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Rookies Allisha Gray, Kaela Davis give Wings an immediate boost

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Eight SEC players taken in 2017 WNBA draft (2:25)

Eight players from the Southeastern Conference, including four in the first round, are taken in the 2017 WNBA draft. (2:25)

Shortly after Dallas selected Allisha Gray with the fourth overall pick in this year's WNBA draft, she heard a familiar name called.

The Wings were on the clock again six picks later where they drafted Kaela Davis, Gray's University of South Carolina teammate.

Dallas coach Fred Williams said he saw Gray and Davis "contributing minutes," maybe as bench players or perhaps as specialists. While it's still early in the season, the former Gamecocks have already made Dallas a winner in this year's draft.

"I think they've really exceeded their expectations right now," Williams said.

In a rookie class that has yet to make much of an impact, the first-year guards stand out. Heading into Friday's road game at New York, Gray and Davis rank among the Wings' top five in points per game, minutes played, true shooting percentage and usage rate.

The parallels between Gray and Davis stand out, too. They both went to high school in Georgia. They both transferred to South Carolina and helped bring the Gamecocks a national championship. And they both declared for the WNBA draft despite each having a year of NCAA eligibility remaining, a choice that's paid dividends for themselves and for Dallas.

The Wings have their franchise player in Skylar Diggins-Smith, and now they have some strong pieces built around her. Along with Karima Christmas-Kelly, the former Gamecocks complete a dynamic group of young players who hope to turn Dallas around after an 11-23 season in 2016.

"We've kind of been through this journey together," Davis, who is averaging 10 points per game off the bench, said of Gray. "We've found a way to kind of connect. She and I are both women of few words at times, so basketball's been kind of our way to communicate with each other."

Davis and Gray had plenty of time to develop that relationship. Both had to sit out a year at South Carolina per transfer rules, allowed only to play on the practice squad. Winning a national title a year later and hearing their names called in the first round of the draft -- along with South Carolina center Alaina Coats, who was drafted second overall by the Sky but is still coming back from an ankle injury sustained earlier this year -- made the wait well worth it.

The two haven't done much sitting out early in their professional careers. Gray, a starter, is averaging 13 points per game and leads Dallas in the player impact estimate, a stat that compares a player's contributions to team stats based on game totals. Davis is the sixth or seventh player off the bench for the Wings, but is fifth in minutes per game.

Versatility has been a key for both early on; the 6-foot-2 Davis and 6-foot Gray can guard multiple positions.

"Their quickness and ability to handle the ball in the transition game have really helped them," Williams said. "They're only going to get better. They've shown a great work ethic."

That's not to say there haven't been struggles. Davis and Gray said the physicality of the WNBA has been an adjustment, and the mental side of the game has tested them, too.

"A lot of it is reading screens. The past few games, a lot of teams are trapping these ball screens, so it's a lot of things like that," Davis said. "Every game, there's little things to adjust to. The things that happened the first two games haven't happened the last few games."

Friday's matchup with the Liberty (2-3) will be the start of the first test of the season for the Wings. They face Washington, reigning champion Los Angeles and still-undefeated Minnesota over a six-game stretch that also includes a road game against Indiana. The rookies' hot start will be tested against some of the league's best guards, including Maya Moore, Sugar Rodgers, Chelsea Gray and Tayler Hill.

Luckily for Dallas, the two have already dealt with trying times together.

"Coming to a new team and having Kaela around, I knew I had a person who I can be myself around," Gray said. "Me and Kaela have been through a lot."