By Jim Johnson
The Associated Press
Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn was ecstatic when Layshia Clarendon was still available when Indiana’s turn came in the WNBA Draft.
After Clarendon’s success in the recent NCAA tournament, Dunn wasn’t sure she would be available at No. 9 during the draft at Bristol, Conn.
“We didn’t know if she was going to be around,” Dunn said. “But when she was we just jumped on her and thrilled to death to get her.”
The defending WNBA champions grabbed the guard out of California, who averaged 16.4 points, led the Bears to their first NCAA Final Four and was named to the first-team All-Pac-12.
The Fever previously picked guards in the first round in 2011 with Jeanette Pohlen and in 2009 with Briann January, and they helped lead the Fever to their first championship.
Dunn said Clarendon can become an impact player from the start. That’s something Clarendon is perfectly fine with.
“I definitely think my versatility is one thing,” Clarendon said. “The fact that I can play point guard and stop the ball and be a scoring two guard and guard the best player on the other team.”
Clarendon will play with January, who also came out of the Pac-10, and guards Shavonte Zellous and Erin Phillips.
But she’s most excited about playing with Fever star Tamika Catchings. In fact, that’s the first thought that went through her mind.
“I’m super excited about that,” she said. “She’s definitely somebody that I’ve looked up to in the game.”
Dunn likes her versatility, something that is good for the Fever’s aging roster.
“She has such a scoring mentality, and she can defend,” Dunn said. “We have a great combination here of a crew that can defend at a very high level and who can also score. She can create her own shot and can get to the rim. She has a very high basketball IQ, and that’s something that we really liked about her.”
Coming from the West Coast, moving to Indiana is something new for Clarendon, not only because it’s the Midwest but also because she’s used to always joining teams who are the underdog.
This time it’s different as she joins a team that just won a title.
“I’m going to a team that is the defending champs so there are going to be a lot of expectations,” she said. “It’s going to be a high bar set from the start.”
The Fever picked forwards with their next two picks — Georgia’s Jasmine Hassell in the second round and Florida’s Jennifer George in the third round.
Baylor’s Brittney Griner went No. 1 overall as expected to the Phoenix Mercury. The Chicago Sky picked Delware’s high-scoring Elena Delle Donne with the second selection, and Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins went No. 3 overall to the Tulsa Shock.
Diggins, who starred at South Bend Washington, was one of three 2009 Indiana All-Stars chosen in the first 13 picks. Ben Davis’ Kelly Faris went to the Connecticut Sun at No. 11, and fellow former Giant Alex Bentley was taken by the Atlanta Dream with the first pick (No. 13 overall) of the second round.