By Joseph Staszewski
Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant added one final accomplishment to the long list they accumulated together at St. John’s.
The backcourt duo, who led the Red Storm women’s basketball team to its first Big East Tournament title since 1988, both added the title of WNBA draftees to their resumes. Handford was drafted by the Connecticut Sun with the third pick of the third round (27th overall) and Grant was picked seventh in the round (31st overall) by the Washington Mystics. The two were on FaceTime for a half-hour once their names were called.
“I can’t even describe it,” Grant said. “When you first start playing, this is something you dream of but you don’t know how you are going to feel until it happens and last night it was an overwhelming feeling.”
She and Grant are the second set of SJU guards taken in the WNBA Draft together. Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith were both selected in 2013 as McKenith was taken 17th overall by the Mystics and Smith was chosen eight picks later by the New York Liberty.
“[I] texted them both before the draft letting them know I was proud of both of them,” Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella said of Handford and Grant. “Being through it a couple of years ago helped me, watching Nadirah and Shenneika go made me understand the process and what to expect. Seeing their names come up is something I will never forget as a head coach.”
Handford’s name is all over the program’s history. She leaves as its all-time leading scorer (2,058) and the first female player in school history to surpass the 2,000-point mark. Handford became the first player in program history to earn a spot on the conference’s top team three separate times. She was also the 2016 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. She quickly asked her good friend McKenith for advance to handle all that comes next.
“Right after I got drafted, I texted her and asked her questions,” Handford said. “I have talked to her all day today and she is giving me her point of view.”
Grant finished her three seasons at St. John’s with the best of her career. She averaged 19.6 points per game, scored 20 or more points 17 times and turned in a team-best five double-doubles. Grant, ninth on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,498 points, was also an All-Big East First Team selection. Still, nothing beat the emotion of watching herself get drafted, and being with her family while it happened.
“I looked up and just dropped to my knees and started praying, thanking God,” Grant said. “We were in the living room just screaming for 15 minutes and embracing the moment.”
It was likely the final moment she and Handford will create together.
“I saw it and didn’t know how to feel,” Handford said. “It didn’t hit me that I was drafted until today and it’s a dream come true.”