The Phoenix Mercury wasted little time drafting Baylor center Brittney Griner with the first overall pick in Monday’s WNBA Draft — a decision the organization admits was made back in September.
Mercury general manager and head coach Corey Gaines was asked when he knew the team would select the two-time John R. Wooden Award winner, and he didn’t flinch.
“I would say a minute after the lottery,” Gaines said. “We had been discussing things before (receiving the No. 1 pick), and then afterwards it was like we know what we’re going to do.”
Griner’s four-year career at Baylor speaks for itself. The six-foot-eight standout broke the all-time NCAA women’s record for blocks and dunks and finished second in scoring. But while the former Lady Bears center certainly developed a penchant for changing the game at the defensive end in Waco — was named the Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year from 2010-2013 — Gaines said she’ll be relied on at both ends of the court right away.
“See, people don’t understand that,” said Gaines, who doubles as a player development coach for the Suns. “They thought she’s just going to be used as a defensive player. Yeah, she’s a defensive player, but now you get more rebounds and you get better outlets; which makes you a faster team.
“The first part of the fast break is the outlet, and that’s what she does well.”
While Griner will be thrown into the fire right away with the likes of 2009 MVP Diana Taurasi and three-time All-Stars Candice Dupree and Penny Taylor, her new coach isn’t worried about her fitting in.
As Gaines sees it, the league hasn’t seen a player like her.
“She can do it on the defensive end and the offensive end,” said Gaines. “We haven’t focused on all of her offensive ability yet, because we haven’t seen it.
“Her college game was stand under the basket it, throw her the ball and score. The pro game is different, and I think she’ll be a better pro player than college player.”