COLLEGE STATION, Texas —
Texas A&M junior Kelsey Bone intends to have her degree in hand in May and begin collecting a WNBA paycheck around the same time.
Bone, a 6-foot-4 center, said Wednesday she will skip her senior year and enter the WNBA draft, which takes place on April 15. Bone said she's been told she might be selected anywhere from fourth to eighth overall.
"This was always the goal - every part of the plan was to become a professional basketball player,'' Bone said during a sometimes emotional news conference, adding one of her greatest accomplishments was "putting on a Texas A&M jersey the past two years.''
"I will forever be an Aggie,'' she said.
Bone was named a third-team All-American on Tuesday. She ranked third in the Southeastern Conference this season in scoring with 16.6 points per game, and second with 9.3 rebounds per game. The Aggies finished 25-10 and lost to Nebraska in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"There's not another player in that (All-American) top 15 who improved as much as she has in the last year,'' A&M coach Gary Blair said. "She put in the work in the summer, and she's worked hard in the gym. The girl is ready for the next challenge, although it would be to our benefit ... if she was still around.''
Bone led the Aggies to the Sweet 16 in 2012. Bone, who started her career at South Carolina and sat out the Aggies' 2011 national title season after transferring, said she's on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in university studies.
"I definitely took the road less traveled to get to this point,'' Bone said of starting her college career in Columbia, S.C., in 2009 before coming back closer to her home of Sugar Land, near Houston.
Blair said he intends to add two post players in the late signing period with Bone leaving. Karla Gilbert, who will be a senior, will also be expected to step up in Bone's absence as a 6-5 presence down low. The Aggies, who won the SEC tournament title their first year in the league, exceeded preseason expectations this season with seven freshmen making up half of Blair's roster.
"This group is in great hands, and we'll be fine,'' Bone said. "And I still say `we' because I'll forever be a part of this program.''
Perhaps the most notable women's player to declare for the draft with a season of eligibility remaining was current Los Angeles Spark Candace Parker, who did so in 2008 after leading Tennessee to consecutive national titles.