Maryland's Alyssa Thomas drafted in first round, traded to the Connecticut Sun
By By Paul Tierney and The Baltimore Sun
Apr 14, 2014 | 10:34 PM
Former Maryland forward Alyssa Thomas was anxious. She arrived in Uncasville, Conn. on Friday alone in preparation for the WNBA draft. Her family arrived at 2 a.m. Monday after a four-and-a-half hour car ride, joining their daughter for the final moments of her journey to the professional ranks.
As Thomas sat in the draft room, her fate was completely out of her hands.
But she didn't have to feel that way for long. Only three picks came and went before WNBA president Laurel Richie announced Thomas' name as the fourth overall selection to the New York Liberty.
But everyone in the room knew Thomas wasn't heading to the Big Apple. Just prior to the draft, the Liberty traded their first-round pick to the Connecticut Sun for 2012 MVP Tina Charles, who averaged 18 points and 10.1 rebounds last season.
Along with Thomas, the Sun also received last year's fifth overall pick Kelsey Bone and the Liberty's 2015 first-round selection.
"Tina Charles is really a great player," Thomas said in a phone interview after she was selected. "But I think Connecticut was just trying to make a change. I'm just ready to come in and give it everything I got. "
The room erupted in cheers after Thomas name was called. She got up and hugged everyone at her table, including her mother, Tina Klotzbeecher-Thomas, who said the moment was a long-time coming for her daughter, but bittersweet at the same time.
"It's kind of an end to our Maryland family in the sense that she's now closed that door and opened a new door," Klotzbeecher-Thomas said. "Now, basketball is no longer paying for her education. It's actually her life."
But Thomas wasn't even the Sun's most notable acquisition of the day. With the first pick of the draft, Connecticut selected Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike. Last season, Ogwumike averaged 26.1 points and 12.1 rebounds to help the Cardinal make the Final Four.
Thomas, who has played with Ogwumike as a member of USA Basketball, said the two embraced each other backstage after they were selected.
"We've been around each other for a while," Thomas said. "We're great friends. We're both really excited for this opportunity. We've had good chemistry when we've played together before, so now it's time to take it to the next level."
Last season, the Sun finished 10-24, which was the worst record in the WNBA. But Thomas said that with a new core of high draft picks, the franchises turnaround could come much sooner than expected.