Going to the next level: Longhorns trio at WNBA preseason camps
AUSTIN, Texas -- If you've been on the UT campus this week, you would have seen three athletic women running about the academic buildings with backpacks and books, to and from the Cooley Pavilion where they've been pumping iron and playing hoops - trying to balance books and basketball before the biggest weekend of "auditions" in their young lives.
That's because Longhorn senior basketball standouts 5-6 guard Jamie Carey, 6-2 forward Heather Schreiber and fifth-year senior 6-2 forward Annissa Hastings are attempting to tie up loose academic ends as finals near before heading off to attend 2005 WNBA preseason training camps this weekend.
Carey (Thornton, Colo.), a third-round pick of the Phoenix Mercury, and Schreiber (Windthorst, Texas), another third-round selection taken by the Los Angeles Sparks, will be headed to Chicago on Wednesday night (April 20) to attend a two-day orientation session for all 2005 WNBA draft picks.
Hastings (San Antonio, Texas) is receiving a free agency tryout from the Indiana franchise, and will fly to Indianapolis on Saturday for her chance to make the Indiana Fever roster.
Following the two-day WNBA seminar/orientation, Carey and Schreiber head off to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Friday night for different destinations out west to begin WNBA camp - Carey to Phoenix, Schreiber to LA.
"It's been pretty much a whirlwind for me since Saturday's (April 16) draft," noted Schreiber, an All-Big 12 standout on the court and a Big 12 All-Academic Team selection as an education major who will graduate in December of 2005. "I've been taking tests and finishing up papers at the beginning of the week, to clear my schedule for training camp. And, I've also been in the weight room and shooting and working out every day to get ready. But, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm excited to make the most of it, however crazy this last week has been."
In addition to scrambling to finish up class assignments, all three of them attended the annual UT Women's Athletics Awards banquet on Tuesday evening (April 19), where they picked up a myriad of awards and scholarships.
Schreiber was the recipient of the inaugural Mary Alice Davis Women's Basketball Endowed Scholarship. Hastings was chosen as the 2004-05 recipient of the Anne G. Broussard Spirit Award for Courage, Loyalty and Enthusiasm - the department's "Comeback Award". Hastings came back to the hardwood this winter as a fifth-year senior after missing the entire 2003-04 campaign with a torn Achilles which required extensive surgery and rehabilitation.
As for Carey, she might have enlisted the assistance of her friends and teammates upon leaving the banquet!
Carey received four honors: the basketball team MVP award; The Earlene Fulmer 3-point Attack Award (for most 3-pointers made) for the third straight year; and the The Coca Cola Good Citizen Award, given for exemplary community relations and volunteer efforts.
She also took home another most worthy honor - The Texas Exes Lifetime Award. It is annually given by the Texas Exes Association (alumni organization) to one male and one female student-athlete who display outstanding leadership and academic and athletic success; the recipient gains life-time membership into the Texas Exes Association.
"It was really amazing and quite an honor to receive those awards Tuesday night," noted Carey, a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American who will graduate next year with her master's in sport management. "I've been blessed to end my career at The University of Texas. It's been a really, really fun ride. I look back on all the six years I've spent in college (laughs), and after facing a two-year layoff for injuries and not playing basketball before transferring to UT from Stanford, it sometimes is hard for me to imagine how fortunate I've been. I think I've taken it (basketball) a little further than I could have imagined."
"Now, I'm ready for this next step. During Saturday's draft, I was a little anxious as time went on. It was a wild experience! You hope you are leaving in a week for a training camp - and you don't know when your name will be called or where you will be headed."
"At the WNBA pre-draft camp in New York that Heather (Schreiber) and I attended, the feedback I got from the coaches and general managers was positive and mostly centered on my shooting and leadership skills," Carey stated. "There were so many new faces there, and there is no time to develop chemistry with a group of players as you are shuffled in and out of games. So, I tried to get people to where they needed to be on the court, and I also shot the ball pretty well. That certainly helped me out on draft day."
In addition to her studies and awards, Carey has spent the last five days following the draft on the phone with Phoenix Mercury officials and getting herself acquainted with the players on the roster, including phenom Diana Taurasi, last year's Rookie of the Year and an Athens Olympic gold medalist.
"This week, I've talked to the Mercury GM Seth Sulka and the assistant coaches, and I'm pretty excited about it all," Carey concluded. "I've studied the personnel and coaches, and I know that Phoenix is a great city that really embraces the Mercury. To have an opportunity to play with someone like Diana Taurasi is very exciting. She brings a lot of excitement and a great competitive nature to the floor; that energy and competitive nature is what I feed off of myself. She really can put the ball in the hole, and as a point guard, you love that about a player!"
As a free agent, Hastings will be going to training camp as well. Several WNBA general managers made inquiries about the 6-2 leaper to the Longhorn coaches, ready to offer her a free agent tryout. Hastings made the decision to travel to Indianapolis and attend the Fever's training camp. She departs for Indy on Saturday, April 23.
Hastings understands she just has to get to the Conseco Field House for Sunday's opening practice and compete really hard.
"I am so excited for this opportunity!," noted Hastings, who caught the eyes of the collegiate and professional coaches over the last few years with her great defensive and rebounding skills.
"A couple of teams like Washington and New York were interested in bringing me to camp, but they went with other players. I know that Coach Plank (Indiana Fever assistant coach Julie Plank) called and talked to Kathy (UT assistant coach Kathy Harston) about me. Then, general manager (and Chief Operating Officer) Kelly Krauskopf called me and invited me to camp. She said she was surprised that no one had picked me up, and she immediately sent me a training camp contract.
"I know that Indianapolis is interested in someone who can give them defense and rebounding, and someone who can run the floor," noted Hastings. "Those are my strengths. I am going to do my thing. What I know about Indianapolis is that they went to the playoffs, and I know they took (Mississippi State guard) Tan White as the second pick. She is really good. And, I guess I'll just have to come in and guard Tamika Catchings at practice. That will be a great challenge. She is one of the best, if not THE best player in the league."
Hastings, intent on graduating this May with a degree in education and beginning a teaching/coaching career, also was racing around campus to take care of her academics before flying out.
" I am trying to take care of my class schedules before Saturday. I am lucky that I don't have any finals, but I have two tests left and a project. I know that I can have the test proctored in Indianapolis, so that's a relief. Then, I am heading to Indy on Saturday! We have a team meeting on Sunday morning at 9 a.m., and then we start practice! I cannot wait!", she concluded.
Texas head coach Jody Conradt and associate head coach Karen Aston have spent time advising and assisting the players for the step to the WNBA since the Longhorns' season came to end.
"Heather needs to go to LA and show the range of her game," Aston stated. "In Phoenix, Jamie knows some of the players there and wants to find her niche, which will be setting the players up. She's such a great leader. For Annissa, her strength is her defense and the way she runs the floor at 6-2. When Indianapolis called her, they told her they wanted someone who can rebound and play "D", and she fits that perfectly."
"We know all three of them will play to their strengths," commented Aston. "Each of them is really, really knowledgeable about the game. They all think the game really well and pick things up quickly. Jamie, Heather and of course, Annissa, defend really well, too. These are the things which will help them in the tryout process and will be an advantage for them. We all are anxious to see how they perform and wish them the best."
On the WNBA.com Web site this week (WBNA.com), a posted story called "Words to Live By: Taking Good Advice to Heart", asked the 2005 draft picks for the best piece of advice they had ever received.
Schreiber's words sum up the feelings of the three Longhorn players as they head out this weekend for the next chapter of their basketball careers:
"A lot of people who would love to be in my shoes. Have fun with this opportunity and don't take it for granted."