FAYETTEVILLE – Shameka Christon became the first Lady Razorback athlete to earn first-round draft status when the New York Liberty of the Women’s National Basketball Association selected the former University of Arkansas forward in Saturday’s professional draft.
The 6-1 Christon was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by leading the conference from tipoff to finish in scoring, and the Hot Springs, Ark., native was the first of seven SEC players taken in the 2004 draft.
“The Liberty’s goal remains the same: to provide our fans with the strongest and most competitive team we can assemble that competes for the WNBA Championship each year,” Liberty general manager Carol Blazejowski said after the draft. We are thrilled to add Shameka Christon, one of the most complete and talented players from this year’s strong draft, to our team. She is a big, athletic three that can play both ends of the floor and I envision her in our rotation immediately.”
Christon was the fifth pick overall, with Florida’s Vanessa Hayden going seventh to the Minnesota Lynx and Georgia’s Christi Thomas 12th to the Los Angeles Sparks.
Christon reports to training camp in the next few days with the Liberty, a team in need of a big scorer with the recent free agent trade of long-time guard Teresa Weatherspoon to the Sparks.
Head coach Richie Adubato needs more offense in the coming season, and his rookie first-round pick could be the key.
Christon averaged 21.8 ppg this season to lead Arkansas to a 16-12 finish overall. The Liberty were only 16-18 last year and tied for fifth in the Eastern Division. New York was 10th in the 12-team league in offense.
The Liberty also took Amisha Carter of Louisiana Tech in the second round and Cathy Joens of George Washington in the third.
The previous highest draft pick was second rounder Christy Smith in the inaugural WNBA Draft in 1998. The former all-SEC point guard for Arkansas was the 17th player taken overall.
The Liberty opens preseason play on May 8 against Los Angeles at the Staples Center, then faces the Sparks again at Madison Square Garden on May 15.
The regular season begins May 21 at the Indiana Fever with the Liberty’s home opener on Sunday, May 23, against the Houston Comets.