Former UConn women's basketball player Butler happy to get chance with WNBA's Wings

Published on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 21:24
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

MOHEGAN INDIAN RES. - A year to the day after she received her bachelor’s degree from UConn, Natalie Butler returned to Connecticut on Monday.

But what a year it was. It included a record-setting season as a graduate transfer with the George Mason women’s basketball team, being drafted by the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, and receiving her masters in global affairs. No wonder the 6-foot-5 center from Fairfax Station, Virginia, was all smiles as she stepped onto the Mohegan Sun Arena court.

“It’s cool to be here,” Butler said. “Everybody has been so incredibly supportive from Connecticut which is so unbelievable to me. Connecticut fans are so excited for the program and they want to see you succeed. The fact they followed me at Mason and were so supportive was awesome.”

Butler had four points in Dallas’ 76-69 win over the New York Liberty Monday. She did not score but grabbed six rebounds in a 79-58 loss to the host Connecticut Sun.

Making the Wings’ 12-player roster as a third-round draft pick won’t be easy, though former UConn guard Saniya Chong accomplished just that last year. But not many figured Butler would even be in a WNBA camp a year ago.

“I’m just going to keep working,” Butler said. “That’s been my motto from day one. It’s been working well. Just worry about the things that are in your control and take it from there.

“It’s been a great experience. I love the opportunity to be here. There’s some incredible talent with the Dallas Wings. I’m trying to take full advantage of that and continue to develop as a player.”

Butler was the 2014 Big East Rookie of the Year at Georgetown before transferring to UConn that summer.

In her two seasons with the Huskies, she averaged 5.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14.2 minutes over 63 games.

While UConn won the 2016 national championship and returned to the Final Four in 2017, Butler could never carve her niche. After earning her degree in communications, she opted to use her final year of eligibility at George Mason.

She led the Atlantic-10 Conference in scoring (19.2) and the country in rebounding (16.2) in being the A-10 Player of the Year. She broke the NCAA single-season rebounding record with 563 and tied the mark for the most double-doubles (33).

“In the beginning of the year I had no expectations of how it was going to go,” Butler said. “I wanted to play and enjoy my senior year. The fact that it went the way it did, I feel incredibly blessed.”

A month later she became the first George Mason player taken in the WNBA Draft when she was chosen by Dallas with the 30th pick overall.

“On draft night, all of my teammates showed up,” Butler said. “I wasn’t going to do anything. But my coaches and teammates convinced me that, ‘Nat, this only happens once.’ I didn’t know how it would work out.”

The Wings chose former UConn player Azura Stevens with their first-round pick. Chong and Butler played two years together in Storrs. Though Butler has made it this far, she is far from satisfied.

Dallas will play its final exhibition game Sunday at home against the Las Vegas Aces. The regular season opener is April 20 in Dallas against the Atlanta Dream.

“The fact that the Wings were willing to take a chance on me was fantastic,” Butler said. “I want to prove to them that they made the right decision.”

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 21:24. Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2018 21:26.