CLEVELAND - Lindsey Harding, the Phoenix Mercury’s newest player, was signing autographs when she heard her name called again. Scratch that. Make it Lindsey Harding of the Minnesota Lynx.
Harding became the first No. 1 overall pick in WNBA draft history to be traded when the Mercury sent the former Duke point guard to Minnesota for All-Star forward Tangela Smith.
In an unpredictable draft lacking a clear No. 1 pick and few players projected to make an immediate impact, both Harding and No. 2 pick Jessica Davenport were traded Wednesday.
“Shock, surprise, all good feelings,” Harding said of the whirlwind start to the draft. “I knew there was a chance that could happen.”
Harding has been through some highs and lows recently. She missed two free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining that allowed Rutgers to upset top-seeded Duke 53-52 in the NCAA regional semifinals March 24.
Moments after Harding was traded, San Antonio sent Davenport, along with its first-round pick in 2008, to New York for All-Star guard Becky Hammon and a second-round pick in 2008.
“We have a lot of good players coming into the draft, but I’m not sure how many of them were positioned to impact you significantly,” said Dan Hughes, coach and general manager of the Silver Stars. “Becky does that for us.”
Davenport, a three-time Big Ten player of the year as a center at Ohio State, brings size and scoring to the Liberty, who finished 13th in the league in scoring last season. They missed the playoffs for the third time in the WNBA’s 10-year history and had a losing record (11-23) for just the second time.
Chicago took guard Armintie Price of Mississippi at No. 3; guard Noelle Quinn of UCLA went fourth to Minnesota; and New York selected Texas forward Tiffany Jackson at No. 5.
Harding said she hoped to bring leadership, passion and her tough perimeter defense to the Lynx, who were 10-24 last year. “Thank God it’s in the summer because I don’t do well with cold at all,” Harding, a Houston native who has never been to Minnesota, said of the WNBA season.
Harding averaged 13.8 points last season for the Blue Devils.