It may not have come as early as some projected, but Maggie Lucas finally got her name on a WNBA Draft board.
Lucas, Penn State’s second-leading career scorer, was selected in the second round with the 21st overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury during Monday’s draft in Uncasville, Conn.
“Everyone who I’ve been talking to said Phoenix is a great fit for me,” Lucas said about two hours after her selection. “I just feel very fortunate and blessed to have been drafted.”
Lucas watched the draft at Frankford Hall, a restaurant in Philadelphia that her father Albert used to manage. About 15 family and close friends watched eagerly on a projection screen as the names began ticking off in the draft.
Lucas, projected by many as a first-round pick, was still on the board after the opening. She and her entourage were still watching late in the second round as ESPNU interviewed a pair of Connecticut players when her name appeared on the scroll at the bottom of the screen.
“I was just watching the screen and we saw that some quick picks were happening,” Lucas said. “We focused on the screen then we saw a pick and were just cheering and enjoying the moment.”
Lucas said she was relieved to see her name, even if it was a little later than she had hoped.
“Whether you go earlier or later, it doesn’t matter,” the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year said. “Now, it’s going to training camp and performing. That’s my No. 1 focus.”
Lucas does admit that she’ll use the later selection, though.
“For sure, I do look at it as motivation,” said Lucas, who scored 2,510 career points for the Lady Lions. “I think for a lot of my career I have been doubted. ... That sort of thing has always motivated me. Going a little later than maybe some had thought I was, that definitely is motivation, for sure. ... I’m fortunate and I’m ready to work my butt off in Phoenix.”
Lucas will head to camp in two weeks with a team that features two of the most dominant players in the women’s basketball.
Former Connecticut standout Diana Taurasi has won everything you can possibly win in the sport. She won three national championships for the Huskies, two WNBA titles (2007 and 2009) with the Mercury and is a three-time Olympic champion. For her WNBA career, Taurasi has averaged 20.6 points per game and was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2009.
“I’m excited to be around some of the greatest players in basketball,” Lucas said. “Diana Taurasi is said to be the best player on the planet, To have the opportunity to be around her and to work with her, that’s extremely humbling. I’m so excited at that opportunity.
“She’s unbelievable. She’s been a player I’ve always watched growing up. I’m very excited to get the chance to watch what she does and learn from her.”
Taurasi is joined by second-year player Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the the WNBA Draft last season. Griner is a 6-foot-8 intimidating presence, who won a NCAA title at Baylor in 2012 and owns the NCAA record for blocked shots (736). Griner is one of the few women who can dunk in games.
“There’s not too many people in the sports world who hasn’t heard of Brittney Griner,” Lucas said. “I actually played against her in AAU and she just seemed like a great person. I’m very excited for the potential to play with those players.”
Lucas, who averaged 21 points per game last season and 19 for her career at Penn State, said Phoenix is a good fit for her because the Mercury like to run.
“I heard they like to get out in transition and run-and-gun,” she said. “I think transition has always been my strength.”
And she won’t have to face the endless litany of junk defenses that solely were focused on limiting her touches.
“I have thought about that,” Lucas said with a chuckle. “If things work out the way I want, I’ll be playing with two players that draw more attention than anybody.”
Lucas has spent the two weeks since a Sweet 16 loss to Stanford working with Lady Lion assistant coach Fred Chmiel.
“I’m working on ball screens,” she said. “I’m working on footwork and my range. I’m working on a lot of stuff with Fred and just getting ready.”
Lucas’ teammate Ariel Edwards wasn’t as fortunate in the draft. Edwards, a guard/forward projected as a possible third-round selection, went undrafted. The 6-foot-3 guard/forward likely will be invited to some WNBA team’s camp as a free agent.
Dara Taylor, the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, and center Talia East also went undrafted.
Lucas and Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper, the 13th pick, were the only Big Ten players selected. Lucas becomes the 15th Lady Lion to be drafted in the WNBA.