Wirth and Risper Drafted by WNBA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt's Christina Wirth and Jennifer Risper were both selected in the 2009 WNBA Draft, held Thursday in New York. Wirth, a 6-1 forward from Mesa, Ariz., was chosen by the Indiana Fever with the 19th selection. Risper, a 5-9 guard from Moreno Valley, Calif., went to the Chicago Sky with the 29th overall selection.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt's Christina Wirth and Jennifer Risper were both selected in the 2009 WNBA Draft, held Thursday in New York.

Wirth, a 6-1 forward from Mesa, Ariz., was chosen by the Indiana Fever with the 19th selection.

Risper, a 5-9 guard from Moreno Valley, Calif., went to the Chicago Sky with the 29th overall selection.

"We are excited for two more Commodores to have a chance to continue their playing careers in the WNBA," VU Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "Christina and Jennifer will be well-prepared to compete at the next level, and I'm sure they will both make the most of their opportunities."

The duo become the 11th and 12th Commodores selected in the WNBA draft. Since Balcomb took over at Vanderbilt, a total of eight players have heard their names called on draft day.

Aside from being co-captains for the past two years, Wirth and Risper are best friends and college roommates.

Wirth led the Commodores in scoring at 16.6 points per game and pulled down nearly six rebounds per game. Vanderbilt went 26-9 this season, advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the 14th time in school history. Wirth was named the Most Valuable Player of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which the Commodores won for a sixth time.

"It's really amazing to have an opportunity like this," Wirth said. "We've both been playing our whole lives, and all the hard work continues to pay off. When you're young, you hope to be able to play in college. We were lucky enough to have that chance, and now to get to play professionally, at the highest level, is very exciting."

Less than 300 miles north of Nashville, the Fever call Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse home. The Fever went 17-17 a season ago, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Fever Head Coach Lin Dunn selected Arizona State's Briann January with the sixth overall pick before taking Wirth with the sixth pick of the second round. The Fever will also have the sixth pick of the third and final round (32nd overall).

Indiana's 2009 WNBA Season begins on June 6 with a game at Atlanta, returning home the next evening to host Minnesota.

Risper was named the 2009 WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year for her tenacious play this season. She led the Commodores in steals as Vanderbilt ranked No. 1 in the SEC in both turnover margin and takeaways.

"Basketball is something that I love and I'm passionate about, so I've always wanted to take it as far as I could," Risper added. "Vanderbilt has done a great job to prepare us for this opportunity, and we're excited for what this can do for the program."

With a record of 12-22 a year ago, the Sky finished fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Sky have relied on players from the SEC in recent years, taking LSU's Sylvia Fowles in 2008 and Ole Miss' Armintie Price in 2007.

Sky Head Coach Steve Key chose Maryland's Kristi Toliver with the third overall pick Thursday before taking Texas A&M's Danielle Gant in the second round. Risper was chosen with the third pick of the third round.

The Sky will play their first game of the 2009 season at Minnesota on June 6, returning to Chicago's UIC Pavilion to open their home schedule on June 12 against Atlanta.

As conference rivals, the Fever and Sky are scheduled to meet four times in the 2009 regular season. The teams will face each other in a preseason game on Thursday, May 28, at Indiana.

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