LYNCHBURG, Va. - Not only is she celebrating her 25th birthday today, but Liberty graduate Avery Warley has another important reason to rejoice. She will open the 2012 WNBA season this weekend as an official member of the Phoenix Mercury's 11-player roster.
Warley will be in her familiar No. 23 uniform when the Mercury tip off their 2012 campaign Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against the Minnesota Lynx. The rematch of the 2011 WNBA Western Conference Finals will be televised live by ABC.
Warley becomes the third Liberty graduate to play in the WNBA and the first to play for the Mercury. Katie (Feenstra) Mattera played in the league for five seasons (2005-09), and Megan Frazee spent two years (2009-10) with the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Warley signed a free agent contract with the Mercury on April 26 and quickly began to impress head coach Corey Gaines and his staff with her rebounding ability. During a 102-73 exhibition victory over the Japanese National Team on May 8, Warley tallied eight points and 13 rebounds.
One of two rookies on the 2012 Phoenix Mercury roster, Warley joins the team's first round draft pick, point guard Samantha Prahalis from Ohio State. They will be part of a Mercury team, led by former Connecticut standout Diana Taurasi, which captured WNBA titles in 2007 and 2009.
Warley and Prahalis will make their home debut at the US Airways Center on May 26, when the Mercury host the Los Angeles Sparks at 10 p.m. Eastern. Warley will also look forward to her team's July 1 contest. That day, the Mercury will visit Warley's hometown of Washington, D.C., for a 4 p.m. tilt against the Washington Mystics.
Warley finished her four years with the Lady Flames as the leading rebounder in program and Big South Conference history, with 1,282 boards. She also finished No. 1 in Liberty history for games played (132), No. 3 for both blocked shots (166) and double-doubles (47) and No. 5 for points (1,453).
Warley was a three-time first team All-Big South selection and was named MVP of the 2012 Big South Championship. She helped the Lady Flames capture the Big South Championship title and advance to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship three times (2009, 2010 and 2012).
2012 Phoenix Mercury 11-Player Roster
DeWanna Bonner, G/F, 6-4, Auburn
Candice Dupree, F, 6-2, Temple
Alexis Gray-Lawson, G, 5-8, California
Alexis Hornbuckle, G, 5-10, Tennessee
Charde Houston, F, 6-0, Connecticut
Samantha Prahalis, G, 5-7, Ohio State
Nakia Sanford, F/C, 6-4, Kansas
Diana Taurasi, G, 6-0, Connecticut
Penny Taylor, F, 6-1, Australia
Zane Tamane, C, 6-7, Latvia
Avery Warley, C, 6-3, Liberty