Like every kid coming out of college, this year’s top WNBA Draft prospects have a major transition ahead of them into the professional ranks. Player Orientation in Bristol, Conn., was designed to help with that transition.
WNBA.com surveyed some of this year’s Draft invitees to find out more about their past, present and future:
What are your best memories of the WNBA growing up?
Jonquel Jones: I was watching TV, flipping through channels, and I stopped because I saw people playing basketball. I was like, “Oh my goodness — those are women.” I just sat there and watched it the whole time. I had no idea what the WNBA was. I was (home) in the Bahamas — sometimes we wouldn’t even get NBA games. I was just really happy to see this on television. I know for a fact it was the Detroit Shock because I became a Shock fan.
Tiffany Mitchell: My first impression of the WNBA was watching Coach [Dawn] Staley because I grew up in Charlotte, born and raised. Of course being one of the only girls playing basketball around my age, I was drawn into the Charlotte Sting, so my mom would always take me their games. She bought me Coach Staley’s jersey and everything. I have it still hanging in my house right now.
Imani Boyette: My memories of tagging along with my mom (two-year WNBA vet Pam McGee) are mainly through pictures, ’cause I get to see all the pictures of her in her jersey and me being there as a toddler.
I was there at the game when Lisa [Leslie] dunked, so that was really cool. I got to grow up [in L.A.] with a WNBA team, so I was around a lot. I went to a lot of [Sparks] games with my high school team.
Morgan Tuck: I watched Lisa Leslie, and I remember in fourth grade we had a project where we could pick anyone we wanted to write about and I picked Lisa, so that’s when I really got interested in basketball and the WNBA. I wanted to be like her.
Moriah Jefferson: I grew up watching Cappie Pondexter. I love the way she plays. Also I watched the UConn greats: Sue [Bird], Diana [Taurasi], and Maya [Moore] now. Getting a chance to see those guys compete so hard every day is what keeps me competing the way I do.
#WatchMeWork: What Drives You to Play the Game?
Breanna Stewart: What motivates me is the fact that I know that there’s more that I can do. I have a limitless potential, I think. I’m just excited by the fact that I’m always getting better.
Kahleah Copper: My motivation would definitely be my family. They’ve supported me through my entire career and entire life, and it makes me excited to see them so happy for me and see me chase my dreams and actually see them come true. So I’m doing this for my family.
Imani Boyette: I’m always getting into the gym and trying to make sure I’m working because there’s failure. If you don’t do it, you won’t have an opportunity to do it again. There’s an end game now. In college, if you’re not good, you just don’t play. But you still have a scholarship, you still have all those opportunities. In the WNBA, if you don’t play, you may not be there the next week, so there’s very much a failure aspect to it now.
Morgan Tuck: Proving that I belong. All of us have worked really hard to get here. I deserve to be here and be a professional basketball player. I need to prove this to not only everyone else but to myself.
What are you going to miss most about college?
Breanna Stewart: The biggest thing I’m gonna miss from being at UConn is the relationships. Our team was special and it’s been that way throughout my entire career. It’ll be different being with different coaches, different styles. That’s what happens when you get to the next level — things change, and now it’s time to adjust.
Morgan Tuck: Being with my teammates. We lived together and were together all year. We have so many memories and stories and now it’s not going to be that way. I’m also going to really miss being with Stewie (Breanna Stewart) and Mo (Moriah Jefferson). I’ve lived with them for the past four years. It’s going to be weird to be away.
Tiffany Mitchell: Definitely our (South Carolina) fans. We’ve led the country in attendance the past three years. We’d have 18,000 people at our games. That’s the best feeling – knowing all the people are coming out to support women’s basketball. So I’m definitely gonna miss playing in front of all those people.
Kahleah Copper: My teammates. I love them to death. They’re like my sisters away from home. They were amazing through my four years. We were so close and I’m gonna miss them so much.
What are the biggest adjustments you’ll have to make in the WNBA?
Breanna Stewart: I don’t know. I think that going to UConn has definitely prepared me really well for the next level and what’s to come. Yeah, we were in college, but they were always looking beyond that. Obviously there are going to be adjustments, but I’ll let you know when they happen…
Imani Boyette: I think the biggest adjustment on the court is going to be my physicality and playing lower. I play really tall — I don’t bend my knees. So I’m working on playing lower.
And then off the court, I think the biggest adjustment is going to be being a professional athlete. Now you have a lot autonomy in terms of when you work out. And it’s all gonna be up to me in terms of how good I want to be. Also fitting in with my new teammates, and conquering that whole thing. It’s like being a freshman all over again.
Tiffany Mitchell: From listening through everything people were talking about today and yesterday (at Player Orientation), being able to adjust to being by yourself. A lot of things are cookie-cut for us in college, like “Be here at this time. Do this.” Now it’s like, “Alright, be here at this time. See you later.” So it’s just like you’ve got to know who you are. You’ve got to find yourself. I think this is a time where you see what you really want and what you want to get out of basketball.
Which pros are you most looking forward to playing against?
Tiffany Mitchell: I’m definitely a big Seimone Augustus fan, and Diana Taurasi, so when I see them I may be a little star-struck.
Morgan Tuck: Maya Moore. When I first visited UConn, she was my host. She was a senior and I was in awe. It’s going to be really weird playing against her because she’s always been someone I’ve looked up to. The other person would be Candace Parker. She grew up 10 minutes from my hometown so I watched her play all through high school. My sister and I actually got her autograph at Friday’s randomly when we were really young so it’s going to strange to play against someone whose autograph you have.
Imani Boyette: I think every game is going to be super exciting and fun for me as a rookie. But obviously I enjoy playing Brittney Griner because we’re the same size. And I played her my freshman year, so it’s a great measuring stick against a great post player.