Texas center Imani Boyette, South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell and George Washington forward Jonquel Jones — potentially three of the 12 first-round picks in Thursday’s WNBA Draft — joined a conference call with media members on Friday to discuss their feelings before turning pro.
Here are the highlights:
On their first WNBA memories:
Mitchell: “I think my first impression of the WNBA was watching Coach [Dawn] Staley because I grew up in Charlotte, born and raised, so they had a Charlotte team there when I was younger. 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. It was kind of cool being able to do that at a young age because I know most girls growing up, they don’t have a WNBA team in their city, so it was a good luxury for me and a good way to introduce me to basketball.”
Boyette: “My mom (Pam McGee) played in the WNBA, so my first memory would be probably around two or three, and she played for the Sparks with Lisa Leslie, so that was my great memory, watching my mom, [me] being tugged around to practice and all of that stuff.”
Jones: “I’m from the Bahamas — you know, the 242 stand up. But my first memories are actually [from when] I was a kid just watching TV, and I didn’t even have an idea what the WNBA was. I didn’t even know it existed. I just remember like flipping through the TV, and then I stopped and saw all these women playing, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what is it?’ and learning more about the WNBA while I was watching the game, I just realized it was actually a high level for women to play at.
I don’t remember how old I was, but I just remember being so intrigued by it and just looking at it and aspiring to try to be like those ladies that I saw on TV. Entering the league in the 20th season, that’s a blessing, and hopefully the league can be around for even more years to come.”
On how having a mother and a brother (JaVale McGee) who played professionally helps:
Boyette: “I don’t think there’s any way I can be prepared. Like I’m really nervous. But I talked to my brother and I talked to my mom … [to] make sure you’re prepared and go into training camp being confident in what you do well, and my brother was the same, like, ‘Sit back and enjoy it. This is going to go so fast, so just like take everything in.’
On her feelings heading into the Draft:
Jones: “There’s a lot of emotions going into it. I was talking to Imani and Tiffany saying how hard we’ve worked to get here and just enjoying the moment. You know, you’re a little bit overwhelmed because of all the stuff that’s going into it in terms of making sure your schoolwork is done, making sure you’ve got everything prepared for the trip, and just being prepared and ready for training camp, as well.
There’s a little bit of nerves, excitement, enthusiasm and all that stuff, and I’m just looking forward to the experience and being able to take the next step.”
On learning from a coaching staff with WNBA experience and recovering from injury:
Mitchell: “Coach Staley has been one of the main people that’s been helping me with this process of just becoming a pro and thinking like a pro now. We talked to agents together, we talked to teams together, so she’s definitely helped me get the right mindset going into this next week and being drafted. I talked to Coach (Nikki) McCray and (Lisa) Boyer, as well, just mainly those three, about everything, but I’ve most closely talked to Coach Staley.
And the injury, I mean, my non-conference schedule was pretty up and down, a little inconsistent because I was trying to find my way through my injury and so just play through and find my rhythm pretty much. I think the second part of the season is when I kind of found my rhythm, kind of found my stride as far as playing. I would probably say around tournament time is where I kind of just felt the best and my foot kind of felt like it was back to where it needed to be.”
On how they are distracting themselves:
Jones: “I was just about to say when I had my injury during the season, I found myself really looking at the Draft picks a lot and really just focusing on that stuff way too much, and as soon as I got healthy, I made up my mind I wasn’t going to look at any of that stuff anymore. Like I said before, you never know, a team may choose to do something and then when draft time comes, something else provide an opportunity for them, and they make another decision. You just never know. I just stay away from it. I try to enjoy my teammates who I’m not going to be around a lot because of the draft and stuff, so I’m just trying to enjoy their company and enjoy being around them, and just understanding that it’s a process that I want to have fun with, and looking at that stuff doesn’t really help me have fun.”
Mitchell: “Yeah, I’m kind of the same way. I just didn’t really try to pay too much attention to all the hype and the talk about where I’d be drafted and what number, what team I would go to. I just tried to stay busy, just tried to control the things that I can control. Wherever I get drafted, that’s kind of out of my control, so I would just try to think about the things that I can do and that was in my own power and my control. I would spend some time at the mall, do some retail therapy, and kind of just enjoy college while I can because everything is about to pick up, so might as well just have fun while I’m here.”
Boyette: “I think I’ve done basically a little bit of everything that they both said. I’m very much in school, and the WNBA is going to start while I’m still in school, so I don’t have very much time to be distracted because I’ve kind of got to get my schoolwork in order and figure out graduation plans and finals and all that stuff. So that’s kind of kept me really busy.”