The state of Georgia had two bits of positive news in regard to women’s collegiate basketball on Thursday night.
Kahlia Lawrence, Mercer’s star-caliber guard and leading scorer in its 30-3 season, was the first Peach State college product to be selected in the WNBA Draft. Lawrence was chosen 24th overall by the Minnesota Lynx and it seemingly came as a surprise to the Bears as the 5-foot-8 guard wasn’t projected to be chosen.
It then became a whirlwind for Lawrence as she would soon be traded. The Lynx traded Lawrence along with another of its draftees, Ji-Su Park to the Las Vegas Aces, who held the top-overall pick in the draft and selected A’ja Wilson as a part of its haul.
Lawrence will don the Aces’ uniform and represent Mercer as its first WNBA draftee since 1997, joining Andrea Congreaves, who was chosen by the Charlotte Sting with the 24th selection – when the draft had four rounds. She is the latest SoCon player to be drafted since Andrea Anderson was picked by the San Antonio Stars in 2008.
Lawrence advances past her Bears’ career with the third-highest scoring total in Mercer history with 2,275 points, which includes a 25 point-per-game scoring average in Mercer’s first NCAA Tournament run in school history.
“I am so proud of Kahlia," Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said in the team’s press release. "It has been her dream to play professional basketball after college and to be playing for the Las Vegas Aces is a credit to the career that she had at Mercer. I know Kahlia will do what she has always done and prepare for camp and be ready to contribute to the team. I'm not going to lie, I am one proud coach right now. So happy for Kahlia and her family."
Three picks later, a Georgia Bulldog heard her name called and was caught by total surprise, despite being lured in by her head coach Joni Taylor to attend a small draft party with her family. Mackenzie Engram, who averaged 12.9 points per game and was named to the All-SEC Second-Team as a senior, was chosen 27th overall by the Atlanta Dream.
Engram’s surge to becoming a potential draftee started April 1 during a ProHoops combine, in which an assortment of WNBA coaches and agents were on hand to watch prospects. Lawrence was also an attendee.
The Lady Bulldog star left a solid impression after leaving the gym in Columbus, Ohio, and began to hear increasing interest. But she still had her doubts, until receiving a phone call from Dream head coach Nicki Collen with the news.
“No one stood out to us more at the ProHoops combine than Mack,” Collen said. “Her ability to hit open 3’s, run the floor, and guard multiple positions at the defensive end makes her a great pick for us. Not only did she play at the University of Georgia, she is a local product, so we are thrilled to welcome her back home to Atlanta.”
Engram is the 22nd Georgia graduate to play in the WNBA, and the fourth to play only 60 miles away with the Dream. As a Powder Springs native, only 10 minutes away from her new home court of McCamish Pavilion on the campus of Georgia Tech, the next stage brings plenty of excitement. Atlanta will play its first home game on May 26.
Joni Taylor will hand her former player off to her husband, Darius Taylor, when the season tips-off May 20th against the Dallas Wings. Darius became a Dream assistant coach in 2017.
“It’s just amazing, cool and exciting to have people from Athens and my hometown to be able to come watch,” Engram said. “I’m looking forward to being able to carry the tradition of players in the WNBA and hopefully bring that Georgia fan base and bringing them in my new home.”