Imani Boyette said her arrival into the WNBA is “validation” for all the work she did with the Longhorn basketball team.
The 6-7 Texas post was chosen in the first round of Thursday’s draft by the Chicago Sky, a team in desperate need of a shot-blocking, rim-protecting presence. The 10th overall pick of the draft will report for training camp on April 24.
“We’ve got an awesome coach (Pokey Chatman) and I know she wants me to be part of her program,” Boyette said roughly an hour after she was picked. “She wants me to get back. And this is a team that doesn’t have anyone who does things on the court that I do.”
Boyette is two inches taller than anyone on the current Sky roster. Chatman said Boyette will be a valuable asset to a team that needs to tighten its defense.
“Imani’s a tremendous athlete who runs the floor like a guard, rebounds, defense and has a huge upside,” Chatman said.
“We were first in the league in scoring and next to last in defense last year,” Chatman continued. “What we needed was protection around the rim, inside the paint. it’s nice to have someone with her size.”
“I appreciate that coach Chatman believes in me,” Boyette said.
Boyette said didn’t feel she was good enough to play professional basketball until her junior season with the Longhorns. She plans to play overseas next winter to improve her offensive game.
As for Chicago, the Sky already has established scorers, most notably 6-5 forward Elena Delle Donne, who averaged 23.4 ppg. last season.
On another positive note, Boyette has been given permission by Chatman to walk the stage to get her diploma next month, even if it means missing a game.
On a negative night, her husband, Paul Boyette, had flight problems on Thursday and did note see his wife get picked. He arrived at the draft site in Uncasville, Conn., about an hour late.
ESPN personality Rebecca Lobo said going to Chicago is “the perfect situation for a rookie.” With capable shooters already on the roster, Boyette can play defense and develop into an offensive player.
As expected, Connecticut forward Breanna Stewart was taken by the Seattle Storm with the first pick of the draft. UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson (San Antonio) and Morgan Tuck (Connecticut) were taken with the second and third picks.
Boyette becomes the ninth Longhorn in the program’s history to have been selected in the WNBA draft, including first-round picks Edna Campbell, Edwina Brown and Tiffany Jackson.
Texas’ most recent WNBA Draft selection was Nneka Enemkpali, who was selected with the 26th pick by Seattle.
As a senior, Boyette became the first player to reach the milestone of 1,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 200 career blocks.
She finished her decorated career 22nd on UT’s all-time scoring list with 1,361 points, fifth on UT’s all-time rebounding list with 1,036 rebounds and second on UT’s all-time blocks list with 303. Boyette’s 104 blocks is the second most in a single season at Texas.
Boyette made the All-Big 12 first team as a junior and senior. The three-time Big 12 all-defensive team selection was the conference’s co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2015-16.