This Friday, the WNBA will host its 2020 Draft, albeit without on-site players, guests or media. A Duke player hasn't been drafted since 2018, but two Blue Devils could be selected this year.
Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom both find their names on most mock drafts, with DraftSite projecting Gorecki as an early third-round pick and Odom as a late second-round pick. The two have had careers that put them amidst Duke greats despite neither of them getting the opportunity to finish their final season as a Blue Devil.
“Just amazing people. Really fun and interesting chemistry they shared between them. Two of the most fun and enjoyable student athletes I have ever coached,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Haley and her work and the way she was willing to put the team on her back. There were times Leaonna did that as well.... Two very special people and I’m sure they are going to do great things.”
This year's Blue Devils broke out on a tremendous mid-season run, knocking off two top-15 squads and proving they had the capability of playing championship basketball on any given night. Leading the season's second-half charge were Gorecki and Odom. The two All-ACC honorees made it much more difficult to sit idly by and watch their season end when the COVID-19 restrictions were enacted.
Throughout her four years in Durham, Odom has been critiqued for her inconsistency. But this year she showed signs of the elite player scouts and coaches alike expect her to be, especially over the season's final few months. Her versatility at the one through four positions as well as her remarkable athleticism make her an attractive prospect to all 12 WNBA teams.
McCallie is one of many who knows Odom’s ceiling is sky high.
“Whatever she sets her mind to—I mean she’s brilliantly talented and she’s had to manage playing different positions and handle adversity at times at Duke," McCallie said. "And I think the sky is the limit and sticking with the commitment, the work ethic and being flexible regardless of where you go, and trying to be coachable and listening and right away being ready to perform.”
Gorecki has had a rollercoaster of a collegiate career, overcoming three major injuries to burst onto the national scene during her graduate season. The 6-foot guard has massively upped her draft stock over the last year, coming into the WNBA as close to a complete player as anybody. What the Palatine, Ill., native really took away from this past season, however, was everything that she learned about taking care of her body.
“Just kind of listening to your body. Long games take a toll on your body but if you recover right and just make sure that even if you don’t think you need to go to rehab and treatment just to get that ice bath or extra massage or whatever," Gorecki said. "You just kind of need to do it just so you can stay on top of things…. This past year I really learned the importance of it."
In a pre-draft media conference call Monday afternoon, Phoenix Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said that she does not foresee Gorecki’s injury history being problematic, as long as she can stay healthy after training camp.
There is no doubt that Odom and Gorecki both have their work cut out for them to make a roster and succeed in the WNBA, but Gorecki did put the entire situation into perspective.
“Just keep on having fun," Gorecki said. "Because it’s a long journey and if you don’t have fun there’s no point in doing it.”
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