Fresno's Aari McDonald drafted No. 3 overall in WNBA draft

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Aari McDonald became the highest professional basketball draft pick from the Central Valley on Thursday.

At No. 3 overall, she surpasses Memorial's Brook Lopez and Fresno State's Paul George.

The former Bullard Knight who transferred to Brookside Christian is also the first-ever Arizona Wildcat to be selected in the first round of the WNBA draft.

"You told me back in January just a little girl from Fresno now you're turning pro. How much has this city shaped you into the player that you are today?" asked ABC30 Sports Reporter Bri Mellon.

"Being from Fresno has made me tough. Like I say I'm a product of my environment. I'm excited and happy to put on for my city, and I hope I inspire all the little girls in Fresno out there," McDonald said.

McDonald's basketball career started here in the Valley. In middle school, there were no girls AAU teams, so she joined a boys team. It was then that her dad Aaron realized her potential.

"Tournament in LA, there were some big kids. I watched her go for a rebound, and she took it from a boy. I'm like yeah, she's ready," said Aaron McDonald.

Her rebounding only got better. This year she earned her second straight defensive player of the year honor to go along with PAC 12 player of the year. McDonald had the nation glued to their TVs for the Women's NCAA tournament averaging 24.8 points per game. She led Arizona to their first-ever national championship game.

"How nervous were you waiting for draft day or pregame for the national championship game?" Bri Mellon asked.

"I would say today, the worst I ever had I was picking nails which I do not do. I was really nervous, but I didn't have to wait long," McDonald said.

"This is a dream come true for her. The family was so happy for her all the hard work that she's done it's paid off," said Aaron McDonald.

The 5'6" guard was projected to be taken fifth overall, but the Atlanta Dream says they were in a "best available" situation and had to take her at No. 3.

"She deserves everything that she got coming her way and I'm just proud of her," said Devon Brewer, Aari's fiancé.

Brewer, a former Central Grizzly football player, proposed to Aari last year during the PAC 12 tournament.

"What are your thoughts now on moving to Atlanta?" Bri Mellon asked him.

"I think it's a FAR drive," Brewer said.

"Do you have any plans to celebrate with your fiancé this weekend?" Bri Mellon asked McDonald.

"I'll probably make him take me shopping," she laughed.
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