Natasha Howard and Natalie Achonwa Highlight Fever Selections in 2014 WNBA Draft
Official Release | April 14, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Fever chose a pair of ACC post players with the fifth and ninth overall selections in the 2014 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, grabbing Natasha Howard from Florida State and Natalie Achonwa from Notre Dame with first-round selections. Indiana picked Gonzaga guard Haiden Palmer with the 29th overall selection to complete its draft.
An honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press and WBCA, Howard was a first-team All-ACC selection while leading Florida State to an NCAA second-round appearance. She possesses a nearly 7-foot wingspan and is regarded as perhaps the most athletic post player in the draft.
Achonwa, meanwhile, was a second-team AP All-American and another first-team All-ACC selection. A versatile scorer and rebounder, she tore her left ACL in an NCAA regional final game with Baylor on March 31 and will miss the 2014 WNBA season.
"We saw an awful lot of both of them this year in the ACC," said Fever President and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf when asked of her first-round tandem. "Howard is, in a lot of ways, a lot like Sancho Lyttle (Atlanta Dream) and certainly has the ability to fill that power forward position. As we continue to look toward the future, that's a position that we really have to focus on. This girl is incredibly skilled. She's very long and athletic and we haven't had anybody like that.
"At No. 9, Achonwa was someone we looked at all along. We see her as a first-round draft pick in next year's draft. We feel like we have a player who can make that kind of impact. We knew we wanted to have her."
On selecting Achonwa, Fever coach Lin Dunn reiterated, "In our mind, she'll be a rookie for us in 2015 and I think if she would have waited until 2015 for that draft, she might be a top three pick."
Speaking of Howard, Dunn added, "We were looking for a young power forward with athleticism, with length, with speed and someone that we can develop at the four spot. We just did not see anybody better than Howard."
Indiana's first-round duo represents the first time the Fever has selected twice in the first round of the draft since picking Tamika Catchings and Kelly Schumacher in 2001. Catchings, too, entered the draft following a torn ACL in her senior season and was forced to sit out the ensuing summer.
The Fever's No. 5 selection of Howard was Indiana's highest draft pick since 2005, with Indiana's nine straight years of playoff appearances resulting in lower annual draft position.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, with roots in Northwest Indiana, the 6-3 Howard averaged 20.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.3 blocked shots per game as a senior, finishing her career as the school's all-time leader in rebounds (1,047) and double-doubles (41). She finished second on the Seminoles" career chart for points (1,811) and third in blocked shots (186). Howard was a finalist for the Wade Trophy and a two-time member of the ACC All-Defensive Team.
Achonwa averaged 14.9 points and a team-leading 7.7 rebounds, and was a part of a senior class that helped Notre Dame to a 138-15 record with four trips to the Final Four. She finished third in school history with 145 games played, and eighth with 970 rebounds.
A member of the Canadian National Team from Hamilton, Ontario, Achonwa is the second Notre Dame player ever drafted by the Fever, following Niele Ivey who starred with Indiana for four seasons (2001-04). Now an assistant coach with the Fighting Irish, Ivey was a second-round pick in 2001 (19th overall).
Palmer, Indiana's third-round selection, is a 5-8 guard who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the West Coast Conference Tournament. An honorable mention AP All-American, Palmer averaged 15.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while being named to the All-WCC first team. She played her three college seasons at Gonzaga after transferring from Oregon State.
Palmer anticipates completing a Master's degree this spring. She grew up in Southern California with Layshia Clarendon, the Fever's first-round draft pick in 2013, and she has trained in Spokane with Fever guard Briann January whose family resides there.