Chicago Sky GM James Wade considers WNBA Draft a success
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NEW YORK — Wednesday might have been James Wade’s first WNBA Draft as a general manager, but he handled it like a veteran.
Since Wade took over the Sky this offseason, he has been adamant he can make them a playoff team — something they haven’t been since 2016.
With that in mind, Wade wasn’t looking for a core player to build his team around. He’s extremely confident in his roster, which is highlighted by Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Cheyenne Parker. Instead, he was looking for an all-around athlete who would complement his roster.
And Wade thinks forward Katie Lou Samuelson fits that definition.
While most people expected the Sky to go for a center, the team went in another direction and used its fourth overall pick to select Samuelson out of Connecticut.
‘‘We were the surprise pick, and part of the reason is because no one really knows what I want to do and how we want to play,’’ Wade told the Sun-Times from Hungary, where he was with the Russian team he is coaching. ‘‘They just look at our roster and just plug a person in, and that’s the easiest thing to do. They say, ‘OK, this team needs that,’ but nobody really knows my style of play.’’
The Sky were intrigued by the idea of former Notre Dame star Jackie Young, who was picked first overall by the Las Vegas Aces. But she was off the board, and they wound up with Samuelson.
Wade said he likes Samuelson’s skills and thinks they can translate immediately to the WNBA.
‘‘Maybe she can’t do some things, but we know the things she does, and she does them well,’’ Wade said. ‘‘She can play with every single person on our team.’’
The Sky also picked guard Chloe Jackson in the second round (15th overall) and small forward Maria Conde in the third (27th overall). Jackson, who averaged 11.7 points in 38 games this season for NCAA champion Baylor, could be a good backup for guard Jamierra Faulkner, who is out with an injury.
‘‘The place that the game is going right now, I just think you need that versatility,’’ Wade said. ‘‘You need players that can do multiple things. You need utility players. And if you have too many one-dimensional players, it takes away from your growth as a team.
‘‘Katie Lou can do a lot of things. Chloe Jackson can do a lot of things. So I think that we can be appreciative of the picks we got in this draft.’’
Overall, Wade considered the draft a success.
‘‘We got the person that was on the top of our draft boards,’’ he said. ‘‘[It was] our first draft as a staff, my first draft as a GM. I hope people see it as a success because [Samuelson] could end up being a cornerstone of how we want to play and what we want to do.’’
The only mistake Wade made on the night happened before the draft began.
Sky owner Michael Alter tried to check in with Wade in Hungary. Wade had three cellphones around him but didn’t answer a single one.
‘‘That was a rookie mistake,’’ said Wade, who was taking another call.
Wade made up for the mishap in his selections. And after the draft, Alter said there’s a lot to look forward to this season.
‘‘We got a new coach, we have a great young team, great players, so I was excited anyway,’’ Alter said. ‘‘This is just kind of the added pieces that we were able to get.’’