Not long after the Dream took Chennedy Carter at No. 4 in the WNBA draft, her cousin told her that Lil Wayne, one of Carter’s favorite rappers, had tweeted his excitement about her coming to Atlanta.
Carter couldn’t believe it.
“I was like, ‘You’re lying. You’re not serious,’ ” Carter said. “He was like, ‘He didn’t even say your name. He said the name we call you, the name all your friends call you. He said, Hollywood.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ ”
But, with her electric scoring and consistency during her three seasons at Texas A&M, Carter (5-foot-7) is certainly no stranger to the spotlight. She was the first Aggie to be named an All-American in each of her first three seasons at A&M and the first player in program history selected to the All-SEC first team her first three seasons, and she owns the school’s top two single-season scoring records, with 23.3 points per game in 2018 and 22.7 in 2017.
As a junior, Carter, one of the more dynamic offensive players in the NCAA, led her team with 21.3 points per game and was second with 3.5 assists. With her ability to muscle her way to the paint and score, she will look to give the Dream's struggling offense a boost this season. Last season, with five-time WNBA All-Star Angel McCoughtry out injured, the Dream finished with the worst record in the league (8-26). They selected McCoughtry with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, but she signed with the Las Vegas Aces in free agency in February.
“That was a big part of what we discussed, the offense definitely needed some work,” Carter said. “Coach (Nicki Collen) went to the drawing board, and I feel like she’s ready to work, ready to get back to it. She definitely drafted a bunch of good pieces and also put in pieces like Kalani Brown. So I definitely think we’ll have a good team and we’ll fix everything, or tune it up.”
The Dream were the worst offensive team in the WNBA last season, scoring 71.2 points per game, shooting 37.1% from the field and 29% from 3-point range, all of which rank at the bottom of the league. They regressed from 2018, when they went 23-11 and narrowly lost out on a trip the WNBA finals in Collen’s first season as head coach, in which she was named WNBA coach of the year.
Moving forward, the Dream need a scoring boost, and Carter might be able to supply that. To Collen, Carter’s ability to be aggressive and drive is one of her biggest assets.
“I think what makes me so excited about her is she’s impossible to keep from touching the paint,” Collen said. “Her ball skills, her size, her strength, her quickness. To be able to get by a defender and put pressure on the defense, whether it’s to go score the ball herself or give it up, I just think she’s going to be a hard person for pretty much anyone in our league to keep out of the lane.”
In college, Carter showed up for big games, joining Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne (now of the Washington Mystics) as the second player to lead the NCAA Tournament in scoring in back-to-back seasons (Carter averaged 31 points per game in her NCAA Tournament career, behind Delle Donne’s 34.4 and Texas Tech’s Sheryl Swoopes’ 31.7, among players with at least five NCAA Tournament game appearances).
As a junior, she scored a game-high 34 points in Texas A&M’s 93-63 loss to Team USA in an exhibition game, going 10-for-21 from the field, 5-for-10 on 3-point shots and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line, showing she can compete at a high level.
“I think what it showed that no matter who was guarding her, you had an All-Star in (Skylar Diggins-Smith) that was trying to guard her, and she couldn’t,” Collen said. “Or Sue Bird, or some of the players who are mainstays in our league who she’ll be competing against night in and night out.”
Growing up, Allen Iverson was Carter’s favorite guard, and she practiced and went through drills to get her handle as crisp as his.
Actually, Carter’s tenacity reminds Collen of another Atlanta professional athlete in Hawks point guard Trae Young, whose craftiness has made up for his smaller size, with him voted an All-Star starter in his second season in the NBA (Carter and Young, both 21, previously met at a McDonald’s All-American game).
“Some players just have ‘it,’” Collen said. “They have that belief that when it’s me against you, I can beat you every single time. Trae Young was able to come into the league with that mentality, and I think she’s got a lot of what Trae has, this creativity with the ball, the ability to score it in different ways, to give it up in different ways, and just, quite frankly, the swag and confidence to not back down from anyone.”
Given the Dream’s struggles on offense last season, Carter is looking like a good pick-up, but it may be a while before she can show her skills on the court. Because of the coronavirus, the WNBA postponed the start of the regular season, which was originally scheduled for May 15. Training camp has yet to begin, and the coming season’s start date is still up in the air.
Once things get off the ground, though, Carter will be the one who determines how big a role she takes on as a rookie.
“We certainly think that there’s a huge opportunity for her, both this year and obviously in the future as well,” Collen said. “But I expect her to come in and compete for a starting job. Now does that mean she’s going to get it, no, but you don’t take somebody in the top three or four in the draft and not expect them to come in and compete for opportunity.”
Whenever it’s possible, Carter, who became the second-leading scorer in Texas A&M’s history in only three seasons (1,983), is eager to get started with the Dream.
“I definitely envision myself being a leader,” Carter said. “I envision being someone who can come in and create and build confidence and instill confidence in my teammates. Really, I’m a player that you can work with, and can create for others and myself. Just the role all rooks have to take, looking up to veterans and (having them show) me the ropes. Really looking forward to getting a lot of (wins) this season.”