May 20, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: WNBA debuts for top rookies on opening night

How did the three first-round picks who debuted Friday look?

Opening night of the WNBA season brought us our first look at some of the top rookies in the professional debuts.

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On the Saturday Draft edition of the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast, hosts Hunter Cruse and Lincoln Shafer broke down how three first round picks from the WNBA Draft who made their debuts did in their first professional games.

Even though No. 1 overall pick Aliyah Boston and the Fever lost, the former South Carolina star showed well, scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds in just 24 minutes. Boston battled foul trouble against the Connecticut Sun’s tough front court and ultimately fouled out, but our hosts were impressed nonetheless.

“By the fourth quarter, she was really cruising on both ends,” Shafer said. “She’s already a really savvy scorer inside — she uses little bumps and jabs and pivots really well, [especially] for one of the youngest players in the WNBA.”

Cruse added that it was obvious Boston was “the best player on Indiana already” and both believe one of the keys for the Fever going forward will be trying to maximize Boston’s various offensive skill sets, including her passing ability.

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Like Boston, No. 2 pick Diamond Miller got the start in her first game for the Lynx at home. Miller had what Cruse described as a “pretty typical rookie game” in Minnesota’s loss to the Chicago Sky, scoring nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds.

“I thought there was flashes of being an effective mid-range scorer, being able to play in transition,” Cruse said. “But also, you saw the rookie moments — those outstretched finishes, struggling to finish through contact.”

But the rookie who shone brightest was No. 10 pick Zia Cooke, who stole the show for the Sparks on Friday night. Cooke caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 14 points (on a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, including two 3-pointers) in just six minutes to help the Sparks blast the Phoenix Mercury.

Cooke not only received high praise from her Los Angeles teammates after the game, but from The Next’s Draft experts the following day, too.

“It was super encouraging for Zia to come out and really look like a WNBA player,” Cruse said. “She looks comfortable and probably someone Los Angeles should consider for that starting spot.”

Shafer added, “To me, she looked really patient offensively, which is something we were really looking for coming in to the WNBA. She did a really good job of that, she hit two catch-and-shoot 3s. … She just looked really solid offensively.”

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