Mikayla Cowling selected 33rd overall in 2018 WNBA Draft

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Update 4/16/2018: This article has been updated to include additional information about Mikayla Cowling’s career at Cal.

Cal women’s basketball star Mikayla Cowling is undoubtedly near or at the top of the team’s leaderboard for smiles and laughs this season — and that was before the events that unfolded last Thursday evening.

With the 33rd overall pick in the 2018 WNBA draft, the Connecticut Sun called upon Cowling, making her the seventh player in program history to be drafted into the WNBA.

In her four years at Cal, Cowling established herself as one of the greatest players to represent the blue and gold.

When head coach Lindsay Gottlieb first took over in 2011, one of her top priorities was securing a commitment from the St. Mary’s College High School budding star.

The youngest of four daughters from an athletic family, Cowling grew into a leader with the Bears almost instantly, earning a starting spot just seven games into her first season as a Bear.

At the end of her junior and senior seasons, she earned conference and defensive All-Pac-12 honorable mentions.

It’s unclear where she slides in on the program’s unofficial smiles rankings. But we do know that Cowling stands out among some of Cal’s finest student-athletes in recent memory. In particular, she is in an elite club of just four Cal women’s basketball student-athletes who have recorded 1,000 points and 400 assists during their time as Bears.

Raised in nearby Benicia, California, Cowling was a staple in Gottlieb’s rotation for her four years in Berkeley, averaging 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals. She helped lead the Bears to 81 wins while seeing time at point guard, shooting guard and both forward positions.

With all that said, Cowling’s oncourt production can’t do justice to her off-court impact. She has been instrumental with her leadership capabilities, especially as her younger teammates — such as sophomore Jaelyn Brown, freshman Kianna Smith and junior Asha Thomas —  have made the jump from high school to college.

As one of just two seniors bidding the Bears farewell, Cowling leaves Cal in good hands and with a bright outlook. If there’s one way to summarize what type of player and person the Sun are getting, look no further than her older sister Alex Cowling’s words in an interview with The Daily Californian last year:

“She does something to people,” Alex Cowling said. “She’s so chill but so kind. People just think, ‘Wow, this person — there’s something about this person.’ ”

Cowling departs for a Sun team that is based in Uncasville, Connecticut, and is coached by last season’s WNBA Coach of the Year, Curt Miller.

Connecticut’s roster features former Stanford stars Chiney Ogwumike and Kayla Pedersen. Still seeking their first ever WNBA title, the Sun finished in second place in the Eastern Conference last season.

With the No. 9 overall selection, the Sun settled on Duke guard Lexie Brown, who is projected to complement current starting point guard — and fellow Blue Devil — Jasmine Thomas. The daughter of a former NBA player, Brown’s top-10 selection was hardly a shocker and instantly reinforces the team’s backcourt line.

In the second round, Curt Miller’s squad dealt its pick to the Atlanta Dream as part of a package that brought forward Bria Holmes to Uncasville, the home of the Sun and a town of approximately 20,000 inhabitants in southeast Connecticut.

ESPN projected Mikayla Cowling as the No. 44-ranked player entering Thursday’s festivities, just outside the 36 total selections being made. But the forward’s particularly versatile background likely played a part in allowing her to sneak into the field.

Josh Yuen is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020