Sting makes McCarville top pick

Janel McCarville became the second Gophers athlete to be a No. 1 overall pick.

David McCoy

In four years with Minnesota, Janel McCarville made a name for herself as one of the most dominating centers in women’s college basketball.

And in Saturday’s WNBA Draft, the Charlotte Sting called that name first, making McCarville only the second Gophers athlete in school history to become the top overall pick in any professional sport.

She joins former Minnesota men’s basketball player Mychal Thompson, who was the No. 1 overall pick of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers in 1978.

“It’s definitely an honor,” McCarville said. “A lot of good players have gone No. 1, so it means a lot. But it also brings a lot of expectations.”

The selection was three spots higher than Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer Lindsay Whalen, who was taken fourth overall by the Connecticut Sun last

year. McCarville’s professional debut will likely come against Whalen in an exhibition game May 8 at Connecticut.

McCarville edged out Mississippi State’s Tan White, who was taken second by Indiana. Texas Christian’s Sandora Irvin was picked third by Phoenix, and San Antonio took Kansas State’s Kendra Wecker with the fourth pick.

McCarville was joined by her parents and Gophers coach Pam Borton for the draft in Secaucus, N.J.

As a post player who led her team in assists per game, McCarville’s most marketable skill was her passing, which set her apart from the other four post players who went in the next seven picks.

Former WNBA All-Star and current ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo – a post player in her own day – had nothing but praise for McCarville, calling her already the best passing post player in the league.

A two-time Kodak All-American, Wooden Award finalist and school record-holder with 49 double-doubles, McCarville is also the only Gophers player to be in the top five in all five major statistical categories of points (fifth, 1,835), rebounds (second, 1,217), assists (t-third, 314), blocks (first, 200) and steals (third, 274).

Starting 111 of 126 games during her collegiate career, McCarville is the only player in Minnesota women’s basketball history to play in four NCAA Tournaments.

Though she’s ecstatic to be the top pick, McCarville said, she’ll miss playing at Minnesota.

“The last four years at Minnesota have been good to me,” McCarville said Friday. “It’s going to suck not playing here.”

But McCarville will be back. The Sting play against the Minnesota Lynx at 7 p.m. June 4 at Target Center.

As for which matchup – Whalen or the Lynx – McCarville is looking forward to more, she said she couldn’t decide.

“It’s hard to say, because they both have different benefits,” McCarville said. “With Whalen, it means I’ll get to see her, since that hasn’t happened much in a while. And with Minnesota, it’s closer to my friends and family, so they can come and watch. And I’m definitely looking forward to coming back and playing in front of the home crowd.”