There was excitement in downtown Phoenix on Monday as the Phoenix Mercury were selecting first in the 2013 WNBA Draft. To no one’s surprise, the Mercury selected former Baylor center Brittney Griner.
Griner joins Diana Taurasi (2004) and Lindsey Harding (2007, traded on draft day) as the only players selected first overall by the Mercury.
General manager/head coach Corey Gaines was elated at the selection of Griner at No. 1.
“She’s definitely gonna be a player who changes the game as we know it today,” Gaines said. “She’s definitely excited, she’s nervous, she wants to work, she wants to learn and she knows that we have veteran players here and she knows that Diana Taurasi is known as one of the best players in the world and she’s excited to play with her.”
Griner certainly brings an impressive resume to Phoenix. She’s a three-time All-American, a two-time Naismith Trophy winner, and a two-time Wade Trophy recipient.
In her time at Baylor, she led the Lady Bears to a 106-5 record over her last three seasons, including a first ever 40-0 mark in 2011-12.
Griner is the first NCAA player to score 2,000 or more points (3,283) and block 500 or more shots (748) in a career. She also put down 18 dunks in her career, which is three more than all other female college athletes combined.
“Defensively, the way she blocks shots, the way she’ll change shots, she’ll definitely help the league get noticed as an up-tempo, fast-paced [league],” Gaines said.
When Griner was introduced via Skype to the “X-Factor” – the hardcore Mercury fans – the roar was deafening in the ballroom and you could tell it overwhelmed Griner when she heard the screams of joy traveling from Phoenix to Connecticut.
“Today has been the most amazing day ever,” Griner said to the throng. “A dream come true, from the time I knew Phoenix had the No.1 pick, I’ve just been waiting, waiting for this day to come to finally say ‘I am a Phoenix Mercury.'”
When asked what she’ll offer the most this coming season, as the Mercury seek their third WNBA title, Griner went back and talked about her defensive prowess. “Just my defensive threat,” Griner said. “Playing defense as hard as I can, blocking shots.”
The Mercury have a formidable group of players, including Taurasi, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree. Griner was blown away when she talked about lining up alongside these ladies.
“Ooh, that lineup,” Griner said. “It’s the Miami Heat right here.”
Griner has the numbers and the accolades, but by no means does Gaines think she’s the complete package just yet.
“Oh, by no means,” Gaines said. “I think the pick-and-roll, the movement of her around the lane is gonna make her offensively better, and I think with better players around her, it’s gonna make her a better player.”
With so many weapons on his team, including Griner, Gaines’ expectations are simple, but they’re high. “My expectations are to play well, bond fast and win games,” Gaines said. “Simple is always the best.”