Bussie’s Story Is One of Perseverance

MORGANTOWN – Asya Bussie certainly has a lot to celebrate this week. And quite deservingly so.

On Monday, the West Virginia womens’ basketball star was selected by the Minnesota Lynx with the 15th overall pick in the WNBA draft.

If that wasn’t enough to break out the bells and whistles, today is her 23rd birthday.

”I can’t even put into words how excited and blessed I am,” Bussie said on Monday. “I was nervous all day, I woke up nervous, and I’m glad to know where I’m going. I’m excited to be playing with Minnesota with some great players like Monica Wright, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus. It’s a great team.”

No kidding. The Lynx have captured two of the last three WNBA titles and boast one of the strongest rosters in the league.

”It’s awesome,” she said. ”I couldn’t think of a better team, the defending national champions. There are great players on their team, not just good players, but great players. I’m excited to play with some great players and help them defend that title.

”Whatever (my) role is, I will play it to the best of my ability. They’re big on defense; I’m big on defense, that’s one of my strengths. You can never go wrong with playing defense so I’m definitely going to play that and I also want to extend my offensive game.”

Bussie will likely have to battle for a spot on the Lynx’s roster with newly signed posts Waltiea Rolle and Damiris Dantas.

That battle won’t come close to the one the Randallstown, Md. native had to endure during her final two seasons as a Mountaineer.

During West Virginia’s second practice of the 2012-13 season, Bussie, the Mountaineers’ 6-foot-4 center, dove for a rebound and collided with a practice team player. The collision resulted in a torn ACL for Bussie, which required season-ending surgery.

A year after earning first team All-Big East honors and leading West Virginia in scoring with 12.1 points per game, Bussie had to watch the Mountaineers compete in their inaugural Big 12 season from the bench.

While it was emotionally taxing to watch instead of play, Bussie persevered and returned to form in the 2013-14 season and led the Mountaineers to one of their finest campaigns in program history.

After a season-opening loss to Ohio State, Bussie led WVU to victories in 29 of its next 32 games, including a share of the regular season Big 12 title as well as an appearance in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

The Mountaineers’ 29-4 record earned them a No. 2 seed in their fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Bussie’s collegiate career came to a disappointing end when the Mountaineers fell to No. 7 seed LSU on the Tigers’ home court in the second round.

But, once again, Bussie endured and prepared for the WNBA draft.

”I’ve continued to work out, lift, condition, and continue to do rehab to make sure my knee is as strong as it is,” she said. ”I took a couple of days off then got right back to it so I could prepare for this day and give my best performance at training camp.”

The 15th overall pick made Bussie the highest draft pick in Mountaineers’ history.

Bussie edged out former All-American point guard Yolanda Paige, who was taken with the 16th overall pick by the Indiana Fever in the 2005 draft. Kate Bulger, sister of former Mountaineers quarterback Marc Bulger, was the first WVU player drafted in the WNBA as she went as the final pick in 2004 to Minnesota. Most recently, Olayinka Sanni was drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Detroit Shock, and during her rookie season, won a WNBA Championship.

”It’s shocking to me that I’m the highest pick in program history,” Bussie said. ”That is a great honor and it goes with the theme of this past year – just to make program history.”

Bussie is the 15th player in WVU history to record 1,000 points – which she did in 100 games – and 500 rebounds. She finished 11th all-time in WVU’s record books with 1,497 career points and ranks sixth all-time with 853 rebounds, and second with 382 offensive boards.

The Lynx open their season May 16 against the Washington Mystics with their first home game coming two days later against the Connecticut Sun at the Target Center.

”I’m really excited and really blessed to be in this position,” Bussie said. ”I’m very excited for training camp.”

Tony Viola can be reached via email at: tviola@theintelligencer.net.