Stricklen Fulfills Dream by Reaching WNBA

Kevin Pelton, | April 24, 2012

For Seattle Storm rookie Shekinna Stricklen, the WNBA Draft was an important milestone in a journey that started on the playgrounds of central Arkansas. Stricklen is part of a new generation of players that have grown up knowing only a world with women's professional basketball. As a result, Stricklen was able to vow at age nine or 10 that she wanted to play in the WNBA. Last Monday, when WNBA President Laurel Richie called her name, that became reality.

"Just playing outside with my brother and my cousins, playing ball every day and watching it," she explained after the draft. "I've always loved this game - my whole family loved basketball. Ever since I've been little I've been wanting to play pro ball. Now it's here. I've enjoyed the ride and finally getting to play at the next level."

Shekinna Stricklen poses at the WNBA Draft.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

For Stricklen, being selected second overall in last week's WNBA Draft meant achieving her goal of playing in the WNBA.

A few years after Stricklen began to dream of playing in the WNBA, she got the sense that it might be a realistic possibility because of her precocious success.

"I would have to say when I was in ninth grade - a freshman getting to play with the high school team," she recalled. "Then AAU ball, having a good AAU team and the recognition of all the different colleges looking at me, recruiting me."

One of those schools was Tennessee, which enjoyed an advantage in recruiting Stricklen. Her favorite player growing up was Lady Vol standout Chamique Holdsclaw, the No. 1 overall pick of the 1999 WNBA Draft. Stricklen liked Holdsclaw's ability to contribute in many ways on the court, something that would soon become her trademark at Tennessee.

Over the course of her college career, Stricklen started at the point, on the wing and in the post. She won USWBA Freshman of the Year honors as a point guard and was chosen SEC Player of the Year by coaches as a junior while playing small forward.

Those kind of skills made Stricklen a consensus lottery pick. She was one of 15 top prospects invited by the league to attend the WNBA Draft, held at ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn. The players spent the weekend leading up to the draft on Monday going through rookie orientation and getting to know each other. Stricklen brought along her parents, two uncles and her grandfather to share in the experience.

"I was happy they were able to come here and be in this moment with me," she said. "I've been here all weekend with two of my teammates - Glory [Johnson, the No. 4 pick by Tulsa] and Vicki Baugh [drafted by Tulsa in the third round]. It's been great. I've enjoyed this whole weekend - not just with my teammates, but with the other draftees that have been here. We've all been getting along well - laughing, joking, carrying on."

From her experience playing for USA Basketball's youth teams, Stricklen already knew about half the other future WNBA players invited to Bristol. She got the chance to meet the rest of them during breaks in the schedule.

"We've been in orientations listening to people talk about the WNBA, safety, a lot of things," said Stricklen. "We have had a little free time, and every time we get, we're always hanging out with each other and just having fun. It's been good seeing each other, getting to hang around. I really didn't know Kayla [Standish, from Gonzaga] and I also got to know Julie [Wojta, from Green Bay]. Getting to know them and hang out with them, it's been great."

Nothing could compare to the experience of being chosen in the WNBA Draft. As she sat in the audience, Stricklen couldn't wait to hear her name. Fortunately, as the second overall pick, that didn't take long.

"I was really nervous," she recalled. "I think my body was shaking the whole time. I was thinking, 'This is a dream come true.' I'm truly blessed. God has blessed me with this opportunity. I'm just sitting there like, 'Wow. I'm getting ready to get drafted by a team.' I'm ready to get into this business world and finally live my dream."

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