2016 WNBA Draft: Seven Pac-12 players selected Thursday night

The Pac-12 had seven players selected in the 2016 WNBA Draft, with four going consecutively in the second round and three more hearing their names called in the third round. Oregon State led the way with two selections, as Jamie Weisner and Ruth Hamblin went 17th and 18th, respectively. Washington State’s Lia Galdeira (19th), Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne (20th), Washington’s Talia Walton (29th), UCLA’s Nirra Fields (32nd) and USC’s Temi Fagbenle (35th) were also drafted.

It’s a fitting cherry on top of one of the most successful seasons in Pac-12 women’s basketball history, as the seven selections are the most for the Conference of Champions since 2002, when eight Pac-12ers were selected (including one Colorado Buffalo). The six different schools having a WNBA draftee also ties a conference high, set in 2000 and matched in 2002, according to the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Guide.

Ironically, one of the most successful WNBA Drafts in conference history did not produce a first-round pick, the first time that has happened since 2005.

Oregon State

The first Pac-12 player off the board Thursday night, Jamie Weisner went 17th overall to the Connecticut Sun in a pick that was originally held by the Los Angeles Sparks. By being chosen in the middle of the second round, the 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year became the first Beaver selected in the WNBA Draft since 2002, when Felicia Ragland went to the Seattle Storm 28th overall. Weisner, the Beavers’ leading scorer and three-point shooter in 2015-16, also becomes the highest WNBA Draft selection in Oregon State history.

Oregon State

After going 16 picks without hearing anybody called from the Conference of Champions, Beavers went back-to-back with Ruth Hamblin’s selection at No. 18 by the Dallas Wings, the artists formerly known as the Tulsa Shock. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the Canadian Hammer set the school and Pac-12 record with 425 career blocks, so the Wings can look forward to her rim protection down in Texas. And, judging by the 30-second video tweeted out below, it looks like Hamblin is pretty, pretty excited about being a Wing and playing in those colors.

Washington State

And the picks kept on rolling in. Lia Galdeira made history by becoming the first Cougar ever selected in the WNBA Draft when the Washington Mystics took her 19th overall. Opting to go pro overseas instead of staying in Pullman for her senior year, Galdeira returns stateside after playing in Bulgaria this past season, averaging 22.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 4.0 steals per contest in 24 games for Haskovo 2012 (stats thanks to Eurobasket).

Oregon

Make it four straight picks from the Pac-12 with Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne going to the Phoenix Mercury at the No. 20 spot. As a result of an ACL tear near the end of the college regular season, Alleyne won’t be able to play for the Mercury in 2016, but watch out in 2017 – Alleyne averaged a double-double in each of her four years in Eugene and shot at least 55 percent in each of her last three. A three-time all-Pac-12 honoree and the conference’s all-time leading rebounder, Alleyne becomes the highest Duck selected since 2001, when Jenny Mowe went also went 20th overall to the Portland Fire (nobody has been taken higher than 20th out of Oregon).

Washington

One of the 12 prospects invited to the WNBA Draft, Talia Walton had to wait probably a little bit longer than expected but eventually heard her name called 29th overall by the Los Angeles Sparks. Emotional while telling ESPN’s Holly Rowe she’s thankful for the opportunity to play in the W, Walton put herself in a position to be in Connecticut Thursday night thanks to a huge postseason. A forward with guard skills, Walton averaged more than 21 points per game during the NCAA tournament, helping the Dawgs reach their first-ever Final Four. Once in Indianapolis, Walton set a Final Four record by hitting eight 3-pointers in the Huskies’ loss to Syracuse. Walton is the first Husky to be selected since 2001 and just the third all-time (Rhonda Smith and Megan Franza). Nice pic of her and Coach Nabes beforehand.

UCLA

Cori Close got a bit of a pleasant surprise when her guard Nirra Fields was selected 32nd overall by the Phoenix Mercury, joining Jillian Alleyne down in Arizona. She might not have showed up on many (if any) mock drafts, but Fields consistently proved her worth over the course of her Bruin career, averaging at least 15 points per game each of her last three seasons. The Montreal native and three-time all-Pac-12er is the first Bruin to be drafted since 2008, when Lindsey Pluimer went 20th overall to the Washington Mystics. It was a big night overall for Canada.

USC

Rounding out the evening, USC’s Temi Fagbenle went to the defending-champion Minnesota Lynx as the second-to-last pick of the 2016 WNBA Draft at No. 35. It’ll be tough to earn playing time on a team that has won three of the last five WNBA titles, but Fagbenle helped her stock this year by heading to Los Angeles from Harvard as a graduate transfer. In her lone season with the Trojans, the 2012 Olympian for Great Britain led USC in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounding (8.7 rpg), blocks (1.2 bpg) and steals (1.8 spg) and earned All-Pac-12, Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention and WBCA All-Region honors. 

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