Gray, Liston selected in first round of WNBA Draft
The ACC dominated the WNBA Draft Monday night and Duke played a major role in that happening.
Two Blue Devils seniors, Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston, were first-round picks as the seven of the 12 players picked were from ACC schools.
The Connecticut Sun selected Gray with the No. 11 pick of the draft and Minnesota followed by taking Liston at No. 12.
“It is hard to describe it in words,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “For all that Chelsea has been through. For the Connecticut Sun to understand her value and how terrific she is, it is absolutely incredible. To see Chelsea come up as 11 and see Tricia come up as 12, it was perfect. They played together for four years and they have been fantastic. It makes sense for them to be in the first round together. We are all so excited for Tricia because she has worked so hard.”
Gray’s Duke playing career was stunted by a pair of knee injuries. She dislocated her right knee in February 2013, causing her to miss Duke’s run to a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
Last January, Gray fractured the same kneecap, ending her senior season and her college career abruptly.
On Monday night, even though Gray won’t be physically ready to play this WNBA season, the Connecticut Sun picked her with the second of their two first-round picks.
“It’s a blessing right now,” Gray said Monday night. “I’m excited to be able to play next year and play for a team that gave me the opportunity.”
Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, in an interview with ESPN, said she doesn’t consider the pick a gamble.
“Chelsea Gray is going to be a great WNBA player when she gets healthy,” Donovan said.
Liston will join the reigning WNBA champions in Minnesota. A 6-1 forward from Chicago, Liston’s 3-point shooting has proven to be an elite skill.
She set a Duke record with 248 career 3-pointers. She made 45.9 percent of her 3-pointers as a senior, finishing No. 2 nationally, while setting a Duke single-season record with 83 3-pointers made.
But Monday night, when her big moment came in the draft, Liston was in the dark. At home in Chicago surrounded by family, her television blacked out just after Gray was picked.
“So we’re sitting there and I start getting all these texts,” Liston said. “I said `I think I got picked.’”
So the family ran to another room where another television was recording the draft show. They rewound it to see Liston going to Minnesota.
“I know they are a power house,” said Liston, who led Duke with 17.3 points per game this season. “They are very good. I was teammates in high school with (Lynx forward) Devereaux Peters. We were really close in high school and I’m really excited about that.”
UConn, which won its second consecutive NCAA championship by going undefeated, and Notre Dame, which was unbeaten until losing to UConn in the NCAA final, joined Duke in seeing two of its players go in the first round.
UConn’s Stefanie Dolson was picked No. 6 by Washington while Bria Hartley went No. 7 to the Seattle Storm. A trade later Wednesday night sent Hartley’s draft rights to Washington where she’ll be united with Dolson, her college roommate.
Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride was the first ACC player to be selected, going No. 3 to the San Antonio Stars. Her Irish teammate, Natalie Achonwa, went to the Indiana Fever at No. 9.
N.C. State had two players selected in the draft – one in the first round and one in the third. Markeisha Gatling went with the No. 10 overall pick to Chicago, while Kody Burke was picked in the third round by Washington.