Two St. John’s stars ready to take the next step

Sports/Athletic Communications

Sports/Athletic Communications

Carmine Carcieri, Co-Editor

After seven combined seasons in Queens, four combined All-Big East First team selections and 3,000 plus combined points, St. John’s women’s basketball stars Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant have added another remarkable achievement to their resumes.

Handford was selected in the third round, 27th overall, of the WNBA Draft to the Connecticut Sun, while Grant was chosen 31st overall in the third round by the Washington Mystics. The two seniors were the first St. John’s players to be picked since 2013, when both Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith came off the board in the second round.

“The crazy part about it was that everyone was checking their phones and then I saw it and didn’t know how to feel,” Handford said following the draft. “It didn’t hit me that I was drafted until (Friday) and it’s a dream come true”

“My mom saw it when the screen came back on and she started screaming,” Grant said. “I looked up and just dropped to my knees and started praying thanking God. We were in the living room just screaming for 15 minutes and embracing the moment.”

Handford and Grant are two of the most decorated players in St. John’s program history because of their determination, passion and undeniable work ethic. They led the Red Storm to their first Big East title in 28 years this past season and helped mold the program into what it is today.

Handford played all four seasons of her college career with the Johnnies, as she helped lead the program to four postseason appearances (three NCAA Tournaments in four years).

At 5’9”, the Newark, NJ native will provide the Sun with another guard that is capable of creating her own shot and scoring at will. She can attack the basket with her effective ball handling skills and slashing ability, or she can pull up from mid-range. Handford is really strong in transition and is a versatile offensive force, playing both on and off the ball.

“I’m really drawn to her athleticism and her ability to score the basketball,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said to The Torch when asked about Handford. “And most importantly, their coaching staff, the first thing they talk about is her leadership and work ethic.

“Championships are won in the locker room first. We wanted to draft kids with outstanding work ethic and good character, so we’re really, really excited to bring her in.”

Handford can score with the best of them, but she is also a very underrated passer. She makes her teammates better, doesn’t force looks and has solid vision, especially in transition.

“I’ll take it a step further. She’s unselfish,” Miller said. “She can get her shot every possession, but she does a good job of finding her teammates and sharing the basketball. That’s especially impressive for a rookie.”

Grant transferred to St. John’s following one season at Clemson, and she too was a huge part of the Red Storm’s success. Her greatest strengths include her toughness, athleticism, creativity, power and most importantly, her energy defensively.

She is also a strong rebounder and has improved her fitness level in the last couple of seasons.

“Her size and being able to shoot the ball is something that pro scouts look at,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “She really transformed herself in the offseason and her mental toughness is something that will give her a great opportunity to make the (Mystics).”

Handford and Grant will have to ensure their spot in training camp and could see some time overseas early in their career, but there is no doubt that they deserve a spot in the big league.

Both Red Storm greats will have to work on the consistency of their jump shot, and Handford has to improve defensively. But that certainly won’t take away from what they have accomplished so far in their basketball careers and what they plan to accomplish at the next level.

With their legacies already everlasting at Carnesecca Arena, Washington