Stars get a Plum … and more
In the days leading to Thursday’s WNBA draft, Stars general manager Ruth Riley learned there are a lot of moving parts when you are dealing with having the No. 1 pick.
Do you draft strictly for need? Do you take the best player available? Do you select with an eye for the future? Do you trade the pick? Do you take someone who has star power that even casual fans would recognize?
What Riley found is that regardless of the scenario, each avenue seemed to point to the same conclusion — take University of Washington’s scoring machine Kelsey Plum.
And that was exactly what the Stars did, making Plum their first No. 1 overall pick since the team moved to San Antonio in 2003 and the second in franchise history. The late Margo Dydek was taken first by the Utah Starzz in 1998.
“We felt like she’s the best overall player available in this draft and we had the opportunity at No. 1 to draft her,” Riley said of Plum. “We felt like that’s a player that’s really going to help our team not only this year but many years to come.”
A 5-foot-9 guard, Plum ended her collegiate career with 3,527 points, including 1,109 this season. Both are NCAA records. She averaged 31.7 points this past season — 25.4 for her career — and helped Washington advance to the Final Four in 2016 and the Sweet 16 this year.
Plum joins a Stars team that ranked among the league’s worst offensively last season. She will join a backcourt that includes Moriah Jefferson and Kayla McBride, the No. 2 pick in 2016 and the No. 3 choice in 2015, respectively.
“It’s an honor to be a member of the Stars,” Plum said. “I’m a big fan of both Moriah and Kayla’s games. I’ve gotten the opportunity to play with Moriah twice and Kayla, I watched her play in college and the pros and she’s one of my favorite players. It’s special and I’m super excited. I’m going to go in and be super competitive and tough and see what happens.”
While Plum was the headliner, the Stars’ draft class was far from a one-player highlight.
With the No. 5 overall pick, the Stars nabbed Northwestern’s Nia Coffey, a 6-1 forward who was the first player in her school’s history to make the All-Big Ten first team four straight years. Coffey is the Wildcats’ career leader in rebounds (1,183), free throws made (496) and attempted (753) and is second in points (2,297) and blocks (229).
“(She’s has an) incredible skill set,” Riley said of Coffey. “She’s yet to even tap into her potential. Great all-around person; hard work ethic. We feel like she really fits in to what we’re trying to build here.
“As a staff, we felt really good about Kelsey at No. 1 and we’re really excited to have Coffey at No. 5. Having the 1 and 5 picks really helped. It’s not every year that you have two first-round picks and two high first-round picks. We felt really confident that we were going to get a good combination between those two.”
With the first pick in the third round (25th overall), the Stars selected Tennessee forward/center Schaquilla Nunn. The 6-3 Nunn averaged 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in her one season with the Lady Vols. She transferred to Tennessee after three seasons at Winthrop (2012-15), where she averaged 11.2 points and 19.3 rebounds. She hold school career records for rebounds (910) and blocks (279) and had single-game highs of 39 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks.
“(Nunn is a) hard worker, runs the floor well, great rebounder, big, physical presence in the paint,” Riley said.
The draft enhanced the moves the Stars had already made during the offseason to try to return to their winning ways after going a combined 15-53 the past two seasons. They brought in veteran center Erika DeSouza during free agency, traded with Chicago for Clarissa Dos Santos, traded with Phoenix for Isabelle Harrison, re-signed Kayla Alexander and tendered training camp contracts to Haley Peters, Roneeka Hodges, Sequoia Holmes and Courtney Williams.
“Just seeing the people on the roster, they are elite athletes,” Coffey said. “It makes me believe we are part of something great that’s building, and we can elevate our games to help this team. I’m excited to see where this takes us in San Antonio.”