RU WBB: Kahleah Copper, Rachel Hollivay Selected In 2016 WNBA Draft
Former Rutgers Women’s basketball star Kahleah Copper just hoped that she would have a chance to play at the next level in the WNBA.
“I hope that I have the opportunity to continue to play,” Copper recently told DoubleGSports.com and other reporters after the Scarlet Knights loss to Virginia in the second-round of the WNIT tournament in March.
She got that opportunity.
Copper was selected by the Washington Mystics with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2016 WNBA Draft Thursday night. Copper became the highest drafted Rutgers player since Epiphany Prince went fourth overall in 2010.
“Kahleah is one of the most improved and under-appreciated players in the country,” said Mystics head coach Mike Thibault according to mysticstoday.monumentalsportsnetwork.com. “She has improved each year at Rutgers. Her length and quickness have helped her become a very good defender. She has always been good in transition and has been a very good rebounder. This past season, she added the three point shot to her game and shot a very good overall percentage from both inside and outside the three point line.”
The Philadelphia, Pa. native was one of 12 prospects in attendance at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., the site of the draft, and will join ex-Rutgers great Kia Vaughn in Washington D.C.
The guard/forward finished her stellar career “On the Banks” third all-time in school history in points with 1,872 behind Sue Wicks and Cappie Pondexter. A Second Team All-Big Ten member, Copper led Rutgers for the third-straight season with 17.7 points per game to go along with a team-leading 8.0 rebounds per game thanks to her superb jumping ability and fearlessness among the trees in the paint. The senior was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale and Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch Lists in the preseason and was later added to the Dawn Staley Mid-Season Watch List. The former high school McDonald’s All-American in 2012 scored in double figures in 30 games this past season and posted 11 double-doubles.
Copper is strong driving to the hoop, has a consistent jump shot, is steady on defense, and gets every rebound within her reach. The 6-foot-1 athlete improved on her three-point shot, after taking only two shots behind the arc during her junior year (and missing both), and not taking any during her first two seasons. In 2015-16, she went 27-70 (38 percent).
Scarlet Knights head coach C. Vivian Stringer reiterated the abilities and qualities that the Prep Charter High School product possesses.
“Kahleah is one of the most athletically gifted players I have ever coached,” Stringer said according to Copper’s draft prospect profile. “The way she can maneuver through an opponent’s defense to the basket to score is mesmerizing. Kahleah also possesses a strong mid-range jump shot and has added the three-point shot to arsenal as well. In addition to her offensive skills, she is also strong on the boards. Kahleah has worked hard throughout her career and has all the tools to succeed at the next level.”
In addition, Rachel Hollivay was taken by the Atlanta Dream with the first pick in the second round, 13th overall in the draft.
Hollivay is a big 6-foot-4 center with great size in the paint with the ability to the run the floor and post up. However, her “bread and butter” as she calls it is blocking shots.
The Columbus, Miss. native is the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 322 career rejections. Her 112 blocked shots this past season led the Big Ten Conference. She finished the season pulling down a career high 224 rebounds as well.
The All-Big Ten Defensive Team selection scored 7.8 points per game in 2015-16 to go along with her 6.6 rebounds per game and 3.3 blocks per game.
Once Hollivay finds consistency with her offensive game and combines it with her defensive prowess game in and game out, watch out WNBA.
Hollivay joins former Rutgers great Matee Ajavon in Atlanta.
With the Dream grabbing the Heritage Academy product, Copper and Hollivay became the first pair of former Scarlet Knights to be taken in the WNBA draft since 2012 (Khadijah Rushdan and April Sykes).
The 2016 WNBA season tips off May 14, and the Mystics and Dream face off three times, with the first matchup in Atlanta on June 5.
*Note: The Washington Mystics also drafted Danaejah Grant from St. Johns with the 31st overall pick. Grant is from Piscataway, N.J. and had a standout career for the Chiefs averaging 24.4 points and 12.3 rebounds as a senior at Piscataway High School.
The 5-foot-9 guard was a First Team All-Big East Selection this past season for the Red Storm after leading the conference with 19.6 points per game. The former high school 2012 Parade All-American started at Clemson before transferring to St. Johns after one semester with the Tigers.
Courtesy of redstormsports.com, “(Grant is) a versatile, athletic and strong combo guard with strong ball-handling skills and an attacking mentality that makes her a constant scoring threat. Grant is capable of creating scoring opportunities for herself as well as finding an open teammate when the opportunity presents itself.”
After personally watching her play in high school, she was so incredibly smooth and was the best player on the court at all times. She dominated the competition attacking the rim and pulling down tough rebounds, all while putting the team on her back.
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