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CU Buffs’ Mya Hollingshed excited for WNBA opportunity

Colorado senior selected No. 8 overall by Las Vegas Aces

BOULDER, CO, Feb. 23, 2022: University ...
Colorado senior Mya Hollingshed led the Buffaloes’ All-Pac-12 selections with her second consecutive first team honor. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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With tears in her eyes, Mya Hollingshed was hugging her mother when the phone rang on Monday night.

Colorado’s star forward had just seen her name come across the screen on ESPN as the No. 8 overall selection in the WNBA Draft and her new team, the Las Vegas Aces, was on the line.

“I was just like, ‘Thank you,’” Hollingshed said of her reaction to the Aces. “I was hearing what they were saying but not really because I just kept saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you so much.’”

Hollingshed, who helped CU (22-9) end a nine-year NCAA Tournament drought last month, didn’t begin playing organized basketball until eighth grade and admitted her first true thoughts of playing in the WNBA came a year ago.

Colorado’s Mya Hollingshed pulls down a rebound over Washington’s Darcy Rees during the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on March 2 2022, at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. (Al Powers/Pac-12 Conference)

A series of events over the past 12 months led her to Monday night, and to becoming the first women’s basketball player in CU history to be drafted in the first round of a professional league. She is the first Buff selected in any round of the WNBA draft since Chucky Jeffery (second round, No. 24 overall) in 2013.

“It was very indescribable,” she said of Monday night. “I really don’t know how to feel.”

A potential draft pick in 2021, Hollingshed chose to use the extra year of college eligibility granted to players by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I did always say that extra year I can use to develop more, get better, try to take the team to the NCAA Tournament, and I was able to do all of that at the same time,” she said. “To see that this was the final result of everything that I’ve been through and dealt with just for that moment is great.”

This season, Hollingshed was first-team All-Pac-12 and honorable mention All-American for the second year in a row. She was also the only player in the Pac-12 to lead her team in scoring (14.1 per game), rebounding (7.4 per game) and 3-point shooting (.396, 53-of-134).

Hollingshed wasn’t one of the 12 players invited to be at the draft in person and figured she might hear her name in the second round. However, the Aces had two first-round picks and had shown interest in Hollingshed leading up to the draft.

“For the past like week, I was like, ‘I just really want to go to Vegas. I want to go to Vegas,’” she said.

When the Aces were on the clock, Hollingshed paid attention — not because she thought she’d be the pick, but because she was interested in which player the Aces would get. For some reason, she said, everyone in the house stopped their conversations.

“It just got real quiet, everyone stopped their conversation just to watch that moment,” she said. “That was kind of surreal to me. Then (ESPN) said my name and it was just incredible, honestly.”

Aces general manager Natalie Williams told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the Aces wanted a stretch power forward. They had considered a wing player at No. 8, but ultimately didn’t want to gamble on the 6-foot-3 Hollingshed not being available at No. 11.

“Mya Hollingshed is not only an incredible athlete, but her 3-point shooting is hard to come by,” Williams told the Review-Journal.

That Hollingshed was a fit with the Aces seemed almost destined. She had already become a fan of the Aces and then has recently developed some connections to them.

Every year, CU plays in the Pac-12 Tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena, where the Aces play, so she already knows her new home arena. Last month at the tournament, she saw Aces — and Las Vegas Raiders — owner Mark Davis. Her mother encouraged her to say hello.

“I hope that this upcoming draft, I’m able to get to know you better just because I really love the Aces,” she told Davis.

Williams, who was just hired as Aces’ GM a few days ago, once played professionally with former CU great Shelley Sheetz — who now does Buffs’ radio and became close with Hollingshed this year. And, the Aces are coached by former Colorado State great Becky Hammon.

“Everything that’s happened to me has just been a continuous cycle of connections that I can relate to or that has been a part of my life, so that’s great,” she said.

As of Tuesday, Hollingshed said the feeling of being a professional basketball player had yet to sink in. However, she flies to Las Vegas on Wednesday and will begin training camp next week. The Aces’ season opener is May 6 against the Phoenix Mercury.

“I just have to go with the mindset that they drafted me for a reason,” she said. “Just continue to do what I’m doing but also get better and soak everything up and have fun with it. Now I know where I’m going, I know what they are looking for. I just have to go there and learn everything and just have fun.”

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