As an era ended for Duke, there was still one more chance to make history.
Former Blue Devils Michelle Cooper, Delaney Graham and Sophie Jones were each drafted in the 2023 NWSL Draft Thursday night in Philadelphia. It was the third time that Duke has had at least three players picked in an NWSL draft, joining 2014 and 2018, and Cooper’s selection at No. 2 overall to the Kansas City Current marks the highest pick in program history.
“I’m excited to just go ahead and do my best and put on the best stage as possible and be able to play around amazing players and [in] an amazing organization with great coaches as well,” Cooper told reporters at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“I knew I wanted to be in the NWSL when I had conversations with my family,” the Michigan native added. “I’m super close with them and being able to be a good distance from them, where they can still come and see me, it’s something that’s very important to me.”
As expected, Cooper was the top college player selected Thursday, with high school prospect Alyssa Thompson going No. 1 to Angel City FC. But the MAC Hermann Trophy winner’s future team was not so expected: Gotham FC held the No. 2 pick Thursday morning, but traded it for 2018 MVP finalist and U.S. Women's National Team backup Lynn Williams. Thus, Cooper will be debuting with Kansas City alongside what could be a menacing attack with Debinha and fellow ACC draftee Alexa Spaanstra.
Continuing a night of surprises, Graham and Jones both slipped past their expected draft slots, the latter by three rounds. Both ultimately found promising homes, though: Graham (40th overall) goes to a Washington Spirit team with a thin depth chart at fullback and Sophie Jones (43rd overall) heads to a Chicago Red Stars club that has just one midfielder currently under contract.
Graham and Jones both started every game for Duke over the past two years. The former also owns the program record for career starts.
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