Asia Durr
(Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

With the second overall pick of the 2019 WNBA Draft, the New York Liberty entered a new era with the selection of Louisville guard Asia Durr.

Geoff Magliocchetti

An All-American guard has become the latest source of hope for the New York Liberty.

With their first pick of Wednesday’s WNBA Draft, the Liberty chose Asia Durr, a prolific guard out of Louisville. At second overall, Durr becomes the highest rookie selection in team history.

In her first message to the Liberty fan base, Durr made a solemn promise.

“I’m super excited to be here, I’m very thankful,” she told ESNY. “I’m going to work hard, I’m going to bring my best to the table, to the building.”

Durr ends her Cardinal career leaving a lasting mark on the program’s record book. She leaves as the second-leading scorer in team history (2,485 points), as well as its winningest player (123 wins). Durr will also be taking a pair of ACC Player of the Year titles with her to New York, along with First-Team All-American honors bestowed by the Associated Press and USA Today, among others.

In the Cardinal point tally, Durr trails only Angel McCoughtry, currently of the Atlanta Dream. Much to Durr’s surprise, she received a video message from McCoughtry, congratulating her for her league entrance.

As a team, Durr’s Cardinals reached heights of historic proportions. The squad won at least two NCAA Tournament games in three of Durr’s four seasons, the penultimate of which ended in the 2018 Final Four in Columbus. In that same season, Durr helped guide Louisville to their first ACC Tournament win in 25 years. She had a team-high 17 point in the conference final, a 74-72 victory over Notre Dame.

A basketball journey that began in Georgia now heads north. Awaiting her is the tutelage of head coach Katie Smith, who made a Hall of Fame career as a playmaking guard. Durr expressed excitement in playing under the recent Springfield inductee.

“It feels great to be drafted by (the Liberty), They’re a great franchise with a great coach,” Durr said in the media scrum after her drafting. “I’m grateful and I’m so thankful for it.”

Joining Durr in New York will be several notable retained veteran. Six-time All-Star Tina Charles, for example, remains one of the WNBA’s most dominant players. In free agency, the team welcomed back guards Britanny Boyd and Rebecca Allen, as well as forward Amanda Zahui B., fresh off a career year of the bench.

However, Durr has the true potential to create an instantly effective offense alongside last season’s New York first-rounder: Kia Nurse.

Durr and Nurse became instantly acquainted on Wednesday, as the latter had partaken in a WNBA/Nike panel prior to the selection announcements. The pair previously faced off in February 2018, as Durr’s fourth-ranked Cardinals took on Nurse and the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies. Durr had 20 points, but shot 7-of-19 from the field with Nurse (4 points, 4 assists) guarding her throughout the game. The Huskies won the game 69-58.

“I’m excited (to work with Nurse). She’s a great player. I played against her in my junior year and she can play,” Durr said. “She’s very strong, she’s quick, she’s very aggressive. I remember all of that.”

In statements exclusively provided to ESNY, Nurse had a positive outlook on her opponent-turned-teammate. She was flattered to hear Durr referred to her as a player who could do it all.

“I think she’s a great player. I played against her in college, so it’ll be fun to have her on my team this year,” Nurse said. “I hope one of the things I can do is to help her in any way possible…I think she’ll have a great time in New York.”

In her statements, Nurse also expressed hope for the new era of Liberty basketball, one that began with the purchase of the team by Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai, remarking “It’s great because our program is changing directions a little bit. There will be a lot of new this year. Barclays is new, new ownership, new people around the team…that’ll be really fun to get through that”.

Durr concurred with excitement over the road to come, one that will take the Liberty to Brooklyn for a pair of games this season, which she called “awesome”. Her mother Audrey is from The Bronx and, according to Durr, “always talks” about New York.

“That’s a great thing, especially for women’s basketball,” Durr said of the Liberty’s staying put. Asked if she feels any additional pressure, especially with the Liberty coming off a franchise-worst seven wins last season, she simply replied “No pressure at all. I’m doing what I love.”

“I’m just trying to have fun with this. Be coachable, be a great teammate.”

Audrey and Durr’s father Terry were by her side the entire night.

“It means so much to have my family here because they’ve been with me through the bad times and the good,” Durr said. “I’m super thankful for it all.”

Later in the evening, the Liberty took Chinese center Han Xu with the 14th overall pick. Han is the first Chinese player to be taken in the WNBA Draft since Zheng Haixia in 1997. They rounded out draft night with the selection of Utah’s Megan Huff in the third round, 26th overall.

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