A'dia Mathies, a quiet girl from Louisville who won Miss Basketball and then stayed instate to help resurrect the Kentucky program, went on to become the school's top WNBA Draft pick on Monday night.
With her selection as the 10th pick overall by the Los Angeles Sparks, Mathies joins former teammate Victoria Dunlap as the school's second first-round draft pick in three years.
"I am very thankful to the L.A. Sparks organization for bringing me into the WNBA," Mathies said in a release on the Sparks' website. "This has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and it's exciting to have it come true in Los Angeles. I am looking forward to starting a new life and basketball career with the Sparks and my new teammates."
Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell couldn't help but reminisce a little shortly after Mathies' name was called on the national broadcast of the draft in Bristol, Conn.
"Just so happy for her," Mitchell said. "An unbelievable moment. We've been watching her since seventh and eighth grade at Iroquois, and seeing just how much she's developed as a person and a player.
"She had such a great career for us and did so much for our program. I was really happy to see her rewarded with a real honor. It's a great, great recognition for her outstanding college career and the Sparks were real, real smart to pick her."
Mathies, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, leaves Kentucky as the second leading scorer of all time with 2,014 points. She finished her time at UK ranked in the top 10 of 13 different career lists, including No. 1 in steals and games played.
The two-time defending Southeastern Conference Player of the Year led Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight three times in four years and helped the Cats win 111 games, including a 64-3 mark at home.
For her career, Mathies had 2,014 points, 670 rebounds, 349 assists and 320 steals.
She sits on a rare UK basketball Mount Rushmore of sorts with her 2,000-plus points, joining only Valerie Still, Dan Issel, Jack "Goose" Givens and Kenny Walker.
The Sparks are coached by former Mississippi and Florida coach Carol Ross, who gave Mitchell his first full-time assistant coaching job with the Gators.
Last season the Sparks fell in the conference finals. They are considered a contender for the title this season, which opens for them on May 26.
Mathies joins a loaded team that includes former college stars like Candace Parker (Tennessee), Alana Beard (Duke), Nneka Ogwumike (Stanford) and Kristi Toliver (Maryland).
That roster of talent means Mathies won't be responsible for shouldering the offensive load, ESPN draft analyst Carolyn Peck said. But she can see the guard being a key role player in Los Angeles.
"She can be that player that Carol Ross can go to the bench and say, 'Go in and be that spark for us off the bench. Spell a player like Kristi Toliver,' and you know that you're going to get that defensive effort because she's going to bring that Kentucky defensive style," Peck said on the broadcast.
The first SEC player to go in the draft on Monday night was 6-foot-5 center Kelsey Bone, who led Texas A&M to the SEC title over Kentucky in March. She was picked No. 5 overall by the New York Liberty. Bone opted to leave school after her junior season after sitting out a year per the NCAA transfer rule.
Most WNBA mock drafts had the UK senior going early in the second round, but Mitchell said he wasn't surprised to see her go at the No. 10 spot in the first round. He spoke with several league officials who were quite high on Mathies' professional potential.
While no contract has been signed yet, most WNBA rookie deals are for three years with the average rookie making $36,500 in the first season plus a daily allowance.
With such a shortened season, many of the top players in the WNBA supplement their salaries by playing overseas. Most recently, UK players like Dunlap, Amani Franklin and Jennifer Humphrey have played abroad. Dunlap went as the No. 11 pick overall in the 2011 WNBA Draft.