConn fame. Lobo, the inaugural member of the New York Liberty. Lobo, the face of the young WNBA.

And me, a bleary-eyed writer trying to cram 50 draft bios into my head in time to make it back up to my hotel room to watch American Idol.

Lobo retired in 2003 after six seasons in the league and while injuries denied her from reaching the levels she did in college, she is still one of the most recognizable female athletes of all time.

And now, here are the 10 things I learned at the 2007 WNBA Draft …

1. Where were you when …

ESPN’s video montage leading into the draft coverage for the afternoon included Teresa Weatherspoon’s miraculous halfcourt gamewinner for the Liberty in the 1999 Finals against the vaunted Houston Comets.

It brought me back. This is a “Where were you when …” sports moment for me, right up there with McGwire’s 62nd homerun (my mom’s couch), Jordan’s shot on Russell (my mom’s couch), Syracuse winning the tourney in 2003 (the Super Dome) and Kobe’s 81 (my desk at the NBA).

When T-Spoon hit that impossible shot, I was spending a week on an island off the coast of Portland, Maine. The game was in the afternoon and I was watching it on a grainy black and white TV in a cabin.

That’s the great thing about sports, one shot can take you back.

2. Trade winds

At 1:30 on the dot, WNBA President Donna Orender approached the podium and announced that Phoenix traded its No. 1 pick, Lindsey Harding out of Duke, to Minnesota for Tangela Smith.

This was the first time in the history of the WNBA that the No. 1 pick was traded on draft day.

At 1:33, with the Harding trade still buzzing about the room, Orender announced the second big move of the day. The Liberty was sending All-Star Becky Hammon to the Silver Stars for San Antonio’s No. 2 pick, Jessica Davenport out of Ohio State.

Trades are the draft-day equivalent of the alley oop. They raise the excitement level of the crowd that much.

3. Draft day trophy

When you win Rookie of the Year you get something for your awards shelf. When you win MVP, you get a trophy. Hey, when you finish driver’s ed. you get a certificate. With this in mind, it always made me wonder why being picked in a professional draft didn’t come with some sort of special hardware to put on display.

Kudos to the WNBA for coming up with a great idea to remedy this situation. Sitting in the center of every draft invitees’ table was an official Spalding WNBA game ball with the 2007 Draft logo etched into a blank panel along with the player’s name and their school.

I saw Alison Bales’ younger brother holding on to her “ALISON BALES, DUKE UNIVERSITY” laser-inscribed ball after the draft was over like he was holding on to the winning lottery ticket. It was really that cool.

I don’t know about you, but I would proudly put that on my trophy shelf. In fact, I think it’s such a good idea that the NBA should copy it for this year’s draft. Commissioner Stern, are you reading?

4. JuCo do it!

Houston selected Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Ashley Shield with the No. 8 pick, making her the first-ever WNBA player drafted out of a junior college.

Shield’s numbers were plain filthy: 27.4 points per game, 11.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game last season.

5. Lots of love for Latta

UNC’s Ivory Latta, a smooth-shooting point guard, was expected to go near the top of the draft board and ended up going to Detroit with the No. 11 pick.

The fact that Latta “fell” to double-digits hardly discouraged her cheering section, as she received the loudest ovation of any player chosen all day.

In fact, the only pick whose cheering decibels rivaled Latta’s was Shield’s contingent who was led by a man in a leopard print derby hat. True story.

6. Dan Hughes humming “Sweet Georgia Brown”

Silver Stars coach/GM Dan Hughes was in a pretty good mood in the minutes following the draft as he totally revamped his roster with an All-Star point guard in Hammon and the do-everything forward Camille Little out of UNC.

Hughes admitted that he was so enamored by Little’s big game that he considered taking her with his No. 2 pick. Instead, he felt he got a steal at No. 17.

Not to mention, “her dad was a Globetrotter,” Hughes said. “And I love the Globetrotters, so she’s already coming in with a leg up.”

7. Lasts but not leasts

Out of the 22 invited players, someone is bound to be picked last out of the 22. That’s just the way it goes. My boy Hakim Warrick was the last guy in the room in 2005 when he fell to No. 19 after being projected to be a lottery pick.

This time around the distinction goes to Gillian Goring, a 6-7 center out of N.C. State who was picked in the third round with the 32nd pick by Washington.

The distinction of the last pick overall, No. 39, goes to Kiera Hardy, a 5-6 scoring point guard out of Nebraska.

8. Armintie passes the test

Before the draft, Armintie Price was interviewed by Lobo and said that she feels like she was waiting to get a test back that she knew she passed but just wasn’t sure what the grade would be.

After the Sky took the Ole Miss star with the No. 3 pick, Lobo asked her how her test came back.

“I got an A+ with a smiley face,” Price said.

9. Pretty good birthday gift

Wednesday was Alison Bales’ birthday, her 22nd.

It is not one she’ll soon forget. Other than the etched ball she got that I mentioned earlier, the 6-7 Bales was picked up with the No. 9 pick by the Indiana Fever.

While we're on the subject of Bales, does anybody else think she's a dead-ringer for ESPN Cold Pizza's Dana Jacobson? Or is that just me?

10. Carla keeping things cool

Backstage before the draft whenever the players’ green room would get quiet and start to show more nerves than a restaurant owner on opening night, WNBA director of player personnel Carla McGhee took it upon herself to loosen everybody up.

The former two-time national champion at Tennessee, riding a wave of positive emotions after the Volunteers' win over Rutgers, worked the room like a standup at the Laugh Factory.

Joking with USC’s Eshaya Murphy, McGhee said she has to find herself a tall man (it sounded more like “a tallllllll man”), but if he’s short and has got money in his pocket then that’s OK too, you just lean over a little bit.

If it wasn’t a joke, it was a compliment about someone’s dress, or shoes or bracelets.

And if it wasn’t a compliment it was an offbeat comment (“I wonder what you would all do with your lives if you didn’t have cell phones?”) that eased the inherent tension of the situation.

Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share what you learned this week? Send an e-mail.