Could this be a turning point for Syracuse women’s hoops? Orange center Kayla Alexander became the first ever WNBA first-round draft pick. The 6-foot-4 Canadian is the all-time leading scorer (2,024 points) in Syracuse history, and was taken eighth overall pick by the San Antonio Silver Stars.
It’s the type of event that could lure more talent to the Hill, if recruits feel like SU is a path to a paycheck. While SU lost in the first round of the NCAA women’s tourney to Creighton, Quentin Hillsman¬†has led the program to 5 straight postseason appearances. This year the Orange also had its best record in program history through 29 games, going 23-6 entering postseason play. Syracuse was a three-seed in the Big East Chammpionship, its highest seeding in 25 years.
Alexander is one of the best players in program history, leaving with the school-record for blocked shots (350), field goals (736), free throws (552) and games played (140). Arguably¬†Alexander was the centerpiece of the best four-year span in Orange women’s hoops history. She was a first-team All-Big East player this season, and her class set a school-record with 96 wins over a four-year span.
SU was 24-8 this year and beat Louisville during the regular-season, a team that played for the national championship.¬†To put into perspective just how remarkable it is for an SU player to be taken in the WNBA draft, it’s only happened one other time. In ’01, Beth Record was taken… 64th. The final pick of the draft. The WNBA has been around since ’96, and only has 36 selections now.
Women’s hoops will never dominate the campus in the same way at SU as it does at UConn or Tennessee. Being one and done in the NCAA tourney is not a watershed moment either. But Coach Q has clearly built the program from the ground up, and it’s still ascending especially when your best player is a top 10 pick.
Can the women’s team ever carry headlines? Probably not. But can it be relevant, and a source of campus pride? Yeah. And if SU could recruit the next Elena Della Donne or Skyler Diggins, that would be kinda nice.