Minnesota Lynx general manager and coach Cheryl Reeve vowed this week to take what Minnesota felt was the best player on the board when it selected at No. 6 overall Friday night.
That held true. Minnesota went big, taking South Carolina senior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan with its first-round pick in the WNBA draft.
Herbert Harrigan was perhaps the best player on the best team in college basketball this past season. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds for the top-ranked Gamecocks. The SEC tournament MVP blocked more than a shot and a half per game as a senior, while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range.
Herbert Harrington is versatile and athletic, much like Napheesa Collier, whom Minnesota added with the No. 6 pick in last year’s draft. Collier, of course, went on to become the 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year.
It’s Herbert Harrington’s defensive prowess that should help her contribute early on. Her intensity won’t hurt, either. Herbert Harrington earned the nickname “Mad Kiki” in college.
“I love her. I love her game. I love her fire, the way she competes,” Hall of Fame forward and current ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said on a conference call this week. “It seems like in big moments she elevates herself and she just has a competitiveness and a will to win that is elite.”
Those sound like characteristics that Reeve would enjoy.
The selection was a bit of a surprise, because Herbert Harrington hadn’t been projected to go that high by many outlets. Herbert Harrington admitted she wasn’t expecting to hear her name called so early, “but it did, and I’m happy for that.”
“I’m really excited about it,” she said of landing with Minnesota. “I think I can contribute early. Just continue working on my game and just doing whatever to help my team win.”
Reeve noted Herbert Harrington certainly has her “warts,” as everyone did outside of the top few picks. For Herbert Harrington, it’s rebounding. That’s a number that will need to improve, but the Lynx see a lot of Plenette Pierson — a former Lynx forward who’s now an assistant coach — in the rookie.
“I think Kiki has some things that she’s very good at offensively and I think she’s very hard to play against,” Reeve said. “So we just thought that she has some upside. … Kiki was one that, while it’s a bit of a flier, a little bit higher than what people thought, we also thought that she potentially has a pretty decent ceiling.”
The Lynx entered the draft with an apparent need at point guard, but they addressed that in Round 2, nabbing UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield at No. 16 overall. The 5-foot-5 point guard averaged 14.9 points a game this season while shooting 41 percent from deep.
Dangerfield had a big fan in the Lynx camp leading up to the draft. Reeve noted this week that Collier had been pushing for Minnesota to select her college teammate.
Reeve said things fell really well for Minnesota to be able to nab Dangerfield — considered by many to be a first-round talent — in Round 2.
On ESPN’s telecast of the game Dangerfield noted she plays with “just a lot of energy, a fun style of basketball and a really efficient offense.”
Minnesota wrapped the night by trading veteran forward Stephanie Talbot to New York in exchange for guard Erica Ogwumike, whom New York selected with the 26th overall pick.
Erica is the younger sister of Sparks forwards Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.
-Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu was selected No. 1 overall by New York, and was immediately followed by college teammate Satou Sabally, who went No. 2 to Dallas. Three Oregon players went in the first eight picks, capped by forward Ruthy Hebard going No. 8 to Chicago.
-The WNBA opened the draft with a touching tribute, selecting Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester as honorary 2020 draftees. All three girls basketball players lost their lives in the helicopter crash that also claimed the life of Kobe Bryant earlier this year.