Extending the College Experience in the WNBA
By Mark Bodenrader, WNBA.com

With its first two picks, Chicago drafted LSU's Sylvia Fowles, left, and Quianna Chaney.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

PALM HARBOR, Fla., April 9, 2008 -- Winning the 2008 national championship on Tuesday night was bittersweet for Tennessee’s departing players. On one hand, the Lady Vols’ fab five was able to help the team complete its back-to-back bid in impressive fashion by defeating Stanford in the NCAA title game. But the ensuing celebration also signaled their final moment to share as teammates before going their separate ways in their basketball careers.

Well, not entirely.

On Wednesday, at the 2008 WNBA Draft in Tampa, as expected all-world talent Candace Parker was selected No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Sparks. Fourteen picks later, when it was the Sparks’ turn again, Michael Cooper and Co. went for another Tennessee player, drafting guard Shannon Bobbitt at No. 15.

As Sparks fans know, the UT presence doesn’t stop there. Parker and Bobbitt will be added to a roster that already features Sidney Spencer and Tye’sha Fluker.

“Being able to play with people that I know and I’m comfortable with is great,” said Parker. “I’m really excited about having familiar faces so I don’t feel like I’m going into this alone.”

Spencer, a draftee of the Sparks from last year and member of the Vols’ 2007 title team, was in the house Wednesday, chatting live and providing analysis for WNBA.com during the draft. Suffice it to say, the ’07 All-Rookie performer was ecstatic with each selection of her former court mates by L.A., and quick to cite the advantages.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” said Spencer. “It’s an impossible situation that did happen. I want to make the most of it. It’s great that I don’t have to learn their tendencies because I already played with them. I know where they want the ball and I know what their strengths are. So we’re already a few steps ahead when the new rookies go into camp.”

Parker’s teammate connections weren’t done though. They continued when the Sparks’ third and final pick of the draft – No. 29 overall -- was unveiled to be Sharnee’ Zoll from Virginia. Parker revealed that she and Zoll have played alongside each other in a couple stops along the way, including for USA Basketball.

As for Parker and Bobbitt’s teammates, they too had the good fortune of hearing their names called on draft day, although it wasn’t by L.A. Alexis Hornbuckle went to the Detroit Shock at No. 4 overall, Nicky Anosike followed Bobbitt at No. 16 when Minnesota drafted her and Alberta Auguste was selected by New York in the third round.

Carrying the positive vibes that come with being drafted, Anosike saw no reason to be disappointed about being sent to a different destination from her Tennessee teammates.

“I’ve gotten to play with a lot of those players already and it’ll be fun to try and see what else is out there,” said Anosike.

Hornbuckle agreed and added that she’s actually looking forward to playing against them. Above all else, the Tennessee players seemed excited that all five players had something to cheer about on draft day because after repeating as NCAA champions they all deserved some recognition.

“It speaks volumes for our team and the program that Coach (Pat) Summitt has built,” said Hornbuckle. “We go against each other every day in practice, and it’s great to see all five seniors do well in the draft and be able to go somewhere and pursue a career.”

But Tennessee wasn’t the only powerhouse from the 2007-08 college season to have multiple players selected in Wednesday’s star-studded draft. And like Tennessee, LSU saw two of its players get drafted by the same team.

LSU center Sylvia Fowles, whose Tigers were upended in the national semis by the Vols, was selected right behind Parker at No. 2 by the Chicago Sky. With their next pick, the Sky snatched up guard Quianna Chaney.

When Chaney’s name was announced, Fowles got more than just a teammate going with her to the Windy City.

“It’s going to be a thrill,” said Fowles about being able to play with Chaney at the next level. “I enjoyed our college years. We have been real close. She has been my roommate for four years. It will make the overall transition a little easier for the both of us.”

Chaney was equally eager to have the chance to continue to play with Fowles in a new locale.

“I can’t find a word for that besides excited,” said Chaney. “I get to play with the beast again. It’s just a great honor.

“She’s come with me this far and now she’ll have my back again in Chicago.”

Seeing players from the same schools on the same WNBA rosters is nothing new. In fact, with the selection of Ketia Swanier in the first round, the Connecticut Sun now have four former UConn players on their roster, and five if you include Nykesha Sales, who will be sitting out this year.

But to remain with the players that were there besides you for most, if not all, of your college battles and celebrate on the same day has to be something special.