UNCASVILLE, Conn. (release) -- The New York Liberty got the steal of the night at Mohegan Sun Arena, snagging Tennessee's Meighan Simmons, the 2014 Associated Press SEC Player of the Year, with the 26th overall selection of the WNBA Draft.
Simmons, who lasted until the second pick of the third round, continued Tennessee's rich history in the WNBA Draft, becoming the 38th player to join the league. She also became the second Lady Vol of the Holly Warlick era to have her name called on draft night, following in the footsteps of last year's second-round pick, Kamiko Williams.
Just like 2013, when he took Williams with the 15th overall selection, Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer chose a Lady Vol to bolster his roster. Now the newest UT player to join the squad will have her own mentor and personal tour guide in the Big Apple.
Simmons becomes the fifth Tennessee product to join the Liberty and the third in three seasons. Kelley Cain was taken by New York in 2012 (7th pick/1st Rd.) to start the trend. Other Liberty selections include Loree Moore in 2005 (10th pick/1st Rd.) and Alberta Auguste (35th pick/3rd Rd.).
"All I could think while waiting for my name to be called was be patient, and God's got me," Simmons said of her wait to be chosen. "I've been put in a position to succeed, and now I just have to work 10 times harder to show that I'm just as good as anyone else.
"Just bringing a lot of energy, bringing the extra scoring ability with Cappie Pondexter, along with my former teammate Kamiko Williams," Simmons said of what she can bring to the Liberty. " I'm just really excited. I'm excited to see what God has planned and ready to see my purpose unfold."
In her final season as a Lady Vol, Simmons averaged 16.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals per contest in helping lead the Lady Vols to a 29-6 record, SEC Tournament title and NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. She was named 2014 SEC Player of the Year by Associated Press after earning it from the coaches the year before and was chosen All-SEC First Team by both AP and the league's coaches for the second season in a row.
Simmons shot 41.6% from the field, 36.0% from the three-point line and 83.2% from the free throw stripe. She scored 20 or more points on 10 occasions in 2013-14, 30 or more three times and has led Tennessee in scoring on 15 occasions. She finished fifth in career scoring at UT with 2,064 points.
"I am so proud of Meighan," Warlick said. "She was on the board longer than everyone expected, but she has an opportunity to show Coach Laimbeer what she can do and try to help that team win some ballgames.
"She has some gifts that can make her a very valuable player in the WNBA. Obviously, she has the speed you don't find every day, and her intensity and scoring ability also will provide immediate benefits in New York. I'm anxious to see her go to work and show everyone what she's made of."
Last season, nine former Lady Vols were active in the league. That list included Tamika Catchings (Indiana), Alexis Hornbuckle (Phoenix), Glory Johnson (Tulsa), Kara Lawson (Connecticut), Candace Parker (Los Angeles), Ashley Robinson (Seattle), Michelle Snow (Washington), Shekinna Stricklen (Seattle) and Kamiko Williams (New York). Lawson has since moved on to Washington.