UConn's Swanier, Houston taken in WNBA draft

Joe Perez

Three days after losing in the Final Four to Stanford, two members of the UConn women’s basketball team realized the next steps in their careers.

Senior guard Ketia Swanier was chosen by the Connecticut Sun and senior forward Charde Houston was selected by the Minnesota Lynx in Wednesday’s WNBA draft in Palm Harbor, Fla. Swanier was a surprise first-round selection, while Houston was the second selection of the third and final round. They are the 18th and 19th draft selections in UConn history.

“I’m pretty surprised; I didn’t expect to go first round,” Swanier said in a teleconference. “I’m really excited. I’m going to be able to see my teammates from here that will be here this summer.”

Swanier, who learned her fate while sitting in coach Geno Auriemma’s office, will step into a familiar role with the Sun, serving as the back-up point guard to Lindsay Whalen.

“After it happened, a couple of my teammates were also in the gym watching it and Coach didn’t really have a chance to say anything,” Swanier said. “All my teammates and the other coaches ran in screaming. And he was excited and everybody was excited, happy for me.”

A year ago, Swanier wasn’t even a blip on the radar of WNBA general managers, but a stellar season in which she won the Big East’s first-ever Sixth Man Award and excelled as she stepped into the Huskies’ starting lineup changed all that.

The 5-foot-7 guard said it was midseason when she began to believe the chances of having her name called in the draft were a reality. Injuries to teammates Mel Thomas, who was not drafted, and Kalana Greene increased both Swanier’s responsibility and exposure to league officials.

“We had debated about waiting until the second round, but I didn’t feel like she was going to be there,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said.

Many felt Houston had a chance to go before Swanier, especially in light of her late-season resurgence that included being named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East Tournament.  Houston, an Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention selection, expected to be drafted but was surprised with her lack of nervousness as the day approached.

“This is a day that I only dreamed about when I was a kid and you’re watching all the great players who paved the way so far,” she said. “You can only imagine yourself being in a situation and for me to have the opportunity to go up on that stage; it’s an opportunity not many people get to experience.”

Describing the day as a “happy time,” Houston said she had no expectations of when she would be drafted or by whom. Her greatest thoughts are with Swanier and the strides she made this season.

With the Lynx, Houston will join forces with long-time friend and this season’s Wade Trophy winner, Candice Wiggins of Stanford, and the league’s second-leading scorer, Seimone Augustus.

“I played with Candice since I was 11, lost to her and being on her team at the next level,” Houston said via phone. “I’m just excited to be on the team with someone I know.”

Houston initially saw her draft stock drop considerably with an inconsistent start to her senior season, but the Lynx are confident they’re getting the player they saw in the last few months of the season instead of the first.

“Some people say they’re surprised she went as late as 30,” said Minnesota coach Don Zierden. “Well, that’s the fact. She went at 30. She’s going to have to prove to people that she’s worthy of being drafted or that she should have been drafted higher. I just got off the phone with her a little bit ago and told her that’s up to her how she’s going to do that.”

Swanier led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.10. The Columbus, Ga., native finished her career seventh in school history in both assists (479) and steals (247) en route to being named an All-Big East Honorable Mention selection.

She joins former Huskies Barbara Turner, Tamika (Williams) Raymond and Asjha Jones with the Sun.

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