Williams drafted to WNBA

Angelina Williams jumps above Michigan´s Kelly Helvey in the game on Feb. 27 at Assembly Hall. Online Poster

Angelina Williams jumps above Michigan´s Kelly Helvey in the game on Feb. 27 at Assembly Hall. Online Poster

By Derek Barichello

Former Illini Angelina Williams became the third player in Illinois history to get drafted to the WNBA. The Phoenix Mercury selected her with the fifth pick in the second round (18th overall) of Saturday’s draft held in Secaucus, N.J.

Williams became the highest draft pick in Illinois history, joining Cindy Dallas, who was picked by San Antonio in the second round in 2004 (21st overall) and Tauja Catchings, who was selected in the third round by Phoenix in 2000 (37th overall).

For Williams, playing professional basketball is a dream come true.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the WNBA and now I’m excited to have the opportunity,” Williams said. “Now it’s up to me to go to Phoenix and show them I can help their team.”

Williams said she had a feeling she would be selected on draft day.

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“I figured I would either get picked at the end of the first round or at the beginning of the second round,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 17.8 points a game this season, good for third place in the Big Ten, and was selected first team All-Big Ten by the media.

She finished her collegiate career at Illinois as the fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,639 points, five of those points coming in two last-second shots to win games against Michigan and Louisiana Tech.

Williams proved that she could do more than just score.

She ranked in the top 15 in the Big Ten in eight different statistical categories during her senior campaign – scoring, field goal percentage, steals, blocked shots, assists, free throw percentage, three-point field goals made and three-point field goal percentage.

Although Williams has not talked to the Mercury yet, she has hired an agent and said the next thing on her mind is getting ready for training camp.

Williams joins five other Big Ten players selected in the draft and was the fourth picked among them. Minnesota’s Janel McCarville was the first overall pick by the Charlotte Sting. The other conference players taken were Michigan State point guard Kristin Haynie (ninth overall by Sacramento), Penn State guard Tanisha Wright (12th overall by Seattle) and Michigan’s Tabitha Pool (23rd overall by New York) according to fightingillini.com.

Williams said the idea of playing professional basketball has not sunk in yet.

“It’s sunken in a little bit,” she said, “but not all the way yet.”

The Phoenix Mercury open their exhibition season on May 10 and begin their regular season campaign on May 21 at home against Sacramento.