BRISTOL, Conn – The Seattle Storm are in the midst of a rebuilding process that already showed progress in the first year under head coach Jenny Boucek. She coached 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year Jewell Loyd and groomed her into a guard that left a lasting imprint on plenty of games during the 2015 season. Now, she’ll get a chance to coach yet another dynamic talent.
With Jenny Boucek in attendance, Seattle won the No. 1 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm Thursday night. San Antonio earned the second pick, while Connecticut and Atlanta own the third and fourth picks, respectively.
Boucek and the Storm finished with a 10-24 record and were fifth in the Western Conference standings, but there were flashes of promise throughout the year. Now they have the luxury of choosing first in a 2016 WNBA Draft that is full of talented prospects.
In April, Seattle chose Loyd out of Notre Dame and former UConn star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with the No. 1 and No. 3 picks in the draft. This year, they could very well add another Huskie to the fold.
UConn forward Breanna Stewart is expected — by just about everyone — to be the No. 1 pick when the draft rolls around, and her resume speaks for itself. She’s been a part of three national championship teams at UConn under head coach Geno Auriemma, and she and the Huskies are eyeing a four-peat this season.
She’s the odds on favorite to be taken, but in an uncertain world, anything is possible. When pressed on whether anything may cause Seattle to not take Stewart, Boucek was, well, rather assuring in her personal stance on the matter.
“I’m just the coach,” Boucek said. “I’m going to coach whoever we get, but I think that’s a little unlikely. But I never say never.”
At 6-foot-4, Stewart is a game changer, a dynamic athlete that has the ability to do so many things when she’s on the floor. She can stretch the floor. She’s great on the block. She rebounds well and has recorded 25 double-doubles throughout her collegiate career.
And she fits in perfectly with the system Boucek and her staff are trying to install in Seattle.
“She’s kind of the future in terms of her versatility,” Boucek said, “coming from a program like UConn. A quarter of our team could possibly be UConn players. We like that. We’ve had good success with UConn players in the past, so if we decide to go that direction, we’d be really pleased to have her. We’re trying to put in a system that’s becoming more and more positionless, so she would be a good fit there if we decide to take her at No. 1.”
With the opportunity to quickly add to what Boucek has tabbed as a rebuilding process, the parallels are obvious. Drafting Stewart and pairing her with Loyd draws striking similarities to the years when Seattle chose Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird in back-to-back years – which was the only other time a WNBA franchise has selected first overall in consecutive years.
It’s fair to say it worked out well for the Storm.
“We’ve got some young pieces that we’re extremely excited about and we think that they’re pieces that will fit together pretty well, and so it is exciting.
“Sue and Lauren – I don’t know if there will ever be a better tandem than those two. I think they are up there with an tandem in any sport, male or female. Just how uniquely and acutely complementary they were to each other – on and off the court. But we’re certainly looking forward to the next generation of Storm basketball. And the role that Sue has taken on, in particular to really pass the baton and really impart in these young players is a really beautiful exchange.”
Bird, yet another University of Connecticut alum and an all-time great in the WNBA, has been a mainstay in the Storm backcourt for years. With a program that has enjoyed as much success as Connecticut, it’s easy to see why Boucek would be thrilled about the opportunity to add another player with championship pedigree as the Storm try to climb back to the mountaintop.
“UConn players are pro-ready,” Boucek said. “I think Geno [Auriemma] does an incredible job of, first of all choosing players that have that ‘it’ factor, but he also cultivates it. So the culture that he’s created, the eye that he has for not just the most athletic players all the time, or not necessarily always even the most talented, but the best basketball players and teammates and winners is something that has translated really well into the WNBA.”
When it’s time for the Storm to make their pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, it’s evident that they are excited about the opportunity to potentially add another Huskie.
Results: 2016 WNBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm
2. San Antonio