COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M’s Danielle Gant was selected 16th overall in the 2009 WNBA Draft presented by adidas Thursday afternoon at the NBA Entertainment studios in Secaucus, N.J.
Gant, a 5-foot-11 combination guard/forward from Oklahoma City, Okla., was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Sky. She becomes the highest-ever and fifth all-time draft pick in school history next to former greats Morenike Atunrase (24th), Jaynetta Saunders (27th), Toccara Williams (34th) and A’Quonesia Franklin (38th).
“I am very excited to play at the next level,” said Gant from her hometown of Oklahoma City where her mother, Sue Taylor, held a draft party with close to 20 family members and friends in attendance. “It is definitely a dream come true for me and to be able to share it with my family today has been very special. I’ve been training at the gym with my brother (Ricky Jr.) every day and working on my outside shot. I am excited about going to Chicago. I know in the WNBA, I’ll be up against bigger, stronger and more athletic players, but I am ready for the challenge.”
Gant, the 2009 Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year, is a three-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team and two-time All-Big 12 First Team selection. During her senior campaign, she was honored on the 2009 Big 12 All-Tournament Team and as an Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention selection. Gant also received a preseason nod on the third-team All-America Team by Sports Illustrated and was rewarded for her accomplishments in the classroom with the 2009 Academic Momentum Award. She closed out her illustrious four-year career ranked third all-time in scoring (1,645), second in rebounding (919), second in field goals made (646), third in free throws made (352), fourth in blocked shots (110) and third all-time in steals (269).
The Chicago franchise, under the direction of second-year head coach Steve Key, also chose Kristi Toliver out of Maryland with the third overall pick and Jennifer Risper out of Vanderbilt with the 29th pick. The Sky roster also includes former collegians Sylvia Fowles of LSU and Shyra Ely of Tennessee.
“Danielle will do very well in Chicago,” Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair said. “Once she gets on the court, they will see what we saw in her here in Aggieland. She plays a lot larger than her 5-foot-11 frame and will have a successful pro career. She will most likely play strictly at the three spot in the WNBA. I am so happy for her. When I was at the Final Four, a lot of coaches were talking about her and recognized how good she was. She played like a first-rounder all year for us and we could not be prouder.”
It also marked the second consecutive year in which an A&M player was drafted into the WNBA as Atunrase and Franklin enjoyed successful 2008 rookie seasons that included playoff runs with the San Antonio Silver Stars and Sacramento Monarchs respectively. Franklin was recently traded to the Phoenix Mercury on March 22.
Meanwhile, 5-foot-8 guard Takia Starks from Houston, Texas, was not selected in the 39-player draft, but will have a chance to tryout with several WNBA franchises as players report to team training camps on May 17. Starks closed out her career as the school’s all-time leader in scoring (1,977), field goals made (783), field goals attempted (1,913), three-point field goals made (178) and three-point field goals attempted (517). A three-time All-Big 12 Conference First Team selection, she was honored as a two-time AP All-America honorable mention.
“This year’s draft was about point guards and size at every position whether you were a 3, 4 or 5 player,” Blair said. “It is going to be hard to make a team, unless you are definitely a first-round pick. There are fewer spots open now with the league rosters going from 13 to 11 players. It was extremely disappointing to see players drafted in the second round over T-Kay (Starks), particularly players she handled well in head-to-head situations this season. But remember, it’s like going from high school to college or from college to the pros, the best high school players do not always become the best college players. Same thing goes for college players to the pros. She will have a chance to show people what she can do in training camps. She can play both the 2 and 1. People have to fill their needs. This kid can shot and score and she would be on my WNBA team if I were choosing.”
Comprised of 13 teams in Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Detroit, Indiana, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, Seattle and Washington, D.C., the WNBA is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world. The league will officially tipoff its 13th season on June 6.
TEXAS A&M ALL-TIME WNBA DRAFT PICKS
Danielle Gant – 16th overall – 2009 Second Round – Chicago Sky
Morenike Atunrase – 24th overall – 2008 Second Round – Atlanta Dream (traded to San Antonio Silver Stars)
A’Quonesia Franklin – 38th overall – 2008 Third Round – Sacramento Monarchs
Toccara Williams – 34th overall – 2004 Third Round – San Antonio Silver Stars
Jaynetta Saunders – 27th overall – 2001 Second Round – Cleveland Rockers