Basketball

Rising stars: Smith, Magbegor taken in first round of WNBA draft

The Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm have been linked to Australia since the WNBA's first season and that connection continued at the WNBA draft on Thursday.

The Mercury used their first-round pick to take Australian forward Alanna Smith, while the Storm used pick 12 to select Australian centre Ezi Magbegor.

Australian Alanna Smith (right) after being taken at No.8 in the WNBA draft.Credit:AP

Smith, 22, was on hand at the WNBA draft in New York while Magbegor, 19, was in Melbourne with her family and friends.

Both women played in Australia's silver medal side at last year's Women's World Cup in Spain under Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello.

Smith, who comes from a long line of basketballers including retired NBL players dad Darren and uncle Jason, was tipped all along to go to the Mercury where Opals coach Brondello could use another sweet shooting forward.

Michele Timms and Penny Taylor are both Mercury legends and Smith gets the chance to continue the legacy at the club although she is most excited about playing with Taylor's wife, the ageless US great Diana Taurasi who continues to lead the way for the Mercury.

"Playing under Sandy and with the Australian team was helpful for me and it translated well into the US college season for me," Smith told ESPN.

"I think it will help me in the league as well.

"I'm so excited to play with Phoenix. [Taurasi and US centre Brittney Griner] are great players, I've watched them play and looked up to them as players and people so I'm so excited to learn from them and be around them."

Magbegor was always going to be picked but the question was where. It turned out she was taken higher than many predicted as the reigning WNBA champions Storm decided to use their first pick on her.

Australian great Lauren Jackson dominated for the Storm for a decade and has mentored Magbegor during their time at WNBL club Melbourne Boomers, where Magbegor played last season.

Magbegor may not have a major role with the Storm this coming season but she will get the chance to develop and adjust to the world's best league while playing on one of the elite teams.

"Being selected by the Seattle Storm is seriously a dream come true," Magbegor said in a statement.

"Playing in the WNBA has always been a goal of mine. To play against the world's best basketballers, to improve my game and to ultimately be a team contributor is amazing.

"It has been an incredible journey for me and my family.

"The amount of support I've received from my friends, family, the WNBL Boomers and the Opals has been incredible."

There are nine Australians currently expected to enter training camp with WNBA sides at the end of this month, and with the two draftees there could be 10 players in the league when the season tips off in May.

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