My Draft Day with Leilani Mitchell
With the 2011 WNBA Draft less than one week away, NYLiberty.com was able to catch up with Liberty point guard Leilani Mitchell about her draft day experience. After three years at Idaho and one year at Utah, the 2010 WNBA leader in 3-pt field goal percentage (.486) was selected #25 in the 2008 Draft by the Phoenix Mercury and was traded soon thereafter to the Liberty.
NYLiberty.com: The WNBA Draft tends to be a culminating moment for players. What can you tell us about that day and even the night before?
Leilani: In my case, I didn't know where I would be drafted. I had heard that I would go anywhere from early second to early third round, or worst case, not at all. I didn't have a lot of exposure spending three years at Idaho, and then my final year in Utah. I was really curious to see if I would be drafted, but knowing that maybe it wasn't going to be the case, I didn't really want to watch the actual draft.
NYLiberty.com: You were picked by the Mercury, and then traded to the Liberty. Can you share the emotions that ran through you in those moments?
Leilani: When I saw that I was drafted at 25, I was really excited and nervous. Obviously to go to Phoenix that had a roster full of great players would make it really difficult for me to make the team. And they had just won the championship!! But I was excited to be able to test my abilities at the next level. Once I got to Phoenix, I loved it!!! Not long after camp started, we traveled to the east coast for a scrimmage and preseason game. Upon our return in Phoenix, I learned that I had been traded to NY. And I have to admit, I didn't want to go (haha) as I'd never been to NYC and honestly I didn't want to be so far from home. But I have come to love and appreciate everything that NY has to offer. It’s a magical city!
NYLiberty.com: At what point in your career did you think that playing in the WNBA would be a reality?
Leilani: I think it’s safe to say that everyone wants to be paid to do what they love. So, any athlete aspires to play professionally. It was something I always dreamt about and wanted. It probably didn't sink in as a possibility until my senior year in college. People started talking more and more about it and coaches were also inquiring about me.
NYLiberty.com: Where were you when you got the call, and who were you with?
Leilani: I was actually watching the draft in our locker room with a few of my teammates. Like I said before, I wasn't really too excited about watching, but my teammates insisted. So we gathered together to watch. When I got the call from Phoenix was when I knew my dreams had become a reality...it was my "Holy cow...is this really happening?!?" moment (haha).
NYLiberty.com: Do you have any advice for the players waiting for their names to be called in this year's draft?
Leilani: I would say that it doesn't matter where you are drafted. Everyone has a fair chance. So don’t be nervous about where you are picked. I was told that only the first round picks usually make the team. Clearly that isn't the case.
So go to camp and play like you have nothing to lose! But I would say the most important thing is to be confident in your abilities and have an open mind. Soak up everything you hear and apply it the best you can to your game!