MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The defending champion Minnesota Lynx didn’t have much room on their roster for rookies, so this year’s WNBA draft served a future purpose.
Looking ahead for 41-year-old center Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s potential replacement, the Lynx picked Notre Dame’s Devereaux Peters with the third overall selection on Monday. They took five other players, but only two of them will even be at training camp.
For the first time in their 14 seasons, the Lynx didn’t need the draft. They’ve already got a title contender assembled, and they’re hoping Peters can be a valuable piece. The 6-foot-2, two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, who helped the Fighting Irish reach the last two NCAA championship games, finished her college career as only the second player in program history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 150 blocks and 150 steals.
The Lynx acquired the selection before last season in a trade with the Washington Mystics for center Nicky Anosike.
“Although I believe Taj might play until she’s 50, there’s probably a more than likelihood that in a couple years, if not a year from now, we might have to replace her,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said.
Peters, on a conference call with local reporters, said her selection was “just pure shock” because of how loaded the Lynx are. With McWilliams-Franklin, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen in the lineup, moving from biggest to smallest, the starting five is set. Candice Wiggins leads the list of reserves, with recent acquisition Erin Thorn and Monica Wright in the backcourt and Amber Harris and Jessica Adair in the post.
After two ACL injuries earlier in her career, Peters played the last two seasons without any problems. She’s a strong rebounder and defender who’s used to playing a supporting role on a star-studded Notre Dame team. She’ll need to improve her jump shooting and cut down on her foul-prone play in the WNBA.
“I think I’ve made a big improvement,” Peters said.
Reeve joked that Peters was as happy as any player to join the league this year, because “she gets six fouls.”
The Lynx also drafted Damiris Dantas of Brazil with the final choice of the first round, 12th overall. They then picked mid-major stars Julie Wojta of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Kayla Standish of Gonzaga before grabbing guard Nika Baric of Slovenia in the second round, with the 18th, 19th and 20th selections. In the third round, No. 31 overall, they took oft-injured USC point guard Jacki Gemelos.
Wojta and Standish will be long shots to make the team, but the two forwards could challenge Wright or Harris for time. WNBA rosters are limited to 11 players.
“We’ve seen it before that you think you’re set, but you come in find out that someone is better and they’ll have that opportunity to prove that they can beat somebody out on our roster,” Lynx executive vice president Roger Griffith said. “If that happens, we’ll all be stronger for it.”
Said Reeve: “I certainly won’t be drawing a depth chart for them. I think that’s rather disappointing. I won’t go that route. I want them to come in and be confident and be competitive.”
Gemelos has torn the ACL in both of her knees twice each, most recently in December, so she won’t play this season. But the Lynx will hold her rights as long as she’s still recovering.
The same goes for Dantas and Baric, who are both 19. They’re playing internationally — Baric is a teammate of Augustus in a Russian league — and won’t start their WNBA careers for some time. Dantus might not turn pro until after the Summer Olympics — in 2016.
“That’s not a timeline that scares us either,” Griffith said.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)