The bond between NBA and WNBA stars has grown over the years, and that was on full display on draft night Monday.
Haley Jones was selected by the Atlanta Dream with the sixth overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft. The former Stanford Cardinals guard was glad to fulfill the first step in her pro career, but she was caught off guard when reporters told her new head coach Tanisha Wright was trying to contact her but Jones wasn’t answering her phone.
The night wasn’t over for the 21-year-old as she received congratulatory messages from Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum.
“What’s up Haley, just wanted to say congrats,” Tatum told Jones, per WNBA video posted Tuesday. “Congrats on being drafted. Dreams do come true. I’m extremely happy for you, well deserved. It’s been an honor watching you these last few years. Super excited for your next step ahead in this journey. I know you’re going to do great things, gonna dominate. Looking forward to watching you and seeing all the great things you’re going to accomplish. You know I’m always here for you, so stay in touch, and I’ll be watching.”
“Oh my gosh, wow,” Jones said after watching O’Neal’s and Tatum’s video messages. “Those are my PRP fam. It runs in the family with Shaq and Jayson. To hear them say those kind words about me, it means the world. They’re two icons, Shaq and Jayson. It’s just amazing. I don’t even have words right now. I’m just so excited, so ecstatic. It’s a great vote of confidence having them in my corner moving forward.”
The Connecticut Sun did not have a first-round pick in this year’s draft — ironically, the pick Connecticut traded was used to draft Jones. But it did select Alexis Morris from LSU in the second round and Ashten Prechtel from Stanford in the third round.
The Tigers’ national title win over the Iowa Hawkeyes brought a larger audience for women’s basketball, which should make for a highly anticipated WNBA season, especially with how much the New York Liberty loaded up.