Gardner, Kongolo and Winfield Drafted by WNBAApril 20, 2002
For HBCUs, three firsts and a second highlighted the 2002 WBNA Draft. For the first time ever, three HBCU products were picked in the league's pre-season draft.
North Carolina Central University senior Amba Kongolo became the first women's basketball student-athlete in school and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) history to be drafted when the Phoenix Mercury selected the two-time conference player of the year with the 56th pick.
Just three selections later, Southern University standout guard and 2001-2002 SWAC player of the Year, Jacklyn Winfield, was been drafted by the Starzz. Winfield, the 59th selection in the fourth round, became the first-ever Southwestern Athletic Conference female player drafted by the WNBA and the fourth ever HBCU product drafted by the league.
"This is something I have dreamed about for a long time," said Gardner. "Right now, I am a little overwhelmed with excitement. I am proud to represent Howard University and the all the players from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities."
Gardner was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season after averaging 15.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game this season while leading Howard to a 19-10 mark and the regular season title. She finished seventh in the nation in rebounding.
Gardner scored over 1,300 points and grabbed almost 1,100 rebounds during her three-year career at Howard.
Gardner led the nation in rebounding during the 2000-01 season with 14.2 per game while also leading the nation in double doubles with 24. She has recorded 57 double doubles in her career.
"She is exactly what we were looking for," said Utah assistant coach Tammi Reiss. "We needed an athletic post player who can defend and run the floor. We feel she has a tremendous upside and will be an outstanding player for the Utah Starzz. We think we got a steal."
"I am so happy," Kongolo said minutes after seeing the selection at Lady Eagle head coach Joli Robinson's apartment home in Durham. "Coach lives on the second floor, but I just can't stop jumping."
"I was nervous watching the show ... just waiting," Kongolo said. "My heart was pounding."
A native of Kinshasa, Congo, Kongolo was flooded with phone calls from friends and well-wishers, while the news spread quickly around the NCCU campus and the CIAA community. At the 2002 CIAA Spring Sports Championships in Petersburg, VA, an announcement was made during the track & field meet regarding the accomplishment.
"I do not know too much about Phoenix," Kongolo said, "but I am going to go to camp and show them they made the right decision."
Winfield, a 5-8 forward from Wesson, Mississippi averaged 21.5 ppg in her senior season at Southern and holds the school records for most points in a single season (666). In her final season as a Jaguar, Winfield led Southern to their first-ever Southwestern Athletic Conference title and the school's first-ever berth into the NCAA Tournament.