Texas' Imani Boyette, left, and UCLA's Monique Billings fight for position under the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the regional semifinals of the women's NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Women's Basketball

As WNBA draft arrives, Texas’ Imani Boyette prepares for next step in the ‘family business’

Boyette expected to be chosen in first round of WNBA draft

Posted April 13th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Boyette is expected to become the fourth Texas player to be drafted in the first round by the WNBA (Edna Campbell, Edwina Brown, Tiffany Jackson).
  • Her mother, Pam McGee, was the second pick of the WNBA's inaugural college draft in 1997 and she was coached this year by Tina Thompson, that year's first pick.
  • In a perfect world, Boyette would be drafted by either San Antonio at No. 2 or Dallas at No. 5, so she can stay close to her husband, who plays football at UT.

Imani Boyette is prepared to take the “family business” to a new level.

Texas’ 6-7 post was destined to play professional basketball. The sport’s bloodlines begin with her mother, Pam McGee, the No. 2 pick of the WNBA’s very first college draft who became the first WNBA player to have a child play in the NBA (JaVale McGee of the Dallas Mavericks) and, when the WNBA draft commences on Thursday night, also is expected to become the first WNBA player to have a daughter drafted into the league.

“My mother was saying we don’t realize how amazing she actually was,” Boyette said. “She’s the one who’s always said basketball is a family business. I just try to make her proud every time I step on the court. She takes pride in her game and I take pride in mine.”

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Boyette was born to a pretty nice role model. McGee was an All-American on two NCAA championship teams at USC, earned a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, was the second player taken in the inaugural WNBA draft behind USC’s Tina Thompson, and played professional basketball in Spain, Italy, Brazil and France.

So Boyette was raised by the second college player ever drafted and mentored by the first; Thompson, who just completed her first season as an assistant coach at Texas under Karen Aston, worked closely on Boyette’s low post game this past season.

McGee, Boyette’s 7-foot brother, has been a center with four NBA teams.

Still, nothing can prepare Boyette — the Big 12’s co-defensive player of the year who became the first Longhorn to record 1,000 career points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks — for the WNBA, a league that’s top-heavy with talented post players, said ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo.

“The adjustment Imani has to make is far greater than the adjustment I had to make, simply because the game has changed so much in 20 years,” said Lobo, an All-American center at UConn who became a pioneer member of the WNBA. “If you play the 5 (center), you’re going to battle Brittney Griner, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles — players with size and speed who weren’t around when I played.”

Boyette has the size and defensive tenacity to make an impact in the WNBA, said Lobo, who suggested the former Longhorn play overseas when the WNBA season is over in order to improve her offense.

“As good as it is in the Big 12, it’s not the WNBA,” Lobo said.

Boyette agreed with Lobo’s assessment, saying “it’s always been a goal of mine” to play overseas, most likely in Europe.

“The biggest adjustment I’m going to make in the WNBA is to be more aggressive on offense … and working on keeping a low center of gravity and moving my feet better,” she said.

Boyette has been projected to be taken anywhere between picks 5-10 on Thursday night, which would make her a first-rounder in the 12-team league. It also would make her the fourth Longhorn to be drafted in the first round behind Edna Campbell (10th overall) in 1999, Edwina Brown (3rd) in 2000, and Tiffany Jackson (5th) in 2007.

Some WNBA coaches are predicting Boyette will excel as a pro.

“With Imani, you cannot teach that size,” said Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek, whose team is expected to take UConn’s Breanna Stewart, a four-time Final Four MVP, with the first pick Thursday night. And Dallas Wings coach Fred Williams, whose team has the fifth pick, said Boyette is “really, really high on our list” of potential first-round choices.

Boyette is one of 12 players who have been invited to attend the draft. Lobo, during a national teleconference in advance of the draft, predicted Boyette will be drafted by Dallas.

Boyette said she would be thrilled to be chosen by Dallas or San Antonio to remain close to Austin; last summer, she married Texas football player Paul Boyette, a defensive lineman who’ll play his final season with the Longhorns this fall.

“It would be very convenient to be just a couple hours from my husband,” Boyette said. “I’ll be excited to play for whoever wants me to play for them.”

 

 

 

 

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