WNBA: Lynx use first pick on Duke guard
When you are the reigning WNBA champion and your top eight roster spots are filled with returning stars, you don’t need a whole lot of help. That was the position the Minnesota Lynx found themselves in Monday night with four selections in the annual WNBA draft.
Winners of two of the past three league championships, the Lynx really were building a practice squad for this season with an eye to development for the future.
In the first round, the Lynx took Duke guard/forward Tricia Liston at No. 12 overall. She averaged 17.3 points and 5.2 rebounds last season for the Blue Devils while sharing the backcourt with Chelsea Gray, taken one pick earlier by Connecticut.
Liston was one of the top three-point shooters in the country, making 48 percent of her shots from long range. She is Duke’s all-time leader and an All-ACC first-team pick. With three-point specialist Rachel Jarry expected to miss the Lynx season with a knee injury, Liston could be called upon for spot duty.
Liston, the Ms. Basketball winner in Illinois in 2010, knows she won’t be asked to have an immediate impact with the star-laden Lynx.
“I have an advantage to be able to learn right away from the best players,” said Liston, who scored 2,713 points in her prep career. “(I get to learn) what the program is all about and what it takes to win at that level. I definitely think the first year is going to be a great learning experience.”
The Lynx were projected to take Notre Dame’s Natalie Achonwa, a 6-foot-3 forward, with their first-round pick, but she went to the Indiana Fever at No. 9. Achonwa, who tore her ACL in the regional final against Baylor, seemed like a plum pick for the Lynx, who could have waited for her to heal while she learned the system.
“We thought there was a decent chance she would get to 12,” Lynx executive vice president Roger Griffth said.
When she didn’t, the Lynx zeroed in on Liston.
“One of the things our team does need is additional three-point shooting, and Tricia brings that,” Griffith said.
“It is awesome,” Liston said. “What most excites me is that I will be surrounded by the best players in the country.”
With the third pick of the second round, 15th overall, the Lynx selected 6-foot-4 center Asya Bussie of West Virginia. She averaged 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Mountaineers last season.
Bussie will join a crowded group of post players vying for playing time and roster spots.
“Whatever the role is, I will play it to the best of my ability,” she said. “They are big on defense; I am big on defense. That is one of my strengths.”
With the final pick of the second round, No. 24 overall, the Lynx took Vanderbilt guard Christina Foggie, another three-point shooting specialist. She averaged 19 points per game last season for the Commodores.
Minnesota ended the draft by taking Louisville forward Asia Taylor at No. 36 overall.
“This is a great representation of what we are calling a blue-collar draft,” Griffith said. “We’ve got four very hard workers, solid basketball players. They are coming to training camp and competing for various spots.”
Griffith’s message to rookies when they arrive at training camp?
“It’s the same message every year,” he said. “Drafted rookies need to understand that just because you’ve been drafted doesn’t mean you’ve made the team. What they did (in college) got them drafted, but it doesn’t guarantee a roster spot. They have to go out and earn it.”
- Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, recovering from back surgery, participated in the draft with Griffith via Skype. She is expected to be ready for the beginning of training camp on April 27.
- Stanford’s Chiney Ogumike went No. 1 overall to Connecticut. The Sun also made news by trading all-star center Tina Charles, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft and 2012 league MVP, to the New York Liberty for Kelsey Bone and Alyssa Thomas, whom the Liberty took with the fourth pick.