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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    UConn’s Edwards (6th), Muhl (14th) selected in loaded WNBA Draft

    UConn's Aaliyah Edwards, left, poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected sixth overall by the Washington Mystics during the first round of the WNBA basketball draft on Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
    UConn's Nika Muhl, left, poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, right, after being selected 14th overall by the Seattle Storm during the second round of the WNBA basketball draft Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
    UConn's Nika Muhl, right, hugs UConn head coach Geno Auriemma after being selected 14th overall by the Seattle Storm during the second round of the WNBA basketball draft Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
    Iowa's Caitlyn Clark hugs her father, Brent Clark, after being selected first overall by the Indiana Fever during the first round of the WNBA basketball draft, Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

    Just before she was drafted Monday night with the sixth pick in the WNBA Draft, UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards looked down for a moment and said a silent prayer, she recalled.

    Moments later, Edwards was chosen by the Washington Mystics, completing a journey which has taken her from Kingston, Ontario, in Canada, to three Final Fours as a member of the Huskies, to New York City along with 14 of her fellow draftees and now to Washington, D.C.

    “She (commissioner Cathy Engelbert) said my name and that’s when the waterworks started happening,” Edwards said. “... Oh, my gosh, it’s been a lot. A lot of long days (since a loss to Iowa at the Final Four in Cleveland). Just to have a dream like this and actually get to walk through it, it’s amazing.”

    The draft, conducted at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, was highlighted by the selection of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark as the first overall selection, going to the Indiana Fever. Clark is the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in men’s and women’s basketball with 3,951 points.

    Following Clark, the top five picks were Cameron Brink (Stanford) to the LA Sparks, Kamilla Cardoso (South Carolina) to the Chicago Sky, Rickea Jackson (Tennessee) to the Sparks and Jacy Sheldon (Ohio State) to the Dallas Wings.

    UConn’s Nika Muhl, the Huskies’ all-time assist leader who was also in attendance at the draft, went as the second pick of the second round to the Seattle Storm.

    The Connecticut Sun chose French native Leila Lacan in the first round, although general manager Darius Taylor said later the team is not expecting Lacan to join the team this year as she prepares to represent France in the 2024 Olympics.

    Edwards, her purple and gold braids accented against a white dress, became UConn’s 27th first-round draft pick.

    A 6-foot-3 forward, Edwards was named a Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association All-American on April 4, the day prior to UConn’s loss to Iowa in the national semifinals. She finished with 1,861 points and 1,020 rebounds for the Huskies, ranking sixth all-time in the program in career double-doubles. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication.

    Edwards, who was surrounded by the UConn coaching staff and several teammates, said of playing for the Huskies: “The blue bleeds all the way into the league. It’s a family and I’m hoping to make a new family in D.C.”

    “It’s going to be a tough league, a tough first year,” Edwards said. “I’m pumped up and ready for the challenge. One of the things going into this league that I want to do is expand my game.”

    Former Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault is the general manager of the Mystics, with East Lyme High graduate Eric Thibault as the Mystics’ head coach.

    Muhl holds UConn’s career (686), single-season (384) and single-game (15) assist records, also compiling 764 points and 453 rebounds. She is the two-time Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

    A native of Zagreb, Croatia, Muhl will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychological sciences. She can become the fourth Croatian-born player to compete in the WNBA.

    Muhl said she feels similar heading to Seattle to what she felt when she was making her decision to attend UConn, calling the Storm “some iconic women, some iconic players.”

    “I feel the same,” Muhl said. “I feel that eager to learn, that eager to be challenged, that eager to fail and rise up.

    “If you saw my face, I don’t think anything was going through my head at the moment (my name was announced). I was so positively overwhelmed. It’s surreal.This is something I didn’t even dare to dream about.”

    The Sun, meanwhile, who reached the semifinals of the WNBA Playoffs last season, picked 10th in the first round and selected Lacan, a 5-foot-11 guard who played for the last two seasons for Angers in the French League.

    Lacan averaged 13.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.9 steals this season, bringing a great deal of international experience after having represented France on the junior and senior levels.

    The Sun open the 2024 regular season on May 14 against Clark and the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    Clark was named Associated Press Player of the Year, USBWA Player of the Year and earned the Honda Sports Award, Wooden Award, Naismith Award and Wade Trophy. This season, Clark averaged 31.6 points, 8.9 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game, leading the nation in scoring and assists.

    “Every single time you step on the floor, it’s going to be a rivalry,” Clark said. “You better bring it every single night. I think that’s exactly how I lived my college career, too. ... I’m just very lucky to be in this moment. All these things are once in a lifetime ... just trying to soak in every single experience.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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