Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was looking for two things in the WNBA draft Thursday.
She wanted a talented combo guard that could be groomed today to play a bigger role tomorrow. But it had to be somebody tough enough to thrive as a rookie on a team filled with players used to winning titles.
In Alexis Jones, Reeve said the Lynx got just that.
Jones, a 5-9 guard from Baylor, taken with the 12th and final pick in the first round, is used to playing with big expectations, and on big stages. So she won’t be fazed when she shows up for her first training camp practice April 23 and sees Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.
And she’s tough. She rebounded from a torn ACL suffered in her sophomore year. And, as a 12-year-old, Jones and her family learned to deal with adversity. In 2007 she was part of an AAU traveling team coached by her father, David Jones. On a road trip to a tournament, in a snowstorm, the vehicle David Jones was driving went out of control. He was paralyzed from the waist down in the accident.
That’s why Jones dedicated being drafted to her dad. And that’s why it’s unlikely there will be any obstacle too big for her to hurdle as a Lynx.
“We’re pretty fortunate at pick 12 to get someone who guided a team that was awfully good,’’ Reeve said. “She was a big reason why.’’
With their second- and third-round picks, the Lynx looked to the future, drafting 19-year-old guards Lisa Berkani of France and Tahlia Tupaea of Australia.
Because of large commitments to veteran players, salary cap considerations will keep the Lynx roster at 11 this season. The Lynx were looking to groom a player who could eventually step in for a backcourt that, while still top-notch, is aging. And they wanted a guard capable of playing both backcourt positions.
“It’s a veteran team and they are also a championship-winning team,’’ Jones said. “So it’s going to be very difficult for me. I’m going to have to go in there and I’m going to have to play my role. I’m happy for this opportunity. I’m blessed.’’
Jones began her college career at Duke. As a sophomore she was injured. After transferring to Baylor she was an all-Big 12 first-team selection twice. She averaged 13.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists as a senior. She finished second in Baylor history in three-point-shooting percentage (41.1), fourth in assists per game (4.6) and eighth in three-pointers (132).
As expected, Washington guard Kelsey Plum — with 3,527 points the leading career scorer in NCAA women’s history — was the first overall pick, taken by San Antonio. South Carolina center Alaina Coates went to Chicago at No. 2. With the third and fourth picks, Dallas chose Kentucky forward Evelyn Akhator and Coates’ college teammate Allisha Gray, a guard.
Nia Coffey, the former Hopkins High School star who played at Northwestern, was taken fifth with San Antonio’s second first-round pick. DePaul guard Jessica January, who played for Richfield High School, was taken in the third round (No. 28 overall) by Connecticut.
Coffey said she was thrilled to be heading to San Antonio with Plum. “I just talked to my new coach,’’ she said of Vickie Johnson. “She said we’ll be a very up-tempo and fast team. I’m excited to get down to San Antonio’’
In Minnesota, Reeve acknowledged it will be difficult for Jones to get much playing time right away. But she likes Jones’ athletic ability, her shooting range, her versatility.
“She’s a playmaker, she’s a baller,’’ Reeve said. “She’ll make a basketball play instinctively. And she shoots better than 40 percent from three. That’s something we need.’’
Jones? She can’t wait.
“Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, that’s just an amazing group to be playing with,’’ she said. “I don’t think you could ask for more.’’