SPOKANE – As the second round of the WNBA Draft came and went, Jill Barta’s heart began to sink. She had scanned mock drafts — some having her projected early in the second round, others, like ESPN, not having her picked at all.
Barta and friends, plus teachers from Gary Middle School in Spokane where she was student-teaching, met at a local bar to watch the draft, hoping to hear Barta’s name called. Just as Barta had started to think she would not be picked, her name flashed across the screen.
“We were actually watching that third round, too, and I’m like, ‘Let’s order food, let’s hang out,’ and one of my teachers just started screaming (when Barta’s name was called),” Barta laughed.
Just days ago, Barta wasn’t sure what her next step in her career would be. She entered the WNBA Draft late, causing many WNBA coaches to question whether she truly wanted to continue to play basketball.
Now it seems inevitable that her career on the court will continue, whether it’s in the WNBA or in a different market.
“I’m not closing (the door on) going overseas at all, because now that I got invited to the WNBA, it makes you so much more valuable overseas. It’s definitely not out of the picture now. We’ll see how this next month goes and play it by ear,” said Barta.
Barta was selected 32nd overall by the Las Vegas Aces on Thursday night. The Minnesota Lynx promptly acquired Barta’s rights through a trade. Barta was one of just a handful of early entrants into the WNBA Draft.
She finished her redshirt junior season at Gonzaga second in the West Coast Conference in scoring and fifth in rebounding. She was awarded the WCC Player of the Year and won her second consecutive Most Outstanding Player award at the WCC Tournament. Barta’s 37 points in the 2017 WCC championship game are a tournament record.
Barta is a proven winner, having led Fairfield High School to four consecutive Class B state championships and an unblemished 104-0 record during her tenure. She will be joining a Minnesota Lynx team that is the reigning WNBA champion and has won three of the past five WNBA titles.
In the matter of days, Barta went from not knowing the next step in her career to preparing to head to Minnesota in the coming weeks to begin her professional basketball career.
“I haven’t actually been told (what the plan is), but you start two weeks of training camp, so I’ve kind of got to get myself in gear right now,” Barta said. “Practice, work out for the next two weeks, get in shape. Then, once you go out there, you have two weeks of training camp to see if you make the team. So you’ve got to make it through all that fun stuff first before you actually get on the team. But just even getting the opportunity to go out there, try out, and play with some of the best is going to be super fun.”
Barta will participate in the Lynx’s training camp and preseason games. The Lynx must trim their roster to 12 by May 17 in advance of their 2018 regular-season opener.