Mercury eye Griner after winning WNBA's No. 1 pick
BRISTOL, Conn. (AP)
Phoenix Mercury president Amber Cox is an avid user of social media.
She had just witnessed one of the greatest moments in team history when Phoenix won the WNBA draft lottery Wednesday night, earning the No. 1 pick and the chance to select Baylor's Brittney Griner.
Cox wanted to share the news with fans and coach Corey Gaines, who was in the television studio waiting for the draft order to be unveiled. Instead, she had to wait two hours until the results were broadcast on TV for the first time in league history. Cox and the other team executives who participated in the lottery were sequestered in a room, unable to access their phones or computers.
''It was tough, but it was fun to watch his reaction too, on TV,'' Cox said. ''Corey's usually a cool customer and doesn't show any emotion, but he had a hard time holding that one in.''
Cox was cool herself when the winning combination - 4, 5, 6, 14 - was drawn. There was no loud cheer or fist pump; she just sat there quietly taking in the moment.
The Mercury (7-27) had the second-worst record in the league this season and were assigned 276 of the 1,000 possible lottery combinations. Fortunately for Cox and the Mercury, one of those combos came up first.
''We're really excited. It means a lot to our fans, it means a lot to our organization,'' Cox said. ''We're just really excited and kind of speechless at the moment. We came into the draft lottery today, Corey and I, with no expectations and, again, like he said, we knew that anyone we would be able to add to the pieces we already have would be good.
''This is obviously icing on the cake.''
Chicago will pick second and Tulsa third. Washington, which had the worst record in the league, will pick fourth. The Mystics (5-29) had a 44-percent chance to win the top pick. Only four times in the 11 previous lotteries has the team with the worst record secured the top pick, and that hasn't happened since 2009.
Mystics chief operating officer Greg Bibb had a homemade pouch with him in the lottery room. It didn't help.
Neither Gaines nor Cox would commit to selecting Griner after the lottery results were announced.
''Griner has a unique skill set,'' Cox said. ''We'll look at the class and it's our job over the next few months to figure out what's the best fit for us.''
Griner, though, is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. The 6-foot-8 Baylor star is an unbelievable shot blocker and also can play above the rim. She helped guide Baylor to a national championship last year and the first 40-0 season in college basketball history. The reigning Associated Press player of the year will try to lead the Lady Bears to a second straight championship when the season starts next month.
''We like to fast break and you need to rebound and play defense to get out and run,'' said Gaines, smiling. ''Obviously she can block shots and rebound the ball well.''
Griner headlines a talented class. Delaware's Elena Delle Donne led the nation in scoring last season and is a versatile 6-foot-5 guard who can score from almost anywhere on the court. Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins has guided the Irish to the past two national championship games and is one of the most followed female athletes on Twitter.
''They all are very different players and can do different things for us,'' Cox said.
Phoenix was plagued by injuries most of the season. Star Diana Taurasi played in only eight games and Penny Taylor missed the entire year while recovering from an ACL injury. Candice Dupree also missed 21 games because of a knee injury.
''This was a difficult season with all the injuries we had,'' Gaines said. ''The players this year tried so hard and now the texts are coming in from them. They are ready to come back and excited.''
The Mercury have had the first pick in the draft two other times, including 2004 when they drafted Taurasi.
This was the first time that the lottery was shown on television. In the past, the lottery had been held later in the calendar year behind closed doors at a league meeting.
''This worked out great,'' WNBA President Laurel Richie said. ''It creates a buzz and gets people talking now for the next few months until the draft in April.''
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