No. 1 Pick: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm (UConn)
Stewart: I’m not used to being the one that has to do the opening remarks. Usually, that’s Coach [Geno Auriemma]. I just want to say tonight has been great. I was not on the floor for long, but the opportunity to play for the Seattle Storm – I’m so excited and looking forward to it. When you look at the vets like Sue [Bird], Jewell [Loyd] and Kaleena [Mosqueda-Lewis], it’s going to be a lot of fun there. I’m happy I’m able to embrace what’s happening tonight with coach, Mo [Moriah Jefferson] and hopefully, [Morgan] Tuck next because that’s the kind of year we’ve had.
Q: How have you been preparing yourself for the WNBA?
Stewart: First, I’ve been trying to make sure I stay in the moment, which is hard when you have so many things to look ahead to. As far as preparation, I’m just realizing the difference between the college level and pro level – the physicality, playing with the national team overseas – and trying to remember that to get better.
Q: What was it like waiting with Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck for this special day?
Stewart: We’ve had a few conversations where we were like, Let’s just get this on the road. We’ve been up since 6:30 this morning. We wanted to know what’s going to happen. To have Mo to my left and Morgan in the corner from me, being able to look at them and obviously embrace them as I was walking up to the podium – that just shows what kind of group we are. We care about each other and how each other is doing.
Q: With a historic year for UConn with four consecutive national championships and now have three players consecutively drafted in the top three, what does it mean to have you and your teammates set another historical moment?
Stewart: It shows how special of a group we are. When we do something with the three of us, we do it together. We went in as freshmen together. We won four national championships together. Now, we all were drafted together. Every single one of us – Mo Morgan – could have gone number one in any draft class.
Q: Have you had any conversations with Sue Bird?
Stewart: We haven’t had detailed conversations about that. She knows I was trying to stay in the moment with school and other stuff. She texted me today saying, Good luck and congratulations, I’ll see you soon. It’s nice to hear to from someone who is basically a legend in the game.
No. 2 Pick: Moriah Jefferson, San Antonio Stars (UConn)
Jefferson: I don’t know where to start. Really, I’ve just got to start by thanking God because without him, none of this would be possible. I’m so excited to be able to go home to Texas and to play in front of my family and friends. But to get a chance to do it here, in front of all my fans here, it’s one of the best times I’ve had in my entire career.
Q: Breanna Stewart stopped everything to cheer for you and Morgan Tuck when you were drafted. Can you describe this whole journey of being this special trio?
Jefferson: Yeah, we’re sisters, for sure. I was walking back trying to do an interview and I heard her name and I completely stopped, started clapping. I got so emotional. To be able to go through this journey the way that we have, and to accomplish the things we have – making history at the college level and now making history here – it’s something that’s unbelievable and you can’t really imagine anything being better.
Q: Danielle Robinson got injured and sort of paved your path to San Antonio. Were you expecting this to happen or what?
Jefferson: You get guesses, and there are a lot of people in your ear telling you here and there, but you never know at the end of the day. You don’t want to get your hopes too high or anything like that. You just want to stay composed and stay ready for whatever happens.
Q: What are some of your goals going into the next phase of your career?
Jefferson: A lot. Obviously, you want to go in with a great mentality and working hard and starting there. And then after that, I want to become a great point guard in the league. I want to try to win the championship. I just want to keep pushing and getting better each and every year. Then, whatever God has planned for me will come along after that.
Q: If it can’t be Connecticut, how does it feel to be going home to Texas?
Jefferson: Great, actually, you know? I was saying to someone, they asked me if I’d rather go to Connecticut or San Antonio, and I was saying they both feel like home now. I’ve been here [Connecticut] my last four years now, but it feels great to be able to go back home in front of my family and my friends and just to be able to get a good ol’ smell of Texas again.
No. 3 Pick: Morgan Tuck, Connecticut Sun (UConn/USA)
Opening Statement: This day means so much. It’s kind of weird that it happened and we’ve already had rookie orientation this week. But I’m just really excited and my name was called already and that part of is over. I’m just really excited I’ll be here in Connecticut.
