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Monday, April 11, 2011
WNBA draftees jump into new life


As Renee Brown prepares to announce the third round of the WNBA draft, it's been a hub of activity at ESPN headquarters. Media press conferences, photo shoots, video chats, and phone interviews, but the players are prepared for it all, right down to their shoes.

Jasmine Thomas, the Duke standout who was drafted with the last pick of the first round by the defending champion Seattle Storm, was holding her heels in her hand.

"They told us that we were going to have a do the circuit and we were going to need comfortable shoes," Thomas said. "They told us to bring flats."

And everyone listened, including Ohio State star Jantel Lavender, who was wearing a smart suit and a bright-white new pair of sneakers.

Shoe choice was only one of the many pieces of advice and counsel that the players received since they arrived in Connecticut on Friday evening. Monday's Draft was the culmination of a weekend spent getting ready to be a professional basketball player.

Friday's opening-night orientation was followed by Saturday's 7 a.m.-6 p.m. session that included such topics of finances, officiating, media training and a little fashion advice. Sunday, the players participated in a clinic on the ESPN campus that drew nearly 100 local kids. And then came Monday.

"I was cool, calm and collected until they started the program and my mom sat down and coach [Sherri] Coale sat down," said now-former Oklahoma guard Danielle Robinson, taken with the sixth pick by the San Antonio Silver Stars. "That's when I really got nervous."

Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen said she felt her legs wobble when her name was called as the No. 9 pick by the Indiana Fever. "It's really surreal," Pohlen said. "My next thought was 'Alright, gotta go make this team now.' It's not guaranteed."

Pohlen returns to Indiana, the site of the Final Four, where Stanford's national championship hopes ended with a 63-62 loss to eventual champ Texas A&M. Pohlen finished the game on the bench with an ankle sprain, which happened under the basket with less than four seconds left. "It's doing well," she said.

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie was in the family and friends viewing room smiling broadly when Thomas' name was called.

"Just to think about these women, seeing them since they were so little in AAU tournaments," McCallie said. "It's not just your particular player for me, but to see them all. They all grew up so fast and they are realizing a life-long dream, and there's a really great energy in that room. Everyone is cheering for good things to happen for everyone. This is really a day where it's all good."

Robinson's mother, Denise, was relaxing in the sun on the patio adjacent to the viewing room after her daughter's future was settled. "The transition from her last college basketball game to getting her ready for professional basketball, it's a very short window," Denise Carr-Robinson said. "Getting her mindset ready for 'Danielle, you are now responsible for yourself.' Things like 'When you get emails, open them and read them.'"

Carr-Robinson said she got "100 pictures" from the mall while her daughter picked out an outfit -- "I was getting a fashion show," she said. After she arrived over the weekend, her daughter came to her hotel room and sat on her bed.

"And she reminded me when she was a little girl and I told her she was going to Disneyland," Carr-Robinson said. "It was just an overwhelming, excited [feeling]. This whole event, she's been that little girl again."