The moment has sunk in for Keishana Washington.
The Pickering, Ont., native arrived in Minneapolis, Minn., on Friday to begin a new chapter in her basketball career. Washington, who recently closed out her NCAA career at Drexel University, signed a training camp deal with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx on April 14.
She is now set to get her first taste of the pro game on Sunday when camp begins.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Washington told The Canadian Press. “I mean (Thursday), I was packing my stuff, getting ready to go. And I didn’t really feel it yet.
“But then I got here and it was like, ‘Wow, like, you’re actually a pro. Like, officially.’ And then just seeing the facility and walking in and seeing my name on a locker, it kind of hit me.”
Washington finished her fifth and final season at Drexel as the third-leading scorer in the country, averaging 27.7 points per game. She was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year in addition to receiving first-team all-CAA honours for her efforts.
The five-foot-seven guard concluded her career with 2,363 points to be the all-time leading Canadian scorer in NCAA history, second all-time on Drexel’s scoring list and fourth all-time on the CAA career scoring list.
Despite going undrafted, the speed in which the Lynx called her after the April 10 draft — about 15 minutes — didn’t make it feel any different than actually being called on during the draft.
“I didn’t hear my name on draft night, but they called me instantly,” Washington said. “So I kind of got the same feeling, … I’m just blessed to have received that call.”
Washington’s standout effort for the Drexel Dragons sparked Minnesota’s interest early on in the process.
“Keishana obviously jumped off the pages for us early as we kind of got into our draft prep (in) early April,” said Lynx general manager Clare Duwelius. “An elite scorer. She just has a really unique way of being able to score at all levels.
“We did some recon with some of the folks that (president of basketball operations and head coach) Cheryl (Reeve) knows in the Philly area and had heard wonderful things about how hard she works, how hard she competes.
“When you have that kind of thirst to just do whatever it takes to make your team win, those are the kind of people that we really like to have in camp, and obviously she checked all those boxes.”
While her scoring prowess has done much of the talking for her, Washington is willing to do whatever it takes to make the team.
“Do the things that I am good at and show the staff what I’m capable of,” she said. “High-level scorer but I can also facilitate and pretty much doing whatever it is that they need of me.
“This is a different level of play, so the expectations are going to be different, the roles are going to be different. So really just taking in everything they’re saying and learning as much as I can to perform.”
Duwelius wants the Lynx’s new rookie guard to stick with her mindset.
“I think if she just comes in and she has the same work ethic that she’s had and that (Villanova coach) Denise Dillon spoke highly of in her time at Drexel — she really, really complimented Keishana’s work ethic and her high IQ — and just coming in and trying to make the other players around her better, … it will be key for her,” she said.
While the excitement of being on the pro level is one thing, she does have eyes on something else: the possibility of playing at home on May 13. The Lynx will be taking on the Chicago Sky in pre-season action at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, the first such WNBA game in Canada.
“I got picked to a team that just so happens to be going to Canada,” Washington said. “I feel like that is a blessing in disguise in itself.
“I feel like if I get the chance to go home, it would be great. My family does already have tickets for that game, which they bought as soon as it was announced that Canada was hosting. So it would just be great to play in front of them at the pro level.”
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press