Three months ago, Blake Dietrick was sitting at the table with her family in their Boston home when she received a call from her college coach. Princeton’s Courtney Banghart told Dietrick the Seattle Storm wanted her to take part in preseason training camp. A couple minutes later, she was on the phone with her agent.
“I was shocked,” Dietrick said.
After returning to Italy and finishing her first season as a professional, Dietrick came to Seattle in late April. She expected to be here for two, maybe three weeks and then head back east. It wasn’t her first WNBA training camp: She had preseason stints with the Mystics and Sparks last year, but neither panned out.
Fast forward to Thursday, May 12, the second-to-last day of Seattle’s camp, and Storm coach Jenny Boucek brings Dietrick outside the practice facility for a one-on-one talk. Dietrick re-enters the gym with tears in her eyes. Seattle started the preseason with 19 players, and the roster had been trimmed to 13 at that point. Dietrick and Tiffany Bias were competing for the final spot as a backup point guard.
About 24 hours later, following the final practice of camp, Dietrick received news from Boucek that her lifelong dream had come true: She earned that final spot.
“I went up to her office, and all the coaches were there. It was amazing,” she said. “I had gotten all my tears out the day before, so I didn’t cry. But it was awesome just to hear that they believed in me and believed that I could play at this level, which is something that I never thought would be possible. It was really fulfilling.”
Dietrick didn’t know her fate until minutes before the roster was announced to the public. She was overcome with emotion a day earlier not because Boucek had given her good news, but because she was so close to achieving something that never seemed very realistic.
Not even as she made history on the court during her senior year at Princeton.
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Five years ago, Dietrick left for college as her high school’s all-time leading scorer in both basketball and lacrosse. She continued to be a two-sport athlete at Princeton, and Dietrick planned to play lacrosse as a senior in 2015 after guiding the basketball team to a 30-0 regular season and its first NCAA Tournament win. Dietrick had set the program record for assists in a season.
She attended lacrosse practice the day after the Tigers lost in the second round, only to later find out that WNBA teams were showing interest. That’s when Dietrick had to tell her lacrosse friends, who happened to form one of the best teams in the nation, that she wasn’t playing her final season. Up until then, the thought of playing in the WNBA had always been a dream but never crossed her mind as a real possibility.
She didn’t get drafted, but Washington brought Dietrick in for training camp. When that didn’t work out, she went to Los Angeles. She was waived again two days later.
“I thought it was over,” Dietrick said of her WNBA aspirations. “And then after going overseas, I still didn’t really think I’d get a chance. But I was really fortunate to be invited here.”
While the WNBA season was taking place last summer, all Dietrick did was spend time with family and work on her game. This past winter, she scored 15.5 points per contest for Italian club Orvieto.
“We had our eye on Blake since watching her lead Princeton on their historic NCAA run,” Boucek said when the Storm signed her in February. “Throughout her career, she has shown leadership and competitiveness. We are excited to see how her overseas experience will translate to the WNBA.”
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As one can imagine, Dietrick was all smiles on Tuesday as she talked about making a WNBA roster for the first time. Secretly, one of the reasons she’s excited to be here is that her childhood idol happens to be the starting point guard. Growing up in Boston, Dietrick would often watch UConn games and attend the program’s youth camps. She was nine years old when Sue Bird won her second national title with the Huskies.
“I haven’t told her this stuff,” Dietrick said.
After playing in both preseason games, Dietrick is still waiting on her first regular-season action with the Storm. She’s trying to learn as much as possible from Bird, the two-time WNBA champion who is headed to her fourth straight Olympics this summer. That includes how to be a leader on and off the court.
“She cares so much about every single person on the team, No. 1 through 12,” Dietrick said. “I think that’s great, and that’s what you want from your leader. She wants the best for everybody, and the best for the team.
“If the ball is in her hands, she’s going to do the right thing. She will always have the little tidbits here and there during practices, just little things to notice and little reads to make. She’ll pick one or two things and make sure we all realize them as well. Every single thing she says is a gem.”
If Dietrick can soak up enough information from Bird and the rest of her teammates this summer, maybe she too will be able to play in Seattle for a long time.