When Megan Walker made the shocking decision to declare early for the WNBA Draft, the New York Liberty didn’t waste much time reaching out. The Liberty were the second team to contact the junior, and it took even less time for the two sides to connect with each other.
“We really had a great conversation. We bonded over the phone,” Walker said. “It was kind of like a family type of conversation. We both knew what I brought to the Liberty and they thought I would fit right in”
However, New York needed to do some work in order to get in a position where it would have the chance to get Walker. The Liberty held the No. 1 pick but didn’t have another selection in the first round.
Luckily, shipping one former UConn player helping pave the way for New York to bring another in. On Wednesday, the Liberty traded Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics for a bevy of draft picks, including the No. 9 overall selection.
New York did what it needed to do to set itself up well. But once draft night came along, the waiting game began for both Walker and the Liberty.
The Dallas Wings took Bella Alarie at No. 5 — a popular landing spot for Walker in mock drafts. The next pick, Minnesota Lynx passed up on her as well. So did Dallas (again) and the Chicago Sky. From the outside, Walker seemed to be slipping in the first round. But the more she dropped, the closer she got to her wish. In the end, she ended up exactly where she wanted to be.
“I was a little bit nervous (before the draft) because there was a possibility that I could go to New York but I didn’t know, nothing’s promised,” she said. “I was really hoping for New York.”
While draft night itself unfolded just as Walker hoped, it also marked the achievement of a dream years in a making. While she received plenty of criticism for leaving UConn despite questions about her readiness and even the status of the season itself, hearing her name called only affirmed her decision.
“This feeling right here of achieving my dream,” Walker said on why she left early. “I’m so ecstatic, excited to be in this position I am now. I always wanted to be in the WNBA as a kid. So now I’m finally fulfilling my dream and I’m starting to feel the perks of it.”
Walker joins New York as they transition into a new era. Not only did it trade away a star player in Charles and take Sabrina Ionescu No. 1 overall, the Liberty are moving into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after playing the last two seasons in Westchester County Center, a 2,100-seat gym outside New York City.
As a welcoming gift, Kevin Durant surprised her with a congratulatory video on ESPN.
Kevin Durant's Nets and the WNBA's Liberty will share Barclays Center when play resumes. KD had a special message for Liberty draft pick Megan Walker on Friday. pic.twitter.com/W2U3eJulph— Sporting News (@sportingnews) April 18, 2020
Along with her connection to the staff, the allure of playing in the Big Apple is one of the main attractions to the Liberty in Walker’s eyes.
“I’m just excited for the whole experience of New York,” she said.
“Playing in the Barclays, just being around all those great players such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving,” she added later. “Just playing in that environment in the Barclays is an amazing place for a lot of opportunities.”
While the organization may in the midst of transition, it’ll infuse Ionescu and Walker into an already-talented group that includes former UConn players Kia Nurse and Kiah Stokes along with Layshia Clarendon and Asia Durr. Walker believes her ability to score from all three levels will make her valuable to the team from the start. Having a pass-first point guard like Ionescu helps, too.
“[Ionescu] likes to pass — that’s not a secret — and I like to score,” Walker said. “I think we’ll have great chemistry on the court and it’ll work out just fine.