April 9, 2009
SEACAUCUS, N.J. -
Former California Golden Bear forward Ashley Walker became the first Cal player ever drafted by a WNBA team when she was selected in the first round of the 2009 Player Draft by the Seattle Storm.
Walker, who finished up her Cal career by guiding the Bears to their first-ever Sweet-16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament, was the 12th player taken in the draft, going in the first round to the Seattle Storm.
The 2004 WNBA Champion Seattle Storm won a franchise-record 22 games last season and made the playoffs each of the last five seasons. They joined the WNBA in the 1999 league expansion, beginning play in the 2000 season. Cal assistant coach Charmin Smith was a member of the first Storm team in 2000, playing two seasons in Seattle.
"(Walker) is probably one of the better offensive players in the draft," said Storm Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel Brian Agler in a post on the Storm's draft-day blog. "She had a great year for Cal. She's really developing the versatility of her game. She's extended her range to the three-point line now and just has great touch around the basket."
Walker becomes the first Cal player ever drafted by a WNBA franchise. The WNBA held its first draft in April of 1997, several weeks prior to the league's inaugural game on June 21, 1997.
Walker will report to Seattle when training camp opens May 17. Preseason games begin May 21 when the Storm host the Sacramento Monarchs in Seattle. The regular season kicks off June 6 at Sacramento.
Walker will still need to earn a spot on the team, though being a first round pick greatly increases her chances. The WNBA has made some drastic personnel changes this off season. Each team will carry 11 players in the 2009 season as opposed to the 13 they previously carried on each squad. The WNBA is also one team smaller this year with the Houston franchise ceasing operations. There are currently 13 teams in the WNBA, with the Seattle Storm playing in the six-team Western Conference.
Walker ended her Cal playing career as the second-leading scorer in program history with 2,142 career points. She is Cal's all-time leading rebounder with 1,117 boards in her 120 games in the blue and gold. She was named a USBWA All-American and an Associated Press Third-Team All-America this year as well as receiving an honorable mention in All-American voting from the WBCA. She was a first-team All-Pac-10 member and All-Defensive Pac-10 honoree after leading the conference in scoring and ranking third in rebounding.