WNBA Draft

NC State's Gatling, Duke's Gray and Duke's Liston chosen 10-12 in WNBA draft

CorrespondentApril 15, 2014 

— Three of the best female basketball players to pass through the Triangle in recent years had dreams come true Monday night.

N.C. State center Markeisha Gatling and Duke guards Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston were among seven ACC players chosen in the first round of the WNBA draft at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Gatling, who under new coach Wes Moore led the Wolfpack to its first NCAA berth in four seasons, was chosen by the Chicago Sky with the 10th pick, followed by Gray to the Connecticut Sun at No. 11 and Liston to the Minnesota Lynx at No. 12.

N.C. State’s Kody Burke, a four-year starter at forward, went to the Washington Mystics in the third round.

Stanford forward Chiney Ogwimike was the first pick by Connecticut. She was followed by Baylor guard Odyssey Sims, going to Tulsa. Then the run of seven ACC players in the next 10 picks started.

Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride then went to San Antonio at No. 3, followed by Maryland forward Alyssa Thomas to New York – with her rights quickly traded to Connecticut in a multiplayer deal – and Florida State forward Natasha Howard to Indiana at No. 5.

Notre Dame forward Natalie Achonwa, scheduled for ACL surgery this week, went to Indiana with the ninth pick.

Gatling, an alumna of Raleigh’s Athens Drive High who transferred from Gulf Coast Community College after her sophomore season, was the first N.C. State player drafted since 2008.

A powerful 6-foot-5 All-ACC center, she averaged 17.4 points and 7.2 rebounds this season, and shot 66.3 percent from the floor.

“This has been a dream of mine since I began playing basketball when I was 9 years old,” Gatling said. “Just to be here and go through all this … is just amazing!”

Duke went 120-20 during the four years Gray, Liston, Haley Peters and Richa Jackson played for coach Joanne P. McCallie.

“To see Chelsea come up as 11 and see Tricia come up as 12, it was perfect,” McCallie said. “They played together for four years and they have been fantastic. It makes sense for them to be in the first round together.”

Gray, who won’t be able to play this season, had more than her share of hard luck during her college career. She missed the ACC and NCAA tournaments in her junior and senior seasons after a dislocated and then a broken kneecap.

“I’ve always wanted to do this and just feel really blessed,” Gray said. “I’m just really excited. It means everything (to be drafted despite being hurt).”

She was named co-ACC Player of the Year after her junior season. She averaged 12.6 points, 5.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 steals as a junior, and 10.8 points, 7.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 steals in 17 games as a senior.

Liston, Duke’s MVP as a junior, averaged a team-high 17.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists during her all-conference senior season. She has a Duke career record 252 3-pointers and was an 85.1 percent free-throw shooter as a senior.

“I was kind of shocked and excited to get picked in the first round,” Liston said.

Burke, 6-2 and an academic All-American, averaged 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds as a senior.

“I found out from one of my friends back home,” Burke said. “I had kind of given up after the second round. She sent me a text saying ‘Congrats, Kody! … I know I’ll have to work 10 times harder, but I hope I can show I can play the WNBA game.”

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