Former UTEP women’s basketball standout Kayla Thornton has survived the first round of cuts and will be in uniform with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics when they open their 2014 preseason at Indiana on May 6.
Four players were trimmed from the roster on Friday, reducing its total size to 17. Of those 17, five of the individuals are currently fulfilling obligations to overseas commitments. By the end of the preseason the roster will need to be at 12 total players, with anticipated cuts coming following the contests against Indiana (road, May 6 and home May 7) and at Chicago (May 13).
Thornton had a decorated career with UTEP from 2010-14. The Miners compiled a record of 96-36 with her in uniform, the best four-year stretch in program history, which was aided by an unprecedented three straight 20-plus win seasons.
She enjoyed a huge senior year by becoming the first player in program history to average a double-double (19.5 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per contest). She also set single-season school standards for consecutive double-digit scoring contests (32), double-doubles (19), total points (663) and rebounds (344).
Her efforts helped the Miners (29-8) advance to the championship contest of the WNIT while tying the school and Conference USA record for wins in a season. UTEP also established program records for field goals (955), three-pointers (218), free throws (697), points (2,825), points per game (76.4), rebounds (1,606), offensive rebounds (577), assists (542) and steals (355).
She was named an Associated Press Honorable-Mention All-American, secured First-Team All C-USA honorees and also earned placement on the league’s five-member All-Defensive squad.
She departed El Paso as the program’s career record holder for doubles (40), field goals (600) & attempts (1,387), free throws (390) & attempts (530), points (1,679) & rebounds (1032). She was a three-time All C-USA pick while also earning back-to-back All-Defensive Team selections.
Thornton is the 19th player mentored by Adams to move on to the professional ranks. Adams sent five players to the next level while racking up the wins at Independence Community College, including WNBA draftees Svetlana Volnaya and Maria Villaroel.
Since Adams assumed the post at UTEP, there have now been 14 individuals to sign a pro deal. They are in the form of Kimya Murray (2001-02), Dragana Zoric (2001-03), Noni Wharemate (2002-04), Vaida Zagurskyte (2002-04), Marta Dydek (2003-05), Dana Penno (2004-05), Kasia Krezel (2004-08) Izabela Piekarska (2004-08),Claudia Porras (2006-08), Jareica Hughes (2006-10), Natasha Lacy(2007-08), Baiba Eglite (2008-12), Anete Steinberga (2009-13) and Kayla Thornton (2010-14). Both Lacy and Piekarska were drafted in the WNBA.
Another senior from the record-setting 2014 squad, Kristine Vitola, is expected to continue her career at the professional level as well.