Alaina Coates may get to go to Dallas after all … or at least San Antonio.
After a season-ending ankle injury prevented her from playing in South Carolina’s national championship triumph, or even traveling to Dallas for the Final Four after team medical staff advised her not to, the Gamecocks’ 6-foot-4 All-American center is set to hear her name called early in Thursday’s WNBA Draft. The Irmo native is projected as a top-five pick in three mock drafts leading to the big night and either Dallas or San Antonio holds picks 3-5.
“The good thing about it, I always tell people, when you put people in real good hands, like a Dawn Staley, they can take that to another level. That’s prepared her,” said Jerome Dickerson, Coates’ AAU coach. “She can drive, she can do a whole lot of stuff. Once she gets to the next level, they’re going to be like, ‘Oh my God.’ ”
Coates attended USC’s championship parade on Sunday, then left for New York where the draft is being held. She said couldn’t comment because of being scheduled for pre-draft seminars, and parents Gary and Pamela were en route to the Big Apple as well.
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Her concern is getting her ankle – in a garnet-colored cast, of course – and rolling scooter on stage when her name gets called. The injury isn’t expected to prevent teams from drafting Coates with a high pick, although she might not be able to participate in training camp or the start of the WNBA season, which begins on May 13.
“You know, I think Dallas would love to get Alaina Coates,” analyst Rebecca Lobo said last week on a pre-draft conference call. “She would be an ideal fit for them, in terms of kind of having a rim-protector inside, an offensive player who can provide a lot.”
Lobo mentioned the possibility of the Wings taking a post and a guard with their back-to-back first-round picks, and that could mean another USC player – Kaela Davis or Allisha Gray – could be heading back to Dallas with Coates.
A McDonald’s All-American, South Carolina Miss Basketball and a back-to-back state champion at Dutch Fork High, Coates stayed close to home to play for the Gamecocks.
She won SEC Freshman and 6th Woman of the Year in her first season. Coates would go on to earn All-SEC honors in each of her final three years, an all-defensive selection as a sophomore and some All-America honors as a junior and senior.
Dickerson knew how good Coates could be after finding her as a track and field star. Already outrunning his basketball team, and throwing the discus and shot put, it was a natural fit to put a ball in her hand.
It comes full-circle on Thursday.
“I’ll put it this way, I’m just as excited as I was when she first joined my AAU team,” Dickerson said.
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