Stars general manager Ruth Riley may have been off camera, but her pure joy was heard everywhere.
As an ESPN graphic showed that the San Antonio Stars would have the No. 1 pick in the 2017 WNBA draft, Riley could be heard celebrating with her mic on at the AT&T Center, letting out a “Woo!” a “Yes!” and clapping over the announcer.
“I’m just incredibly excited for the Stars to have the No. 1 pick,” Riley said. “It’s adding to the foundation that we’re trying to lay right now. Our franchise here has never had a No. 1, and it’s a new story for us to tell. There’s a lot to look forward to for the San Antonio Stars.”
It’s the Stars’ first No. 1 pick since the franchise moved to San Antonio. The franchise previously selected Margo Dydek as the No. 1 pick in the 1998 WNBA Draft as the Utah Starzz.
The Stars entered Wednesday’s WNBA Draft lottery with a 44.2 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, based on their cumulative record for the past two seasons.
With a core built around the 2016 No. 2 pick Moriah Jefferson and 2014 No. 3 pick Kayla McBride, Riley said adding a No. 1 will give the franchise a strong, youthful foundation.
Seven of the last eight Rookie of the Year award winners have been No. 1 picks. If Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, who swept the Rookie of the Month awards, wins this year’s Rookie of the Year title, it will make eight of the past nine. No. 1 picks have captured eight of the 19 MVP awards, and seven have gone on to win a WNBA championship with the team that drafted them.
“You’re going to go with the best talent possible, but it also has to be a player who fits into our culture,” Riley said. “A player who wants to be a part of what we’re trying to build here and someone who has the skillset to help us do that.”
McBride was at the AT&T Center on Wednesday along with Riley and a few hundred Stars fans. When the Stars were announced as the No. 1 pick, she tossed a Kayla McBride autographed basketball in the air and started celebrating with everybody.
Among those at the party were former coach and general manager Dan Hughes, who retired earlier this month after 12 seasons with the Stars, assistant coaches Vickie Johnson and James Wade, and other members of the Stars staff.
“We’re just excited to restart,” McBride said. “That’s what the No. 1 pick means for this organization. Talking to the Season Ticket Members here, knowing that we have someone we can bring in to help right away, it’s a new step for this team.”
Just before before the lottery results aired live on ESPN2, the ping-pong balls were drawn at ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn.
The Washington Mystics, which had a 10.4 percent chance at No. 1, moved up from the No. 4 spot to the No. 2 pick. Dallas and Los Angeles, which both entered with a 22.7 percent chance at No. 1, will select at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively.
The next step for Riley will be finding a new head coach of the Stars. With the No. 1 pick on the way, the next coach will have plenty to work with.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity whether it’s injuries or close games, but I think people understood that we competed every night,” Riley said. “I know our players are celebrating because they want to win a championship, and a No. 1 pick is going to help us compete at that level. For our fans who stuck with us, the future is going to be exciting.”
2017 Players To Watch
Take a look at some of the top NCAA seniors entering the 2016-17 season. Before April, some underclassmen and international players will be able to declare for the draft as well. The WNBA’s rules on collegiate players entering early include a requirement that the player reach the age of 22 during the calendar year of the draft.
Alaina Coates – South Carolina
A 6-4 senior, Coates was a Wade Award finalist as the women’s national player of the year award last season when she averaged 12.0 points and 10.1 rebounds. South Carolina had a 33-2 season in 2015-16, sweeping the SEC conference in the regular season
Nina Davis – Baylor
A 5-11 forward, Davis was the 2015 Big 12 Player of the Year and a three-time All-Big 12 selection, averaging 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds last season. With her senior season to go, Davis is No. 7 on Baylor’s career scoring list with 1,953 points, a list that’s topped by Brittney Griner.
Alexis Jones – Baylor
A 5-9 guard, Jones was named the 2016 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Duke University. She averaged 15.0 points and 4.4 assists, winning the Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Player award as Baylor went 36-2, and won the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles.
Kelsey Plum – Washington
A 5-9 guard, Plum became the first All-American in Washington history as she was fourth in the nation in scoring at 25.9 points per game in 2015-16. She led Washington to its first women’s Final Four in school history.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough – Maryland
A 5-11 guard and Wade Trophy finalist, Walker-Kimbrough led the NCAA in 3-point FG percentage in 2015-16 (54.5%). She averaged 19.5 points and 6.0 rebounds as Maryland went 31-4.