April 16 (Bloomberg) -- Brittney Griner was taken with the first pick of the Women’s National Basketball Association draft by the Phoenix Mercury after scoring the second-most points in women’s college basketball history.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said April 2 he’d consider using a second-round National Basketball Association draft pick on Griner, a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) center whose ability to score, dunk and block shots make her one of the top WNBA prospects of all time.
Griner led Baylor University to a national championship in 2012 as the Lady Bears went unbeaten to become the first team, men or women, with 40 wins in one season. Baylor entered last month’s National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament as the top overall seed before being upset in the round of 16 by Louisville.
“Brittney is a game changer,” Mercury coach and General Manager Corey Gaines said yesterday in a statement. “She can defend, rebound, score, pass and run the floor. She has the whole package. She creates a world of problems for opponents and will open up new opportunities for our already-talented roster of playmakers.”
The Chicago Sky selected Elena Delle Donne of Delaware with the second pick, and the Tulsa Shock took Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins with the third pick.
WNBA Commissioner Laurel J. Richie began the draft with a message of support for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and hospitalized at least 128 yesterday.
“We are all saddened by the tragic events,” Richie said in her opening comments. “From the WNBA family, our thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected.”
The 22-year-old Griner won the Wooden Award, the sport’s top yearly honor, for the second time last season after averaging 23.8 points and 4.1 blocks per game. With 3,283 points, she finished her career with the second most among women in NCAA Division I history. She’s also the NCAA’s career leading shot blocker, among men and women, with 748.
Phoenix finished last season with a 7-27 mark, the worst in the six-team Western Conference. The new season begins May 24 with the 2012 champion Indiana Fever at the San Antonio Silver Stars, with Phoenix hosting the Chicago Sky three days later.
Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, led the nation in scoring as a junior and was second in 2013, averaging 26 points per game for the Blue Hens, who reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. Delle Donne scored 3,039 points during her four years at the school in Newark, Delaware.
Diggins, a 5-foot-9 guard, is Notre Dame’s career leader in scoring and steals, while her 737 assists rank second for the Fighting Irish. She averaged 15.8 points per game in four years at Notre Dame, which reached the final of the NCAA tournament when Diggins was a sophomore and junior.
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