Sometimes getting passed over in the draft isn’t the worst thing. At least, that’s true in most leagues. In the WNBA, with just 144 positions available, it can seem like a death knell to not get your name called on draft day. Even many first-round draft picks don’t make a team.
For Sam Thomas, it didn’t matter. She had someone in her corner helping to find a good situation.
“I was Agent Barnes for the last couple weeks,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said after the draft. “It’s actually fun because most of my friends are like coaches or GM. So I was hoping there was a chance to possibly go to the third round, and I was trying to rally for it, but I knew it’d be hard. But in some situations, it’s better to be a free agent because then you can choose where you want to go...We felt that Phoenix was the best for her. Diana Taurasi really liked her. And Vanessa Nygaard was a new coach I’ve known since we were 15., and she really liked what Sam does and they need a shooter.”
It turned out to be the perfect situation for the undrafted free agent as she was named to the Mercury’s final roster on Thursday.
Thomas started both preseason games for the Mercury. With some players nursing injuries, others still playing overseas, and Brittney Griner’s situation in Russia still ongoing, she was given every opportunity to show what she can do.
Thomas ended up playing the most minutes of any Mercury player in both games. In the opening game against the Seattle Storm, she scored nine points on 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc.
In addition to being the kind of player Phoenix needs, landing just up I-10 from where she spent the last five years is good for Thomas. The Arizona fans can follow her career and she is not far from her family home in Las Vegas.
Thomas became the first undrafted Arizona player to make a WNBA roster since 1997.
With the addition of Thomas to the Mercury’s regular-season roster, Arizona will have two players in the WNBA. Aari McDonald was drafted third by the Atlanta Dream last season. She figures to have a bigger role in her second season after the Dream made several changes to the roster in the offseason.
The two former teammates who led Arizona to its first national championship game are scheduled to face off for the first time on Sunday, May 29 in Atlanta. Their first matchup in Phoenix is scheduled for Friday, June 10.
The Mercury start their regular season against the Las Vegas Aces on Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m. MST/PDT. The game will air on NBA TV.