Follow Liz Cambage's path to the draft
Editor's note: You've heard that Liz Cambage is tall (6-foot-8, to be exact). And you've probably heard that she's Australian. (Yes, her "Good day, mate" is in perfect form.) But Monday was a day for true discovery: ESPN.com's Kaitee Daley got to tag along -- from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- with Cambage as she experienced what it was like to be a top pick in the 2011 WNBA draft.
7 p.m. As it turns out, Cambage didn't leave right away. She is spotted -- surrounded by fellow Australians -- lying on the floor of a nearby building on the ESPN campus, completely exhausted. When asked if she is OK: "Yes," Cambage replies with a smile. But she better get used to the frenetic pace. As a member of her group commented, that is what her life is going to be like now. But as the day comes to a close and the players exchange hugs of both pride and relief with their family members, one thing becomes very apparent. Fans have only experienced the beginning of what is sure to be a 2011 WNBA rookie class filled with talent, heart and one fun Aussie.
6:37 p.m. The bus is significantly quieter on the way back to the Crowne Plaza. Maya Moore talks with Carolyn Swords about Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Xavier's Amber Harris shrinks into her seat to make a phone call. And Stanford's Kayla Pederson stares stoically at the Hartford skyline. It could be the nerve-wracking, energy-draining day that makes the ride home feel so different. But it could also be the absence of Cambage.
6:36 p.m. Sprinting to catch the bus, I'm informed that Cambage has left in a separate vehicle with her mom and agent. Earlier she told me she hadn't finished packing. And with the wardrobe and accessories she carts around, a little extra time is needed.
5:50 p.m. Cambage reminds me that her Aussie buddy Rachel Jarry was taken 18th overall by the Atlanta Dream. Though the spotlight has been focused on Moore and Cambage all day long, they both seem genuinely happy for all the other players around them.
5:28 p.m. In between tweets, I ask Cambage about transitioning to the style of Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson. But Cambage has a secret. She doesn't really know what he looks like -- or where he is. "He talked to me on the phone today and I thought he was in Tulsa. Then all of a sudden he's right in front of me. I didn't really know who he was. I was like, 'What?"
5:24 p.m. The long day is about to turn into a long night. Cambage is flying to Oklahoma and, though eager to meet her newest fans, seems overwhelmed by thought of more travel.
5:20 p.m. Cambage plops down in an office chair outside the SportsCenter studio. She's extremely tired. And could really go for a slice of pizza and a nap. "I don't want to eat and mess up the lipstick," she says, "but it's been a long day."
5 p.m. In between her handful of interviews, Cambage takes the time to send tweets to new teammate Marion Jones and fellow Australian Patty Mills' cousin. After the ESPN.com chat, it's back to the studio to talk about her move to Tulsa.
4:43 p.m. Time for a chat with ESPN.com. Fans want to know what she needs to improve on. "Every aspect of my game still needs work. I'm only 19 and I have a long way to go," Cambage admits.
4:40 p.m. Good thing Cambage loaded up on chocolate chip cookies, maintaining her high-level energy for a day like this is impressive.
4:32 p.m. Cambage is on the phone with Eddie McGwire, a popular radio host for Triple M in Australia. She seems excited to talk to people back in her home country, but ensures reporters that homesickness won't keep her from enjoying a successful WNBA career. Her agent, Allison Tranquilli, introduces herself while waiting. Tranquilli was a two-time Olympian basketball player for the Australian National team, so she knows a thing or two about high level international competition. "She's burning up my phone," Tranquilli says as she winks toward her client.
4 p.m. As she makes her way down a narrow staircase for -- you guessed it -- another interview, ESPN employees and WNBA officials dodge around her. "You guys walk on the right here don't you?" Cambage jokes. "We walk on the left in Australia."
3:51 p.m. By the way, Cambage is up to 1,548 Twitter followers. That's about 607 more than she had before the draft started.
