There has not been much to celebrate globally as of late.
But this past Friday, 36 women fulfilled their lifelong dreams as they heard their names called in the WNBA draft, providing a much-needed flash of joy in an otherwise grim situation across the world.
Duke's Leaonna Odom and Haley Gorecki were selected with the 15th and 31st overall picks by the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm, respectively.
The Liberty are in a rebuilding phase, trading perennial All-Star Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics in exchange for additional picks just two days prior to the draft. Sabrina Ionescu, this year's No. 1 overall pick, will become the face of New York's franchise as it looks toward the future. Odom, however, will fight an uphill battle for playing time, as she was the third forward drafted by the Liberty Friday.
Despite the logjam in the frontcourt, Odom has serious versatility that should help her find minutes sooner rather than later.
“As soon as I saw the commissioner opening her mouth to say the name, I already knew it was me, and I just started screaming. But I tried to hold back the screams because I was on FaceTime with my parents back home and they were a little delayed," Odom said. “But they still screamed as well…. After that it was a blur. I looked up and we were on the 24th pick and I was like where did the time go…. I’m just really happy and excited and thankful.”
Although the 6-foot-2 star has an incredible passion for basketball, she had some doubt before her final season at Duke toward her future with the game. But that all went away during the Blue Devils' incredible second-half tear.
“When our style of play just kind of picked up, I think basketball just became fun again," Odom said. "Toward the end of the Clemson game when we started pressing and doing stuff like that, basketball was just fun and I realized that I don’t want to give this up. I remember just feeling that feeling where you're just constantly running around and getting excited and getting pumped with your teammates. There’s just no better feeling.”
Gorecki will likely have an even tougher time breaking into the rotation in Seattle, as the Storm are the 2018 WNBA champions and have a nearly complete roster already. But while minutes may be hard to come by, the 6-foot guard will become an understudy for one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time in Sue Bird.
“[Bird] visited our school and she talked to us for quite a while about her history and experiences. So definitely learning a lot and being like a sponge and taking in everything she has to say and just learning from it," Gorecki said. "It’s going to be really awesome."
Gorecki was not the only guard selected by Seattle, and it is unclear if she will land a roster spot after training camp. But if we have learned anything about the Palatine, Ill., native, it's that her ability to overcome obstacles is paralleled by few. Storm head coach Dan Hughes has expressed that her toughness and productivity caught Seattle's eye, so it appears that Gorecki will have a fighting chance at snagging a rotation spot.
"It was pretty special," Gorecki said. "I was with my parents and family...super special. Spent time with them and [saw] my name. [The Seattle Storm] called not too long ago and then I picked up and answered the phone and was just greeted by the GM and the coach so it was really nice."
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Odom and Gorecki’s time at Duke is now in the rearview mirror, as both anxiously await the continuation of the WNBA so they can join the list of Blue Devils who have had professional success.