I had the opportunity to attend the Seattle Storm's WNBA Draft party today at Kickin' Boot Whiskey Bar in Ballard. The place was packed and the fans were all very excited. The Storm were handing out t-shirts highlighting the number one picks in 2001, 2002, 2015 and 2016. An amazing spread of food was laid out. Dick Fain and Elise Woodward were the hosts and got the fans excited.
A little after 4:00pm, the WNBA Draft started on ESPN2. And then the Storm were on the clock. With very little surprise to anyone who had been following women's college basketball for the past few years, the Seattle Storm selected Breanna Stewart with the number one overall pick in the draft. The fans absolutely erupted at the Storm draft party when Stewart's name was called and she held up the new Storm jersey.
Later on during the event, the fans were able to greet Stewie via a video conference call. She talked about wanting to have as big of an impact as soon as she can, to help the Storm. Dick Fain and Elise Woodward asked her several questions. Stewart did talk about having a comfort coming to Seattle knowing KML. That she believed she has become a better person and better basketball player for going to UConn. She's looking to make her mark on the league and she's happy that she's doing what she loved. Unfortunately, at times, it was tough to hear everything she said; which was expected being in a bar with lots of loud fans.
Storm owners Lisa Brummel and Dawn Trudeau got on the mic and addressed the crowd. Lisa Brummel spoke first and talked about the extremely important sponsorships the team has had with Carter Subaru and BECU. And talked about the newly announced marquee sponsorship with Swedish Medical Center. Not only is this biggest sponsorship in Seattle Storm history. But the deal is actually the biggest sponsorship in WNBA history! These sponsorships are key to keeping the league alive and improving pay for players. Then Dawn Trudeau got on the mic and talked about how Breanna Stewart gave them the possibility of winning more championships in the future. That they admittedly went into a rebuilding mode, and they appreciate the fans patience the past couple years. But after securing the number one pick in the WNBA Draft the past two seasons and adding Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart, she strongly believe that they delivered on their promise to the fans, to rebuild the team for long-term success.
At this point, I left the Storm draft party in order to get on the conference call with Breanna Stewart. While on the conference call several media had the opportunity to ask Stewie questions. When asked what she knew about the Storm, Stewart talked about playing with or against Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. So she had familiarity with those players and looked forward to playing with them. When asked what she wanted to improve on the most for this upcoming WNBA season, she said she needed to become more physical. That the college game can be physical, but the WNBA is a whole other level of physicality. When asked about the possibility of having to go from a winning team like UConn where she won four National Championships to a team that is rebuilding and might struggle to win games early in her career. She said that despite her record at UConn, she has lost plenty of games in her entire basketball playing career. She's had moments where she struggled and she was able to overcome that adversity.
I asked her if she had the opportunity to watch Jewell Loyd play in the WNBA last season and what she thought about Loyd as a player. Stewart said she hadn't had the chance to watch her much last season. But she played against her in college and Loyd lit her up on the court a couple times. That Jewell is a fierce competitor and has a great game and she looks forward to playing with her.
I also asked her about when she really started to believe she could play in the WNBA. And she mentioned while she was in high school and getting ready to go to college.
Storm President and GM Alisha Valavanis and Head Coach Jenny Boucek were quoted after the draft selection. Valavanis said, "We are thrilled to add Breanna to our roster and excited to welcome her to the Pacific Northwest. She is a dynamic, versatile playmaker and another key piece as we continue to build."
Coach Boucek said, "This is a big day for our franchise and for our city. We've had the good fortunate of building around two once-in-a-lifetime cornerstones in Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. What has been incredibly special about Sue and LJ is that they are not only unique talents, but they are even better teammates and women. Breanna is of the same breed: a rare combination of elite talent and character."
In the 3rd round, with the 26th overall pick, the Seattle Storm selected their only other pick in the draft and took Lexi Eaton Rydalch out of Brigham Young University. Eaton Rydalch is a 5'10" shooting guard who averaged 24.2 PPG in her senior season, which ranked 5th in the nation.