One of the keys to building a successful team is chemistry, and the Dallas Wings got just that in the first round of the WNBA draft on Thursday night.
Dallas, which went 11-23 in its first season in Arlington last summer, drafted three players in the first round, including South Carolina teammates Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis, a pair of guards who helped the Gamecocks to their first national championship earlier this month.
“Their work ethic and outstanding character says a lot about those players – that championship look,” Wings coach Fred Williams said. “Good chemistry, coming from the same school, they feed off each other and with training camp coming up, it’s important to have players with chemistry. To get young players that are dynamic, I’m very excited.”
Gray, drafted No. 4 overall, averaged 16.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 56.8 percent shooting in the NCAA tournament. She put up 18 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and three blocks in South Carolina’s 67-55 victory over Mississippi State in the title game. She was named to the all-tournament team.
“She can handle, she’s physical, she can rebound and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of what this young lady can do,” ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson said. “The thing people forget about is she has a great 3-point shot.”
Davis, selected No. 10 overall, scored 10 points in the title game, and went on to average 12.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists throughout the season.
“Hopefully I can bring some versatility,” Davis said. “I’ve been really comfortable in a big guard role, playing the 2 or 3, but I want to help the team out and find ways to make my teammates better.”
The Wings’ first pick was Kentucky forward Evelyn Akhator at No. 3. San Antonio picked Washington’s Kelsey Plum No. 1 overall and Chicago drafted South Carolina’s Alaina Coates No. 2.
Akhator, who only started playing basketball at age 15, averaged 15.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and recorded 18 double-doubles this past season for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-3 Akhator was first-team All-SEC and an honorable mention All-American.
“Practice and work ethic, she’s the first one in and last one out of the gym,” Williams said of Akhator. “There’s a lot of growth and upside, she runs the floor very well in transition, rebounds well and makes second-effort shots.”
“Unlimited potential,” Wings general manager Greg Bibb added. “She’s hungry and really wants to come in and work. We’re really excited to have her.”
Dallas wrapped up the evening with Kansas State forward Breanna Lewis at No. 23 and Connecticut guard Saniya Chong at No. 26.
“Great prospects to compete in training camp. I think we fulfilled our needs in the post area, getting size with Akhator, Lewis and Gray, and got balance in the front line,” Williams said.
“It’s a great day to be a Dallas Wing. It’s been a wonderful night,” Bibb added.
The Wings open the regular season at Phoenix on May 14 They will hold open tryouts for their practice team on Saturday at College Park Center. Check-in will start at 12:30 p.m., and drills and scrimmages will go from 1:15 p.m. until 3 p.m.
WNBA DRAFT LIST
1. San Antonio — Kelsey Plum, G, Washington
2. Chicago (from Washington) — Alaina Coates, C, South Carolina
3. Dallas — Evelyn Akhator, F/C, Kentucky
4. Dallas (from Connecticut through Los Angeles) — Allisha Gray, G, South Carolina
5. San Antonio (from Phoenix) — Nia Coffey, F, Northwestern
6. Washington (from Seattle) — Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, G, Maryland
7. Atlanta — Brittney Sykes, G, Syracuse
8. Connecticut (from Indiana) — Brionna Jones, C, Maryland
9. Chicago — Tori Jankoska, G, Michigan State
10. Dallas (from New York) — Kaela Davis, G, South Carolina
11. Los Angeles (from Dallas) — Sydney Wiese, G, Oregon State
12. Minnesota — Alexis Jones, G, Baylor
13. Connecticut (from San Antonio through Phoenix) — Shayla Cooper, F, Ohio State
14. New York (from Dallas) — Lindsay Allen, G, Notre Dame
15. Seattle (from Washington) — Alexis Peterson, G, Syracuse
16. Connecticut — Leticia Romero, G, Florida State
17. Indiana (from Phoenix) — Erica McCall, F, Stanford
18. Washington (from Seattle) — Jennie Simms, G, Old Dominion
19. Atlanta — Jordan Reynolds, G, Tennessee
20. Indiana — Feyonda Fitzgerald, G, Temple
21. Chicago — Vhantel Osahor, F/C, Washington
22. Indiana (from New York through Atlanta) — Ronni Williams, F, Florida
23. Dallas (from Los Angeles) — Breanna Lewis, C, Kansas State
24. Minnesota — Lisa Berkani, G, France
25. San Antonio — Schaquilla Nunn, F, Tennessee
26. Washington — Saniya Chong, G, Connecticut
27. Dallas — Mehryn Kraker, F, Wisconsin-Green Bay
28. Connecticut — Jessica January, G, DePaul
29. Phoenix — Alexis Prince, G, Baylor
30. Seattle — Lanay Montgomery, C, West Virginia
31. Atlanta — Oderah Chidom, F, Duke
32. Indiana — Adrienne Motley, G, Miami
33. Chicago — Makayla Epps, G, Kentucky
34. New York — Kai James, C, Florida State
35. Los Angeles — Saicha Grant-Allen, C, Dayton
36. Minnesota — Tahlia Tupaea, G, Australia