Brittany Chambers has only been to Los Angeles once before — an overnight trip home after Kansas State’s game at UC Santa Barbara back in December.
All that’s about to change now, though, as the senior guard was selected as the 22nd overall pick in the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks Monday night.
“It’s just a whirlwind,” Chambers said after watching the draft with her teammates and coaches at the basketball training facility. “It’s a quick turnaround and I knew it would come quick, but now that it’s happening, it’s exciting and a little overwhelming. (Today) it might set in more that I’m actually heading out to LA.”
Chambers is the seventh Wildcat in school history to be selected in the WNBA draft and the first since Shalee Lehning in 2009. Chambers was also one of eight players from the Big 12 selected Monday night, including Brittney Griner, who went No. 1 overall to the Phoenix Mercury.
In fact, it was a connection that Lehning had from her three seasons with the Atlanta Dream that helped Chambers find her way onto the Sparks’ draft board. LA head coach Carol Ross, who was the WNBA 2012 Coach of the Year, was an assistant in Atlanta when Lehning played point guard there.
“I know Shalee spoke with the coach some about me, which is always a positive having a coach who has connections like that,” said Chambers, who was named an honorable mention All-American this season.
Chambers was the 10th pick of the second round, going one spot ahead of Iowa State’s Anna Prins and four spots after the Cyclones’ Chelsea Poppens at No. 18. The Jordan, Minn., native said while she figured she would be drafted, she didn’t really know until she heard her name actually called.
“I was so nervous, I’m not going to lie,” said Chambers, who averaged 21 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game this past season. “I was really, really nervous because you just never know. You never know if you’re what they’re looking for, unless you’re one of those top five or six elite players.
“I was just hoping and waiting and wasn’t that nervous until pick No. 16. I knew I wasn’t going to get any closer than that, but once it got to a point where I figured I’d go, I got way more nervous.”
Chambers’ parents, who were in town this past weekend for the women’s basketball banquet on Sunday, were back home in Minnesota watching the draft with friends and family.
“They had their own little party and were freaking out,” Chambers said. “I had to make some calls afterwards, but eventually got a hold of my parents and they were super excited, but maybe relieved is the best word to describe how they felt. I think they were more nervous than I was.”
Chambers finished her career at K-State as the school’s third-leading scorer with 2,156 points, behind only Nicole Ohlde and Kendra Wecker.
But the 5-foot-8 guard was more than just a scorer for the Wildcats, as she is arguably the best all-around player in the program’s history — ranking second with 350 career 3-pointers, fifth with 862 rebounds and eighth with 363 assists. She’s one of only four players in Big 12 history to register at least 2,000 points, 850 rebounds and 350 assists.
It’s that versatility Chambers hopes translates into the pro game with the Sparks, who finished second in the Western Conference with a 24-10 record last season.
“One thing I bring is my work ethic, whether it’s rebounding or getting to loose balls, getting to the 50/50 balls,” she said. “Some people do that with great athleticism, but for me, it’s about the work ethic. Some of the things I may not be as gifted in or things that I lack, I can make up for it with how I work.”
Chambers expects to see time at both point and shooting guard for the Sparks, who feature former Tennessee star Candace Parker and Stanford All-American Nneka Ogwumike. A three-time All-Big 12 first-team selection, Chambers said she hopes playing with so many other dynamic scorers can allow her game to grow even more.
“I’m excited to play with some girls who are all great scorers and have talent through the roof because maybe I can show other parts of my game people haven’t even seen yet,” said Chambers, who has the second-most 3-pointers in Big 12 history and ninth-most in NCAA history.
“I think I’ll be at the one and two, but if I am at the one, then maybe I can show my passing skills are better than people anticipated. I didn’t really get to show a lot of that here at K-State.”
Jalana Childs earns training camp invite
Former Wildcat forward Jalana Childs also had a big night Monday, as she was invited to the Phoenix Mercury training camp after playing overseas in the Israeli Basketball League this winter.
Childs averaged five points and 3.5 rebounds a game for H.R. Le-Zion after joining the team in December.
“During my senior year at K-State I started to think that I just wanted to play overseas and not take a chance in the WNBA,” Childs said. “After playing overseas, my love for the game improved and I felt the WNBA was going to be a good thing for me. When the Phoenix Mercury offered me this opportunity, I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to prove and gain.”
If Childs makes the team, she would be the second Wildcat to play for the Mercury, as Ohlde helped Phoenix capture the 2009 WNBA title by averaging 5.2 points, and 2.8 rebounds off the bench after being traded by the Minnesota Lynx.