Thursday could very well be the final time that Connecticut’s Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams and Azurá Stevens can call themselves teammates. The same goes for UCLA’s Jordin Canada and Monique Billings.
In all likelihood, these college teammates will head to different cities to begin their professional careers. There’s an outside shot Chicago could land a pair with back-to-back picks at Nos. 3 and 4, but that much is uncertain.
While they may go their separate ways on Friday to visit their respective teams and prepare for their rookie season, the college teammates have together been able to enjoy the Draft process and celebrate the accomplishment of making it to the next level with someone that was with them for the past four years (two years in the case of Stevens at UConn).
“It’s great,” said Canada. “We talked about it [Tuesday] that this was our dream and the fact that we get to do it together is just amazing, and a testament to how hard we worked to get to this point. We’re very happy for each other, we’re proud of each other and just looking forward to now, most likely, we’ll have to compete against each other.”
Billings says Canada “is like my sister.” But in true sibling rivalry form, she was quick to point out that when she and Canada did find themselves on opposite sides of the court last summer, it was Billings’ squad that got the W.
“It won’t be weird [playing against Canada] because we kind of had that when we were at USA’s this past summer trying out,” Billings said. “There were two teams on the last day and I was on the team that won … I’m just throwing that out there. I was like ‘oh this is how it will be one day.’”
While UCLA hasn’t had two players selected in the same WNBA Draft since 2006, it is nearly a yearly occurrence for the University of Connecticut to send multiple players to the WNBA, including the unprecedented 2016 Draft that saw Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck taken with the first three picks.
Nurse and Williams teamed up with that trio for the first two years of their UConn careers, then closed out their incredible collegiate run together at this year’s Final Four.
“It’s incredible, especially being with Gabby for the past four years,” said Nurse. “This is something that we worked toward and we talked about and now that it’s here and it’s fulfilling our dreams and goals. I think it’s so great to have the two of them along for the ride and go through it together because this is all new to us. There are a lot of uncertainties, but you always have familiar faces and people to talk to with whatever you need.”
While it was no surprise that Nurse and Williams would be headed for the Draft this year, Stevens was a late entry into the field, as she chose to forgo her final year of college eligibility and turn pro, giving UConn three players that will likely go in the first round.
“Z was a nice surprise that she got to do this with us,” said Williams. “Me and Kia have been through everything together, we’ve been here for four years. We came in with a class of five and it ended up with just us two, so we’ve done everything as a duo. And just adding Z, we’ve only had her here for two years but she’s so easy to love that we’re just happy that she gets to come along for the ride too.”
How Well Do You Know Your Teammate?
WNBA.com had a chance to speak with the 10 Draft invitees this week…and we wanted to test just how well these college teammates knew one another.
So we had each player describe themselves and their teammates in three words so we could see how well they would match up with one another’s answers.
The results were fun…
UCLA: Jordin Canada and Monique Billings
Canada described herself as an introvert, competitive and joyful. How well did Billings know her point guard?
“Jordan is quiet, she’s very caring and now I’m trying to think of how she would describe herself … I think she would say hard-working, which she is.”
When it was her turn to describe her teammate in three words, Canada used spiritual, competitive and unique to describe Billings. She came close to Billings’ self-assessment of vibrant, free-spirit and bubbly.
You could definitely tell that these two have spent the past four years together.
— WNBA (@WNBA) April 11, 2018
Connecticut: Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams and Azurá Stevens
When it came to describing Nurse, the responses from her UConn teammates were very similar.
“Kia is flamboyant, lots of energy definitely and she’s a diva,” said Williams. “I don’t know if she would say that about herself but she knows it.”
While she didn’t use the exact words as Williams, Stevens definitely had the same read on Nurse as she called her “vibrant, really bold, very reliable and definitely a fashionista.”
The only player that got a universal response in a single word was Stevens — as Nurse, Williams and Stevens herself called the 6-6 forward “child-like.” Both Nurse and Williams pointed out how Stevens loves to laugh, which play right into her word of “joyful” to describe herself.
“She will laugh about absolutely everything and anything, that’s the best part about her,” said Nurse. “She is loud, she’ll say she’s quiet but she’s loud whether she wants to admit it or not. And she’s one of the most caring people that you will ever meet.”
When it came time to describe Williams, Nurse echoed what many prognosticators have said of her teammate: “her athleticism is just over the top.”
Williams is known for being a huge Marvel fan and when it came time to describe her, Stevens thought that was the perfect word for her teammate.
“For Gabby, I wish I could say Marvel because she’s superhero-esque,” said Stevens. “I would say bold too, she’s very passionate and she’s the make-up queen.”
Best wardrobe? Most likely to dance in a Beyonce video? Most likely to survive the Hunger Games?
— WNBA (@WNBA) April 12, 2018