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Aces thrilled with draft haul: ‘We feel like we hit the jackpot’

Updated April 16, 2024 - 7:11 pm

The Aces didn’t have a first-round pick in Monday’s WNBA draft, but general manager Natalie Williams said she felt the team added a pair of first-round talents.

“Clearly we’re in Vegas, because we feel like we hit the jackpot,” Williams said.

The Aces, who sent their first-round pick to Los Angeles in the Dearica Hamby trade Jan. 23, 2023, still had four selections in this year’s draft.

They selected Syracuse guard Dyaisha Fair 16th overall, Iowa guard Kate Martin 18th overall and Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley 24th overall in the second round. They also took Jackson State center Angel Jackson 36th overall in the third round.

Williams said she did not expect Fair or Kitley to be on the board when the Aces took them.

“We were just patiently waiting to see who was available to us,” Williams said. “We were very pleasantly surprised at who other teams were picking, knowing that the players we wanted were still on the draft board at all of our picks.”

Fair, a 5-foot-5 guard, is a strong scorer.

Her 3,403 points in college rank third all-time in NCAA history, behind only 2024 first overall pick Caitlin Clark and new teammate Kelsey Plum.

Williams said she sees similarities between Fair and coach Becky Hammon. Hammon was an undersized guard that went undrafted in 1999, but she played 16 seasons in the WNBA.

“We’re very comfortable drafting Dyaisha,” Williams said. “We know what she can do. Her stats don’t lie.”

Fair averaged 22.3 points per game last season at Syracuse and was a third-team All-American. She said she’s looking forward to picking the brains of Aces guards Plum, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray.

“I want to learn from the (veterans) as much as possible,” Fair said. “I want to add a little bit of everything to my game.”

Kitley, a second-team All-American, averaged 22.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game last season at Virginia Tech. She tore her ACL in the team’s regular-season finale. Williams said Kitley, who brings scoring and interior defense, will be able to rehab with the Aces this season.

“I’m thrilled. I can’t think of a better situation to be in with the situation that my leg is in,” Kitley said. “It’s an incredible fit. … To be able to watch A’ja Wilson, even though I can’t play, I know that I’ll be able to learn so much and get better.”

Martin teamed with Clark to help Iowa reach the last two NCAA title games. Williams said Martin’s shooting and versatility stood out to the Aces.

“I don’t think Iowa does as well as they’ve done over the many years without Kate Martin,” Williams said. “She’s just a true competitor.”

The Aces begin training camp April 28. Williams said the team’s goal in the draft was to make camp more competitive given most of the roster is returning after back-to-back WNBA championships.

“It’s going to be a competitive camp,” Williams said. “It should be great to see the young draftees with the nice group of veterans that we have.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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