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What They Are Saying: WNBA Draft 2016

April 14, 2016

WNBA Draft 2016 will be held on April 14 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. The Seattle Storm will be on the clock with the No. 1 overall selection for the second consecutive year. As the draft nears, see below for some of the buzz surrounding the highly anticipated Draft and UConn star Breanna Stewart, the consensus No. 1 pick.

MORE: Official Release | Storm Win Lottery | Full Draft Order

MOCK DRAFTS: ESPN | Bleacher Report | SLAM OnlineExcelle Sports | Draft Site

Seattle Times: Seattle Likely to Land ‘LeBron James of Women’s Basketball’

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Soon enough, the rest of Seattle will have a chance to bear witness firsthand to the wonders of Breanna Stewart.

For the past two summers, Kelsey Plum got a firsthand preview of what’s coming while playing alongside Stewart for USA Basketball. Plum, the Washington Huskies’ All-American guard, doesn’t mince words when describing Stewart’s tantalizing talents, calling her “the LeBron James of women’s basketball.”

Last week, Stewart led Connecticut to an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship and claimed her place as the most accomplished basketball player — man or woman — in NCAA history with her third national Player of the Year award. On Thursday, the Storm is expected to select her with the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft.

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Excelle Sports: Comparing the Historic UConn Classes of 2016 vs. 2002

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No three players from a single program have managed to sweep the coveted top three spots in the draft, although some have come close over the years.

In the WNBA’s inaugural college draft in 1997, Tina Thompson and Pamela McGee of USC were drafted No. 1 (Houston Comets) and No. 2 (Sacramento Monarchs) overall. In 2009, Maryland’s Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver went No. 2 (Washington Mystics) and No. 3 (Chicago Sky), respectively.

But as is so often the case at UConn, where most relevant comparisons of greatness come from within the program itself—it was Stewie as compared to Diana as compared to Maya all season long, after all—the only draft class that can rival the 2012-2016 trio of perfection hails from UConn’s 1998-2002 fab four of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams.

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NY Times: Boyette Following Mother’s Footsteps into WNBA

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Imani Boyette was recently presented with a carousel figurine by her mother, Pamela McGee. McGee’s mother had given it to her before McGee entered the W.N.B.A. in 1997, when she was the second pick in the league’s first draft.

Boyette, 21, who could be a first-round selection in Thursday’s draft, said this week that the gift reminded her that “there’s ups and downs, but the world keeps going.”

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Transcripts: ESPN Analysts, Head Coaches, Prospects Prep for Draft

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Less than a week before heading to Mohegan Sun, ESPN analysts Carolyn Peck and Rebecca Lobo, head coaches Jenny Boucek (Storm), Curt Miller (Sun), Fred Williams (Shock) and Bill Laimbeer (Liberty), and prospects Imani Boyette, Jonquel Jones and Tiffany Mitchell joined a media conference call to offer their thoughts as Draft Night approaches.

Transcripts: ESPN Analysts | Head Coaches | Prospects

WNBA.com: UConn’s Stewart, Jefferson, Tuck Make History

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When it comes to winning championships and cultivating players that go on to achieve great success, there is currently no equal to the University of Connecticut women’s basketball program.

With UConn’s 82-51 win over Syracuse on Tuesday, the Huskies completed their sixth undefeated season, to win their unprecedented fourth straight NCAA title, and the 11th in the program’s storied history.

No program has infused more current talent into the WNBA than Connecticut, with Auriemma essentially having a permanent front row seat to every WNBA Draft, including the upcoming 2016 WNBA Draft on April 14, where four-time Final Four Most Outstanding Player Breanna Stewart is the consensus No. 1 overall pick.

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espnW: Being Breanna Stewart

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When she was a teenage superstar, her father, Brian, figured maybe she was like Tim Duncan and didn’t need to strut to show she was great. He had to tell her it was OK to pump her fist once in a while and celebrate being good. But nobody could have imagined that “Stewie” would turn out so special that many believe she will change women’s basketball with her 7-foot-1 wingspan, silky-smooth shot and ability to glide her 6-4 body down the floor like a guard.

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WNBA.com: Senior Watch, Championship Edition

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Syracuse guard Brianna Butler has used this NCAA Tournament to establish herself as arguably the best shooter in college basketball. The senior ranks in the Top 15 in NCAA Division-I history in career three-pointers made and could vault up Draft boards.

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ESPN: Morgan Tuck Announces She’s Declaring for WNBA Draft

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In a phoner with SportsCenter on Wednesday morning, Tuck announced she will enter this year’s WNBA draft on April 14.

“I won’t be returning to UConn,” she said. “I’m going into the draft this year.”

