UK Hoops may soon have larger presence in pros

Junior guard A'dia Mathies shoots the ball during the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament game UK Hoops vs. LSU at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2012. Photo by Tessa Lighty | Staff

By Boyd Hayes | @KernelHayes

bhayes@kykernel.com

After 12 years and 46 playoff games in her WNBA career, former Tennessee Volunteer Tamika Catchings finally clutched the only trophy missing from her collection: the WNBA Championship.

The Finals MVP led the Indiana Fever past the Minnesota Lynx for the franchise’s first title, contributing 89 points, 24 rebounds, 14 assists, seven steals and nine blocks in the four-game series.

Catchings represents a large contingent of former SEC players in the WNBA. At the start of the 2012 season, there were 26 active former SEC players on WNBA rosters, including UK’s own Victoria Dunlap. Tennessee, with its illustrious history of women’s hoops, leads the pack with 10 players. LSU comes in next with five. Florida, Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Kentucky round out the group.

Each WNBA team has at least one former SEC star active, with New York, Washington, Connecticut and Los Angeles counting for three apiece.

Dunlap, the only former Cat in the league, recently was released by the Seattle Storm in light of the $878,000 salary cap enforced on every WNBA team. The two-time SEC Player of the Year and 2011 SEC Defensive Player of the Year was traded to the Storm after being chosen 11th overall by the Washington Mystics in 2011 WNBA draft.

With Dunlap still searching for success, will UK Hoops be able to increase its presence in the WNBA next season?

Senior UK guard A’dia Mathies may very well represent UK’s most immediate chance to fill up roster spots in the pros.

Native to Louisville, Mathies has enjoyed a decorated career in Lexington, having been named 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year, 2012 SEC Player of the Year, 2012 USBWA and AP All-American and a top candidate on this season’s watch list for the State Farm Wade Trophy. Mathies also dropped a ferocious 34-point game — including a game-winner in the final seconds — on Tennessee in 2012 to end the Volunteers’ 36-game SEC win streak.

Beating Tennessee may well represent the future outlook of the SEC as UK Hoops rises to the forefront of the league and the nation under the leadership of head coach Matthew Mitchell.

Mathies might be the first of many UK players to step into the pros, as Mitchell’s talented youth, such as sophomore Bria Goss (2012 SEC Freshman of the Year) and freshman Janee Thompson (2012 McDonald’s All-American), look to make an impact in the NCAA and possibly the WNBA further down the road.