Leticia Romero Finding Her Role With Wings
By Dorothy J. Gentry
International player Leticia Romero – who helped the Spanish international team win the 2017 European Women’s Basketball Championship - has always wanted to play in the WNBA. Although originally drafted by the Connecticut Sun with the 16th pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft, scheduling and her commitment with the Spanish national team prevented her from ever playing and she was eventually waived.
But timing is everything.
She was signed by the Dallas Wings at the end of May to add depth to their bench and is now eagerly embracing her new role as a member of the team and the backup to arguably the WNBA’s most dynamic and explosive point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith.
“I can learn so much from her. Watching her when she’s on the court – it’s amazing. When I get on the floor with her she is helping me. My teammates have also been doing a great job helping me get used to it and get comfortable with this situation and this role.”
And what does Romero think makes a productive point guard in the WNBA?
“There are so many different kinds (of guards) that it’s hard to pinpoint the qualities they should have, but definitely being good at communicating, knowing what the team needs at every moment. You have to think about what the team as a whole is doing wrong, not just yourself,” Romero said. “What plays need to be called to better attack the other team, who’s hot, who do I need to get the ball to?”
All those things are what Diggins-Smith excels at in the game. “For me to be a backup point guard to Sky is a great opportunity to learn all those things and to get better at in the future. I would like to keep playing in the WNBA so this is a great opportunity for me so if I can help the team as well to get wins and to reach our goals, that would be great.”
Ensuring Diggins-Smith stays healthy throughout the season and lowering her minutes is a key focus of the Wings. “I’m trying to keep her (Skylar) at around 32, low 30s,” said Wings coach Fred Williams when asked if there is a minute restriction for Diggins-Smith. “I don’t want to see her get minutes like last year and wear her out and I think it just helps her as the season goes along to keep her strength and be able to finish out strong.”
Through 12 games this season, Diggins-Smith is averaging 36 minutes a game – although in their June 8 win against the Indiana Fever she played a whopping 40 minutes. Her lowest minutes played so far was the 28 minutes in Friday’s win over the Sparks. Clearly the Wings (6-6) cannot be without their star point guard. But they also can’t afford day in and day out wear and tear on her if they look to have any level of success in the post-season.
In comes Romero.
The 5-8 native of Las Palmas, Spain who competed collegiately at Florida State, in addition to winning the European Women’s Basketball Championship, also played a big role in helping her country qualify for the Olympic Games in 2016, where the team won a silver medal. Romero was the second youngest player on that roster.
“Leticia is a young guard with international experience who we expect will provide quality minutes in support of our starters once acclimated to our system,” Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb said.
In the four games she’s been on the court, she played five minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Storm; seven minutes and scored 6 points in the June 22 win against the Sparks; 10 minutes and scored 6 points in the June 19 loss against the Lynx and played a full 17 minutes in a home win against the Aces. That game on
June 15 was her first; she was held scoreless but had 2 assists and 2 rebounds.
“I really wanted to help, get out there and fight with them,” Romero recalls of that game. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for me with it being the first game, I only practiced once. But they (team) made it easy for me. I didn’t expect to be so comfortable on the court with them.”
Said Williams of Romero’s June 15 debut. “She orchestrated very well, being a floor general for us. Lots of things that don’t show up in stats. I just think for her first game that she did a fantastic job for us. She was a little nervous but she made it up defensively and passing that basketball, getting it to her teammates in the right spots.
“That’s the whole plan for signing her and having her come aboard; to run the point guard position for us. I didn’t expect to play her as many minutes as a I did (17 minutes). But she (Romero) was in that rhythm with her teammates and we just moved with the flow. I looked for her to take some minutes there and give Skylar a break.”
Moving forward Williams said he will try to give Romero anywhere from 6-8 minutes a game if possible. “A lot of times it’s hard to do that if Skylar is on a roll but that is the plan.” For Romero, it’s all good; she’s just relishing the opportunity with plans to make the most of it.
“I think it’s been easier than I initially thought it would be,” said Romero on the transition from international play to back-up floor general in the WNBA. “As a point guard you have a lot to get used to and especially with a new team, as a rookie I have a lot to learn. “As soon as my first practice and first game I was already feeling like I’ve been playing with this team for a long time which is weird,” she continued. “It’s all about the energy that they spread which is amazing, it’s very contagious. When you step on the floor with them you can forget about everything and just play basketball. And they make it easy for you.”
Romero is well aware of the expectations surrounding her presence as a back-up to Diggins-Smith but doesn’t feel any pressure to emulate her. “I don’t look at it that way. For me the biggest thing is when I step on the floor, the team has to maintain the level and that means all the other’s may score. I bring other things. It might not be me scoring as much as Sky is scoring, but it might be me creating opportunities for others.
“That’s my main focus. Of course I need to be a threat whenever I am open and make the shots but I look at, whenever I step on the court, making plays for people and being a playmaker so we can keep that high level whenever Sky is not in the game.”