The Draft is always a perfect time to shake things up. There’s so much exciting young talent in the game and Draft day gives them a chance to see their name on the marquee as they begin their professional journeys. It’s always an exciting time for
Monday night was the 2023 WNBA Draft. All eyes were on the Indiana Fever, and they selected University of South Carolina center, Aliyah Boston, first overall. Boston had an incredible run at SC and she will be joining a Fever team that is filled with plenty of young players. This year’s draft had a lot of great talent, and teams like the Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream had banner evenings as they look to make it back into title contention.
If you haven’t noticed, the New York Liberty have had an incredibly busy offseason! They acquired Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart, and Courtney Vandersloot while re-signing Marine Johannes, Han Xu, and last year draft picks, Nyara Sabally and Sika Kone, both of whom sat out. With a mix of young, up and coming talent next to established legends of the game, the Liberty have a perfect roster and come into this upcoming season with some unfinished business as they vie for their first championship.
With all that said, it was a quiet night at the draft for the Liberty. They only had one pick this year, and it was all the way down at number 30. With that pick, they selected University of Southern California guard/forward, Okako Akida.
Welcome to NY, Okako Adika!! pic.twitter.com/anNcichguH— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) April 11, 2023
A sneak peek at what @nyliberty fans are getting in Okako Adika! ✌️ pic.twitter.com/VicjZqSZtK— USC Women's Basketball (@USCWBB) April 11, 2023
Hailing from Denmark, Akida has been through a lot, but has overcome it and been a good player throughout her college career. In 2020, her coach at Butler University, Ara Baten, spoke about her game and said:
“I think she’s very, very ambitious. I think she’s driven, I think she wants to have success at a high level.”
Liberty General Manager, Jonathan Kolb, spoke about Akida and said:
“Okako Adika is a promising talent who we’re really excited about. As a versatile 3-and-D wing with familiarity in a pro-style offense, she’s someone who we can really use down the line.”
After the draft, Kolb and head coach Sandy Brandello took us behind the scenes and provided more insight on this year’s draft pick
With a jam packed Liberty roster heading into camp, we likely won’t be seeing Adika with the big club this season. As Kolb mentioned, she’s someone that the franchise can use down the line as they continue laying down a stable foundation. Guard play will always matter and when the time comes for Adika to make her way to Brooklyn, she’ll be someone Liberty fans can count on to provide solid shooting and defense.
With draft day comes media availability, and commissioner Cathy Engelbert spoke with the assembled media in New York City prior to the draft. The big news of the day was the announcement that the league will be providing charter flights for back-to-back games in the regular season and all the games in the playoffs. For as nice as that sounds, there’s a bit of a catch, as Isabel Rodrigues of The Next pointed out on Twitter:
Always read the fine print: "Next season ... Engelbert said that it will be more challenging. 'Next year we can’t do all of them,' she said. The commissioner hopes that charters in the future can be funded in part by the next TV deal." https://t.co/HcjDknIQu8— Isabel Rodrigues (@IsabelBarroso78) April 10, 2023
The Liberty know about the flight issues of the league real well since they were fined $500,000 and threatened with franchise termination after they decided to charter flights for players themselves. With franchise valuations going up, more investments into women’s sports, and a new TV deal coming soon, the time is now for the WNBA to continue building on the current momentum in sports. Last season, the league saw a TV ratings increase and an amazing playoff series between the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm kept the good times going.
With all eyes on the Aces and Liberty this year, there will be even more interest in the WNBA. It’s up to the league and television partners to build off of the work the players have been doing and continue highlighting them. Opening night is right around the corner, and this season promises to be one for the record books.