After head basketball coach John Calipari made an appearance at Wednesday’s UK football practice, the Cats’ most recent student-athlete gone pro, Victoria Dunlap, showed up to discuss her recent selection in the first round of Monday’s WNBA draft.
The former UK forward is now a member of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
Dunlap was selected 11th overall by the Mystics, last season’s Eastern Conference regular season champions. She became the first UK women’s basketball player to be selected in the WNBA draft in more than a decade.
“I’m very excited,” Dunlap said. “The opportunity finally came for me, and I’m just going to take it from here.
“I was very surprised. I was just sitting there kind of anxious, not knowing where I was going to go, but they chose me and I was like, ‘Oh, thank you!’”
Dunlap joins fellow former UK basketball star John Wall in Washington, D.C. Wall is currently a rookie for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, and Dunlap said he reached out and congratulated her upon her selection to Washington.
“He just texted me and told me congratulations and that he was excited for me,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap said the draft process was not stressful for her, but as the first round played out she became more and more anxious to be selected. Dunlap was asked to be a part of the draft at ESPN studios in Connecticut on draft day and was there live to be selected and watch ten other student athletes be selected ahead of her with looming uncertainty of where she would end up.
“I didn’t know,” Dunlap said. “People say ‘for sure you’re going in the first round,’ but, to me, it really didn’t matter just as long as I had the opportunity to go somewhere.
“At first it was OK as the draft started, but once you see people start going and going it got more and more nervous for me. I got really anxious, I kept looking at my mom and kept looking at (UK women’s head basketball) Coach (Matthew) Mitchell like ‘When is my name going to be called?’ It was fun though.”
Upon being drafted, Dunlap’s celebrity rose overnight outside of the Bluegrass, and on Monday after the draft, Dunlap’s name was trending on Twitter.
“Somebody told me that and I was like ‘I don’t even know what that means’ because I don’t do Twitter like that,” Dunlap said, “but I guess that’s a great honor for people to recognize me.”
The biggest transition for Dunlap will be adjusting from being a student to being a full-time professional basketball player. Dunlap said she is going to stay focused on classes for the remainder of the semester and then turn her full attention to her new career as a WNBA athlete.
“It’s exciting,” Dunlap said. “Four years of school, and now I get to play basketball and do what I love.”
Dunlap will leave behind a talented women’s team at UK, a team that will be coming off of back-to-back SEC championship game and NCAA tournament appearances. Being drafted to the WNBA will certainly do a lot to help to improve Mitchell’s program and put the Cats’ on the map for years to come.
“Just to show people that I didn’t come out of high school being a McDonald’s All-American or wasn’t the best player coming out of high school, but anyone can come into a program like this and help change it,” Dunlap said. “As long as they are working hard and able to sacrifice themselves for the program, it’s going to work out in the end.
“I just want to make sure I am representing Kentucky well and play in the WNBA,” Dunlap said.
Not a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Dunlap worked to be where she is today as a professional basketball player, something she credits to hard work, great coaching and a great program at UK.
“I’ve come a long way,” Dunlap said. “I didn’t think this opportunity would ever be able to happen for me, just because I didn’t really have that mindset to be able to get myself in the gym as much as I am now. Being SEC Player of the Year, I never thought that would be able to happen, but the coaches have definitely pushed me, and I’m thankful for them.”