You know something’s happening when you see balloons.
Thursday at Arlington’s College Park Center, whomever had to blow them all up had to have been out of breath. (or hopefully they used a tank). The Dallas Wings held their 2017 WNBA Draft party, and in addition to multiple balloon towers, they had a stage, a huge video screen, big Wings logo gobos, and a stage populated with a podium and comfy chairs. They brought in former WNBA players, plus members of their current roster and assistant coaches to address crowd. Play-by-play voice Ron Thulin emceed the affair.
In between Q&As and on-stage announcements, ESPN’s broadcast of the draft played on the center screen as well as the ones affixed to the arena’s scoreboard. Fans occupied seats on the floor and in the lower bowl. Nachos were available for purchase at the concession stands. A handful of media members turned out.
So the Wings went to a bit of trouble to create this draft night event. What did they get from it?
With the third, fourth, and tenth picks overall, they chose three Southeastern Conference players. The Wings first picked Evelyn Akhator from Kentucky. Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis, both of whom just won an NCAA title in Dallas with South Carolina, went fourth and tenth, respectively. They took Breanna Lewis from Kansas State in the second round and finished their draft by selecting UConn’s Saniya Chong.
After watching the team last year, my impressions had been that they needed more athletic post players and a pass-first point guard to support Skylar Diggins. Akhator and Lewis addressed the former need and Chong and mid-season acquisition Tiffani Bias may help with the latter. The stats indicated they also needed defensive help and three-point shooting, and Gray and Davis should be good at both of those. The Wings will also bring in undrafted frontcourt players Kalani Purcell and Kelsey Lang for a training camp look.
After watching the team last year, my impressions had been that they needed more athletic post players and a pass-first point guard to support Skylar Diggins. Akhator and Lewis addressed the former need and Chong and mid-season acquisition Tiffani Bias may help with the latter. The stats indicated they also needed defensive help and three-point shooting, and Gray and Davis should be good at both of those.
Perhaps the biggest addition that could push the Wings to the playoffs is a robust Diggins. The former All-Star had an up-and-down 2016 season coming off a knee injury. Thulin pronounced her “100% healthy,” which Diggins confirmed in her on-stage interview. She and Bias spoke to Davis and Gray via computer hookup, with Diggins encouraging applause from the crowd to help welcome her new teammates.
In addition to augmenting their roster the Wings also hope they enhanced their attendance for the upcoming season. Placards adorned lower bowl seats available for season-long purchase and reps stood ready to sell multi-game packages and individual game tickets.
Teams always look for opportunities to engage fans in the off-season, especially in prime ticket-selling situations. The draft fell at a good time during the sales season, and having three first-round picks made for a balloon-worthy setup. And while regulations mandated that the helium-filled variety could only add to the atmosphere outside the arena, the Wings hope their future in Tarrant County is indeed on the rise – on-court and off.