Sky coach James Wade sat with players Diamond DeShields, Azura Stevens and assistant coach Emre Vatansever for the NCAA women’s national championship, keenly watching two guards — Arizona’s Aari McDonald and Stanford’s Kiana Williams — who are on his radar, considering the Sky hold the eighth overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft.
“Those are two of the point guards we’re looking at,” Wade said.
It’s no secret that the Sky need a backup for Courtney Vandersloot, but in this guard-heavy draft class, the options are plentiful. But Wade was impressed with what he saw while watching McDonald and Williams.
From Williams, who had five points on 2-for-6 shooting in 40 minutes of play, Wade saw a guard who didn’t get thrown by a difficult game. Williams averaged 14 points, two rebounds and three assists in 33 games this past season.
McDonald showed she could handle the responsibility and pressure that will come with playing in the league, going straight at Stanford’s WNBA-sized bigs. Despite taking knocks all night, McDonald finished with 22 points, two assists and three rebounds. Wade said it was good to see her play against that size.
“That’s what she’s going to face at the next level,” Wade said.
Ideally, Wade is looking for someone to come in and play 10 minutes a game.
The Sky never have had a legitimate backup point guard in Wade’s two seasons with the team. It’s been a backup-by-committee situation, running the offense through players who are capable, but that’s not necessarily their preferred role. The priority now is getting a guard who will be with the Sky for the long haul. Someone who can learn from Vandersloot and command the Sky’s second unit.
Gabby Williams’ versatility allowed her to play backup to Vandersloot, but Wade said she’s at her best when she’s not saddled with one position.
“It helps her become free to do the things that she wants,” Wade said. “Taking the ball out of her hands, to put it back in her hands will help her be her best.”
Trust is the intangible quality Wade is looking for in any drafted guard. He wants someone he can trust to take over games.
There are between four and five players in this class who Wade is considering.
As it stands now, Wade is confident they can select somebody to build around with the eighth pick.
He has no plans to trade up in the draft, which will take place Thursday.
The NCAA granting every winter sport student-athlete another year of eligibility meant players eligible for the draft had to opt in. The league announced the list of 57 players who formally filed for inclusion in the draft this week. Players competing in the Final Four and national championship had up to 48 hours after their final game to declare.
Wade will make his selections in the WNBA’s second virtual draft from Chicago. He said the league continues to do a great job handling the issues presented by the pandemic. He also understands players wishing they could experience walking across the stage to shake Commissioner Cathy Engelbert’s hand after their name is called.
“This moment signifies a lot,” Wade said. “Hopefully, one day, we can get back tothat.”