Q: Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson said the best part of their day was when they heard you went No. 3. Can you just talk about them getting drafted one and two?
Tuck: It was a great feeling, and I definitely agree. I think when you watch your good friends get drafted, I think it’s more special than yourself getting drafted. So I was super excited for Stewie, super excited that Mo gets to go back home to Texas. It was just great to be able to be out there with them and to see them live the dream.
Q: Can you talk about your journey through the injuries dating back to USA Basketball in ’09, the things you went through at UConn to get to this point? Also, the second part of my question, the fact that you guys went No. 1, No. 2, No.3, are you upset that Polly [fellow senior Briana Pulido] didn’t go No. 4?
Tuck:[Laughs] Well, the injuries, that’s been a part of the game, that’s been a part of my game of having to fight back from injuries. So I think it’s just made me a better person, a better player. So I just tried to use my time as I sat out as a learning experience, and I think I have. I think it’s helped me quite a bit. And then, yeah, if Polly could have gone fourth, that could have been pretty nice, but it was great to be able to do that.
Q: Were you concerned how the coaches and pro scouts were going to evaluate your knee and let that dictate where you went?
Tuck: I thought about it a little bit, but also knew that they were watching us play, and they got to see me at the end of the season without a brace and playing well. So I just hope that they would trust that I was looking and playing how I was really feeling. And I wasn’t playing through pain or anything like that. I played, felt great, and I still feel great. So I plan on feeling great the whole WNBA season.
Q: What are the next steps? How are you going to prepare yourself to really start to make a spot for yourself in the WNBA?
Tuck: Just by working out. We haven’t been out of season that long, so that helps that we’re in pretty good shape because it was just a week ago basically. But just to make sure to get in the gym, get the conditioning right and make sure I come into training camp ready to go.
Q: When did you first think about becoming a professional basketball player?
Tuck: The first time I thought about it, I was in fourth grade. I love Lisa Leslie, she was my favorite. I did a project on her in school. Since then, I’ve known I wanted to play in the WNBA.
No. 5 Pick: Aerial Powers, Dallas Wings (Michigan State)
Opening Statement: I’m really excited. The whole process was kind of making me anxious, but once they called my name, my heart was beating out of my chest. One, I was nervous about walking up the stairs and tripping, too. But once I got over that, that was good. I’m just excited to play with Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims and go to Texas.
Q: What made you decide to come out early?
Powers: I talked to my family about the pros and cons of staying and the pros and cons of leaving. I was in a great position either way. The fact that I was graduating in May – or a week or two. So I’ll have my degree. So I just thought this was the best opportunity for me and took it.
Q: Tell us what you know about Dallas and what you’re looking forward to doing there.
Powers: I know they have a growing program. I watched Skylar and Odyssey and at one point Odyssey was hurt then Skylar got hurt a little bit, too. I’m just ready to play with those girls. They’re kind of a young team so I’m ready to get in there and prove myself but also learn a lot from them. They already played a couple seasons. I’m just happy to be here and finally know what where I’m going.
Q: How are you going to use your collegiate experiences to transition into the WNBA?
Powers: You know what? What I’ve done at MSU I have to put in the past. I’ve done great things, but now it’s time for me to close that chapter and build myself a new one. It all starts from when I was a little girl working hard, so continuing to work hard and do the same things I did for Michigan State times two and bring it to the WNBA.
Q: Do you remember the first time you saw the WNBA and what your reaction was?
Powers: That’s a good question. I can’t remember a specific moment where I saw, but I do remember the Lisa Leslie dunk and her putting her hands up to the crowd. That’s moment that sticks out to me. I can’t remember another specific moment, but I’ve been watching them when I could.
No. 6 Pick: Jonquel Jones, Los Angeles Sparks, traded to Connecticut Sun (George Washington/Bahamas)
Opening Statement: It’s a dream come true. When I was a little kid, I thought about being in this moment and just thinking about walking across the stage and getting your jersey and all of that stuff and now it’s happening. This is for the Bahamas. Like I said before, every kid at home who feels like they can do it but doesn’t really see avenue. I’m just happy I can help people see the better parts of themselves, and I’m just happy to be here when I got drafted to L.A. [Jones initially spoke before learning of her trade to the Connecticut Sun.] I’m just really happy about all of that. I’m thanking God all the time. I’m thanking my family and everybody that’s allowed me to be here. A house without a good foundation falls, and my foundation has been awesome.
