Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot was "very surprised" to be selected by Chicago with the third overall pick in the WNBA draft.
From overlooked to overbooked.
That’s Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot’s life since leading her team to its first Elite Eight appearance in March. She followed that with more history on Monday, drafted third overall by the Chicago Sky.
Vandersloot, a 5-foot-8 point guard from Kentwood High School, is the highest WNBA selection in Washington state history. Not bad for a scrawny little guard who was snubbed by schools like Washington during high-school recruiting.
“I was shocked,” said Vandersloot of the selection. “It’s been such a ride (since high school). And it’s been fast. That’s what I love about women’s basketball, you just never know. Now, I have a great opportunity.”
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At Gonzaga, Vandersloot became the first Division I player — male or female — to amass career totals of 2,000 points and 1,000 assists. She won the 2011 Nancy Lieberman Award as the top point guard in the country and led the nation in assists (10.2) for the second consecutive season, breaking the NCAA season assist record with 367.
Yet that will probably be considered the easy part.
With 12 teams, 11 roster spots and plenty of polished veterans returning for the WNBA’s 15th season, Vandersloot isn’t a lock to remain in the league. She’ll graduate May 8 with a degree in sports management and reports to Chicago for training camp on May 15.
“The point guard position is especially difficult because it’s not just the jump physically and skill-wise,” said Storm assistant coach Jenny Boucek, a former point guard for defunct Cleveland. “You’re now a young player asked to lead players 10 years older than you. Multi-Olympians, All-Stars and everybody thinks they should have the ball. There’s a real intangible element to it. I know it was a challenge for me. It’s tough to manage the leadership aspect of that position when you’re that young.”
Vandersloot is seemingly fortunate in playing for first-year Sky coach Pokey Chatman, a standout point guard for Louisiana State who coaches Storm All-Star Sue Bird in Russia. Vandersloot will also be teammates in training camp with Spokane native Angie Bjorklund (University High), who was selected in the second round (17th overall) by Chicago.
The Sky has another Washington link in Lake Washington High School standout Cathrine Kraayeveld, a six-year veteran. Chicago was 14-20 in 2010.
“I knew if I could get to as close of a perfect team, it would be them,” Vandersloot said. “Other than their needs at point guard, I think I can learn a lot from (Chatman) and Chicago is a sports town, which is perfect for me.”
But experienced guards Jia Perkins, Dominique Canty, Epiphanny Prince and Erin Thorn are returning. Prince is also playing for Chatman overseas. The guards will all be evaluated on developing an outside game to complement All-Star center Sylvia Fowles.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to said Pokey will be a great coach for Courtney,” said Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves, who attended the draft festivities in Connecticut and treated the Vandersloots to Morton’s to celebrate. “And she’s going to have great players around her.”
While Vandersloot and Graves were surprised at their high pick, Tacoma native Alex Montgomery had the entire ESPN studio startled for a moment. She broke into tears as New York selected her with the 10th overall pick.
The former Lincoln High School star, an All-ACC player at Georgia Tech, wasn’t expected to be drafted until the second round. She watched the telecast with teammates and coaches in Atlanta.
“My heart just dropped,” said Montgomery, who’ll team with former Kennewick High star Leilani Mitchell on the Liberty roster. “The commentators were flipping through pages like this wasn’t supposed to happen. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I can prove people wrong that anything can happen. I’ve got to go shopping real quick, get a couple of suits to look sharp.”
Montgomery will play for first-year New York coach John Whisenant, who won the 2005 WNBA championship with Sacramento. Montgomery, a 6-1 wing player, has a chance to blend in with her defensive tenacity and scoring versatility.
“Following an Eastern Conference Finals appearance last season, we believe we took another step forward in assembling a team that can challenge for the WNBA championship,” Whisenant said in a news release.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org