Still living the dream, Iowa’s Megan Gustafson and Iowa State’s Bridget Carleton found their future in the middle of the second round of the WNBA draft Wednesday night.
Gustafson, the first Big Ten women’s basketball player to earn consensus national player of the year recognition, found plenty to like about being selected by the Dallas Wings with the 17th overall pick in the draft.
Projected to go earlier than the fifth spot in the second round where she was chosen, Gustafson found nothing to complain about after hearing her name announced while attending the draft in New York City.
She viewed the selection as the next step in a journey which began in tiny Port Wing, Wisconsin, and led to helping Iowa to its deepest run in NCAA tourney play in 26 years during a 29-7 season that ended in the Elite Eight.
"I’m really looking forward to what the future holds," Gustafson said at a news conference following the draft, calling it "amazing" to hear her name called. "Dallas is getting a player who is going to work hard for them every single day, someone who loves the game of basketball and someone who never gives up."
Carleton, the Big 12 player of the year, was selected four spots after Dallas selected the two-time Big Ten player of the year.
The three-time all-Big 12 pick was chosen by the Connecticut Sun with the 21st overall pick as the ninth choice in the second round.
"I couldn’t be more excited," Carleton said. "They have a great franchise and an amazing coaching staff. I can’t wait to get there, soak it all in and work as hard as I can. I am looking forward to starting this chapter of my basketball career."
One of a dozen players invited to attend the draft, Gustafson was joined at the event at the Nike NYC Headquarters by her parents, sister and members of the Iowa coaching staff.
Carleton watched the draft in Ames with teammates, coaches and friends.
Both were selected to help fill needs.
The 6-foot-3 Gustafson led the nation in scoring the past two seasons and ended her collegiate career owning 16 Iowa records including the school’s career scoring and rebounding marks, averaging 27.8 points and 13.3 rebounds while leading the country with a 69.6-percent shooting touch from the field.
The Lisa Leslie Award winner as college basketball’s top center, Gustafson joins a Dallas team searching for interior help as it begins work toward improving on a 15-19 record with a new coach in Brian Agler, who won WNBA championships with Seattle in 2010 and Los Angeles in 2016.
Liz Cambage, a 6-8 center who was the runner-up for WNBA MVP honors last season, has requested a trade, and Gustafson provides the Wings with an additional inside option who plans to continue to work on extending her range.
"I’m excited to play for a coach who has the championship experience that coach Agler has," Gustafson said. "I feel like the biggest thing I have to offer is my footwork and my sealing ability around the block. I know I will continue to work to extend my range at the next level."
At 6-1, Carleton provides Connecticut with a versatile player who can fill either a shooting guard or small forward position. She joins a team that finished 21-13 last season and lost in the second round of postseason play.
The Cheryl Miller Award winner as the college game’s top small forward, Carleton led Iowa State with a school-record average of 21.7 points per game. She also ranked third in steals, fourth in rebounds and tied for ninth in blocks on the Cyclones’ single-season charts.
Gustafson is the 13th Hawkeye to be selected in the WNBA draft, and only four were chosen with higher picks than Gustafson.
Toni Foster and Tia Jackson were taken with the eighth and ninth overall selections in the 1997 draft; Samantha Logic was chosen 10th overall in 2015; and Tangela Smith was the 12th choice in 1998.
Carleton is the 14th Cyclone to be selected in the draft and is the third highest choice from ISU. Only Alison Lacey, selected 10th in 2010, and 2013 18th choice Chelsea Poppens earned higher spots in the draft.
WNBA teams open preseason camp in May and open their season on May 24.