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April 10, 2009 at 11:50 AM

WNBA Draft ’09: Kittens, Serbians, and Ruffles — Oh, My!

ToliverDraft.jpgThe Storm held their WNBA Draft media viewing at a new location this season — the official offices in Interbay. The team, entering its first season without the Sonics, moved into the new digs in the industrial district between tony Queen Anne and Magnolia on March 9.
The space has an aired, welcoming feel. I’m told when I return for other events this summer, it’ll be more spruced up with pictures and Storm markers outside the building. Still, it’s a lot like searching for the New York Liberty’s practice facility in Tarrytown. There’s just nothing that says “basketball” until you’re at the front door.
The coolest part at Interbay was Trooper. Some who’ve attended season-ticket holder parties may remember the orange (strawberry blonde?) cat who hung out in the player’s parking lot at the Furtado Center. Well, even though the Storm will practice there this summer (still no word on a new playing facility), the front office moved Trooper to Interbay.
Get this, he has his own closed-door office space that’s a lot like the hotel-looking setups at animal adoption centers — sans television. Sometimes employees take Trooper out and play with him at their desk, but now he’s a chillin’ indoor cat. (If they treat him this well, think what’s being rolled out for Lauren Jackson)
TrooperCat.jpgTrooper (pictured right by the Storm) was the calmest one on Thursday, more than 3,000-miles away, draft pick-up Mara Freshour couldn’t even watch the draft. Her boyfriend, who’s in their native Indiana, did the pacing. He called once the Storm selected her with the 38th overall pick — i.e. second-to-last choice in the draft.
“I was so nervous and uptight,” Freshour said afterward. “I [did] not want to watch. I couldn’t take it. The uncertainty was killing me. I got a phone call from my boyfriend and he was like, ‘do you want to know?'”
Storm coach Brian Agler, who is also director of player personnel, said Freshour was one of the first players he saw compete. He was surprised the versatile guard was available when they made their final pick, trying to package the pick with other players for a possible trade to get a second-round selection. But teams wanted too much for that type of move.
Freshour is familiar with Seattle, only it doesn’t conjure positive memories. Coached by Seattleite Sue Semrau at Florida State, the Seminoles are 0-3 all-time against the Huskies. The worst, according to Freshour, was losing to Washington 84-65 in 2006 at Hec Ed with Semrau’s family in attendance. FSU tried to redeem itself in Mexico last December, but lost despite Freshour getting tackled for a four-point play toward the end of the game.
“We wanted to get that little bit of revenge back, so that was very disappointing,” said Freshour of the 62-60 loss in the Caribbean Classic. “I think we were flat and we were the better team, for sure. We should not have lost that game. But it definitely turned our season around and things went well from there.”
Freshour walks on May 2, earning a sports administration degree.
While Freshour spent her draft day taking graduation photos in her uniform, cap, and gown, the Storm’s first-round pick was in the mix at the actual site in New Jersey.
Credit Ashley Walker, Seattle’s 12th overall pick, for the hair styling of Lousiville F Angel McCoughtry (No. 1 overall pick to Atlanta) and Maryland G Kristi Toliver (No. 3 overall pick to Chicago, pictured above, right by NBAE/Getty Images). McCoughtry definitely looked fierce with the leather blazer, but best-dressed was a tie between Connecticut PG Renee Montgomery and Arizona State G Briann January.
Monty.jpgMontgomery, who was drafted No. 4 overall by Minnesota, would win with her bright orange ruffled top and black skirt, but the black boots threw the look off a tad. She’s pictured here by NBAE/Getty Images.
JanuaryDraft.jpgJanuary (Lewis & Clark) wore a black pencil skirt with a fitted, red button-down top and pumps. Selected No. 6 overall to Indiana, January (pictured right by NBAE/Getty Images) could be the missing piece to help the Fever win a championship. Her defense certainly will fit in nicely under coach Lin Dunn’s system.
The players who were invited to attend the draft were whisked through tons of events from national television appearances to rookie orientation, which is normally held at a later date for the entire draft class. This season, in another cost-cutting measure, only the rookies at the event will get the rundown.
“It was very busy,” Walker said. “It was a great experience because you get to hang out with the best players in the country all day. You have a competitive edge against them when you’re on the court, but then you’re all together laughing and joking and doing each other’s hair. Funny stuff like that.”
The actual broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPNU, while improving, still had too many embarrassing flaws. ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman mistaking Serbians with Siberia was a faux pas that carried on way too long. And her certainty that Montgomery was going to be the No. 1 pick in “30 seconds” was a little much, especially since it was wrong. Love it when announcers go out on a limb, but that was probably a time to be more cautious.
Carolyn Peck also botched names and there was some uncomfortable dead-time. Plus, while it was good to have the interviews with players, it did snub the latter-round picks, who weren’t really announced. True, they probably won’t make a roster, but fans/viewers still want to know without having to wait for the crawler. And was it just me or did that thing seem to be on hyper-speed?
Glad the WNBA ditched giving the players flowers and invited bloggers to attend to grab more coverage. You can catch some interesting videos like the one posted below by Womentalksports.com.

And as long as we’re critiquing picks, I was 2 of 13 in the draft. The Storm site was 3 of 13 while WNBA.com was 1 of 13. Don’t know how any of you did, but please share your thoughts. You can read more about how the Storm’s picks will fit in here.
Once I’ve fully digested every team’s picks and trades, I’ll have more on which fared well.

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