3:45 p.m. You can't imagine the number of interviews a recent WNBA draftee goes through, particularly one from another country. After video Skyping with screaming Tulsa Shock fans, she's rushed from one room to another -- a radio interview here, a television interview there.
3:41 p.m. Cambage is escorted by at least two WNBA officials with headsets and three cameras. But no matter how much the group around her grows, the ostrich feathers and vibrant personality can't be shrouded.
3:36 p.m. After the news conference, Cambage and her entourage (which seems to grow larger by the minute) make their way to a WNBA photo shoot. Posing with her jersey and a WNBA ball seems to come naturally to the newest face of the WNBA.
3:30 p.m. Cambage is asked a barrage of questions from the media, but nothing she can't handle with a little wit and candor. How does she compare with Lauren Jackson? Jackson's game is more versatile -- inside, outside -- while Cambage prefers to work the high post, low post. She knows the American game is more physical but loves the challenge. And she knows 19 years old seems young for the WNBA but handles herself with the maturity of a 25-year-old.
3:16 p.m. With the second overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, the Tulsa Shock select Elizabeth Cambage from Australia. Cambage hugs her mom, Julia, who's bubbling with pride.
2:34 p.m. After group photos are taken inside the studio, the media is ushered out so the players' families can have a chance to sit with them before a moment most have probably dreamed about since they were old enough to dribble. I run into Jason Bennett, host of ESPN's Aussies Abroad, outside the studio. Jason hosted Cambage and her family for a barbecue on Sunday night (insert Australian barbecue joke here). "She's really cool, isn't she?" he said. "She makes this job easy." Easy and fun. Let the show begin.
2:17 p.m. Cambage adjusts her jewelry and shows me her "winged ring," confessing that she's obsessed with wings. Why? "Because it represents soaring and freedom and I think our freedoms in life are so important," she says. She twists her wrist to reveal another wing -- this one on her bracelet. Just a few minutes until she gets the opportunity to spread her wings on the professional level.
2:16 p.m. Cambage checks her Twitter page: 914 followers. I bet her that she'll break 1,000 before day's end, and she seems thrilled at the prospect.
2:14 p.m. Before taking group photos, Cambage tries to sort through her emotions with me. When asked what she's feeling, Cambage exudes the same calm and transparency that makes her one of the most intriguing WNBA prospects in years. "I usually enjoy the process, but this day has been killing me for like five months," she says. "I really just want this over to be honest."
2:06 p.m. While practicing their walks to the podium, Cambage jokingly strikes a pose. "Catwalk, catwalk, here we go!" she says enthusiastically. As other players make their way onto the stage, Cambage tries to set the mood. "Everyone's clapping, everyone's watching!" she says. With less than an hour to go before the draft begins, she asks producers which path she should take to the stage.
2 p.m. "I feel like I'm a bit overdone and the other girls probably hate that," Cambage says half seriously, pointing to her ostrich-feathered shoulders. Sometimes it's easy to forget that even elite athletes on the cusp of stardom have their small insecurities. But it doesn't take long for "outgoing Liz" to return.
The WNBA requested privacy for the players' makeup and wardrobe, so the next time I see Cambage she's on her way to the studio where the draft is being held, beaming in a form-fitting, black, one-shoulder dress and bright-red lips.
1:16 p.m. The players critique highlights and watch Moore's appearance on "SportsCenter." Though they often poke fun at each other, it's easy to see there's a ton of mutual respect in the room.
1:09 p.m. Back from washing her face, Cambage takes a seat next to Swords and checks out the ESPN highlights flashing across the 10 or so screens in front of her. One screen shows clips of Danielle Adams and Sydney Colson from the national championship game, and Cambage can't resist the opportunity for a shout-out. "Ooh, who dat?" she playfully yells.
