After four years on the Farm, Stanford forward Alanna Smith is headed to the Phoenix Mercury as the eighth overall selection in the WNBA draft. Smith, who was born in Hobart and grew up in Melbourne, Australia, was the first international recruit of Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. Now, as the highest-drafted Australian out of college, she will be playing for a fellow Australian, Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello.
Smith tallied one of the most impressive careers in Stanford women’s basketball history, which is saying something for a program with two national championships and 12 Final Four appearances, one of which Smith was a part. Smith’s 1,703 career points are 10th in school history and her 225 blocks are second.
Smith was present on Wednesday night for the draft at Nike New York Headquarters when she became the 26th Stanford player to hear her name called in the WNBA Draft. Since the inaugural season in 1997, 29 former Stanford players have appeared in a regular-season WNBA game and seven players have won a combined eight championships. Smith is the Cardinal’s 12th first-round selection and first since Chiney Ogwumike went No. 1 overall to the Connecticut Sun in 2014.
Smith became the program’s 12th All-American in program history in her senior campaign, shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from three-point range while averaging a team-high 19.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. In the Pac-12 Tournament, Smith was named the most outstanding player while averaging 18.7 points and 12.3 rebounds and leading Stanford to its 13th conference title.
The Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the year and an academic All-American, Smith organized Stanford’s first Human Trafficking Awareness game, when she tallied a career-high 34 points and contributed 15 rebounds in a win over Washington State. Smith is just the fourth player in program history to earn both All-America and academic All-America honors, joining Chiney Ogwumike, Kristin Folkl and Kate Starbird.
Smith played for Mercury coach Sandy Brondello on a silver medal-winning team at the 2018 World Cup. Brondello herself was an 18-year member of the Australian National Team, a four-time Olympian and a two-time silver medalist.
“Playing under Sandy and with the Australian team was helpful for me, and it translated well into the U.S. college season,” Smith said. “I think it will help me in the league as well.”
“She’s always been a great shooter, but she’s got so many other things there,” Brondello said. “Her biggest strength is [that] she does all the preparation before the ball actually arrives. It seems effortless.”
When Australia lost to the United States in the championship game last summer, Smith didn’t consider herself worthy of asking Elena Delle Donne for her jersey. “One day,” Smith said.
This past season, however, Smith became the fourth NCAA women’s basketball player over the past 20 years to put together a career of 1,600 points, 150 made triples and 200 blocks alongside Delle Donne, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart.
Phoenix is currently led by 14-year veteran Diana Taurasi, a shooting forward who averaged 20.7 points and 5.3 assists a season ago. The Mercury’s All-Star frontcourt also includes Brittney Griner, who in her sixth season out of Baylor scored 20.5 points, hauled in 7.7 boards and recorded 2.6 blocks, as well as DeWanna Bonner and her 17.3 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Although that is a difficult starting lineup to crack, Smith is up for the challenge. “I’m so excited to play with Phoenix,” Smith said. “They are great players, I’ve watched them play and looked up to them as players and [as] people, so I’m so excited to learn from them and be around them.”
The Mercury’s rookie class will also include the 11th overall selection, Brianna Turner, who Smith played in her last collegiate game, Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham and Louisville’s Arica Carter G.
The Phoenix open their season on May 25 against the team that ended their playoff run a year ago, reigning WNBA champion Seattle Storm.
Contact Daniel Marinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.