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Life After the WNBA: Madinah Slaise's Path From 2nd Round Draft Pick to Ground Zero

Former WNBA player Madinah Slaise is currently deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom as a member of the U.S. Air Force. <em>Photo courtesy of Slaise.</em>
Former WNBA player Madinah Slaise is currently deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom as a member of the U.S. Air Force. Photo courtesy of Slaise.

Back in 2009, James wrote a post wondering aloud "Whatever happened to Madinah Slaise?" Shortly after we all observed Veteran's Day last Friday, Slaise got in touch with Swish Appeal and offered to share her story of what happened and what impact her stint in the WNBA had on her life.

Have you achieved your dreams yet?

I know, I know, it's an odd question, I agree. But, consider this: if you could wake up tomorrow with your dream job, the career that you've worked for all of your life, what would you do? Think about it. Trust me, it isn't as great as it seems, particularly for a young girl who was talented enough to populate the WNBA draft selection board (2nd round, 2000) yet naïve enough to believe that the ‘love' of the game would conquer all. Sheesh!!

*Someone cue the Lifetime movie*

Too much too fast.

In less than two months I transitioned from standing at the pinnacle of my basketball career (2nd All Time Leading Scorer, University of Cincinnati*) to standing on the free throw line in Auburn Palace praying that the shot would go in, thus raising my Player Efficiency Rating. Nevertheless, when the team disintegrated, and more than half of the players were waived, I found myself degree-less with a dwindling bank account, and engaged in a constant back and forth grapple with the blaring ‘What Now?' state of emotions.

In hindsight, that was a very low point in my life, one that is difficult to revisit. Yet, basketball taught me a fundamental truth throughout the years: "Keep moving and eventually something will happen." So that's exactly what I did.

After a lonely and excruciating ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" tour of Euro League existence, I decided to get my head out of my toosh, host a hometown youth basketball camp and complete the three classes that fulfilled my degree status. The ink was barely dry on the transcript before the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred and I found myself speaking with an Army Recruiter and subsequently transitioning into the role of US Army Trauma Medic. People often questioned ‘Why do you do so many things?" Quite honestly, I wanted to give back, and, well, "keep it moving."

Fast forward through nursing school, a blossoming amateur bodybuilding career and return to the Armed Forces as an Air Force Nurse (although it seemed anything less than "fast" at the time). Presently, as a deployed member of Operation Enduring Freedom, I've had an overabundance of ‘Jerry McGuire' moments since departing stateside. Apparently being away from loved ones and friends conjures the Zen Master in all of us. With that being said, for many years I struggled with the effect that the brief stint in the WNBA had on my life. However, there's that hindsight thing again - as Director of, I couldn't be more thankful for that first rock hard business lesson that lingers in the back of my mind when the self-induced pity party comes a'knockin on my door.

Whether the league of present day prepares players for life AFTER basketball is debatable, as my season came and went many years past. There were a few financial investment meetings sprinkled throughout, so an honest effort was made. However, it wasn't until I found myself living at home again with Mom that the moral of the story became crystal clear: service before self is the pathway from the most difficult of times to the most rewarding of times. Put God first in all your decisions and despite your struggles, have faith that your path cannot be deterred.

"Honor. Integrity. Service Before Self." - Air Force Core Values.

Madinah Slaise, R.N., B.S.N.

1st Lieutenant, US Air Force


*Editor's note: Slaise was the program's second all-time leading scorer at the time she left. See the program's record book here.