12:47 p.m. Fooling around, Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap does an impeccable impression of talk-show host Wendy Williams' "How YOU doin'?" But when Cambage tries to impersonate, she leaves everyone in stitches. Colson insists that she watch an instructional YouTube video as a chorus of "How-you-doin's" sounds throughout the group. With everyone crowded around the computer in front of Colson, Cambage gives the expression another try. Though she has the hand movement down, her tone still needs work. "Girl, that was satanic!" Colson says as she continues to click through YouTube examples.
12:42 p.m. Hair finished, Cambage scans the table of snacks in the back of the room and settles for a chocolate chip cookie. Or two. She's not quite ready to step into her dress, so she grabs a seat next to Colson, Phillips and Dunlap. They exchange cell phone photos, and Cambage shows off her two cats and two dogs.
12:27 p.m. Cambage asks if I've ever met Formula One driver Mark Webber. I haven't, but she assures me he's fun to hang out with and proceeds to give me the rundown on Australian night life. I would not be at all surprised if Cambage is the life of the party.
12:14 p.m. It's time to beautify. In a closed-off area of an ESPN meeting room, hair and makeup artists set up shop. One of their first customers is the long-haired, long-limbed Cambage. As she gets some extensions put in and her hair straightened, Cambage chats with her stylist about everything from the drinking age in Australia (18 years old) to the kind of straightener being used. While some of the players are slow to adjust to the pampering, Cambage is in her element. After all, this isn't the first time she's been prepped for an event. A week ago, Cambage was recognized as the MVP of the WNBL. "Me and my girls got a Hummer for the event. ... Australians know how to have a good time," Cambage says matter-of-factly. "We know how to party."
11:30 a.m. The soon-to-be WNBA rookies teamed up for a private luncheon with ESPN execs and, after getting to know each other, played a game of WNBA trivia. Swords dished that Adams had the most WNBA knowledge. Adams was modest about it at first, but soon admitted that she missed only one of the eight questions. Cambage, on the other hand, wasn't as successful. "I didn't know anything," she said with a laugh. "But hey, I tell it how it is!" Very true. And very refreshing.
10:15 a.m. As the bus pulls into ESPN, Cambage screams and claps, "Wooo, let's go! WNBA draft!" Her energy puts a smile on everyone's face. Cambage and Harris (6-foot-5) have to lower their heads to stand in the aisle and exit the bus. But soon those heads will be held high. They have officially arrived at the site of the 2011 WNBA draft.
10:08 a.m. As the bus rolls into Bristol, I ask if she has any pump-up music for moments like this. "I have Lady Gaga right here," she says, holding up her headphones. We joke about Cambage appearing on ESPN's set in an egg -- an ostrich egg to match her feathered shrug: "It's our secret plan, actually. I'll pop out of an egg like an ostrich because I'm like a bird about to spread my wings in the WNBA." The other girls laugh. It's clear they've all grown close to Cambage even though Moore was the only draft prospect Cambage had previously met.
10 a.m. Since the sightseeing from Hartford to Bristol isn't overly exciting, the girls start talking about their favorite NBA teams. Cambage is a huge Kobe Bryant fan, which garners a high-five from Colson. "He handles the pressure well," Cambage explains. "And I've always wanted to be that player that makes pressure shots. But he also has so many haters and he still just does his thing," she says as she brushes imaginary dirt off her shoulder. Before she flies back to Australia on Saturday, Cambage plans to spend a few days in Los Angeles and maybe even meet Bryant in person. She's not sure if her agent was kidding with her or not, but meeting the Lakers star would be a dream come true.
9:50 a.m. Cambage's ostrich-feathered accessory and extensions slide back and forth along the overhead rail as she starts describing the contents of her purse: "I throw everything in here. I always pack too much, but I'm just nervous I'll forget something." Special K, headphones, papers, makeup. She wrestles her wallet out from the clutter to organize bills, and Colson playfully sticks her hand out for some cash. "I could eat a burger right now," Cambage admits. "I'm always eating something to just sort of pass the time." When the bus passes an Aldi, Cambage spills of her love for the store's discount European food offerings. Dark chocolate is her favorite, but only because it's healthier than milk chocolate. "If I had milk chocolate around me, I wouldn't stop eating it."
