Former Calera star selected in 2010 WNBA Draft

Former Calera High School girls’ basketball star and Louisiana Tech University senior forward Shanavia Dowdell was selected in the second round of the 2010 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics with the 18th overall pick April 8.

Dowdell, a two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, led the WAC with an average of 18 points and 12.4 rebounds per game during her senior season at Louisiana Tech. Dowdell, who was selected Miss Basketball in Alabama in 2006, became the WAC’s all-time leading rebounder this past season.

Dowdell sat in the Lady Techster basketball locker room Thursday afternoon surrounded by her teammates, coaches, family and friends watching the 2010 WNBA Draft.

As the selections were made and the first round crept into the second round, the anticipation mounted until her name was finally called as the 18th overall selection by the Washington Mystics.

An instant smile, a huge sigh of relief and then a hug from her mother – Aretha Dowdell – followed the announcement which came on ESPNU.

“It was just a relief,” said Dowdell. “I had been anticipating and listening to what everyone was saying. I thought I might go with the 13th or 14th picks and when I didn’t, I started getting nervous. When I finally saw my name I was so happy. I thought all the hard work has paid off.”

It was a moment that Dowdell said she had been dreaming about for a long time.

“I starting thinking my junior or senior year in high school that I might have a chance,” said Dowdell. “My uncle and mother always kept telling me to keep going; to work hard.

“I know that I have a lot of hard work in front of me. Just because I’ve been picked, doesn’t mean I have a roster spot. I know this is an entirely different level. I have to continue to work hard and do my best to make myself known in the league and to give myself a chance (with the Mystics). I’m excited.”

Mystics General Manager Angela Taylor said that the organization has been watching Dowdell all year.

“Shanavia has been someone that we have had on our radar all season,” said Taylor. “If you look at her statistically, she puts up a double double every single night. And she did it against some of the top teams and post players like Brittney Griner at Baylor, Jacinta Monroe at Florida State, LSU and Mississippi State. It just reinforced what type of player she can be.”

Dowdell averaged 18.0 points and 12.4 rebounds per game as a senior while shooting 54 percent from the field and 66 percent from the free throw line. She ranked third in the country in rebounding and led the country with 22 double doubles.

In games against the top competition, Dowdell was at her best. In seven games against NCAA Tournament teams this season, she averaged 19.3 points and 12.9 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from field and 84 percent from the free throw line.

When playing head-to-head against two first round picks in this year’s draft, Dowdell dominated. In a 14-point loss to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, Dowdell scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Seminole forward Jacinta Monroe, who was taken with the sixth overall pick by the Mystics.

In a four-point loss to Mississippi State this year, Dowdell scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds while holding Chanel Mokango to only two points and three rebounds. Mokango was selected with the ninth overall pick by the Atlanta Dream in this year’s draft.

“Watching video on her, you can see that she has the qualities that it takes to be successful on this level. She has spent the last year and a half under someone that we have so much respect for in Teresa Weatherspoon; she’s been given a great foundation from a WNBA legend. I think she could be a real steal in this draft.”

Dowdell adds her name to a long line of Lady Techsters to be taken in the WNBA Draft as she is the 14th LA Tech player selected and the 20th (counting free agent signees) to make it to the league since its inception in 1997. She is the first LA Tech player selected in the WNBA Draft since Erica Smith-Taylor was taken in the second round in 2005 by the Mystics.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy for her,” Weatherspoon said. “She’s a young lady that has worked so hard the entire offseason and then brought into the season and played so well. She played so many minutes and they were productive minutes. Good things happen to people who work hard and persevere. This is so great for Shanavia, our program and our university.”

The Calera, Alabama native is the two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year and led the Lady Techsters to back-to-back postseason appearances, including the 2010 NCAA Tournament. She is a two-time first team all-state selection by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and a two-time WBCA Region 7 selection.

The 6-foot-2-inch Dowdell ended her Tech career ranked 15th in scoring with 1,599 points and 10th in rebounding with 1,025 boards. She also ranks ninth in career blocks with 146.

Dowdell will join former Techsters Cheryl Ford (Tulsa Shock) and Betty Lennox (Los Angeles Sparks) as the three former Techsters who are now active in the WNBA.

The Mystics preseason camp begins April 25 with the first exhibition game slated for May 5 against New York.

“She will find this is a different road to travel,” Weatherspoon said. “She has to understand that is like being thrown into a cage of lions … everyone is fighting everyday for a roster spot. She has the skills and ability to make it. Her game has involved into what professional post players are … versatile. It’s just a matter of putting in the work and never being satisfied.”