Utah Megan Huff smiled during the long break between the televised second and third rounds of the WNBA draft Wednesday night when the ESPNU graphic listed her as the eighth-best player available.
Huff's name soon became more prominent and permanent in the draft coverage. The Utah forward was drafted by the New York Liberty with the second pick of the third and final round, No. 26 overall.
“I was nervous and I didn't know if I was going to get picked, so it's a relief to know that I'm going to go to a training camp and I can really prove myself,” said Huff, who joined her former coaches and teammates to watch the telecast at the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility.
The 6-foot-3 Huff, known for her outside shooting ability, is the sixth Utah player drafted into the league in the past 14 seasons. She was projected to go somewhere in the third round of the 36-player draft, with Draftsite.com slotting her at No. 27 and ESPN.com listing her at No. 32.
“It's never been something I thought was going to happen,” Huff said. “It's just something you say as a kid: 'I'm going to be a professional basketball player.' ”
Being taken so high in the third round, by a team that needs help after losing its last 13 games of 2018 to finish 7-27, should significantly increase Huff's chances of making the roster. New York picked Louisville guard Asia Durr at No. 2 overall and 6-9 center Han Xu of China, who recently worked out with Huff in Los Angeles, at No. 14.
As Huff’s Ute teammates checked the Liberty’s roster after the draft, they discovered a lack of forwards. Huff can fill a position of need, if she shoots consistently and proves that her athletic ability and defense meet the WNBA’s standards.
Jonathan Kolb, the Liberty’s newly hired general manager, told The Salt Lake Tribune that the team was conscious in the third round of not duplicating the skills of another player on the roster. “That went into our decision-making: Who can bring a little something different that we don’t have? Megan brings a different element, and it’s a myriad of things," Kolb said. "She kind of does it all. She has a diverse skill set.”
The Liberty last week named former California associate head coach Charmin Smith as an assistant to coach Katie Smith (no relation). With her Pac-12 background, Charmin Smith endorsed Huff, Kolb said.
Ute coach Lynne Roberts was hopeful that Huff would become her first WNBA pick. “In my talking with a lot of teams in the WNBA in the last month, everyone is aware of her huge upside,” Roberts said. “The New York Liberty are getting a tremendous talent with so much potential to grow.”
Huff averaged 19.6 points and 9.9 rebounds as a senior, leading the Utes to a 20-10 record. After transferring from Hawaii, she became the third player in school history to score 1,000 points in two seasons, and the draft further validated her decision to prove herself against top-tier competition in the Pac-12. Even though potential No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon chose to stay in school, the conference had four players drafted in the first two rounds: Stanford's Alanna Smith (No. 8), California's Kristine Anigwe (No. 9), UCLA's Kennedy Burke (No. 22) and Oregon's Maite Cazorla (No. 23).
Huff will report to training camp May 5. The Liberty, who play home games at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y., open the season May 24 vs. Indiana.
The closest Huff would come to playing in Utah is Las Vegas on June 14 (Las Vegas is the original Utah Starzz franchise, having relocated from San Antonio last year). The Liberty will visit Seattle, near her hometown, July 3.