April 16, 2013
QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's senior guards Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith became the St. John's women's basketball program's first-ever WNBA draft picks as McKenith was picked up by the Washington Mystics No. 17 overall and Smith was taken by the New York Liberty with the 25th pick.
The draft was televised live in prime time on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
"This was an extraordinary night for two of our young ladies, Nadirah and Shenneika, who became the first-ever WNBA draft picks in our program history," remarked head coach Joe Tartamella. "It was also a special night for our community and women's basketball program as a whole and I couldn't be prouder of these two young ladies. I have had the opportunity to not only watch these two play as young players in high school, but also be someone who was able to recruit them over time, and then to become their head coach as well. It is something special to me and I really have a lot of pride that I was able to watch these two young ladies grow up before my eyes. It just shows how special St. John's is and what our players can be capable of as part of our program."
McKenith was selected by the Mystics with their second pick in the draft. Smith was taken by the Liberty in the third round. The Liberty traded with the Washington Mystics for the third round pick earlier in the day on Monday.
The Phoenix Mercury had the No. 1 pick in the draft. They selected Baylor's Brittney Griner. Along with McKenith and Smith, five other BIG EAST women's basketball players were selected.
McKenith's WNBA path starts April 30 as she goes down to Washington, D.C. for her physical and camp. Smith will start May 4 with her physical and training camp will being May 6.
"I was with many family members, and when my name was called I was in total shock to be even considered into the WNBA," remarked McKenith. "I have been working out with coach Angel [Elderkin], getting ready for the next level. I think my leadership is an asset I can bring to the Mystics. For the past four years, I have been a leader on the court for St. John's and I think I can carry that over to Washington. What I need to work on is my outside shooting. I need to be completely versatile to be successful in the WNBA."
Other than traveling to Georgetown for games, McKenith has never been to Washington, D.C., but her family is excited that it is only a short bus, train or car ride away from her hometown of Newark.
"It was really nerve-wracking sitting there for a long period of time, but once my name came across the screen and they said `New York selects Shenneika Smith,' I was like `Wow, I get to stay home,'" remarked Smith on her Draft Day experience. "My mom was crying because they thought I would go somewhere far away. So being drafted by the Liberty was a great feeling, it was pretty awesome. I am still in shock, I still can't really believe it yet; but I am excited. It is a different kind of excitement. I am working on perfecting everything -- the craft and shooting better, catching and shooting, going to the right more. I want to bring whatever the Liberty asks me to bring. I pride myself on defense and hopefully, I can play defense good enough for the Liberty's likeness."
The dynamic duo of McKenith and Smith were an integral part of St. John's four-straight NCAA Tournament berths, during the most successful four years in St. John's women's basketball history. The pair both earned WBCA Honorable Mention All-America accolades on April 6 and were also voted to the 2013 All-BIG EAST first team and most recently, the 2013 All-Metropolitan Basketball Writers' Association (MBWA) first team. McKenith was named the MBWA Player of the Year on Monday; while Smith earned the high honor in 2012.
Both were candidates on the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List and were members of the preseason All-BIG EAST first team. Among many of their long lists of accomplishments, the pair has overhauled St. John's career record list with Smith finishing No. 4 in scoring with 1,727 points and McKenith No. 11 with 1,293 points. McKenith also finished her career as the all-time career assist record-holder with 605. Smith also ranks in six other of St. John's top 10 records; while McKenith has made her way into five additional categories.
McKenith and Smith came in as part of the highest-rated recruiting class in St. John's history, which was ranked No. 10 in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz and No. 1 in the BIG EAST.
St. John's has had five players in the past five years sign professional contracts overseas. McKenith and Smith's former teammates Da'Shena Stevens and Centhya "Coco" Hart both played professionally this season with Stevens in Switzerland and Hart in Germany. Tiina Sten (Class of 2008) played in the same league as Hart during the 2012-13 season in Germany. In addition to Stevens, Hart and Sten, Joy McCorvey (Class of 2010), previously played in Germany with the DBBL's TUS Jena Burgaupark Lady Baskets and Monique McLean (Class of 2009) played for the Greek franchise, Olympiakos.