Q: Were you a fan of the league growing up or did you have players you idolized growing up?
Jones: We sometimes didn’t even get NBA games, you know? But I remember flicking through the channels one day, and I ran across a WNBA game, and it was my first time seeing a WNBA game. It was my first time and I didn’t even know what it was. I just saw these women playing and I could tell that they were playing at the highest level. I just remember watching them like, “Oh my gosh, what is this? I really want to be a part of this.” So looking down the road now and being able to get my WNBA jersey and walk across that stage and be drafted, it’s a dream come true for sure.
Q. On being traded:
Jones: That’s life. You have to be able to adapt and make changes. I’m happy to be a part of Connecticut. I’m happy to see where this takes me. It’s a part of God’s plan. He knows what he’s doing.
Q: Thoughts on Connecticut’s value on you?
Jones: I talked to Coach Miller extensively. He felt my game could translate really well in his system. He told me that he was really high on me. If the opportunity presented itself, I knew he would try to do something.
Q: Were you surprised that you got traded? How much do you know about your new team?
Jones: I was definitely surprised. I know this team has a really good fan base. The people here get really excited about basketball. It makes me really excited. I’m really excited to suit up in a WNBA jersey.
Q: What would you like Connecticut Sun fans to know about your style of play?
Jones: When I step on the court, I’m going to give my all. I’m a really versatile player. I’m working hard right now to tighten up my skills in terms of ball handling and three-point shooting as well. This way it could translate really well when I step on the court in the WNBA. I’m really excited to be part of this organization and franchise.
Q. Is this a good place to start in the WNBA?
Jones: I don’t really know much about the mentality of the team, but I know my mentality. Once you have coaches and people who are willing to work, it’s always an environment to learn and get better. As long as my teammates have that type of mindset, I’m sure everybody here will be able to benefit from it, strengthen their game and the team.
No. 7 Pick: Kahleah Copper, Washington Mystics (Rutgers)
I’m so excited to have this opportunity to be here and to be invited as one of the 12 players. Just to hear my name called – it was so exciting. I don’t have any words right now because it hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m so excited for the next chapter in my life.
Q: How do you feel about going to Washington after attending Rutgers?
Copper: It worked out perfectly. I chose Rutgers because it was so close to home. Now, to be a part of the Washington Mystics is a dream come true. I am familiar with those players in Washington and excited to follow experienced veterans who know what they are doing.
Q: How do you see your skill set fitting in with your new team?
Copper: I think I bring more versatility to the team. I think I can pick up something that I can go into their program with and own it. I think I’m going to go there by doing things I can control like playing defense and effort.
Q. Can you talk about things you want to work on to push yourself into the next level?
Copper: Going into the WNBA, I definitely want to get stronger. I think I can get a lot stronger to deal with the physicality of the league. I want to extend my range – keep shooting three-point shots. I want to continually get better.
No. 8 Pick: Courtney Williams, Phoenix Mercury (South Florida)
I’m excited to be going to Phoenix and play under Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. I think it will definitely help me grow into a better player. So I’m excited for this new journey in my life.
Q: What does it mean to you to play with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner?
Williams: It’s amazing. I’m going to learn a lot from both of them. Being able to watch them, it will only make me a better player.
Q: What are your thoughts on the idea that a team like UConn is bad for basketball?
Williams: I think that’s crazy. They set a standard that other college teams have to meet. I don’t expect them to lower their standards. They dominate the game. That should motivate everyone else to be better.
Q. How are you preparing to enter the WNBA?
Williams: I think learning the game will be big for me. I depend on my athleticism a lot, but in the WNBA, it won’t last forever. I’m just learning the game more.
Q. What was it like to have the crowd support tonight?
Williams: It was amazing. We came here three times a year to play UConn so they became fond of us. Having the fans support me was an amazing experience.