It may have taken until the very last selection, but Sydney Uni Flames point guard Tahlia Tupaea has been drafted by the Minnesota Lynx with the 36th pick of the 2017 WNBA Draft.
Tupaea, a five-year WNBL veteran with 90 games experience despite being just 19 years old, becomes the first Australian drafted into the league since Carley Mijovic (Washington) and Steph Talbot (Phoenix) were selected in the third round of the 2014 draft.
Tupaea’s campaign in the WNBL was shortened in 2016/17 due to injury, but still averaged 8.27 points in 15 games despite coming off the bench and facing minute restrictions at times. As a starter in 2015/16, Tupaea averaged 13.3 points and 3.4 assists per game, displaying a composure and maturity far beyond her years.
Known widely as an outstanding three point shooter, Tupaea was hitting from outside at just 32% last season, but improved that number to 44% in 2015/16 and 39% in her shortened 2016/17 campaign. Tupaea has also been a 90% free throw shooter for the last two seasons, and has stepped up in numerous clutch situations to ice games from the line for the Flames.
With Minnesota having no immediate needs that could be addressed with a third-round selection, Tupaea represents a low-risk, high-reward pick for last year’s WNBA runner-up. Tupaea is set to play an integral role for the Sydney Uni Flames in the WNBL yet again in 2017/18. With next year being the Australian’s last year of WNBA draft eligibility, there would have been the potential for interest in the young star to explode. By drafting Tupaea this season, the Lynx have potentially secured one of the steals of the draft.
It is unlikely that Tupaea will make the trip to Minnesota this season, but time is on her side. Stephanie Talbot waited three seasons after being drafted to join the Phoenix, and it would not be unreasonable for Tupaea to play the waiting game and make the move when her game is more developed, as has been the case for many young international players over the years.