Ahead of Thursday night’s WNBA Draft in New York City, WNBA.com sat down with the 10 prospects that will be in attendance as part of their Player Orientation at the league office to get to know them a little more both on and off the court. Here’s what we found out:
Which WNBA players inspired you to play the game?
Kelsey Plum: “Diana Taurasi. She was the first person that I really grabbed onto in terms of how dominant she was, the way she did it, her attitude and her swag. That was someone that I wanted to emulate.”
Kaela Davis: “Candace Parker is my godsister, so to have her around is obviously all the influence you need. To grow up and just watch her, just seeing how she came from high school to being as successful as she is in the league, it’s definitely inspirational. She’s a great role model to have.”
Nia Coffey: “She just retired, but Tamika Catchings. I started getting into the WNBA my freshman year, and I loved watching what she did on the court, but also the person she is off the court. She’s just a great person to look up to. It would have been amazing to play against her, but I’m happy that I did get to meet her once. She spoke to our team at the WBCA All-American game.”
Erica McCall: “Growing up, it was always Lisa Leslie. My first WNBA game was a Sparks game. And then when my sister (DeWanna Bonner) got into the league, she inspired me even more, and that made it clear to me that I wanted to play in the WNBA.”
Allisha Gray: “My favorite player is Diana Taurasi. I’ve been watching her since her Connecticut days, and I’ve always just admired her work ethic and the way she can shoot the 3-point shot. I’m just honored to make it to this level. I view people like her as legends of the game.”
Sydney Wiese: “Growing up in Phoenix, I would go to Mercury games all the time. I also have family in Minnesota. So the Lynx and the Mercury were my two go-to teams to watch. I’ve always been a fan of Diana Taurasi, her competitiveness and her passion. And then from the point guard position, Lindsay Whalen always brought that toughness but also provided a calming presence as the team leader. Whatever they needed from her, she did it.”
Brionna Jones: “The one player that I’ve watched quite a bit would be Candace Parker. Just the way she plays, and the attitude she brings to the game, makes me want to watch her play. The season she and her team had this past year was amazing.”
What are you going to miss most about college?
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough: “A lot. The massages, the snacks, the charter flights, coach B., my teammates. I just loved the university as a whole. Outside of being an athlete, I just loved the friendships I made and the events they had going on. I literally loved Maryland. I’m a Terp for life.”
Davis: “This year’s team was really special. We got hit with a lot of different things, a lot of adversity, and we found a way to pull it out and win the national championship. So just being part of that amazing group is something I’ll forever cherish. It’s a great time to be in women’s college basketball, and I think it’s definitely something I’ll miss.”
Alaina Coates: “The random gifts of gear. I can’t even lie – coach Staley spoiled us. So I’m probably going to miss that. But also the student section, and all of Gamecock nation, because they’ve just been super supportive. You kind of bring some of the old fan base with you wherever you go, but you do get attached to some people and get used to seeing the same people at every game. I think I’m going to miss that the most.”
Who is your favorite follow on social media and why?
Walker-Kimbrough: “I would probably have to say Kanye West, even though he comes off as really arrogant. I follow two accounts – there’s the official one and then there’s a prodigy one. They just have really good quotes that I look for. I also follow a Bible study account that posts daily scriptures and motivates me every day.”
Davis: “Somebody I’ve always enjoyed following is Michael Phelps. His kid is adorable. He lives this amazing life. It feels like he’s somewhere different every day, but he’s also someone that enjoys giving back. I also follow Elena Delle Donne, and I have a Great Dane as well, so it’s awesome to see how our dogs compare and stuff like that. Her dog is way calmer than mine, which I envy.”
McCall: “I follow The Shade Room. I’m really big on celebrity news. I watch a lot of reality TV, like the Kardashians and a bunch of other shows. So I always catch up on my daily celebrity news from the Shade Room.”
Alexis Jones: “I would have to say Carmelo and La La Anthony. Carmelo Anthony is my favorite player, and the relationship they show with their posts is very touching.”
Wiese: “I follow an account dedicated to The Office. It posts random stuff from The Office, with pictures of Michael Scott. Those always make me laugh.”
What’s the one thing you most want to do in NYC?
Davis: “My dad played here for a year, so we’ve been here back and forth. I also have some family that lives here, so I’ve been here a few times. I still want to see the Empire State Building.”
Coates: “It’s really exciting, because I haven’t been to New York before. When the draft is over, my family and I are going to make a weekend trip out of it. I really want to see the Statue of Liberty. For me, when I think of New York, it’s the Statue of Liberty.”
Coffey: “My sister went to Marist College, so I’ve been to the city a lot. But I still want to see the Statue of Liberty, and I haven’t been to a Broadway show.”
McCall: “The September 11 Memorial would be cool, or the Empire State Building. I was just telling Sydney, I want to go to some known dive, because I know there’s a lot of them everywhere. I just want to go to a cool pizza place or something like that.”
Gray: “I’ve never been to New York, but I know about their pizza. That’s what I need to try.”
Alexis Jones: “I played in New York once, in Madison Square Garden, but I didn’t get much of a chance to do sightseeing. I actually would love to go to the store where the show Cake Boss was based, across the water in Hoboken, New Jersey.”
Wiese: “I’m hoping my parents and I can just go for a walk in Times Square, just take in the sites of the city. When I was landing last night, I had a view of the city lit up, and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually seeing this. I’m actually here right now.’ But I just enjoy looking at the buildings, and knowing that I’m in a city with so much history.”
Brionna Jones: “I’ve been to New York plenty of times, but I’ve never been to Central Park. That’s the one thing I’ve never been able to do in all the times I’ve been here.”
What advice would you give to a young player hoping to be drafted one day?
Walker-Kimbrough: “Continue to work. The numbers, the rankings, being a McDonalds All-American – none of that stuff really matters. I wasn’t an All-American in high school. Just put your head down and work. If you have your mind set on something, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.”
Gray: “Listen to everything your coaches say. You may not see it now, but once you make that decision to leap to the next level, you’ll look back and see that you should definitely listen to your coaches. They know the game, and they teach you a lot.”
Brionna Jones: “Find something that you’re really good at on the court, and continue to get better and better at that skill. I think that will lead you to where you want to be. Once you get there, you can always get better every year and stay in the gym.”
Coates: “Perfect your craft, and show that you can be a really good teammate on and off the floor. How you play is a key factor, but at end of the day, they don’t want to deal with a top-of-the-line player that has a terrible attitude. So definitely make sure your style of play is consistent, and that you know how to act on and off the floor, especially for seniors.”