On the same night Maryland's Alyssa Thomas became a lottery pick in the WNBA draft, the Washington Mystics were busy making a significant roster makeover, taking center Stefanie Dolson at No. 6 overall and completing a trade that sent all-star forward Crystal Langhorne to the Seattle Storm for forward Tianna Hawkins and the rights to No. 7 pick Bria Hartley.
Thomas was the No. 4 overall pick to the New York Liberty during Monday night’s draft at Mohegan Sun casino and resort in Uncasville, Conn., but shortly after the selection, New York dealt the rights to Thomas, forward-center Kelsey Bone and its 2015 first-round pick to the Connecticut Sun for 2012 league MVP Tina Charles and a third-round pick next year.
“Oh man, with the trade going on, I didn’t know if I was on New York or Connecticut, but just really excited,” said Thomas, the Terrapins' career scoring and rebounding leader, in a telephone interview from the draft. “Now that I’m on Connecticut, we have a great fan base here.”
The Mystics, meanwhile, got the national defensive player of the year who had 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists in the Huskies’ 79-58 victory over Notre Dame in last Tuesday’s national championship game in Nashville. Dolson ranks fourth in career field goal percentage and fifth in rebounds at Connecticut, where she and Hartley played important roles in winning consecutive NCAA titles and were college roommates.
Though the Mystics are losing their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer from a season ago in Langhorne, second-year Coach Mike Thibault, also the team’s general manager, gets another tenacious rebounder in Hawkins, who is third all-time in that category at Maryland and went No. 6 overall last year. Langhorne also played for Maryland and was part of the 2005-06 team that won the NCAA title.
Hartley is one of three players in Connecticut history with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. The 5-foot-8 guard was a second-team all-American this season.
The Mystics used their two third-round picks on 6-6 Australian center Carley Mijovic (No. 30 overall) and North Carolina State forward Kody Burke (No. 32).
“First of all, Stefanie is just an awesome one for us,” Thibault said. “We can have two mobile posts in her and Kia Vaughn that can play both positions. It gives us size in the lane. She’s a terrific passer and defender and rebounder, but I think her offense is just going to keep getting better.”
Said Dolson of coming to Washington: “A great place, a great city. I know some people down there, so I know I’ll have fun and be able to have them help me explore the city. The team is amazing, so I’m excited to get to know them and play with them.”
Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike went No. 1 overall to the Sun two years after sister Nneka went first to the Los Angeles Sparks. The Ogwumikes are the second siblings to go No. 1 overall among the major North American team sports leagues, following Peyton and Eli Manning in the NFL draft.
The 6-2 Thomas, a three-time all-American and ACC player of the year, is the third player in Maryland history to be a lottery pick. In 2009, guard-forward Marissa Coleman was the No. 2 overall selection to the Mystics. One pick later, the Chicago Sky drafted point guard Kristi Toliver.
“To see in her four years everything [Thomas has] meant to our program and then to have back-to-back years with a first-round draft pick, top six again, is truly amazing,” Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese said. “I mean this is what it’s all about: to watch young girls’ dreams come true.”