9:45 a.m. After some announcements from WNBA officials, a few of the players joke about where they'll be selected. Xavier's Ta'Shia Phillips checks her Twitter feed. "People keep asking me where I'm going to go. It's not a secret, I honestly don't know," Phillips explains. That seems to be the general consensus on the bus, except for Moore and Cambage. The 19-year-old Cambage is pretty certain she'll be selected by the Tulsa Shock as the No. 2 overall pick. In fact, if she's selected by Tulsa, she plans to fly out and attend an Oklahoma City Thunder game on Wednesday. "They're playing Mi-wauk-- how do you say that?" Colson sees her opportunity and eagerly jumps in. "Milwaukee?" she laughs. Cambage practices it a few times without pronouncing the "L" before finally getting it down. She doesn't take herself too seriously, which makes her personality even more charming.
9:40 a.m. All aboard! Cambage selects a seat near the back of the bus, in between Adams and Harris. Colson, who has been playfully poking fun at Cambage's accent since yesterday afternoon, offers to let me share the seat right across from Cambage.
9:31 a.m. Cambage floats off the elevator toting a large black Prada bag and what appears to be an ostrich-feathered purse (as it turns out, it's the shrug for her dress). She brings life into the room by flashing a confident smile before looking back at her Blackberry to text some friends, most of whom are getting ready for bed. They plan to wake up around 4 a.m. to attend a WNBA draft viewing party. Cambage isn't positive who's hosting the event, but surmises Basketball Australia set it up.
9:22 a.m. Oklahoma guard Danielle Robinson and Adams are the first to arrive and pose for photos near the WNBA draft sign. When no one arrives for a few minutes, Adams looks over at me and asks: "We are supposed to leave at 9:30, right?"
9:16 a.m. Family members clad in various college shirts pepper the lobby of the Crowne Plaza waiting for the 15 players to make their way down.
9 a.m. After fueling up in the Crowne Plaza "Meal Room," Liz and some of the other players retire to their rooms for some final preparation before boarding the bus to Bristol.
8:43 a.m. Time to discuss wardrobe. Cambage is studying retail management through the University of Melbourne and absolutely loves fashion. Her current look -- a loose, white top tucked into a high-waisted black skirt -- was put together by Lisa Ho for the occasion. The Australian fashion designer also designed the dress Cambage will wear for the draft. "Girls always ask me where I shop because I'm so tall, and I say, 'Ah, the store.' I don't really need special fittings."
8:32 a.m. Recapping her previous night, Cambage admits to Skyping with her boyfriend for three hours. He's almost as excited as she is and plans on waking up at 5 a.m. Australian time to find out where Cambage will be selected. Other members of her support team -- her mom and agent -- made the trip to the U.S. for Monday's big occasion.
8:15 a.m. Cambage starts the day at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Hartford, Conn., with breakfast among her fellow WNBA draftees. With her bedazzled BlackBerry in one hand and spoon in the other, she carefully alternates oatmeal with raisins and texting. Did she sleep at all last night? Not really. "I'm not nervous, but I'm just so excited this day is finally here," she says.
Kaitee Daley is an editor for ESPN.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL HEADLINES
- WNBA to hold 4-team preseason tournament
- BU coach Greenberg out amid accusations
- Collier 1st from '15 class to commit to UConn
- Top ACC freshman DeShields to leave UNC
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Liz Cambage Draft Day Tweets
@Aussies_Abroad no you were great! Thank so much for everything!! Last night was so wonderful I can't thank you enough :)10:56 p.m. ET via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet ReplyElizabeth Cambage
WOW twitter it blowing up harrrrrrrrrrrrrd, trying to get back to you all inbetween all these interviews!!! thanks my beautiful followers x5:08 p.m. ET via web Favorite Retweet ReplyElizabeth Cambage
Follow Liz Cambage on Twitter: @ecambage