Contributor and former WNBA coach Jeff House, discusses the draft — especially about why Jewell Loyd has to be the No. 1 pick. Also, how she practiced against his former team, the Chicago Sky. House has 30 years of experience as a coach, with coaching stints in New York with the Liberty, the Washington Mystics and the aforementioned Sky.
Many people were shocked, when Notre Dame star guard Jewell Loyd declared for this year’s WNBA Draft. But, Lloyd has had her sights on the WNBA for a long time. Her brother, who played professionally overseas, reached out to us (Chicago Sky) about Loyd being on our practice squad.
Every WNBA team has a group of guys that practice against them. During the summers when she was in high school, Jewell would periodically practice against the Sky…. Courtney Vandersloot, Epiphanny Prince, etc… It gave her a tremendous advantage in understanding the differences in the college and pro games, especially the physical nature, speed and pace differences in the two.
This aspect will be so valuable to Seattle. Jewell will be acclimated and ready right away.
Loyd is the prototype pro lead guard: she scores, she can handle and pass, she makes her teammates better, she guards the ball relentlessly and she can lead a team. Loyd is an All-Star caliber guard in the WNBA.
Seattle has Sue Bird for at least one more year. Bird is amongst the elite point guards to ever play the game. The long term benefit for the Seattle franchise is Bird can mentor Loyd. In a sense, she can recreate herself in Loyd.
Not necessarily as a player, but in all the other aspects that Bird is so great at and allow Loyd to blossom. She can show Loyd daily what it means to be a pro… how to act, how to train, how to deal with other pros, veterans and how to handle media, fans and critics. There is no substitute for that.
It is the same thing we did in Chicago with Ticha Penicheiro (another All-Time elite point guard) and Courtney Vandersloot. That move has proven to be invaluable as “Sloot” has been the floor general for the Sky the past two years after Penichiero retired and “Sloot” has done a tremendous job.
Also, it allowed Chicago to confidently make the Epiphany Prince – Cappie Pondexter deal with confidence knowing “Sloot” can handle the physical and mental aspects of running a championship caliber team full time and be able to handle any adversity.
Lastly, Seattle has the benefit of the Renee Montgomery trade. Montgomery is a tremendous player herself. That trade alone benefits Seattle, but now with Loyd, they are even deeper and better. And even with Tanisha Wright gone, they’ll be fine.
Renee has veteran experience and has competed for and won championships. Jewell and Renee are similar… both young, scoring lead guards who are highly disruptive defenders. Seattle secures its point guard position for the next decade with the selection of Jewell Lloyd.
In 30 years of coaching, the least successful teams I’ve coached all lacked a quality point guard. Seattle now has three.
Thoughts on this year’s WNBA Draft
Many of the people I’ve spoken to regarded this as a weak draft. In comparison to the 2016 draft, it is. I don’t think it is weak as much as it is unique.
With Loyd and Zahui B. it is a significantly better draft. Before they declared, there was no clear star power player. Now, both Loyd and Zahui B. are star caliber players. I spoke about Jewell above. Zahui B. can have equally as much impact in a team’s front court.
Tulsa will certainly be “scared” to draft another international front court player with a high pick after drafting Liz Cambage and having her not play for Tulsa more than she has played. I believe her intention was to play the 2015 season prior to her injury… now, she will miss the 2015 season and probably choose to skip the 2016 season due to it being an Olympic year.
With all that, Tulsa must take the chance and select Zahui B. with the number two pick. It’s a good choice and she’ll be very good for them right away.