Notre Dame women's basketball's Maya Dodson goes to Phoenix with No. 26 pick in WNBA Draft

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame's Maya Dodson (0) reaches for a loose ball in front of Louisville's Liz Dixon (22) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Maya Dodson became the first WNBA draft pick from Notre Dame in three years when she was chosen by the Phoenix Mercury with the 26th overall pick Monday night in New York.

If Dodson, the second selection of the third round, sticks with Phoenix, she could potentially give the team three players from ND, joining Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brianna Turner.

The Mercury lost in the WNBA finals last season to Chicago.

Dodson just last week had her appeal for another season of eligibility with the Irish denied by the NCAA.

► One and done:Notre Dame grad transfer Maya Dodson denied 6th year of eligibility by NCAA

Mar 5, 2022; Greensboro, NC, USA; Miami Hurricanes forward Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi (33) makes a move on the post against Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maya Dodson (0) during the second quarter at Greensboro Coliseum Complex. Mandatory Credit: William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

►One game at a time:A journey through Notre Dame's 2021-22 women’s basketball season

While not generally projected before the season as a prime draft candidate, Dodson thrived in her lone year at ND, earning Atlantic Coast Conference first-team and all-defensive team honors.

The 6-foot-3 post helped coach Niele Ivey’s Irish ascend to a 24-9 record and advancement to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

Dodson averaged 12.6 points — second on ND to Olivia Miles’ 13.7 — along with team-leading figures of 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks (eighth in the country).

She arrived at Notre Dame from Stanford after sitting out the 2020-21 season.

Dodson cited her father’s battle with COVID — he has since recovered — and a desire to focus on racial issues as among reasons for giving up her senior season with the Cardinal.

“I took the opportunity to opt out and kind of get myself grounded, and I think it helped me being with my family a lot,” Dodson told the Tribune in December. “I kind of learned how to love the game of basketball again, which I was kind of going away from, and being able to do that helped me come here and transition very smoothly back into the game.”

At Stanford, Dodson had averaged 6.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 20.2 minutes per outing over her final two seasons while playing 35 games and missing 34 others due to a recurring left foot injury.

With the Irish, to go with her other numbers, Dodson started all 33 games, averaged 28.7 minutes per contest and finished at 49% from the field.

Over her final 21 games, Dodson’s figures surged to 56% from the field and 14.3 points per outing.

ND’s last draft picks were a record-setting flood of them in 2019, when Jackie Young went No. 1 overall, Arike Ogunbowale fifth, Turner 11th, Jessica Shepard 16th and Marina Mabrey 19th.

Young, Ogunbowale and Turner were each first-round selections, while Shepard went four picks and Mabrey seven picks into the second round.

At the time, the Irish joined Tennessee in 2008 as the only programs ever to have five players taken in the same draft, and ND shattered the Vols’ previous standard (No. 1, No. 4, No. 15, No. 16 and No. 35) for quickest to have five chosen.

Overall, Dodson becomes the 20th selection from Notre Dame spanning 26 WNBA drafts.

The Irish had 10 alums playing in the 12-team league during the 2021 season, second-most of any program.