Author: Walt Vanderbush
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
PHOTOS: 2007 WNBA Draft Photo Gallery
My wife and I are Indiana Fever season tickets holders. This year, about two weeks before the Final Four, we received an e-mail from the Fever asking season ticket holders who might be attending the Final Four in Cleveland if they would be interested in attending the WNBA draft!!
That sounded exciting to us, and we answered that we would. We received a quick response telling us that we should pick up two tickets at the Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland at 12:30 on draft day. The draft was to begin at 1:00.
The draft was on the third floor of the Renaissance in the Grand Ballroom. It was not a huge Grand Ballroom, and seating was limited. We had asked at the last minute if three friends of ours could attend, and we were told that it was a "sellout." There was a special place at a table for season ticket holders to get their tickets, and we were behind a number of Detroit Shock fans, a couple of whom we had met at Hoops City, a yearly event associated with the Final Four. Jim Foster was getting his tickets right next to us. He was accompanied by a woman who I thought might be his wife. We were wearing Purdue garb, and someone asked us if we were Katie’s family.
When we were allowed into the ballroom, there was a rush for seats. Not everyone got one. There were bleachers in the back, already almost filled with inner-city youngsters who were wearing orange shirts with WNBA Cares written on them. They had been provided a luncheon and an early entrance so that they could sit in the bleachers. We chose one of the few seats in the top row of the bleachers so that we could stand if necessary.
In front of us were rows of chairs where other non-VIP folks sat. In front of these chairs were round tables with replicas of WNBA balls in the middle. The players who had been invited to the pre-draft camp sat at these tables. Many were accompanied by their coaches and members of their families.
After we were seated, we watched the ESPN announcers getting made up. They were in a spotlighted area in front of us and slightly to our right, next to the chairs for the non-VIPs. They all rushed out of the ballroom after being made up --- to the ladies room I'd guess. They had very serious looks on their faces.
The players were on the stage when we entered, but they left before I could get a photo of them. It was interesting to see the varied styles of the young ladies. They were very well dressed, with a majority in pant suits, but some in skirts. First pick Lindsey Harding was one of those in skirts.
WNBA president, Donna Orender, went to the podium ten minutes before the start of the draft and urged everyone to clap hard for the players who were announced and had us practice doing so. I like her; she is a very good representative of the WNBA. We walked by her after the draft and she gave us very friendly greetings. When players' names were mentioned before the draft began, it was obvious that Ivory Latta was the favorite of the youngsters in the stands with us. She received the loudest applause from the audience as a whole. However, she was not so popular with the teams evidently, falling to number eleven. We decided that Bill Lambeer would like her feistiness, while others may have been turned off by her antics.
Not long before 1:00 the coaches and players families moved to the tables, and the players soon joined them. Katie was wearing a very nice looking suit, and her hair was different from the style I had seen so often on the court. I commented to my wife that the women as a whole were very attractive and presented a much different image from the one we saw at games. Katie sat in front of the ball in the center of her table, with Coach Versyp to her left and a couple we assumed were her parents to her right. Supervisor of Basketball Operations Terry Kix sat to the coach's left. She served as the photographer for the group, taking pictures of Katie with the coach and her parents, among others.
The first choice, of course, was Lindsey Harding of Duke. After she had been interviewed by Rebecca Lobo and had disappeared for a while, as all of the players did, she approached the bleachers and signed autographs for all of the youngsters who wanted them. She was the only player to do this. Perhaps she was asked to, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did this on her own.
As the players' names were called, they all seemed very genuinely excited. There were many hugs before they went to the podium and many after they walked along the aisle headed to wherever they were all headed. We felt sorry for those who waited and waited.
Coaches I recognized were Kim Mulkey, Brenda Frese, Jim Foster, Sylvia Hatchell, Carol Ross (Mississippi) and Melanie Balumb (Vanderbilt). Before the draft began, President Donna started to introduce the coaches who were present; but after naming Kay Yow and the Middle Tennessee coach, she stopped, saying that she might miss someone.
I looked especially for Pat Summit, Andy Landers, Sherry Cole and Tara Vanderveer, all of whom had women who were there and were selected; but I am quite sure they weren't there.
Most of the coaches left no later than the end of the second round, but Coach Versyp remained.
After the players were selected they were moving in and out of the ballroom and seemed to be busy, but those of us in the audience didn't know what they were doing. Each received a bouquet of flowers which they carried with them.
Ivory Latta received the loudest applause when she was selected. Cameramen ran (literally) around the ballroom to get the required shots and followed some of the players.
There were a number of commercial breaks, and WNBA highlights were shown on the big screen at the front of the ballroom for the benefit of the audience.
The announcers analyzed the needs of each team before the picks and gave their "expert" opinions concerning the players likely to be selected. They were wrong many times, but never showed any sign of surprise. Nancy Lieberman followed each selection with "Great Pick." Considering that many of the picks were very different from her predictions, I questioned her sincerity.
Many of the spectators left early, and the place was only half filled by the time round three began. It was quite a production, and we were very glad we attended. We were excited that Katie was selected seventh and by Ann Donovan. I saw her at either the Big Ten tourney or at Minneapolis and had wondered whom she was scouting. She must have been impressed with Katie.