2017 WNBA Draft: Liberty Honor Memory of Mt. Vernon Star

By Luis Vazquez

The 2017 WNBA Draft is the party where all young girls who play basketball want to attend. It’s also a time for nervousness as each player hopes to leave with their own personal Cinderella story. At Samsung 837 in New York City, the No. 1 selection was no surprise as Kelsey Plum of the University of Washington won top honors.

Shamoya McKenzie viaFacebook

Shamoya McKenzie viaFacebook

But it was a player that would not be here who will forever have her dream etched in the history of the New York Liberty.

During the New York Liberty Draft Party, All-Star center Tina Charles announced that Shamoya McKenzie was the team’s 37th pick of the 2017 WNBA Draft. Although purely honorary — but quite touching — it had an air of melodramatic sadness. McKenzie, a Mount Vernon, NY high school basketball player with great talent, was killed by a stray bullet during an apparent drive-by shooting while sitting in her mother’s car this past New Year’s Eve.  

“It is important for the New York Liberty to continue to show up for Shamoya, a young woman who was killed in a senseless act of violence,” Liberty President Isiah Thomas said, “I learned from her mother, Nadine, that it was her dream to play for the New York Liberty, and I am honored we were able to make her dream come true by selecting her as a member of our team.”

The 2017 WNBA Draft was dominated at the top by the franchises that are most in need. You know that the expectations of being the number one pick are assured when WNBA legend and coach of the NCAA Final Four WBB champion University of South Carolina Dawn Staley announces your name. But she had some useful advice as well to share with this group. “Be who you are no matter the stakes that you’re playing on, stay the course,” said Staley.

Kelsey Plum, University of Washington Huskies

Kelsey Plum, University of Washington Huskies. Photo credit: Seattle Times.

The San Antonio Stars selected first and chose Kelsey Plum, and in a single moment she became the it girl for the WNBA newcomers. Plum carried herself well as if she has done this before. After hugging her sister first and others along the way she showed humility. She is well aware of her weaknesses and the challenges ahead as the WNBA season is a short three weeks away.

“I’m really excited. Coach Vickie (Johnson) has a great plan from what I hear,” Plum said, “I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’m going to make the most of it.”

The current NCAA basketball champions, South Carolina had a successful evening with three players taken in the first round. The first, Alaina Coates, was noticeable for her size and the scooter with which she moved around the draft area which protected her recently operated on ankle that kept her out off the court as her team won the championship. 

The Dallas Wings got two championship guards from South Carolina transplanting juniors Allisha Gray at number four and Kaela Davis with the tenth pick to team up with number three pick Kentucky forward/center Evelyn Akhator.
Former WNBA standout Dawn Staley announced the league's No. 1 pick, Kelsey Plum, on Draft Night. Staley is head coach, Women's Basketball at the Univ. of South Carolina.

Former WNBA standout Dawn Staley announced the league’s No. 1 pick, Kelsey Plum, on Draft Night. Staley is head coach of the champion women’s basketball team at the University of South Carolina.

Maryland didn’t do too badly as they saw three point sharpshooter Shatori Walker-Kimbrough drafted by the Washington Mystics at number six and UConn center Brianna Jones to the Connecticut Sun who are looking to end a playoff drought that began in 2012. Shatori will be returning to her home state where she was born and played her high school and college ball.

“I’m on cloud nine right now,” said Walker-Kimbrough, “All the support from Maryland means the world to me.”

We know the Los Angeles Sparks had to be high on Oregon State guard Sydney Wiese. The defending WNBA champions seemed very sure about the three-point specialist as the Sparks already had the best three-point shooting percentage in the league. But Wiese is aware of what she’s up against

“It’s a business, so it’s going to be super competitive,” Wiese said, “They are very talented players across the board.”

The New York Liberty did not participate in the first round this year. They had to wait until the second round where they found a nice surprise waiting in Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen at number 14. “Lindsay Allen fits the mold of what we were looking for, a very high basketball IQ,” Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer said, “She is a facilitator, a guard that runs the show, possesses good leadership skills, and knows how to run a team.”

The Liberty added 6-5 Florida State center Kai James at number 34 in the third round adding youth to the bigs. “We wanted to bring someone in that had size, could bang in the post, and give us some strength,” Laimbeer said, “She has shown great improvement, and now it’s time to see if she can make the next level.”

Note: Just this week, Shamoya McKenzie’s accused killer, David Hardy, 21, was indicted by a Mount Vernon grand jury.

Comment:  Luis Vazquez (@Cyberj2000) twitter.com/Cyberj2000?s=03



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