GW women’s basketball players Cathy Joens and Ugo Oha will sit by the phone this weekend, waiting for a call that could determine their futures. On the other end of the line, they hope to hear from one of 13 WNBA teams, telling them they’ve just been drafted.
Head coach Joe McKeown and WNBA executives said both Colonial stars have a legitimate chance to be selected in Saturday’s collegiate draft, after both attended a pre-draft scouting combine last week in Tarrytown, N.Y.
The camp hosted 30 players who hope to be among the 38 players selected in the three-round draft.
“They both did a great job at the camp,” said Judy Holland-Burton, senior vice president of the Washington Mystics. “They put themselves in a position to showcase their skills and performed to the best of their abilities at the camp. I think that both of them could be drafted somewhere in the second to third round.”
Cheryl Reeve, a GW women’s basketball assistant from 1990 to 1995 and current assistant coach of the Charlotte Sting, said she is also optimistic about the two players’ chances.
“I think that both of them could go somewhere in the mid-second to mid-third rounds,” she said. “I would be very surprised if neither of them got drafted. Joens can really hit the three and extend the defense, while Ugo has a great interior game. It should be a great day for GW Saturday.”
McKeown attended the camp with his players and said he was proud of their performances.
“Whether or not that helped their chances of moving up, we will have to wait and see,” he said. “I think anything can happen, from one of them going in the first round to the third round or both of them not getting drafted at all.”
If both Joens and Oha do not get drafted, they might still have a chance to play in the WNBA, which is the only professional women’s basketball league in the country.
“I think if they don’t get drafted, either of them could have a good chance to get invited to a (WNBA) camp as a free agent,” Holland-Bolton said.
If neither player makes a WNBA squad and Europe becomes the next option, Oha has one advantage over Joens – her size. At 6-foot-4-inches, Oha has been an intimidating presence in the low post and was named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year in her junior and senior seasons. Joens, a 5-foot-11-inch guard, won the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award in her junior and senior seasons.
“European teams are more likely to sign an American post player than a guard,” McKeown said. “I think someone in Europe would easily give Ugo a chance to play.”
Oha said if she is not drafted Saturday, she will pursue a career in Europe.
“I would probably go to a really good foreign league,” Oha said. “I’d only go for one season and then try and come back to the States.”
Joens, on the other hand, is currently in graduate school, working toward a master’s degree in public health. She may have to decide between pursuing a career in the medical profession now or putting that off for the chance to play in Europe.
“She wants to play basketball, but she will take what is presented to her,” McKeown said. “I told her to follow her heart. She could put her studies on hold. Grades don’t change.”
Joens said she has a backup plan if she is not drafted Saturday.
“If I don’t get drafted I will try to go to camp and make a roster,” Joens said. “I might go to Europe and play one season. If I don’t play this summer, I only have two classes left for graduate school.”
Whenever her basketball career ends, Joens said she might be interested in going even further than a master’s degree in public health.
“I would like to go to medical school,” she said. “I would probably go here. Dr. (Robert) Chernak and coach McKeown have really pushed my studies and could make it a reality to study at GW Medical School.”
The Colonials have had one player drafted since the WNBA’s inception in 1997. The Sacramento Monarchs picked 1997 graduate Tajama Abraham-Ngongba in the fourth round of the league’s inaugural draft. She played one season in the league before being released but came back in 1999 to play one more year with the Detroit Shock. After another year of play in Europe, she decided to retire and become a collegiate coach. Currently, Abraham-Ngomgba is an assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Elisa Aguilar (Class of 2000) played two seasons in Spain before signing with the Utah Starzz in 2002. She played one season for the Starzz before returning to play professionally in Spain.
The first round of the draft will be televised on ESPN Saturday at noon.