April 11, 2011
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Mekia Valentine was chosen in the third round of the WNBA Draft on Monday afternoon by the New York Liberty, capping off a tremendous career at UC Santa Barbara.
The senior from Greensboro, N.C. was taken with the 34th overall selection in the draft becoming the first UCSB player chosen by the league since Kristen Mann was picked in 2005.
"This is the proudest moment of my life," said Valentine, fighting back tears of joy. "Any mistake or flaw of mine has been overshadowed by this achievement. It makes me look back and appreciate all the hard work I've put in."
After transferring from Wake Forest, Valentine had a sensational two years as a Gaucho, setting the single-season school record in blocked shots and field goal percentage while also putting her name in the school record books in rebounds and blocks. This past season she became the first Gaucho in 20 seasons to average a double-double as she finished with 11.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
"This is a big day for UCSB women's basketball," UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "Getting drafted into the WNBA is the epitome of our sport right now. There are very few spots and Mekia being sought out speaks to the qualities about her ability and her character and it shines a light on our program, which makes me very proud."
Valentine, a 6-foot-4 center, was named the Big West's Defensive Player of the Year and is a two-time All-Big West selection, earning the honors in both of her seasons in the blue and gold.
"In my entire career in Santa Barbara, I've always wondered if my mom would have been proud," Valentine said of her mother, Lillian, who passed away two years ago. "I know this is definitely something she'd be proud of."
Valentine becomes the seventh UCSB player drafted by a WNBA team, along with Mann, Lindsay Taylor, Kayte Christensen, Erin Buescher, Stacy Clinesmith and Erin Alexander. Former Gaucho April McDivitt played in the WNBA but was signed as a free agent.
"Personally, I couldn't feel more proud for Mekia," Gottlieb said. "I know how much this means to her. When she heard the news she was crying tears of joy and she was hugging our coaching staff in the office. This is something that I'll never forget."