Tuck was named to the Final Four All Tournament Team after a 19-point performance in the championship game, and is foregoing her final year of eligibility.

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Michigan State: Junior Aerial Powers Declares for WNBA Draft

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Michigan State’s Aerial Powers will forego her senior season and declare for the 2016 WNBA Draft.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but I want to thank Coach Merchant and all the coaches and support staff, my family and all of my teammates. I have enjoyed every second of being a Spartan, but now I look forward to the next chapter of my basketball career. Spartan nation will always hold a special place in my heart,” Powers said.

Powers looks to become the sixth Spartan to be selected in the WNBA draft and the first since Liz Shimek in 2006.

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NY Times: Breanna Stewart, UConn’s Wow Factor

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With Auriemma’s standard roster of multipositional excellence beside her, Stewart has, in her time at Connecticut, indisputably qualified as one of those rare raise-the-bar talents. She has occasionally been heralded by pundits as potentially the best female player ever.

“And if you want to be considered that good, you’ve got to have those wow moments — in games, in practices,” Auriemma said. “Every day, Michael Jordan did something that made you say, What?”

That is what Auriemma believes Stewart is capable of on the women’s scale of athletic enhancement.

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Newsday: Breanna Stewart Likely to Be Next WNBA Star

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And, more importantly to fans of the sport, Stewart is on the precipice of becoming a transformative player in the women’s game, someone with all the tools, talent and smarts to push the WNBA to the next level after Seattle takes her with its No. 1 pick this spring.

That, of course, is a lot to put on anyone, even a player with a 7-foot wingspan who routinely dunks in practice and often is compared to the NBA’s Kevin Durant. Yet it’s hard not to be wowed by what Stewart brings to the table. Even Durant himself is a big fan of her game.

“For a girl that tall, she can do a lot with the basketball,” Durant told reporters last month when he was in New York with the Thunder to play the Knicks. “She’s very skilled. She can shoot, she can pass, she can rebound, she can run, she can jump. So there’s something I haven’t seen — in the women’s game or otherwise — in a long time. I’m a big fan, a huge fan.”

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Associated Press: Breanna Stewart Gets Brief Glimpse of Basketball Future

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“It was pretty easy,” Geno Auriemma said of the decision to play the only college athlete at camp. “They said, ‘We’re having training camp so you’re trying to make the team and that means you have to try out. This is an opportunity for you to play. This is part of your future.’ She looked great. She just feels right at home, feels comfortable. The initial star-struck jitters are kind of gone.”

Stewart fit in smoothly with the 15 other players in camp. She finished off baskets on the break and blocked shots on defense. She looked a lot more comfortable than her first experience with the national team. Stewart was part of the world championship squad that won a gold medal in 2014, but she didn’t really play many minutes. She also took part in the team’s European tour last fall.

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ESPN: WNBA Draft to Be Televised on ESPN 2, ESPNU

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The first round of the draft will be televised live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET, and second- and third-round coverage will continue on ESPNU at 8. The draft will also be available on WatchESPN.

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SB Nation: Kobe Can’t Stop Talking About Rachel Banham

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Ever since professing her love of the Black Mamba in an interview with the Big Ten Network, [Minnesota senior Rachel] Banham has gained Kobe as a big fan and source of advice and support.

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Hartford Courant: Moriah Jefferson Takes in USAB Camp

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While USA Basketball’s three-day camp was being run on campus this week, UConn’s players frequently stopped by to watch the greatest players in the world do their thing.

For some, it may have been strictly for pleasure. But for Moriah Jefferson, it was strictly business.

“I was really watching the guards,” Jefferson said. “And I noticed how confident they were in their play. I noticed they really didn’t shoot the ball a lot. They were primarily telling the other players where to go.

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The State: Tiffany Mitchell Helps Make South Carolina Elite

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Ms. Mitchell is a two-time SEC player of the year. She was a first-team All-American last season and a third-team All-American the year before. She won the Dawn Staley Award as the nation’s best guard last season (more on Ms. Staley later). Ms. Mitchell is the first Gamecock to be named finalist for all three national player of the year awards: the Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award and Wade Trophy.

Maybe more impressive than those awards is how often Ms. Mitchell has delivered for the Gamecocks in the clutch. Time after time, she has spurred South Carolina to victory when the game was close late.

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MORE COVERAGE

Mechelle Voepel, espnW: Elena Delle Donne appreciates Rachel Banham’s game

Jim Fuller, New Haven Register: Breanna Stewart Enjoying Time With U.S. National Team

Roy Bragg, Express-News: Texas’ Imani Boyette Fights Her Demons