Three Gamecocks drafted in first round of WNBA Draft

Three Gamecocks drafted in first round of WNBA Draft

Fresh off a national championship, the South Carolina women’s basketball team had another busy night on Thursday at the WNBA Draft in New York.

Two Gamecocks were drafted in the top four, and three in the top 10 as the team made history. Alaina Coates was taken No. 2 overall by the Chicago Sky, becoming the highest draft pick in South Carolina history. Allisha Gray was taken fourth overall by the Dallas Wings, and she’ll be joined in Texas by teammate Kaela Davis, who was taken 10th by the Wings.

Five Gamecocks have now been drafted in the past three seasons. It was a memorable night for the Gamecocks after a wild ride during the NCAA tournament.

“It’s great,” Gray said of having three Gamecocks drafted this year. “Gamecock Nation always has our back through whatever happens. To have us all picked, (I’m sure) they’re proud of us.”

Coates missed the NCAA tournament with an ankle injury, and there was some concern that she could drop in the draft because of uncertainty about when she would be able to return from her injury. However, Chicago jumped at the chance to draft her after Washington’s Kelsey Plum went first overall.

After she was picked, Coates said she wasn’t sure when she’ll return from the ankle injury, but was excited about the opportunity to play professionally. A four-time All-SEC selection, Coates finished her four seasons as the program’s all-time leader in career field goal percentage (.620) and career defensive rebounds (850).

Gray said she hoped she would go in the top five and received her wish. The guard did everything for the Gamecocks, and particularly stepped up after Coates went down with her injury. Gray was excellent on both sides of the floor, scoring in bunches and forcing turnover after turnover on the defensive end.

While she is already versatile, there are a couple things that Gray wants to improve on.

“Definitely my ball handling,” Gray said. “Not saying I can’t handle the ball well, but it’s not where I want it to be.”

Gray was 19th in the SEC in scoring at 13.2 points per game and shot 51.0 percent from the field. Her contributions went beyond the scoring column, though, as she was second on the team with 2.5 assists per game and posted 18 games of five or more rebounds and nine games of four or more assists. She was named to the All-Tournament teams in both the NCAA Stockton Regional and the Final Four.

Davis was the wild card of the draft as no one was really sure where she would end up. She has great height and athleticism for professional basketball, and also stepped up in the postseason. The junior was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Stockton Regional. Four of her eight 20-point games came in the postseason, including both games of the Stockton Regional

In the end, Dallas decided to take a chance on another Gamecock, reuniting two players who grew close while at South Carolina. Both transferred to South Carolina from ACC schools and had to sit out last season. It was a difficult and long wait, but they enjoyed the season of a lifetime this year as they ended things with a national title in the city they’ll now be playing professionally in.

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**