Former West Allis Central girls basketball standout Mehryn Kraker, fresh off a strong career with the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, has been drafted into the Women's National Basketball Association, selected by the Washington Mystics in the third round April 13.
Kraker was selected with the 27th overall selection (third round) after leading the Phoenix to a third straight Horizon League tournament championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament. UWGB has won 19 consecutive regular-season titles.
"Leading up to the Draft, I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the combine in Dallas," Kraker said. "I was able to play out there in front of coaches (from) overseas and the WNBA, so I knew I had performed well enough to be in the conversation. I have an agent, so many of the coaches go straight through my agent. He informs me of anything I need to know about. I knew there was a chance, but I wasn't notified prior that I was going to be selected, so it was a pretty big shock. It was awesome to see my name pop up."
Kraker said she was drafted along with two other players, and the trio are competing for two spots on the Mystics' roster.
"It is a known fact that I have to earn my spot; it's not given to me, but I have a good chance," Kraker said. "They're also bringing in some free agents and other girls going for those spots. Just because I was drafted doesn't mean I'm going to have a spot. You just have to go out there and compete at this point, and knowing that, I think I'll be all right."
Kraker was named Horizon League Player of the Year as a senior after averaging 17.6 points per game, becoming the first UWGB player to average more than 15 points per game since 2011-12, when she was a high-school senior at Central. She was named second-team All Conference in the Horizon League her sophomore and junior seasons.
Facing the potential end of a longstanding championships streak, the Phoenix needed to win their final three games of the regular season, and Wright State dropped two of its final three, enabling UWGB to share the Horizon League crown -- the 19th consecutive season the Phoenix came away with a regular-season title. The Phoenix followed it up with a league-tourney title and an NCAA Tournament first-round game against Purdue.
"It was a roller coaster of emotions," Kraker said. "Especially being a senior and watching all the other seniors lead this team, it was nerve racking that it could have potentially fallen on my watch. Any senior or program leader, their main goal is to not have it fall on their watch. That's what we make our goal every summer. We just pride ourselves in in it. We've been tested a lot; this happened a couple years ago where we were in a similar situation, and it always seems to work out. We work hard, and we take advantage of the opportunities presented to us."
Kraker also averaged 3.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds and collected 47 steals and 12 blocked shots for Green Bay, which finished 27-6, including 15-3 in the Horizon League. She shot 53 percent from the field and 76 percent at the free-throw line.
"It just means I'm surrounded by good players," Kraker said of the POY honor. "I think winning the Horizon League Player of the Year means we had a successful year as a team. It's nice to have something behind your name as you're trying to win a job. ESPN Player of the Year, the scholar athlete (award), those are all things that are going to help me get a job; they're resume building. Although, it doesn't really matter at this stage, because everyone has had those accolades, but it does build that resume."
Earns ESPN honor
Kraker was named espnW's Mid-Major Player of the Year and finished her career in Green Bay with 1,671 points.
Her 234 made 3-pointers is a program record. She was also named Division I-AAA ADA Scholar Athlete of the Year as she pursues a master's degree in applied leadership in teaching and leadership with a 3.947 GPA. She graduated last spring with a major in education with a minor in business administration.
Kraker, who played four years with the Bulldogs varsity, averaged 19.3 points per game as a senior in West Allis. She scored 1,225 career points for Central, topping the old school scoring record of 1,005 by Angela Jackson.
In a touch of serendipity, Jackson was also drafted by the Mystics in 1998 after playing at the University of Texas.
"My parents have talked to her -- I have never -- but she's obviously a player I greatly respect, and it's cool to follow in her footsteps," Kraker said of Jackson.
Kraker, who redshirted with an injury in her first season in the program (2012-13), became just the second Phoenix player drafted into the WNBA, joining All-American Julie Wojta, drafted in 2012 by the Minnesota Lynx.
"Junior and senior year, I started to truly think I might have a chance to play, and this year it became more serious," Kraker said. "But when you're so invested in a program, that next step doesn't really cross your mind until it absolutely has to. It's so fulfilling, and when you invest something entirely in one goal, it's hard to look past it."