WNBA Draft: NC State’s Elissa Cunane, Kayla Jones selected

NC State's Elissa Cunane (33) celebrates as time runs out in the game during NC State's 68-59 victory over Louisville at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, NC, Thursday, Jan.  20, 2022.

NC State’s Elissa Cunane (33) celebrates as time runs out in the game during NC State’s 68-59 victory over Louisville at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, NC, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.


Elissa Cunane is a winner, and she’ll get a chance to play with one of the best winners in the WNBA.

Cunane, the three-time All-ACC selection from NC State, was selected 17th overall by the Seattle Storm in the WNBA Draft on Monday night. She’ll get a chance to play alongside all-time great Sue Bird and learn from center Breanna Stewart.

“Just being able to learn from them, on the court, off the court,” Cunane said about teaming up with Bird and Stewart. “Their work ethic and their experience in big games and championships. I’m really just looking forward to soaking up as much as I can from them.”

In four years in Raleigh, the 6-foot-5 Cunane left her stamp on the program. She ranks sixth in school history in career points (1,855), seventh in double-doubles (34), fifth in rebounds (986), and is the school record-holder in made free throws (513).

A consensus All-American by the Associated Press in 2021-22, Cunane played in 125 games for the Wolfpack, starting 101. She leaves Raleigh with a career average of 14.8 points per game and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the floor. Her senior season she averaged 13.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, on 53.1 percent shooting (182-of-343). Cunane shot 83.5 percent from the line (116-of-139) and averaged 1.3 assists per game. She’ll bring that versatility to the next level.

“Being able to shoot the three, playing inside,” Cunane said when asked what will translate best to the WNBA. “And also playing in big moments and in big games and being to perform at high levels against great people, and just being a team player. NC State didn’t always need me to be the leading scorer every night, so just doing what the team needs me night in and night out.”

She earned second team All-American honors from the AP and the USBWA. Cunane was a consensus first team All-ACC honoree for the third straight year. In March she was named the ACC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player for the second straight season.

Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Five picks after Cunane, her former teammate, Kayla Jones, was selected at No. 22 by the Minnesota Lynx. Jones played five seasons at NC State, appearing in 139 games (second in school history) with 88 starts.

“That’s huge,” Cunane said about Jones being selected. “I’ve been very excited that KJ got chosen. She puts in so much work and I’m so proud of everything she’s done and I really think she can make an impact on the WNBA level.”

The Jamesville, NC native was called the glue of the team several times by head coach Wes Moore. She was a second-team All-ACC selection, voted by the head coaches. Jones averaged 8.7 points per game as a senior. She started 34 of 35 games in 2021-22 after recovering from off season knee surgery. Jones leaves NC State 11th in three-point percentage (.355), 14th in free throw percentage (.725) and 14th in rebounds (734).

NC State has now had 18 student-athletes in program history be chosen in the WNBA Draft, with four of those selections occurring in the first round. Cunane was projected by many mock drafts to be a first-round pick. She slipped to an early second-round pick on Monday, but wasn’t concerned about when she was called.

“Every time a pick was chosen I was just happy for the individual who was chosen,” Cunane said. “When it finally came down to my name I was just excited to walk up to the stage. I didn’t have any expectations coming into tonight, I was just happy to hear my name called, which I did. When I heard the commissioner say my name that was exciting for me.”

Prior to Cunane’s and Jones’ selection Monday night, the Wolfpack’s most recent WNBA draft pick was Kiara Leslie, who went No. 10 overall to the Washington Mystics in the 2019 draft.

This story was originally published April 11, 2022 8:32 PM.

Profile Image of Jonas E. Pope IV

Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV has covered college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central, NC State and the ACC for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.


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