WNBA
Melanie Jackson, espnW.com 56d

Gustafson, cut by WNBA's Wings, to play in TBT

WNBA, Dallas Wings

Megan Gustafson, cut last week by the Dallas Wings before the 2019 WNBA season tipped off, plans to play in The Basketball Tournament, an annual 64-team, winner-take-all event mostly comprised of men's players being held later this summer with a grand prize of $2 million.

"When I got cut from Dallas, that was super disappointing, and I was wondering what was next for me in terms of this summer," Gustafson told espnW by phone on Tuesday. "My ultimate goal is to play in the WNBA. I honestly think I'm ready right now.

"I'm going to keep working as hard as I possibly can. I'll go play with the guys for a while until the WNBA calls me back."

Gustafson is the first active professional women's player to participate in TBT, according to Jon Mugar, founder and CEO of the event. At least 15 women have played in TBT over the past five years, most notably former WNBA champion and North Carolina All-American Nikki Teasley in 2014.

Gustafson will compete with the Iowa United team, which features former players from the Iowa, Iowa State, Drake, Milwaukee and Northern Iowa men's college basketball teams. She looks forward to playing with former Hawkeyes Nicholas Baer, a 6-foot-7 forward whose time at Iowa overlapped with Gustafson's, and Peter Jok (2013-17).

"When Iowa United called and were interested, I thought this is a great opportunity for me to play and get better, and obviously against a whole new level, going against guys. That's nothing new to me," Gustafson said. "I'm excited to be able to play with Nicholas and Peter, as well as the rest of the players coming from the state of Iowa. [The people of Iowa] have been so supportive and I'm excited to represent them."

She said she played on a boys basketball team in the eighth grade and also faced male practice players in college.

Gustafson, the No. 17 overall pick in April's WNBA draft, was the NCAA Division I scoring leader last season at Iowa. The 6-foot-3 forward/center averaged 27.8 points per game on 69.6 percent shooting, which led the nation.

She won national Player of the Year honors from espnW and The Associated Press, among others, and also won the 2018-19 Naismith trophy as the top player in women's college basketball.

Gustafson said her first WNBA training camp "overall was a great learning experience."

"I saw some really good things from myself," she said, "but I also saw some things to improve on. I need to work on my outside game a little bit more."

Specifically, Gustafson said she's working on her face-up game and ball-handling skills.

"I need to be able to go against bigger people. I'm not the biggest post out there. I like to think I can play bigger. That's not enough and I need to figure out ways to do that," Gustafson said. "I drastically improved my 3-point shooting in training camp and am going to continue to work on that, too."

TBT, a single-elimination tournament that will be broadcast on ESPN, tips off July 19 with eight regional sites. The regional winners advance to Championship Week and compete for the title Aug. 1-6 in Chicago. The bracket will be revealed June 11.

"If the WNBA comes calling before then, that's going to be my priority for sure," Gustafson said.

More than 25 participants from TBT have signed deals with NBA teams, Mugar said.

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