Former Princeton star Dietrick enjoying her time in the WNBA
NEW YORK (AP) Blake Dietrick never thought she'd get a chance to play in the WNBA.
Even when she starred at Princeton, she figured she'd head off to the banking world after graduating. Only one Ivy League women's basketball player had gone to the WNBA and that was 15 years ago.
''Never in a million years,'' Dietrick said laughing in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Friday. ''Freshman year I was planning to major in econ, work on Wall Street - as is the career path of many a Princeton student. Instead, here I am.''
The San Antonio guard's road to the WNBA took an extra year. She got cut last season from both Washington and Los Angeles' training camps after graduating from college. Undeterred, she played in Italy for Orvieto. She averaged 15.5 points in a league that featured WNBA players. It gave her confidence and showed her that she could play with the best in the world.
''Last year I was nervous, never had played at that level before,'' she said. ''That was disappointing to feel that way. To be given another chance was amazing.''
This spring, she got the invite to Seattle's training camp and was the last player to make the team.
''It was awesome just to hear that they believed in me and believed I could play at this level,'' Dietrick said. ''It was really fulfilling.''
Playing in Seattle also gave the Boston native a chance to play with Sue Bird, who she idolized growing up. When Dietrick was younger she would often watch UConn games and attend the school's youth camps.
''I was little star struck at first,'' Dietrick said of sharing the court with Bird. ''She was a great teammate off the court. It was a nice first experience.''
Bird was impressed with the young guard.
''Blake's done a really good job. She's really strong,'' Bird said. ''She's got really good size and strength and is fundamentally sound. She's really smart. You don't have to tell Blake to do things more than once.''
She played in two games with the Storm before getting cut on June 25, scoring two points. She laughed recalling her first game.
''I was more like don't mess up, don't mess up,'' she said. ''I was super happy, it was a great experience to get on the floor. Indiana's a loud arena. I'm back at the beginning. Worked my way up through college. Started back at square one again.''
Now she's on a new team as San Antonio signed her to a 7-day contract on Tuesday. The Stars played her former team Friday night.
''Watching Blake's career, I have always admired the intelligence and the toughness,'' San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. ''She is definitely a Jersey girl. I love that combination. It has been really great to put her with the Stars and get a chance to look at her on a daily basis.''
San Antonio visits New York this weekend bringing Dietrick close to Princeton. Unfortunately her college coaches won't be able to take in Sunday's game because they are out recruiting. They'll be watching from afar.
''It's such a bummer,'' Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said of having to miss her former star play. ''The WNBA wasn't on my radar for her at all when she first got here. But by the time she left I knew there's no way that this kid couldn't help a team in that league.''
Banghart did get to see Dietrick last week when she came by the Tigers basketball camp. The guard, who helped Princeton to a 30-0 regular season record her senior year and an NCAA Tournament victory was home. She signed autographs for 1 1/2 hours after camp ended, posing for photos and encouraging the young girls who two years earlier had been cheering for her from the stands.
''Honestly, it makes me so humbled,'' Dietrick said of the attention she got. ''I see how Sue and Breanna (Stewart) and all those people have to sign autgoraphs for hours on end. It's crazy how many people look up to them, and are honored to be in their presence. For a small group of people to feel that way about me is sweet. It was a really great experience.''
Now she hopes to stick with the Stars for the remainder of the season. San Antonio just lost guard Kayla McBride for the year with a fractured foot.
''I would love to be here the rest of the summer,'' Dietrick said.
Even if she doesn't last, Dietrick will always have great memories.