The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 16, 2014

Bussie looks forward to WNBA

MORGANTOWN — On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.

It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

“I’ve honestly never been to Minnesota. I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know what the temperature is like. I don’t know anything, but I’m excited to see. I’m in the mountains, so I have plenty of heavy coats,” she said after learning what direction her career path would take after college.

Her path to college had been filled with more sunshine than snowflakes.

She had played at Seton Keough School out of Randallstown, Md., and for Boo Williams Elite in AAU ball, and she was no secret.

ESPN’s evaluation of her offered much insight:

“Asya Bussie is a force in the post for Boo Williams. The 6-3 player from Randallstown, Md., has a body made for D-I basketball. She is strong, agile and aggressive on the court. She posts well, using her body to hold position, but the real magic happens after she catches the ball. She moves very smoothly with the ball, and her countermoves seem effortless. She has the ability to finish towards the rim or show a nice jump-hook in the lane. She rebounds very well by virtue of her combination of athleticism and aggressiveness. She did show the tendency to bring the ball down in traffic where the pesky guards could take a swipe at it but that is correctable. Her strengths translate directly to the college game and she will be a force even if she doesn’t have the big name recognition of some other bigs in the ’09 class.”

Mike Carey, West Virginia University’s coach, was the one who grabbed her, and she started every game of her career at WVU, all four years.

True, it took her five years because she blew out a knee in the first practice of what was to be her junior year, but that proved to be a blessing as it left Carey and the Mountaineers with the leader they needed to become the winningest team in WVU women’s basketball history.

That led to her becoming the highest WNBA pick WVU ever turned out, being chosen with the 15th overall selection.

All-America point guard Yolanda Paige went in the second round as the 16th overall pick of the 2005 draft. All-America Olayinka Sanni went as the No. 18 pick of the second round in the 2008 WNBA Draft, while Kate Bulger was chosen No. 38 overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft.

“It’s shocking to me that I’m the highest pick in program history,” Bussie explained. “That is a great honor and it goes with the theme of this past year—  just to make program history.”

But why shouldn’t she have been?

She was a two-time All-America honorable-mention selection, a three-time all-conference honoree and named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team while becoming the 15th player in WVU history to score 1,000 points and haul in 500 rebounds.

The unexpected end to the season, losing to LSU at LSU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was not looked upon as the end of her career by Bussie but instead as the start of her professional career.

“I’ve continued to work out, lift, condition, and continue to do rehab to make sure my knee is as strong as it is. I took a couple of days off then got right back to it so I could prepare for this day and give my best performance at training camp,” she said.

Having been a winning player her entire career, the Lynx were the perfect place for her to wind up.

“It’s awesome. I couldn’t think of a better team, the defending national champions. There are great players on their team, not just good players, but great players. I’m excited to play with some great players and help them defend that title,” she said.

What she’s hoping to bring them is the same kind of game the legendary Lisa Leslie, her idol, used to bring to the WNBA.

Leslie was the seventh pick in the 1997 inaugural WNBA draft after a career at the University of Southern California. She had seven WNBA All-Star appearances and two WNBA championships over the course of 11 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. Leslie, a 6-5 center, is the first player to dunk in a WNBA game.

“Lisa Leslie was always an idol,” she said. “My dad always tried to model my game after her and have me look up to her. He always talked to me about the way Lisa Leslie plays and dominates so she was always my idol.”

At first, she realizes, she has to prove herself.

“Whatever the role is, I will play it to the best of my ability,” Bussie said. “They’re big on defense; I’m big on defense; that’s one of my strengths. You can never go wrong with playing defense, so I’m definitely going to play that and I also want to extend my offensive game.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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