The last time the WNBA’s Detroit Shock played the Washington Mystics at the MCI Center June 21 former GW basketball star Tajama Abraham was not on the roster.
But Abraham, who had been waived by the Shock June 10 and re-signed June 22, was with the team Saturday when the Mystics defeated Detroit 78-53 at the MCI Center – Washington’s second victory this season.
The month and a half since the start of the WNBA’s preseason has been a roller coaster ride for Abraham. After starting in the Shock’s first exhibition game, Abraham was cut by Detroit just before the season started. She was brought back less than two weeks later, and since then has been a role player for Detroit (6-8).
“Right now I am just waiting to see what happens,” Abraham said. “Hopefully this will be something that I can learn from and I’ll be able to turn it into a positive experience.”
From California to Europe
After graduating from GW in 1997, Abraham was selected by the Sacramento Monarchs – the 31st pick overall in the first-ever WNBA draft. She played in all 28 of Sacramento’s games but started in just five, averaging 15 minutes, 4.4 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per game. While Abraham’s lack of playing time did not bother her, the lack of success by the Monarchs (10-18 in 1997) did.
“I liked it there, and it was a good atmosphere,” Abraham said. “But we just kept losing and that was really disheartening.”
When the WNBA’s season concluded, Abraham traveled to Europe to try her hand at professional basketball overseas. She first played in a league in Israel, where she stayed just two weeks and played in only two games.
“It felt like I was playing with a bunch of high school players,” she said. “It was me and another American, and the rest of the players were not very good.”
Following the unpleasant experience in Israel, she returned to the United States before going to Sicily to play in an Italian professional league, where she had a somewhat successful stay.
But Abraham said she is wary of playing professionally in Europe again.
“I became very paranoid the whole time I was over there,” she said. “There was a bomb threat in the airport the day I arrived in Israel, and in Italy, I was a little too close to Mafia territory. I just didn’t need the added stress from worrying about things outside of basketball.”
Death and rebirth
Abraham came to Detroit in the WNBA’s 1998 expansion draft, where she was selected in the second round from Sacramento. It appeared from the outset that Abraham was going to be a central figure in the plans of head coach Nancy Lieberman-Cline.
Abraham said she played with the top practice squad throughout training camp and started in an exhibition game at Charlotte May 30. In the team’s second exhibition game June 4 against Charlotte at home, Abraham was the first player off the bench, but a week later Lieberman-Cline decided the team no longer needed Abraham’s services and released the second-year forward along with two other players.
“It really hurt me to be cut,” Abraham said. “You can ask my dad. It was like a death in the family – it was that hard and it was that shocking. The whole family was in mourning while I wasn’t playing.”
After being cut, Abraham returned home to her family in Hampton, Va., where she worked out and stayed in shape in case she got a call to play elsewhere. When the Shock visited the Mystics June 21, Abraham came to the game as a spectator.
“When they came to D.C., I came out to the game to support my teammates,” Abraham said. “Somewhere deep down inside I felt like this was always my team.”
Abraham talked to the coaches following the game and found out the next day that a plane ticket to Detroit was waiting for her at home. She was going to be re-signed.
“It was the best feeling to hear I was being re-signed,” Abraham said. “It was like a rebirth – I felt like a new person. It made me appreciate how significant this experience of playing basketball is to me.”
Back in the Motor City
Since her return to the Shock, Abraham’s role with the club has been limited. Before Detroit’s loss to the Mystics, Abraham had played a total of 10 minutes in three games. She had her best game with the Shock Saturday, scoring five points and pulling down two rebounds in seven minutes of play.
“It has been frustrating for me since I came back,” she said. “I would hope as the season progresses that I’ll get to play more.”
Abraham might get her wish after Saturday’s game, in which the Shock shot just under 30 percent from the field against the league’s worst team.
Despite being cut this season and having limited playing time in her first two seasons in the WNBA, Abraham’s confidence has not waned from her days as a Kodak All-American at GW.
“I feel I am even with most of the players in most aspects of the game and I feel like I excel in some,” Abraham said. “Very few players have a range of post moves and can go right and left like I can. I just need to learn a little more patience and to become a better passer and I think I will be okay.”
Abraham also said she feels her personality has helped her maintain a positive outlook over the past two years.
She said laughing, “Luckily I am a very cocky basketball player, so not playing doesn’t hurt my confidence.”