The WNBA mad rush begins — Must-click women’s basketball links — 2022 WNBA draftees in their own words
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, April 13, 2022
Happy Basketball Wednesday, friends! This one is going to be on the shorter side. I am among those who got COVID covering the Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis.
It’s fine, I’m fine. Minor symptoms. My younger child has it, we’re quarantining together. But it meant covering the WNBA Draft from afar, my favorite event — seeing women’s dreams come true every five minutes does NOT get old.
I’m going to send you over to The Next for our team-by-team coverage out of this one. Some other links of great work being done elsewhere follow. I’ve managed to be productive — there’s occasional fog, so it’s basically like my brain is Seattle right now.
But hard at work at some new stories you’re going to appreciate here at The IX, too. Excited for what’s ahead. And the WNBA season, somehow, starts in about three weeks!
This week in women’s basketball
Mitch Northam is such a must-read. (Also as nice a guy as there is.)
I know there’s more. Hit me with those links and I’ll add next week!
Five at The IX: Draft picks in their own words
Naz Hillmon, Atlanta Dream
Q. Were you disappointed not to be selected in the first round, and if so, is this going to be added motivation for you going forward?
NAZ HILLMON: Yeah, I’m just excited to be here. I think that being disappointed in this moment is neglectful to the people who weren’t picked up at all. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time. So just being picked up by a team, for somebody to believe in me, first round, third round, I’m excited to be where I’m at.
But everything is motivation. I could have been picked No. 1 and I still would have been motivated to get better, to perfect my craft. I wouldn’t say disappointed, but always ready to work.
Q. I know that social justice was a big part of your time at Michigan. How excited are you to be part of the WNBA, which has been one of the leaders in social change and reform?
NAZ HILLMON: Yeah, I’m super excited about that. Obviously, we saw a lot of that during the bubble season, but they’re continuing to do that each and every season, I’m sure. They have a lot of advocates, people on the teams that you can talk to and try to get some type of engagement with the community, figure out some things to help with the social injustices with our community.
Year in and year out, the WNBA has taken on that challenge. I’m really excited to be around some people who will continue that work for equality on all fronts.
Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream
Q. What does it mean to you to be drafted first and you go to a team I think 75 miles from where you grew up?
RHYNE HOWARD: Yeah, give or take. First off, for it to be so close is huge. It’ll mean a lot of family and close friends will be able to come and support me. But to go first, I don’t even have words for it right now. I’m still kind of shaking. But it is super exciting, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, proud of myself, and thankful for everyone that’s been on this journey with me and that’s helped me to get here.
Q. What were your conversations like with the Dream leading up to this and with Tanisha [Wright] and Renee Montgomery specifically, and what are they expecting from you in your first year?
RHYNE HOWARD: Yeah, so we met a couple of times, and they were just asking me simple questions like how do I lead or how do I compete, asked me like could I step up to the challenge and work hard every day, whether it’s practice or games, and I was like, yeah, like I believe in myself and I believe I can, and I was just basically selling myself, like this is a business. So, I was just proving to them why I believe I’m the right fit for them.
Emily Engstler, Indiana Fever
Q. We talked about this a little bit at the Final Four, but just your defense as a game changer, would you take me through what, if anything — how often that came up in your conversation with your new team and how much you think your ability to generate the kind of steals you did, north of four per game, is going to translate right away at the WNBA level?
EMILY ENGSTLER: Yeah, I played zone for a really long time. I also lost a lot of weight, which was giving me the ability to be faster. And when I got this Louisville program, they were very patient with me and taught me their man-to-man defense. I owe them a lot because it’s one of the main reasons I’m up here today.
My defense has brought me a long way. I’ve really taken pride in loving to do it. I think some players like to do it, but a lot don’t. It’s a really fun thing to play defense, get a blocked shot and get a steal. I think in the previous NCAA Tournament, it was the definition of wins and losses. So I think that it’ll translate to the WNBA perfectly.
I think a lot of teams in this draft have been speaking about wanting more defenders. I think I can bring that to the league, and I’m super excited to do so.
Q. Earlier this year Michigan State came and beat my Fordham Rams. You led them in scoring. I’m wondering is there any team you’re looking forward to playing the most this year with the Sun?
NIA CLOUDEN: I’m looking at playing D.C. because I’m from Maryland, so it’ll be kind of like a homecoming. So, I’ll be able to have a lot of family there and they’re a great team with great players, so it’ll be a competitive game.
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