AMES — Bridget Carleton first picked the number 21 out of necessity when she started playing basketball as a young girl. She was the tallest girl and it was the biggest jersey available.
The number always stuck with her and she wore No. 21 while starring for Iowa State for four seasons.
Wednesday, Carleton was selected No. 21 overall by the Connecticut Sun in the second round of the WNBA Draft.
“She got picked by the perfect team,” Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly said. “It’s not about the first round or second round. It’s about the fit. There is karma involved here. No. 21 got picked 21. She got picked by an organization that really likes her. Coach (Curt) Miller was here for the Preseason WNIT and has been following her and they’ve paid the most attention to her of any organization.”
The Sun went 21-13 last season, finished third in the Eastern Conference and made the WNBA Playoffs. Oh, and no current player wears No. 21 for the Sun.
“Connecticut is a great organization,” Carleton said. “They have been to some Iowa State games, so I know them really well. They had a really good year last year and have really good coaches. I’m excited to learn from them and play as hard as I can for that franchise.”
Carleton is a do-everything player. She’s known for her scoring — she set Iowa State single-season records in scoring (760 points), pointer per game (21.7) and field goals made (254) — but she was also in the top five in the Big 12 in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals last season.
Carleton won the Cheryl Miller Award last week, which goes to the nation’s best small forward, was named the Big 12 Player of the Year has also been named to various All-America lists.
“Her versatility is what will translate to the WNBA,” Fennelly said. “She’s a big guard that can play a lot of positions. When you’re looking at the end of your roster and you’re playing three games in four days you have to see who fits in. It’s more about what can’t you do when you’re trying to pick someone who can do a little bit of everything”
Carleton got her feet wet playing with and against WNBA players last summer when she played for the Canadian National Team.
“I’ve played against professionals all summer,” Carleton said. “I played against and guarded WNBA players all summer, I tried to score on them all summer. Having that experience of playing with older girls and people that have been in the league for a number of years, that doesn’t hurt me at all.”
Fennelly said he’s known Miller “since forever.” Fennelly went to Toledo and Miller went to Bowling Green, so they were rivals in the Mid-American Conference in college.
“We like him now,” Fennelly said with a laugh. “We’ve known him forever and he’s a great, great guy. It’s one of those things that I think it was meant to be and hopefully she’ll earn the right to stay on the team.”
Fennelly likes the team Miller has constructed.
“They took a great post player (California’s Kristine Anigwe) in the first round and I think they liked Bridget’s versatility,” Fennelly said. “She fits the culture of that organization.
“I get to go to a casino now and bet 21 on the roulette table. That’ll be my first bet — not that I’ve ever done that before,” he continued with a sheepish laugh. “It’s about what team sees you as a really good connection to them on the court and off the court.”
Fennelly was on the phone with Miller when the Sun made the pick. He handed it over to Carleton, so she could speak with her new coach. When they got done, Fennelly had some parting words for his star player.
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“The last thing I told her was, ‘It’s time to go to work. Now you have a job.’”
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