The forward was the sixth Spartan selected in the WNBA draft and the highest pick.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Former Michigan State women’s basketball forward Aerial Powers was drafted fifth by the Dallas Wings at the 2016 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The Spartan forward was one of three players from the Big Ten Conference to be drafted in the first round along with Minnesota guard Rachel Banham who was drafted by Connecticut (fourth overall pick) and Rutgers forward Kahleah Copper who was chosen by Washington (seventh overall pick).
Powers will be the third B1G player on the Wings’ roster joining Amanda Zahui B of Minnesota and Jordan Hooper of Nebraska
“What I’ve done at MSU has been some great things, but now I have to put them in the past. It’s time for me to close that chapter and open a new one, but it all starts from when I was a little girl, working hard, so just continuing to work hard, and do the same things I did for Michigan State but times two and bring it to the WNBA,” Powers said.
Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant and associate coach Amaka Agugua were at the Mohegan Sun Arena to cheer on Powers, along with her parents, Juan and Cecelia Powers, and younger brother, Juan, Jr.
“Today was an amazing day, seeing her face light up with every step that she took here at the draft. Getting the opportunity to sit there and witness it with her family, was amazing,” Merchant said. “All the hard work that you know goes into her talent and her passion; it was an amazing moment and I am just so proud of her.”
The Detroit, Michigan native became the sixth Spartan to be selected in the WNBA draft and the first since Liz Shimek in 2006. She became the highest Spartan ever drafted with the fifth pick, as Spartan-great Kristin Haynie was previously the highest Michigan State player drafted as the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft. Maxann Reese and Kristen Rasmussen were the first Spartans selected in the WNBA drafted in 2000. Reese was drafted when she was taken in the third round, while Rasmussen was selected in the fourth. In 2003, Syreeta Broomfield was drafted in the third round.
“It’s obviously an honor, I’ve met a lot of the girls that hang on our walls of the Aux gym and some of the girls that left to the WNBA too, so I’m very blessed to have this opportunity, but I want to make a statement in going to the WNBA that being the highest one just isn’t enough for me,” Powers said.
With the first pick in the 2016 draft, the Seattle Storm took UConn standout, Breanna Stewart. UConn had the first three picks of the draft with Moriah Jefferson going second to San Antonio and Morgan Tuck going to Connecticut with the third pick. This was the first time in WNBA history that one school had the first three picks in the draft.
Powers had another record-setting season in 2015-16, becoming the MSU career scoring leader with 1,817 career points, passing Shimek’s 1,780 points from 2002-06. Powers also passed her own single-season scoring record with 697 points this season, topping her 678 points last year. Additionally, Powers is also the MSU record holder for career points per game at 18.9. Powers snared 293 rebounds in the 2015-16 season, moving up to No. 6 on the Spartans’ single-season rebounds list. She also pulled down 937 boards for her career, passing Kris Emerson (1983-87) for No. 4 on the Spartans’ career rebounds list, as Emerson had 933.
The three Big Ten players selected in the first round were part of a total of six B1G players selected in the WNBA draft, marking the second year in a row that the B1G had six players drafted. Maryland’s Brene Moseley was chosen by the Indiana Fever with the 21st pick in the second round. Ohio State’s Ameryst Alston followed as the 24th overall pick by the New York Liberty. The Big Ten has had at least three selections in each WNBA draft with as many as 10 selections in 2000 and 2002.