It's Dunn: Jackson Storm's first pick
Seattle Times staff reporter
The WNBA's most-asked question was answered with two simple words: Lauren Jackson.
Storm Coach/General Manger Lin Dunn used all the time allotted to announce her decision for the No. 1 pick in the league's fifth draft yesterday, even though she knew it was going to be Australian star Lauren Jackson before going to bed Thursday night.
"If she didn't select Jackson I think we would have stormed into that war room and done something," Storm guard Charmin Smith said. "We all wanted her and are really excited to have her."
Dunn doesn't know if Jackson plans to represent Australia at the East Asian Games May 14-27. If she does, Jackson would miss all of training camp. The Storm has expressed its opposition to her going, but no decision has been made.
Jackson's agent in Australia, Leo Karis, said it took five months to negotiate her WNBA contract. The 6-foot-5 center, who regularly makes three-pointers, announced signing with the league Wednesday and reportedly is receiving sponsorship and marketing packages worth about $400,000, including a $55,000 paycheck the first four picks receive.
Dressed in black jeans and a black leather jacket, Jackson was accompanied by her mother, Maree, at the draft studios in New Jersey. The 19-year-old looked tired from the 20-hour flight to the states. "I didn't sleep a wink last night and neither did my mother," Jackson said. "The adrenaline has kept me going. My mum gave me some insights. She just said I'm going to love it and cherish it.
"I don't know anything about Seattle and it'll be my first time living in America. I want to fit in and I tend to do that after I settle in."
Dunn said she entertained draft offers from nine teams in the league, including the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks, but decided none compared to Jackson. In national team play, Jackson has played against the WNBA's elite players more than 20 times.
Jackson has led two Australian teams to league championships, has helped her country win an Olympic silver medal, and is a top defender, averaging a league-leading 14.3 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game this season. Against U.S. Olympians Lisa Leslie and Yolanda Griffith, Jackson scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Plus the youngster's got attitude - which Dunn loves.
"Watching her play against Lisa Leslie gives me chills," said Dunn. "She doesn't back down. And unlike some college player, she's not going to be in awe of playing against anybody in the WNBA.
"She's going to give us a double-double every night, and the rivalry with Los Angeles and Lisa Leslie is already there."
Jackson is the third international player to be selected first in the WNBA draft, and was one of three Australians drafted in the first round yesterday. Georgia guard Kelly Miller was taken second, and Tennessee forward Tamika Catchings was drafted third overall. The Portland Fire took fan favorite Jackie Stiles of Southwest Missouri State with its fourth pick in the first-round.
Dunn picked up defensive hustle and rebounding help with her other picks. Tennessee guard Semeka Randall was the Storm's second-round selection (17th overall) while North Carolina guard Juana Brown was Seattle's fourth-round pick (49th overall). Dunn traded her third-round pick to Houston last season for center Andrea Gardner.
Both Randall (5-10) and Brown (5-11) played with Storm assistant coach Kay James on the 1997 World Championships' gold medal-winning USA Junior National team.
"We were whoopin' and hollerin' that we were able to draft these two players," Dunn said.
"We've gotten quicker, we've gotten bigger, and we've gotten better."
The Storm finished a league-worst 6-26 last season, giving it the opportunity to draft first (the league will move to a lottery system for its draft next year). But the draft isn't the only way Dunn can improve her team before camp starts May 2.
Coaches will submit a list of eight players they would like to invite to camp who weren't drafted yesterday, weren't picked up by the league in its five years, or were waived. Depending on how the league distributes the players, Dunn said she'd feel lucky to get three good athletes.
All 13 Storm players are expected to trickle in for camp, although some may be cut before May and four are still overseas. WNBA teams can have 18 players at camp.
"If I think a player really doesn't have a chance to make the team before training camp I'm going to waive them," Dunn said. "We are going to start looking at that Monday.
"Right now we're not thinking trade. We're thinking about enjoying this moment."
Jayda Evans can be reached at 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.