George Mason's Natalie Butler Selected by Dallas Wings in Third Round of WNBA Draft
FAIRFAX, Va. – Natalie Butler will get a shot at professional basketball.
The George Mason graduate student was taken 30th overall in the third round of the WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings on Thursday night. Butler is the first player in Mason women's basketball history to be drafted.
The 6-foot-5 center from Fairfax Station, Va., will try to join Mason alums Jen Derevjanik (2004-07) and Keri Chaconas (1998) as the only players in program history to play in the WNBA. Butler reports for WNBA training camp on April 29 and will look to be one of just 12 players on the Wings' final roster on May 17 – a day before the season begins.
"It is incredibly satisfying to know all your hard work paid off," said Butler, who watched the draft with her family, friends, teammates and coaches at Glory Days Grill in Burke. "Pretty crazy. It is so hard for me to process. To be able to do it in front of my teammates, coaches and family beside me is really surreal. The fact I was able to get drafted was awesome and humbling. I'm incredibly grateful the Dallas Wings want me to be a part of their training camp."
Butler, a graduate transfer who spent the last three years at Connecticut and started her career at Georgetown, garnered national attention this season. She earned Honorable Mention All-America honors from the Associated Press and was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year as she broke the NCAA Division I single-season rebounding record with 563 rebounds.
She also tied the Division I mark for the most double-doubles (33) and consecutive double-doubles (33) in a season. She led the nation in rebounding (16.2 rpg) and ranked first in the A-10 in scoring (19.2 ppg). She also set the program's single-season scoring record with 653 points.
She anchored a Patriots' squad that set a school record for wins (24), finished fourth in the Atlantic 10, made the WNIT for the first time in 14 years and won a postseason game for the first time in program history.
"We couldn't be more excited for Natalie," head coach Nyla Milleson said. "She is so well-deserving of this opportunity. In the year we've gotten to know her, she put in the work to help this program reach new heights. Her work ethic, humility and positive attitude all contributed to her success and record-breaking season and it is extremely rewarding to see her get drafted. We're so thrilled for her and her family and can't wait to see her future success unfold."
The Wings are heading into their third season in Dallas. The franchise began as the Detroit Shock in 1998 as one of the first WNBA expansion teams. They then moved to Tulsa in 2010 for six seasons before heading to Dallas.
Head coach Fred Williams is entering his fifth season at the helm of the franchise and has spent 20 years as an assistant coach or head coach in the WNBA. The Wings finished fifth in the Western Conference in 2017 and fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Mystics.
"It is a huge opportunity and I want to take advantage of it," Butler said. "The next few weeks I'm going to continue to work hard and get ready for training camp. Obviously there are a series of cuts that happens throughout training camp. It is never guaranteed you are on the official roster. My mindset is just to go in there. I've been given this great opportunity, take full advantage of it, just attack it and give it my best shot. Just super excited to have the opportunity. This is something I never thought would ever happen. So it is pretty amazing."
The Lake Braddock grad began her career at Georgetown, where she was tabbed the Big East Freshman of the Year and ranked fifth in the country in rebounding. She then transferred to powerhouse Connecticut. She sat out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules but played the next two years, playing in 63 games and averaging 5.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 14.3 minutes. She helped the Huskies reach two Final Fours and win the 2016 national championship.
She graduated with her bachelor's degree in communication last May, enrolled in Mason's global affairs graduate program in June and was immediately eligible to play her final season for the Patriots.
"My freshman year I never even thought this was a possibility to be drafted," Butler said. "The fact I am able to say I was able to have the senior year I did under Coach Milleson and with my teammates is pretty incredible. I don't think I would do anything differently. I've learned a lot of life lessons through my college career. I think it has made me stronger not only as a player but as a person. It is not over yet. It is just the beginning. I am just so grateful for the opportunity I had this year that allowed me to open this door to be drafted.
"A lot of that is from my teammates, coaches, my family. My family has been with me every step of the way. Not just my immediate family – aunts, uncles, godfathers, grandparents – they're all incredibly supportive. It is amazing they were able to weather the storm with me to get to this point."