Over forty women flocked to the Oral Roberts University campus hoping to prove their worth to one man and one organization, the Tulsa Shock and head coach/general manager Nolan Richardson.
These women came from across the country and around the corner sporting their favorite sneakers or lucky socks, complete with butterflies in anticipation of what "might be" - a dream come true.
Coach Richardson was duly impressed with the caliber and talent level of the participants in today's open tryouts even remarking that there was a handful of women that had more than enough talent and knowledge to play in the WNBA were the roster sizes larger.
"I was very pleased," Richardson said. "I was very happy. These young ladies, they really came out and worked extremely hard. It's very difficult to come out and to run our system and try to push it on someone in the first day, but they really did surprise me. There [were] quite a few women that I thought that if there was a lot of us teams that had more room, some of those girls would make it."
Scholanda Robinson, entering her 5th year in the league after being acquired by the Shock in the dispersal draft just arrived in Tulsa to prepare for the beginning of training camp. Robinson made her way to the tryouts along with Tulsa teammate Alexis Hornbuckle, who played her previous two WNBA seasons with the Detroit Shock prior to the team's move to Tulsa. Robinson had some positive thoughts on the somewhat rare occurrence of a open tryout in the WNBA.
"I think it's good . . . for a team just starting out, I think it's really important – a really good thing to be able to find some new talent that may have been overlooked and get a chance to see what's out there," she said of this opportunity.
Some of that new talent with the potential to join Robinson and Hornbuckle when camp starts includes soon-to-be graduate of Oral Roberts, Jenae Voelker. Though Voelker is still a week away from completing her degree, she already has had her sights set on a possible future in basketball well before today, having already been through the WNBA tryout process recently.
"I went to a tryout in San Antonio a couple weeks ago and there's a lot more talent at this one which surprised me because that one was for all the WNBA," Voelker remarked. "I think Tulsa is a good central site and a lot of players are willing to play here so I think that's a good thing."
Another local hoping to make the cut was Twiggy McIntyre, a native of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. McIntyre isn't new to the world of tryouts and professional basketball as she did a stint in Germany after graduating from the University of Houston in 2008. McIntyre exuded optimism, with a tinge of nervousness after she concluded her workouts.
On making the roster, McIntyre was "hopeful. I feel like I played well, got some great feedback from the coaches and I'm just excited to come back home and play in front of my hometown and bring a WNBA championship to Tulsa," already looking far in the future for her shot to be the hometown hero. She went on to say, "it's out of my hands now, so hopefully I did something that sparked their interest and they choose to keep me."
And then it was down to the difficult decisions of what to do with this talented group.
Richardson and his staff huddled, narrowing down the large list to a smaller, select group of 13 that the Shock staff would ask back to participate in an evening workout with a dozen or so other women already invited to showcase their talents to the organization and earn another look again on Thursday. The eventual goal of all who laced up their kicks this Wednesday morning in T-Town is that elusive invitation to training camp, an opportunity that will probably only be afforded to less than a handful. Richardson mentioned that the group invited to training camp would be important as the Shock await players returning from Europe. Getting that "golden ticket" to wear the new Shock Gold uniforms will remain just a dream for dozens.
But even in this fiercely competitive atmosphere where many walked away with their dreams dashed, the veteran Robinson has but a few words of advice for all who came to play today, "If this is your dream, don't give it up".
Some of the women invited back for this evening's workouts include:
- Henderson was previously dismissed from UCLA's team by coach Nikki Caldwell.
They're Playing Basketball: Tierra Henderson dismissed from UCLA team
The Sunday suspension of senior guard Tierra Henderson has resulted in her being kicked off the Bruin team. UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell talked to the Daily Bruin about it today:
“Tierra’s dismissal is the result of multiple infractions of team rules, and all violations of team rules have been dealt with fairly and evenly throughout the season,” she said.