SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — It’s been an unforgettable 48 hours for Tina Charles.
Less than two days after helping UConn win its second straight national championship, she was selected first by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA draft on Thursday.
“It’s unbelievable, my heart is still pounding out of my chest,” Charles said. “I’m more interested what impact I’ll have on the team more than just being the No. 1 pick.”
Charles averaged more than 18 points and nine rebounds while leading UConn to an NCAA Division I-record 78 straight victories over the past two seasons.
The Sun traded with the Minnesota Lynx to get The Associated Press player of the year, who joins Sue Bird (2002) and Diana Taurasi (2004) as the only UConn players taken with the top overall pick. The three former Huskies as well as Candace Parker (2007) are the only four players to win a national championship and be taken first in the draft the same year.
The Sun also acquired Charles’ former teammate, Renee Montgomery, from the Lynx for Monica Wright, the second pick in the draft, and former University of Minnesota star Lindsay Whalen.
“I know that we’ll have good chemistry right off the bat,” Charles said, when asked about being reunited with Montgomery.
The Lynx drafted Nebraska’s Kelsey Griffin with the third pick, then dealt her to the Sun minutes later for Connecticut’s first- and second-round picks next year.
“I was very excited about Minnesota, but Connecticut has a great fan base,” Griffin said. “I have talked to the Connecticut coaches and I’m excited to play with Tina Charles. She’s such a great player.”
Chicago drafted former Rutgers guard Epiphanny Prince with the fourth pick. She was unable to attend the draft because she was playing in Turkey for Botas-Spor, though her mother and father were on hand. Prince, who left Rutgers after her junior year to pursue a playing career overseas, watched it on television.
“Before the draft I was nervous,” Prince said during a conference call from Turkey. “But to finally hear my name get called, I was really excited. I made my family proud.”
Jayne Appel, who guided Stanford to three straight Final Fours and the national title game this season, was taken fifth by San Antonio. She’s recovering from a sprained ankle and stress fracture on an outer bone of her right foot, and was wearing a protective boot.
“I’ll need a couple of weeks rest but plan on being fully healed soon,” Appel said.
Washington drafted Florida State’s Jacinta Monroe with the sixth pick. Kansas forward Danielle McCray was taken by Connecticut with the seventh pick, even though she tore her ACL late in the season and won’t be able to play until August.
Oklahoma State star Andrea Riley went eighth to Los Angeles. Rounding out the first round, it was: Mississippi State’s Chanel Mokango to Atlanta at No. 9; Iowa State’s Alison Lacey to Seattle at No. 10; San Diego State’s Jene Morris to Indiana at No. 11; and Mississippi’s Bianca Thomas to Los Angeles at No. 12.
New York, which had the original rights to the top choice before trading it last year, took Kalana Greene in the second round.
Tulsa made Oklahoma’s Amanda Thompson its first draft choice with the 19th pick. The Shock, who used to be in Detroit before relocating this year, had traded their first-round pick for Amber Holt and Chante Black.
“Our fans were talking about how much they’ll miss me,” Thompson said. “It will be a great opportunity to still play in front of them.”
WNBA teams open training camp April 25. Exhibition games begin April 30 and the league’s 14th season will start May 15.