The irony wasn’t lost on Penn State’s Alex Bentley on one of the biggest nights of her life.
“It’s just a dream come true and ironically enough I’m going to the Atlanta Dream,” said Bentley, who was selected with the first pick in the second round in Monday’s WNBA Draft.
One round later, Lady Lion teammate Nikki Greene as was picked, going with the second pick of the third round to the Phoenix Mercury.
Bentley, a 5-foot-7 point guard, was the 13th overall player selected. Tanisha Wright, who was chosen with the 12th pick in the first round in 2005, is the only Lady Lion player to go higher in the draft.
The Dream went 19-15 last season and made the league playoffs, falling 2-1 in a three-game series to Indiana. Atlanta did not have a pick in the first round. The squad is led by former Louisville standout Angel McCoughtry, who averaged 21.4 points per game last season.
“I always though of myself playing in a hot city and here’s Atlanta,” Bentley said in a phone interview about 20 minutes after being selected. “They’re a great team and I believe it’s a great fit for me.”
Bentley averaged 14.1 points, 3.5 assists and 3.4 steals this past season. For her career she finished among Penn State’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 was one of 12 invitees to Monday’s draft, held at ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn. She was surrounded by her family (mom, dad, brother and grandfather) and Penn State assistant coach Fred Chmiel, Bentley had to wait out her name being called.
“Players were going her and there and everything and I was just waiting for my turn,” said Bentley, who wore a black dress. “I was really anxious and excited to hear my name. I’m really glad the Atlanta Dream picked me.”
Bentley has never been to Atlanta, but Penn State teammate Tori Waldner is from the area. “I only hear great things about it,” said Bentley, who will report to training camp on May 5. “I’m ready to go.”
While Bentley was part of the pomp and circumstance, Greene spent the evening with her teammates at Coach Coquese Washington’s house watching the draft.
While Bentley was a certain pick, Greene didn’t know whether she would be selected or not. That doubt was answered quickly in the third round by the Mercury.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said the 6-foot-4 center, who was tackled by her teammates after her selection. “Regardless of what team, I was going to be extremely happy because it was going to be a dream come true.”
Phoenix, last season, went big with both of its picks. The Mercury had the top pick and took Baylor’s Brittney Griner. Greene, a Texas native, is very familiar with the 6-foot-8 Griner.
“I don’t want to say it is deja vu, but it’s similar to AAU all over again,” Greene said. “We played on the same AAU team and we were really good teammates. It’s wonderful to be reunited with Brittney Griner.”
Greene averaged 9.2 points and 8.5 rebounds this past season. She is the first player in Penn State 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.
Greene’s only trip to Phoenix was a layover in the airport, but she already knows plenty about the team’s roster. The Mercury, who won WNBA titles in 2007 and 2009, feature former league MVP Diana Taurasi (who was injured last season), former Auburn standout DeWanna Bonner and former Ohio State point guard Samantha Prahalis.
“They have a lot of tools,” said Greene, who is distantly related to Bonner. “I my heart I believe Phoenix is a really good, skilled team.”
Greene said being with her coach and teammates was the perfect way to watch the telecast.
“Really without my teammates and coaches, I wouldn’t be able to be recognized by the WNBA,” she said.
Bentley and Greene become just the third pair of Penn State teammates to go in the same draft. Helen Darling and Andrea Garner were picked in 2000, while Kelly Mazzante and Jessica Brungo were taken in 2004.
“Alex and I to be drafted, it’s just awesome,” Greene said. “It just tells you how strong our program is.”
The top three picks went as expected with Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne (Chicago) and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins (Tulsa) going in that order.
Two Big Ten players went in the first round with Ohio State’s Tayler Hill going fourth to Washington and Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore taken 12th by Minnesota.