Major League Pickleball held its first-ever draft on Friday night, and 32 of the world’s top pickleball players found new potential partnerships and new four-person teams, readying for the upcoming Season One from Nov. 5-8 at Dreamland in Dripping Springs, Texas.
The night held a number of surprises, though a number of teams also were able to bring practice partners and familiar faces together — including, somewhat dramatically, a brother-sister team who could be one of the most formidable mixed-double teams in the field.
With the first overall pick, ATX Pickleballers selected Catherine Parenteau, ranked by DUPR as the current second-best woman’s player in the world, just below 14-year-old phenom Anna Leigh Waters.
“I’m absolutely honored to be the first-ever MLP draft pick, and am even more excited about Season One now!” said Parenteau. “I was watching the draft at the party and people were shouting ‘Catherine!’ I had no idea why, but then realized I was the No. 1 pick and am just so proud. We have an awesome team; I can’t wait to play with Yana, Tyler and Patrick, and I want to thank Brené, Steve and Charles for making us the first team ATX Pickleballers!”
“It’s great to be a part of something so new to pickleball, and I can't wait to be a part of this amazing event,” Waters said of the upcoming Season One. Asked about the prospect of facing her mom in the competition, she noted, “It’s going to be tough, but like she said in her interview, I'm just going to have to take it to her!”
With the second draft pick — the first on the men’s side per the MLP draft rules — consensus No. 1 men’s pick Ben Johns went to Team BLQK.
“I’m very proud to be part of Team BLQK and am already looking forward to MLP Season One,” said Johns. “I think we have a great team, a strong lineup that gives us a good chance of winning, which is what we’re here to do. The whole MLP Draft has been awesome — there are some unexpected team lineups, and it was great to see the team owners so involved, and so excited about the teams they’re putting together. Bring on November!”
The question surrounding the Pickle Ranchers, once they scored Riley Newman with the No. 2 men’s pick, was whether his sister Lindsey would join him. She was available when their turn came around for the No. 7 women’s pick, but they instead opted for Leigh Waters — the mother of No. 2 women’s pick Anna Leigh, the Chimeras’ first pick and the third overall pick in the draft. Then, as luck would have it, Lindsey was still available when the draft came back around to the Chimeras with the 10th women’s pick, and they engineered a family reunion.
Though the hoped-for Waters mother-daughter pairing didn’t happen, the Chimeras highlighted the amazing age range among Major League Pickleball players, getting 47-year-old Lee Whitwell to create a historic women’s pairing with the younger Waters with their final pick of the night.
Team Rally brought a team together that includes one of the world’s top women’s players in Jesse Irvine with one of the older top players on the women’s side, Susannah Barr, with two young guns — JW Johnson, who broke Ben Johns’ incredible 170-game win streak this past August, and Dylan Frazier, a young, respected up-and-comer.
When the dust settled, the eight ownership groups each got a talented quartet of players who have the ability and the matchup advantages to account for themselves in November. Those teams include:
- Catherine Parenteau (No. 1 women’s pick)
- Yana Grechkina (No. 16 women’s pick)
- Tyler Loong (No. 8 men’s pick)
- Patrick Smith (No. 9 men’s pick)
- Anna Leigh Waters (No. 2 women’s pick)
- Lee Whitwell (No. 15 women’s pick)
- AJ Koller (No. 7 men’s pick)
- Kyle Yates (No. 10 men’s pick)
- Jessie Irvine (No. 3 women’s pick)
- Susannah Barr (No. 14 women’s pick)
- JW Johnson (No. 6 men’s pick)
- Dylan Frazier (No. 11 men’s pick)
- Callie Smith (No. 4 women’s pick)
- Corrine Carr (No. 13 women’s pick)
- Dekel Bar (No. 5 men’s pick)
- Adam Stone (No. 12 men’s pick)
- Lea Jansen (No. 5 women’s pick)
- Vivienne David (No. 12 women’s pick)
- Tyson McGuffin (No. 4 men’s pick)
- Zane Navratil (No. 13 men’s pick)
- Lauren Stratman (No. 6 women’s pick)
- Michelle Esquivel (No. 11 women’s pick)
- Jay Devilliers (No. 3 men’s pick)
- Collin Johns (No. 14 men’s pick)
- Leigh Waters (No. 7 women’s pick)
- Lindsey Newman (No. 10 women’s pick)
- Riley Newman (No. 2 men’s pick)
- Andrei Daescu (No. 15 men’s pick)
- Irina Tereschenko (No. 8 women’s pick)
- Andrea Koop (No. 9 women’s pick)
- Ben Johns (No. 1 men’s pick)
- Rob Nunnery (No. 16 men’s pick)