Their careers at Penn State are finished, but Monday night could start a new path for Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene.
The two Lady Lions could be among the selections in Monday night’s WNBA Draft, which will be televised on ESPN2, starting at 8 p.m. A total of 36 players will be selected during the three-round draft, which is making its first appearance in prime time.
“All indications are they’re both going to be drafted,” said Penn State coach Coquese Washington said of Bentley and Greene. “Where they’ll be drafted, you never know. ...
“It’s just a tremendous honor. They’ve worked so hard over their careers here. I’ll be excited to watch the draft.”
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Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins are expected to be the first three names announced. Phoenix, Chicago and Tulsa hold the top three selections.
Bentley, a first team All-Big Ten selection and a member of the conference’s All-Defensive team, certainly is among the names expected to be called following Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins. The point guard from Indianapolis is one of 12 players who have been invited to Bristol, Conn., for the draft.
Bentley is expected to be a late first round or early second round selection.
Hearing her name called would be a special moment for Bentley, who along with Greene was part of Washington’s first real recruiting class that helped turn around a program that had suffered through four consecutive losing seasons. The Lady Lions went 17-14 in 2010, then improved to 25-10, 26-7 and 26-6 over the next three seasons. The team captured the Big Ten regular season crown the past two seasons.
“I’ve been dreaming about playing in the WNBA since I was a little girl,” said Bentley, who received the Francis Pomeroy Naismith Award as the nation’s best player under 5-foot-8. “I’ve been playing basketball since I was four. I’ve grown to love basketball. I always used to watch the college and WNBA players. I always said I was going to be there one day. It’s always been a lifelong goal of mine. It’s really exciting.”
Bentley averaged 14.1 points, 3.5 assists and 3.4 steals this past season. For her career she finished among the school’s career leaders in scoring (eighth, 1,786 points), steals (second, 325) and assists (567). She is only the fourth player in Big Ten history to amass 1,500 points, 500 assists and 300 steals.
Bentley believes her time at Penn State has prepared her for a professional career. She points to Washington, a point guard in the WNBA from 1998-2003 who won a title with the Houston Comets in 2000, as an excellent mentor.
“I’m under one of the greatest coaches in college basketball right now,” Bentley said. “Coach Quese, she’s played the game and won championships in the WNBA. She knows all about the game, so I’m very confident in the skills that she taught me and the mental preparation and toughness.”
Greene’s status in the draft is a little more tenuous. The 6-foot-4 center is projected as a possible third-round pick.
Greene, a third team All-Big Ten pick, averaged 9.2 points and 8.5 rebounds this past season. She is the first player in school history to amass 1,000 career points (1,132), 900 rebounds (994) and 200 blocks (215). Her blocks and rebound totals rank second and fourth, respectively, in school history.
The Diboll, Texas native, who battled foul trouble over her college career, could flourish in the more physical WNBA. She is athletic and durable, having started a school-record 131 games.
While Bentley will be at the draft, Greene will be parked in front of a television set.
“I’ve definitely though about it and it’s definitely one of my golden dreams,” Greene said of the draft. “Me being able to going into the WNBA and playing among phenomenal players would definitely be awesome. I’m excited. I’m ready to be at the TV on April 15 and see if I get drafted or not. I’m excited and I’m looking forward to that next chapter.”
Bentley and Greene are looking to join 12 previous Lady Lions to be drafted by WNBA teams. Tyra Grant was the last previous draftee, going in the second round in 2010. Tanisha Wright, the only Lady Lion to go in the first round, is the lone Penn State player remaining in the league. Wright has played her entire career with the Seattle Storm and won a title there in 2010.
Rising senior Maggie Lucas, a likely pick in the 2014 draft, says she and her teammates will be interested parties on Monday.
“We’re excited to see where they’re going to end up,” Lucas said of Bentley and Greene. “It says a lot about what (Coquese) has done for Penn State and the players here. I wish them the best of luck and we’re going to miss them.”