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Basketball

Watch Out, People. The Wings Had a Great Draft.

Rookie Jacy Sheldon will D up on Caitlin Clark in the team's one preseason game in Arlington.
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Jacy Sheldon (left), with Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, was picked fifth overall. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After witnessing the team’s historic 2023 season, Wings Nation waited in anticipation during the WNBA draft Monday night to see who the next key piece of the puzzle would be. The excitement was understandable after the Wings produced a 22-18 record and a surprising fourth-place finish last season. Dallas then beat the Atlanta Dream to advance to the WNBA semifinals for the first time, before being swept by the eventual champions, the Las Vegas Aces. Loyal fans couldn’t wait to find out which player would join the team as it continues its climb. 

Turns out her name is Jacy Sheldon, a 5-foot-10 combo guard from Ohio State. She is just what the Wings need, said Greg Bibb, team president and CEO. And after taking Sheldon with the fifth pick in the draft, Dallas grabbed another guard, Frenchwoman Carla Leite, with the ninth selection.  

“We addressed our needs both for the near-term and long-term, and we are excited about our draft class and the 2024 season as we try to take another step in our progression as an organization,” Bibb said. 

Heading into last offseason, Bibb was clear that perimeter play—specifically three-point shooting—was a priority for the team, which a year ago was last in the league in this area. Bibb said the Wings also wanted to get a “a little bit bigger” in the backcourt and improve their perimeter defense.

Sheldon checks all of the boxes, Bibb said of the guard he targeted last year before she decided to return to Ohio State for a fifth season. “She gets after it defensively. She has quick feet and quicker hands—one of the best I’ve seen defensively,” Bibb said.

Sheldon excelled at Ohio State in the full-court press, something Bibb said the Wings may look to employ. “But she is also very good defensively at half court,” he said. “She’s a combo guard by definition, leaning more toward a 1 than a 2. She gives us versatility, too, in terms of who she can be on the court with. We think the skill set is there.”

Sheldon helped lead the Buckeyes to a 26-6 record this season, averaging 17.8 points and 3.75 assists per game. The Buckeyes were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling to seventh-seeded Duke in the second round. Statistically, Sheldon’s best year came in 2021-22, when she averaged almost 20 points and four assists a game. She is one of three players in program history with at least 1,900 points, 400 rebounds, 350 assists, 200 steals, and 150 three-pointers.

Sheldon knows she’ll have to make plenty of adjustments in her game, but she’s excited to get started.

“Yeah, I think there’s going to be an adjustment period for all of us, whether people want to admit it or not,” she said shortly after being drafted. “As a rookie, I think that’s something you have to accept and be ready for. The pace, the length. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of things that are a little different and it’ll take some time to get used to, but I’m welcoming that challenge.”

Sheldon will join an immensely talented team that includes three-time All-Star Arike Ogunbowale, veteran WNBA player Natasha Howard, newly re-signed Kalani Brown, and last year’s Most Improved Player, All-Star Satou Sabally, who also re-signed with the Wings in the offseason.

“I’m excited to play with everyone on that team,” Sheldon said when asked who she was most looking forward to playing alongside. “I grew up watching them, and I think being able to play with them now and getting that opportunity is something like a dream. They’re a really talented group, and I know they’re going to push me on Day 1, so I’m excited for that.”

Sheldon said she has had good discussions with Coach Latricia Trammell, who is entering her second year at the helm, and understands how her new coach prioritizes defense. “Coach is awesome and just being able to talk about their system and how they like to do things there was awesome for me to learn,” Sheldon said.

The 20-year-old Leite probably won’t play with the team this season as she continues her development in France, Bibb said, but she is someone the organization sees as having a viable future. “She’s a dynamic guard, a true point guard who gets to the rim with tremendous success and is both a left- and right-hand finisher,” he said. 

With the 33rd pick in the draft, the Wings selected guard Ashley Owusu from Penn State. However, her availability is unclear. According to Bibb, Owusu applied for an additional year of college eligibility, and the case is pending. If she returns to school, the Wings would retain her rights for a year.

As they continue their quest for a championship, the Wings have 17 players on the roster. “We have been building a roster for the past three, four years, and we have a good core group of young players,” Bibb said. “We advanced to the semifinals, so then it becomes: what is the specific need or very short list of needs that we have that will help us to take the next step? And that’s getting to a championship series and ultimately winning a championship.”

He’ll have plenty of talent to evaluate but little room for additions. 

At the end of last season, eight of the 12 players were under contract. Diamond DeShields, who was injured all of last season, returned to Chicago. Odyssey Sims was not re-signed. Former Indiana Fever forward Emma Cannon is a new face. The Wings hold the rights to Kitija Laksa, whose contract was suspended last season as she fulfilled overseas commitments, and Stephanie Soares, the fourth pick in the 2023 draft, who missed the season with an ACL injury, will most likely return.

Also expected to compete for a roster spot is Lou Lopez Senechal, the fifth pick in the 2023 draft, who missed the season with knee injuries.

One of the Wings’ strengths last season was their frontcourt, which was bolstered by the emergence of forward Awak Kuier, who showed out toward the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. It was significant progress for the 22-year-old, who has immense potential but struggled to find a role in her first two WNBA seasons after being selected second in the 2021 draft. But earlier this year, Kuier surprisingly announced she would sit out this season, giving an opportunity for another player—maybe the newly signed Cannon—to step in and provide length and rim protection. 

Once again, the battle for the point guard position appears to be wide open. Veronica Burton began last season as the starter before being replaced by Crystal Dangerfield, who had been sidelined by injury. Sheldon and Senechal will most likely compete for minutes at this position. 

“I’m excited,” Sheldon said. “I’ve seen the growth in the league. Everyone has seen the growth, and to be a part of that is something that is really rare, so I’m looking forward to it.”

The 27th WNBA season tips off May 14. The Wings will play one preseason game, at home, May 3. But it doesn’t figure to be your run-of-the-mill preseason game. Caitlin Clark and the Fever are coming to town.

That’s some way to start what the Wings hope will be another historic season in their quest for a championship.

Author

Dorothy Gentry

Dorothy Gentry

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