Bill Laimbeer, the coach and general manager of the New York Liberty was in Duluth, Ga., last month to scout the SEC Tournament. He must have liked what he saw at the event, as Laimbeer took Kelsey Bone of Texas A&M in the first round at the No. 5 pick and Kamiko Williams of Tennessee in the second round at the No. 15 slot.
Williams will officially meet with the media Tuesday, but she said via the Lady Vols: “I am excited, but I have to stay focused and do what I do.”
Two of those things would be to board and defend. Laimbeer has a penchant for athletic guards who can rebound – he won a WNBA title with the now-defunct Detroit Shock when former Lady Vol Alexis Hornbuckle was a rookie.
Former Lady Vol Kelley Cain is on New York’s roster, and she welcomed Williams to the Liberty on Twitter.
“I’m excited because the coaching staff seems awesome from the short phone conversation we’ve had, and I get to play with Kelley Cain again!” Williams said.
The top of the draft went as expected with the trio of Brittney Griner (Phoenix), Elena Delle Donne (Chicago) and Skylar Diggins (Tulsa) selected at the top. From there, teams filled positions of need from a draft board that wasn’t particularly deep this year, presenting teams a chance to select steals and sleepers.
Williams is among those, as she has first-round talent that only began to emerge in her senior year at Tennessee. The 5-11 guard from Clarksville, Tenn., started 10 games this season, including the last eight, and averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 boards a game.
She led the team in shooting percentage at 50.5 percent and despite being sixth in minutes played, Williams led the team in steals at 57. Williams had 88 assists to just 44 turnovers while playing 21.2 minutes per game.
“I am so proud of Kamiko and just excited about this opportunity for her,” Coach Holly Warlick said. “She worked extremely hard and showed great maturity as a senior, and that effort helped lead to our team being successful and to her enjoying the best season of her career."
Senior Taber Spani, a 6-1 guard/forward who started 26 games this season – she moved into the lineup for the SEC opener on Jan. 3 and stayed there – wasn’t drafted but could get an invitation to a training camp.
There could have been concerns about her health – Spani dealt with foot, elbow, knee and back issues at Tennessee – but the sharpshooter averaged 11.1 points per game and hit 44.6 percent of her shots. She also played 27.7 minutes per game and didn’t miss any action all season.
"I am disappointed for Taber that her name wasn’t called Monday night," Warlick said. "I thought she would be selected, but it just didn’t happen. I am hopeful that an opportunity will arise in the coming days that will provide her an opportunity to show what she can do on the basketball court.”
There are only 11 roster spots on 12 teams and no injured reserve, so making a team isn’t a given, even for some of the first round picks in the draft.
“This is a brutally hard league to get a job in,” Laimbeer said during ESPN’s draft broadcast.
Besides Williams and Bone the other SEC players taken were: Kentucky’s A’dia Mathies, Los Angeles Sparks; Georgia’s Jasmine Hassell, Indiana Fever; Georgia’s Jasmine James, Seattle Storm; Georgia’s Anne Marie Armstrong, Atlanta Dream; and Florida’s Jennifer George, Indiana.
Training camps open May 5 with preseason games beginning May 10. The regular season starts May 24 and runs through Sept. 15.