Duke center Elizabeth Williams wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft Thursday night at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena.
She said she’ll deal with it just fine.
The Connecticut Sun selected Williams with the No. 4 pick, reuniting her with former Duke teammate Chelsea Gray. Gray, picked by the Sun late in the first round in 2014, missed all of last season with the knee injury that had ended her college career.
Center Dearica Hamby of Wake Forest went to the San Antonio Stars at No. 6, becoming the first Deacons player ever selected in a WNBA draft.
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Williams had been projected as a possible No. 1 pick until a couple of weeks ago – before Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd and Minnesota sophomore Amanda Zahui B. decided to enter the draft.
Loyd went to the Seattle Storm with the No. 1 pick, while Zahui B. went No. 2 to the Tulsa Shock. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of NCAA champion Connecticut went No. 3 to the Seattle Storm.
The ACC had a record seven first-round picks, including Duke’s and Tricia Liston and eight of the first 14 last year. Three were selected in this year’s first round, and Pittsburgh’s Brianna Kiesel went to Tulsa with the first pick of the second.
High Point native Cheyenne Parker out of Middle Tennessee State was a surprise high pick, going to the Chicago Sky with the fifth overall choice. Charlotte native Cierra Burdick of Tennessee went to the Los Angeles Sparks with the second pick of the second round. South Carolina’s Aleighsa Welch went to the Chicago Skyin the second (22nd overall).
“I was sort of hoping to go fourth just to play with Chelsea again and (injured second-year center) Chiney Ogwumike and possibly (former Maryland rival) Alyssa Thomas,” Williams said.
“I wasn’t that nervous until right at 7 o’clock when it kind of hit me. Now I’m relaxed and excited to play with Connecticut.”
Williams, the ACC’s first four-time Associated Press All-American, earned both All-America and national defensive player of the year honors from the Women’s Basketball COaches Association (WBCA) as a senior.
“Elizabeth is an amazing student-athlete who will thrive in the professional ranks,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “She has all the natural talents and skills while possessing a great work ethic and tremendous character.”
A 6-foot-3 center from Virginia Beach, Va., she averaged 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, the highest assist average of any center in the country. Her 3.0 blocks per game led the ACC.
Along with Duke player of the year, best rebounder and best defensive player honors, she received the “MMOC” (Meanest Mother On the Court) award at the team banquet Monday night.
“I saw (Gray) in Tampa (Florida) at the Final Four and she had been in Durham as well,” Williams said. “I think we played really well together. It was so unfortunate her senior season that she couldn’t play much because of her knee. Now that she’s healthy and ready to go, it’ll be fun to see those no-look passes again.”
Hamby earned honorable mention All-America honors from both the WBCA and the AP, and was a Wade Trophy finalist. She was first team All-ACC and also first-team All-ACC tournament.
WNBA Commissioner Laurel Richie fumbled Hamby’s first name as she announced the pick.
“I wanted to scream it for her,” Hamby said with a laugh. “This is exciting, humbling and a blessing. I worked hard and I think everyone can speak on that. I’m just looking forward to going to San Antonio and contributing.
“I give a lot of credit to my (Deacons) teammates. They definitely made a lot of stuff happen. Every possession they tried to give me the ball.”
Hamby is Wake Forest’s all-time leading scorer (1,801) and rebounder (1,021) after averaging 20.3 points and 10.7 rebounds as a senior.
“Coach (Jen) Hoover would have been the first out of Wake Forest if there had been a league,” Hamby added. “This is a great stepping stone for our program.”
Amanda Zahui B. (Minnesota)
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (UConn)
Elizabeth Williams (Duke)
Cheyenne Parker (Middle Tenn. St.)
San Antonio Stars
Crystal Bradford (Central Mich.)
Los Angeles Sparks
Ally Mallot (Dayton)
Samantha Logic (Iowa)
Kiah Stokes (UConn)
* from Minnesota Lynx