Women’s basketball seniors Caira Washington and Hannah Schaible traveled to Dallas last Saturday over Final Four weekend to play at the ProHoops Combine.
The pair spent the day scrimmaging other top-tier players and showing off their skills in front of WNBA and foreign coaches, general managers and agents.
The seniors, who concluded their final season at GW after a first-round WNIT exit in March, are hoping to extend their basketball careers beyond the Smith Center and the Atlantic 10.
“The opportunity to [play professionally] is so rare, such a great chance you only get once in your life so might as well try and go for it no matter what,” Schaible said.
Along with the basketball they played over the weekend, Washington and Schaible were able to learn from “WNBA legends” who had been through the drafting process, Schaible said.
“One of the things they said was, ‘specialize,’ so be the best person at your craft and really hone in on a certain skill,” Schaible said. “The certain skill that you are the greatest at is going to set you apart from the average player.”
The week leading up to the combine, both Schaible and Washington spent their time training with head coach Jennifer Rizzotti.
“We were nervous,” Washington said. “But we trained. We put in a lot of work before we left, just prepared for competition. But once we got there, we got rolling, we were fine.”
Rizzotti, who won two WNBA Championships with the Houston Comets in her five-year career in the league, prepared the duo physically and psychologically for the showcase, telling the seniors to “look out” for themselves and take advantage of opportunities to show off their prowess.
“They came in and worked out Monday through Thursday with us, so we just tried to do a lot of conditioning with basketball skills,” Rizzotti said. “[I] talked to them a little bit during those workouts about what to expect.”
While it’s unlikely Washington or Schaible will be selected in the WNBA Draft April 13 – one year after former teammate Jonquel Jones was picked up by the Los Angeles Sparks and then traded to the Connecticut Sun – the pair still has a shot at playing professionally overseas.
Rizzotti, who played professionally for eight years and has been involved with coaching USA Basketball for the past decade, said Washington would thrive in international competition.
“Playing overseas is a great way to [improve],” she said. “Because when you go over there, they expect you to be their go-to. So you really do have a chance to improve on your individual skills and really develop as a pro player and get that experience playing against other professional-level players, even ones that are playing in the WNBA.”
But Schaible and Washington still have work to do if they want to compete at the highest level, Rizzotti said.
“[Washington] does have an opportunity at some point in her career, but she’s going to have to work really hard to get better,” Rizzotti said. “She knows that we’ve been very honest with her from upfront.”
For Schaible it’s all about finding where she fits in overseas competition, where she could play for as long as she wanted, Rizzotti said.
“It’s really competitive for anybody, whether you play at George Washington or anywhere in the country, to make a WNBA roster,” Rizzotti said. “But you could play overseas for a long time, if that’s the experience you’re looking for.”
As Colonials, Schaible and Washington both played their way into program history as four-year starters.
Schaible owns the program’s eighth-highest steals tally with 245 swipes and led the A-10 in the category this season. She broke into the 1,000-point club her senior year and finished with 1,137 points in her career.
The Orlando, Fla. native earned a spot on the A-10 All-Championship team her sophomore and junior years, and made the All-Conference Defensive team in her final collegiate season.
Washington, who has been a force for the Colonials since her freshman year, when she was named A-10 Rookie of the Year, is only the second player in program history to both score more than 1,000 career-points (1,526) and grab more than 1,000 career rebounds (1,063). She owned the best field-goal percentage in the A-10 her senior year and helped lead GW to two NCAA tournament appearances.
All Schaible and Washington can do now is wait to see whether or not their play at the combine stood out against the competition while they keep working on their craft, Rizzotti said.
“I think it’s an exciting time for both of them, but it’s a little scary, to be so uncertain,” Rizzotti said. “Fortunately we’ve been through this before as coaches. We can guide them through it.”