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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Former UConn guard Saniya Chong thrilled to live a dream

Things have happened so fast that Saniya Chong lost track of the days but she will never forget that moment earlier this week when Dallas Wings coach Fred Williams told the former UConn guard that she was part of the 2017 Dallas team.

"We were all waiting in line, I went in," Chong said of Wednesday's meeting. "It started off as a casual conversation about things and they had told me that I had made the team. I was pretty nervous, I thought that overall I was doing the best that I can but at the same time, it could go both ways."

Veteran guard Erin Phillips was probably the most surprising of the players cut from Dallas resulting in all five of the 2017 WNBA Draft selections making the Wings roster.

"It did surprise me because the vets have been here, they know what they are doing and we have a lot of new people this year but there are only 12 people on the team so somebody had to get cut," Chong said. "It is really surprising but at the end, there are limited spots."

There are some numbers affiliated with the UConn women's basketball program that simply boggle the mind. Here is another one - Chong is the 33rd UConn player taken in the WNBA Draft and when she makes her debut with the Wings, 32 of those 33 draftees will have played at least one regular-season game in the WNBA. The lone exception happens to be Chong's former position coach at UConn, Shea Ralph who was a third round pick by Utah in 2001 but that is more of a case of multiple knee operations preventing Ralph from pursuing a career in professional basketball.

Chong was home in Ossining, N.Y. watching the draft when she saw her name pop up on the screen as Dallas took her with the 26th overall pick.

"I got some calls from the (Wings) president, the coach," Chong said. "I was really nervous as they kept going down and eventually my name appeared on the screen so I was really happy so I got the chance to prove to everybody that I beloged here.

Chong grew up about 30-40 miles from Madison Square Garden but she won't admit to being a regular at New York Liberty games over the years.

"I didn't go consistently," Chong said. "It was definitely a dream growing up, watching the girls and just thinking about it so it is a huge opportunity that I get a chance to do it."

One thing that happened during training camp that I wanted to ask Chong about was the decision to miss her team's second and final preseason game so she took take part in graduation ceremonies at UConn. Some might think she was given assurances that her spot on the roster was secure if she went to graduation but that is not the case.

"I talked to the coaches, they knew that graduation is a huge accomplishment and it wouldn't affect any decisions on me making it or not making it," Chong said. "I had discussed with them a few times about it and I knew I have  to give my all in my first week of practice before I went to graduation."

Chong will wear the familiar No. 12 that she donned at UConn as she was a member of three national championship teams and also at Ossining High School as she had 2,988 points in her four years of high school while averaging 30.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 5.1 steals per game. She had 52 games with at 30 points, 20 with at least 40 points and her four 50-point outbursts included 61 as a sophomore against John Jay.

"I've had it since fifth grade maybe even sooner, kind of a number that I got and I just stuck with it," Chong said.

While the Wings roster features the five rookies, former Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins-Smith is there to help Chong make the adjustment to the pro game.

"I am always asking her questions, she has been a huge supporter and is really helping me out," Chong said.

Connecticut fans will need to wait until August 12 to see Chong in person unless they want to make the trip to New York for a June 2 Liberty-Wings game. The first five games will be played in either Texas or Arizona beginning with Sunday's season opener at Phoenix.

"I'm definitely going to be nervous but way more excited to get going," Chong said.

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