Thursday afternoon featured little drama. As expected, with the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, the Storm selected UConn’s Breanna Stewart and set in motion the chance for history to repeat itself.
The previous time the Storm had consecutive No. 1 overall draft picks — in 2001 and 2002 — they selected Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. That dynamic duo turned Seattle into a WNBA power and led the Storm to championships in 2004 and 2010.
Jackson has since retired, but the Storm recently signed Bird to a multiyear deal in hopes that she’ll help lead a young team that — as was the case in the early 2000s — will be anchored by two No. 1 draft picks: 2015 rookie Jewell Loyd and Stewart.
Considered a generational talent, Stewart is the only player in NCAA history to record 300 blocks and 300 assists.
The 6-foot-4 All-American forward led UConn to four consecutive national championships and finished her career with four Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards and a 151-5 overall record.
The second round of the draft proved a big one for Northwest fans, with former Walla Walla High School player Jamie Weisner and fellow Oregon State teammate Ruth Hamblin going with the 17th and 18th picks.
Weisner, the Pac-12 Player of the Year who helped lead the Beavers to the Final Four, was selected by the Connecticut Sun. Hamblin was chosen by the Dallas Wings.
Washington State’s Lia Galdeira went 19th overall to the Washington Mystics. Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne went 20th to the Phoenix Mercury.
Washington Huskies forward Talia Walton went to the Los Angeles Sparks in the third round, 29th overall. The Storm selected BYU’s Lexi Eaton with the second pick in the third round, 26th overall.
Stewart’s dominance in the paint, coupled with the deft shooting and ballhandling skills of a guard makes her a tough matchup for just about any team.
President and general manager Alisha Valavanis said the Storm thoroughly vetted many of the top draft-eligible players, but ultimately, selecting Stewart was a no-brainer.
“In terms of due diligence, we took a look at the entire class coming in,” Valavanis said. “But Stewie was the front-runner from the beginning. It was clear as we went through the process that she was the No. 1 pick.
“From what we hear, she’s going to be a great addition to the team in terms of her personality, character and integrity.”
Stewart, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., will be tasked with helping the Storm complete the rebuild process it began when Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (third overall pick) were drafted in the first round last year.
The Storm is acutely aware it is poised for long-term success.
“It’s just a really unique opportunity to have back-to-back No. 1 picks,” Valavanis said. “The last time it happened for our franchise, and the impact it had, we know how special it is to have two players of this caliber on one roster. We couldn’t overstate how excited we are to have back-to-back No. 1s.”
But Valavanis is quick to play down any talk about how Stewart’s selection could result in the second coming of the dynasty that was built around Bird and Jackson.
“We’re really focused on what it means today and how we’re continuing to grow and rebuild,” Valavanis said. “From my vantage point, we’re certainly talking about the long gain, but not putting our expectations on what it means from one year or two years.
“We’re focusing on where we’re going and how this year builds from last year. We’re really confident we’re following our game plan and moving in that direction. Stewie is a really important piece in that.”
2016 WNBA Draft List
At Mohegan Sun
1. Seattle, Breanna Stewart, F, UConn
2. San Antonio, Moriah Jefferson, G, UConn
3. Connecticut, Morgan Tuck, F, UConn
4. Connecticut (from Atlanta), Rachel Banham, G, Minnesota
5. Dallas (from Los Angeles), Aerial Powers, F Michigan State
6. a-Los Angeles (from Dallas), Jonquel Jones, C, George Washington
7. Washington, Kahleah Copper, F, Rutgers
8. Phoenix, Courtney Williams, G, South Florida
9. Indiana, Tiffany Mitchell, G, South Carolina
10. Chicago, Imani Boyette, C, Texas
11. Atlanta (from Minnesota), Bria Holmes, G, West Virginia
12. New York, Adut Bulgak, C, Florida State
13. Atlanta (from San Antonio), Rachel Hollivay, C, Rutgers
14. b-Minnesota (from Seattle), Jazmon Gwathmey, G, James Madison
15. Los Angeles (from Connecticut), Whitney Knight, G, Florida Gulf Coast
16. Atlanta, Courtney Walker, G, Texas A&M
17. Connecticut (from Los Angeles), Jamie Weisner, G, Oregon State
18. Dallas, Ruth Hamblin, C, Oregon State
19. Washington, Lia Galdeira, G, Washington State
20. Phoenix, Jillian Alleyne, F, Oregon
21. Indiana, Brene Moseley, G, Maryland
22. Minnesota (from Chicago), Bashaara Graves, F, Tennessee
23. Los Angeles (from Connecticut, from Minnesota), Brianna Butler, G, Syracuse
24. New York, Ameryst Alston, G, Ohio State
25. San Antonio, Brittney Martin, G, Oklahoma State
26. Seattle, Lexi Eaton Rydalch, G, BYU
27. Connecticut, Aliyyah Handford, G, St. John’s
28. Atlanta, Niya Johnson, G, Baylor
29. Los Angeles, Talia Walton, F, Washington
30. Dallas, Shakena Richardson, G, Seton Hall
31. Washington, Danaejah Grant, G, St. John’s
32. Phoenix, Nirra Fields, G, UCLA
33. Indiana, Julie Allemand, G, Belgium
34. Chicago, Jordan Jones, G, Texas A&M
35. Minnesota, Temi Fagbenle, C, Southern Cal
36. New York, Shacobia Barbee, G-F, Georgia
a-traded to Connecticut along with the Sparks 2016 17th pick for G Chelsea Gray and the 2016 15th and 23rd picks plus Connecticut’s 2017 first-round pick.
b-Traded to San Antoino for G Jia Perkins.