April 10th, 2019 has the chance to change the face of the WNBA. A fresh crop future pros will hear their names called as they take the step from collegiate superstar to the new kid on the block. That night 12 teams will host draft parties to indulge their rabid fan bases appetites for their beloved franchise.
In Dallas, fans come in droves to support their #5 pick. This incredibly stacked draft gives experts a wide range of talent wearing volt green and cyan. Hours before the draft you can find season ticket holders sprawled about their plush section.
On the Dallas Wings’ gym floor longtime basketball announcer Ruling Thulin interviews Ashley Robinson. Hours before the draft the former player, now a coach in the Dallas area speaks candidly on her experiences on and off the court.
Robinson pours so much into the city that poured so much into her. She may not have worn a Dallas jersey in her career but this is her home. A born and bred Texan who grew up and played her high school ball just 20 minutes away from the wings home court.
A hush falls over the Dallas crowd as she tells us about her AAU teams. Naturally, the Tennessee alum’s team names and colors are inspired by Pat Summitt and the volunteers.
Minutes later we’re joined by another by Dallas Wings guard Tayler Hill. When asked about her draft night in 2013 she disclosed she was “drafted 4 or 5 days before the draft actually happened”. After knowing she had secured a spot high in the draft, she didn’t feel an ounce of nerves when her name was announced with the 4th pick.
As Hill’s interview time fades Brian Agler, the Wings new head coach and 2 WNBA champion. As he stepped to the stage, he’s flanked behind Ashley Robinson, a player he coached during his 2010 title run with the Seattle Storm.
Somethings In The Air…
In one of Agler’s first appearances in front of the Dallas Wings faithful he received a vote of confidence that shook the room. “Dallas will probably win a championship in 2 to 3 years.” As to be expected the crowd erupted in cheers.
Robinson knows what teams can do when they buy into Agler’s system, she’s living proof. His affinity for veterans suits this Dallas roster that even with its 4 incoming rookies still has a healthy balance of experience.
Agler’s calm resolve is not only obvious in the way he answers but the way he saunters back to the Wings war room. With less than 30 minutes before the draft starts and the 5th, 17th, 22nd, and 29th pick in the draft everyone’s focus shifts.
Should the Wings pick be used with a trade for Liz Cambage in mind or garner the perfect fit to make a push for another playoff run?
The Party Begins…
After a brief intermission featuring an interview with the hilarious 2017 Rookie of the Year, Allisha Gray, the monitor above the court flickers on. The now bright screen reveals the dark New York Sky with Nike’s new headquarters set as the focal point.
Inside a group of talented young women await their fate. But in Arlington, Texas, 100 or so fans do the same as they hear the first overall pick called, Jackie Young, the second Asia Durr, the third Tierra McCowan, and the fourth Katie Lou Samuelson.
With the fifth pick in the WNBA draft, the Dallas Wings select… A collective cheer rings through the arena…Arike Ogunbowale. Cheers burst from each row as highlights of the Wings newest guards cut across the screen. Ogunbowale not only seems to be a fan favorite, but she’s also one of the biggest shot makers in the draft, a great fit alongside Dallas’ strong guard rotation.
The screens cut to Wings GM, Greg Bibb, with a quick analysis of the newest member of their franchise. He harps on Ogunbowale’s ability to create offense for herself and teammates, something Dallas struggle with during last season. Bibb finishes his review with a sly smile, “We’ve had a pretty good track record with Notre Dame guards, so I’m excited. I think she’s going to do really well for us.”
In a flash, the draft returns for the sixth pick, Napheesa Collier. The seventh pick received a groan that a high-level recruit would when shunning their home town team for “greener” pastures. The Sparks select Kalani Brown of Baylor University just 90 miles south of Dallas. Grumbles ripple through the crowd there’s no way Brown would fall to the 17th pick now. Those dreams dissipate as LA’s forward depth gets stronger.
Second Round Steals…
As the draft ticks on the Dallas faithful grow restless. Shifting feet and conversations can be heard as the rest of the league finishes the first round. As the second round begins their focus adjust, there’s still tons of talent and with the 17th pick the Wings select Megan Gustafson. The same Gustafson who lead the nation in scoring two-time as a Iowa’s star player.
The undersized center stands 6’3” just three inches taller than starting guard Allisha Gray. Yet it’s a moot point for Bibb who stated “To get a player of Megan Gustafson’s talent at No. 17 is a steal. You’re talking about a player who led Division I Women’s Basketball in scoring and field goal percentage this season.”
The fans like the pick as well, a resume like Gustafson’s doesn’t come around this often.
Just five picks later the Dallas Wings are back on the board. This time they select UCLA point guard Kennedy Burke. Bibb praises the California native for her “leadership” and “well-rounded” moments later in a shot interview with Ruling Thulin.
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) April 11, 2019
After hearing six more names fly off the board, the Dallas Wings faithful see the Wings logo flash across the TV screen for the last pick, Morgan Bertsch. The 6’4” forward out of UC Davis is a mystery to the ladies and gentlemen in the stands. But after hearing her resume some fans lean forward intrigued on another possible steal of the draft.
Bibb returns to the screen with Ruling stating, “Morgan Bertsch was a top-five scorer in the NCAA this season.”
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) April 11, 2019
Now the fans intrigue turn to excitement as they realize what they picked up in the third round. Yet’ that doesn’t stop them from checking their phones and watches in sync. There’s still seven draft picks left but they have what they came here for. The news on the future of their franchise is enough for much of the draft party attendees.
For the few that stick around, they look around the arena expecting more but “the party is over” announces Thulin.
Now a month removed from the draft the newly lamented wings will get their affairs in order for training camp just days after taking finals.
For most people around the Wings, draftees age their celebrating graduations and finding what’s next for them. But today these four young women are competing with some of the world’s best basketball players for a spot on the regular season roster.
For Dallas fans, they understand what they’ve found in this crop of talent. The future is bright, brimming with leadership, skills, and a chance to enhance the legacy of their beloved sports franchise.