April 16, 2024 

Aces grab first-round talent with second- and third-round picks in the WNBA Draft

Las Vegas is once again a favorite to take home the championship

When you are the reigning world champions, you rarely have a lottery pick. On Monday night, the Las Vegas Aces once again didn’t even have a first-round pick. Despite this, they still may have grabbed themselves some first-round talent with three second-round picks and one third-round pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

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The Aces went into the night with the 16th, 18th, 24th and 36th picks. With the first of those picks, Las Vegas selected Dyaisha Fair, a 5’5 guard from Syracuse. Fair started her college career at Buffalo and finished as the third all-time leading scorer in Division I women’s basketball history. She averaged 22.3 points per game this year for the Orange to go along with 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

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The Aces have talked about wanting a young point guard to help ease the burden on Chelsea Gray, and, while Fair isn’t a true point guard, she can definitely learn the skills required from the veteran guards on the Aces. She obviously can score, as shown by the 22 points she averaged this year while knocking down 115 threes in the process, something that will go well in coach Becky Hammon’s well-spaced offense. Fair isn’t the biggest of guards but could find her way into a role for the Aces with her ability to score off the bench as she learns to be an all-around point guard.

“To know that I’m going to such a special team with quite a few veterans means a lot,” Fair said. “I’m coming in to learn, and there’s a lot to learn from. And, like I said, there are a few vets on this squad. … I want to learn from the vets as much as possible. I want to add a little bit of everything to my game. I want it to expand. I also want my IQ for the game to expand, as well. Yes, I can score the ball, but what else are you able to do? I think that with those guards over there, they’re going to do a wonderful job of helping me.”

Iowa guard Kate Martin holds the ball on the left side of her body near the sideline. Her eyes are up as she scans the court, looking for passing options
Iowa guard Kate Martin (20) looks to pass against UConn guard Paige Bueckers (left) in the Final Four at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 5, 2024. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Just two picks later, the Aces picked the Robin to the women’s basketball worlds Batman in Iowa’s Kate Martin. Martin, a 6′ guard from Edwardsville, Illinois, played five seasons for the Hawkeyes and averaged 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds this season. In previous seasons, Martin had been more of a facilitator, but with some other stars graduating from Iowa, she had to become more of a scorer this year.

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Martin isn’t a super flashy player, but she does a lot of the little things very well. She a is a great passer, athletic and has improved her three-point shooting year over year during her time at Iowa. She also shot over 50% from the field this past season. Martin is also a solid perimeter defender and a proven winner, which isn’t easy. Whether or not these skills will be enough to get her a roster spot is up for debate.

With Las Vegas’ last pick in the second round, it selected Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley. Kitley, a 6’6 center from Summerfield, N.C., finished her time as a Hokie as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in program history, as well as the all-time leading rebounder in the ACC. She averaged 22.8 points and 11.4 rebounds a game this year but had her final year cut short as she suffered a tear to her ACL in Virginia Tech’s last regular-season game.

Elizabeth Kitley looks off to her right side
Elizabeth Kitley, the two-time ACC Player of the Year. (Photo credit: Mitchell Northam | The Next)

While Kitley may not be able to make an impact right away for the Aces, she may become almost like a draft-and-stash for the franchise. She will most likely need the entire season to rehab from her ACL tear, but her skill set will fit well with the Aces’ style of play in the future. Kitley has a phenomenal scoring ability around the basket and has a great nose for rebounding and protecting the rim. Once she gets healthy, she could see a role similar to Kiah Stokes with her length on defense and ability to rebound, and she can score at a higher rate than the Aces’ veteran center.

“I can’t think of a better situation to be in with the situation that my leg is in, because it’s just an incredible fit,” Kitley said. “I think their resources are amazing. Their facilities are awesome. To be able to look up to the players there, to be able to watch A’ja Wilson, even though I can’t play, I know I’ll be able to learn so much and get better just by watching and being around the culture that’s there. … I think seriously it’s a great fit for all of those things. I know that they’ll support me, and we’ll all have the same goal of getting me healthy and helping to contribute. We’ll take it day by day but with that in mind for next year.”

With their final pick and the final pick of the night, the Aces selected Angel Jackson from Jackson State. The 6’6 center from Richmond, California, started her career at USC and averaged 10 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Tigers this season. Jackson was named the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year in both her seasons as a Tiger after swatting 171 shots during her two seasons at Jackson State.

Despite not having a first-round pick for the second straight season, the Aces were able to possibly garner some first-round talent with a couple of their draft picks. Las Vegas is once again a favorite to take home the WNBA championship, and on draft night they may have found some players who can help now as well as be a part of the future of the franchise.

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Written by Matthew Walter

Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.

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