Kelsey Griffin's Draft Day Journal

The WNBA Draft Experience – Two Days with Kelsey Griffin

The WNBA Draft is memorable for all of the invitees who tip off their professional basketball careers in front of a national TV audience. WNBA.com followed University of Nebraska standout and No. 3 overall pick Kelsey Griffin for two days last week, as she wove her way through the circuit of interviews, photo shoots, and appearances that accompany the annual promotion of the best players available to the most successful women’s sports league in the world.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
WNBA Draftees Meet & Greet at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue

5:00 p.m. – Eagle River, Alaska native Kelsey Griffin is as awestruck by her first site of Manhattan as she is nervous for the next day’s draft. She is milling about Center Court at the NBA Store in a crowd that includes WNBA President Donna Orender and most of the other 15 draft invitees, who hail from 14 top college programs across the U.S.

5:05 p.m. – Kelsey steps aside to take a few questions from WNBA.com. She is ecstatic to be in New York for the first time, excited to meet the fans at the end of the event, and anxious to see where she’ll be working next year (she mentions Minnesota as one preference, citing it as the home of her grandparents). “This definitely symbolizes one part of my life closing,” the star forward says. “At the same time, another’s opening. I really feel I made the most of my college experience, and I’m really hoping to make the most of my WNBA experience.”

5:30 p.m. – The reception ends. The players hear from Donna Orender and then NBC sports anchor Bruce Beck, who conducts a Q&A session. Kelsey admits that, while she had a great season at Nebraska, she will have to work harder than ever to adapt to the speed and strength of the WNBA.

Thursday, April 8, 2010
WNBA Draft at NBA Studios in Secaucus, N.J.

2:55 p.m. – Donna Orender enthusiastically addresses a packed crowd of coaches, players, family members, and league guests before the broadcast beams live nationwide on ESPN2. An army of producers and stagehands scramble about making final adjustments. The room holds a dynamic mix of anticipation and frayed nerves that are ready to erupt in celebration.

3:05 p.m. – After telling the crowd that the bar has never been higher in women’s basketball, Orender announces the first pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft – the University of Connecticut’s Tina Charles, who will head across the state to the Connecticut Sun after a college career that ended with a 78-game winning streak and two consecutive national championships. Kelsey waits patiently with her uncle and cousin, who have traveled from upstate New York to support her today.

3:10 p.m. – The Minnesota Lynx have the next two selections. They select University of Virginia’s Monica Wright No. 2, and, following a five-minute pause, choose Kelsey as No. 3 – she’ll be playing in front of her grandparents after all. She hoists her Lynx jersey in a flurry of flashbulbs and sets off on the seemingly endless media circuit, beginning with a stage-side interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe. Before she even leaves the stage, ESPN’s three-person team of analysts are already speculating she’ll be traded.

3:15 p.m. – In the hallway outside the studio, Kelsey is ecstatic. In a hail of “congratulations” from people walking past, she talks about her surprise at being selected No. 3.

3:24 p.m. – The first stop is right down the hall from the studio, for a live online chat with fans, where she dictates answers about her goals as a rookie and her college experience to a crew of NBAE technicians. As she responds, the flatscreen TVs lining the walls are abuzz with her name and incessant trade rumors.

3:30 p.m. – Upstairs, in front of the blue WNBA Draft banner, Kelsey addresses a swarm of reporters before continuing through the labyrinth of stairs, hallways, and side rooms of the league’s NJ 450 office. Her next stop is the Q&A portion of the video news release, which includes on-court and draft-day highlights that is put up on satellite for use by local news stations.

3:43 p.m. – As Kelsey poses with her Lynx jersey for a battery of photos, the news comes through: she’s been traded to Connecticut. The NBAE photographers immediately hand her a new jersey and start the process over. “I’m excited,” Kelsey says afterward. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk to the coaches and I’m really excited to work with them. The possibility to play with Kara Lawson, Tina Charles, Asjha Jones – all those names – is going to be great and I’ll learn a lot from them.”

3:50 p.m. – The trade means Kelsey now has to redo large parts of the circuit. She marches up and down endless flights of stairs in high heels without complaint. In the halls she chats with a Wall Street Journal reporter and new teammate and top draft-pick Charles, both players giddy and breathless with the thrill of being drafted into the world’s basketball elite.

4:02 p.m. – The next hour-plus is a flurry of phone calls with news outlets all over the country. Kelsey has more than any other draftee: the Omaha World Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, Anchorage Daily News, the local CBS affiliate in Lincoln, and a conference call with Connecticut Sun beat reporters. She caps this off with a “Live Look-In,” a video chat with Sun fans assembled in Uncasville for a draft party. The fans give an enthusiastic applause. She tells them that she can’t wait to play in front of Connecticut’s legendary ladies hoops fans.

5:10 p.m. – It’s time for a Diet Coke before a few more phone calls and impromptu hallway interviews with a few of the 11 NBA bloggers whom WNBA communications staff invited to today’s event.

5:30 p.m. – Kelsey finishes off her day’s obligations with a stop into the T-Mobile Family and Friends room. She calls her mom and her best friend Megan for a pair of joyous, celebratory conversations.

5:45 p.m. – Official draft day obligations are winding down, but Kelsey’s schedule is relentless – the biology major is graduating from Nebraska next month (she plans to become an orthopedic surgeon after retiring from basketball), has USA Basketball practice starting in the coming weeks, and will soon have to report for training camp in preparation for the Sun’s May 15 tip-off at home against Chicago. She’s already planning ahead to possibly playing overseas during the WNBA offseason, but today, despite the grind, she has no complaints. “I’m just trying to soak up the experience,” Kelsey says. “You only get drafted once.”