After a whirlwind weekend when Princeton won its first-ever NCAA tournament game and then lost its first game of the season -- to No. 1 seed Maryland in the round of 32 -- Tigers point guard Blake Dietrick needed to step back and take a breath.
All along, she had planned to suit up for the nationally ranked Princeton lacrosse team this spring as she had done the past two years, a rare two-sport athlete whose seasons collide.
Instead, on the heels of the best season in Princeton basketball history, Dietrick decided Friday to forgo lacrosse for the opportunity to play in the WNBA. The 5-foot-10 point guard from Wellesley, Massachusetts, is a projected second-round pick in the WNBA draft.
Princeton went undefeated during the regular season, earned an 8-seed in the NCAA tournament and finished 31-1. The Tigers, coached by Naismith Trophy Coach of the Year finalist Courtney Banghart, defeated No. 9 Green Bay 80-70 last Saturday. In the season-ending loss to Maryland on Monday, Dietrick scored a team-best 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting.
"Obviously, there was no discussion of the WNBA during the season," Dietrick said Friday. "A day or two after the game, I called Coach Banghart and said: 'Is this a possibility? Because if it is, I have to reassess about where I need to allot my time.'"
Banghart got back to Dietrick with positive scouting reports for a player whose 157 assists are the fifth-highest season total in Ivy League history. Banghart, who describes Dietrick as a player who "used to be a shooter but has developed into a scorer," told her she is on the radar for the WNBA draft. It will be held April 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, with 36 picks in three rounds.
"Blake has three qualities that make her and made this team successful. She's relentless, she's fearless, and she's a winner," Banghart said.
Dietrick would be only the second Ivy League player drafted into the WNBA. Harvard's Allison Feaster, whose 16th-ranked Crimson pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history by defeating top-seeded Stanford in 1998, was the fifth overall pick that year. She played three seasons with Los Angeles before finishing her career with the Charlotte Sting.
"There's a chance, and the WNBA has always been my dream," Dietrick said. "I just want to have no regrets and be able to say I did everything possible to make it a reality."
Not that giving up lacrosse was easy. Dietrick dreaded telling her lacrosse teammates the news Friday afternoon. A midfielder who is as strong with her left hand as her right, Dietrick was expected to add depth to the 13th-ranked Tigers (7-1).
Last season Dietrick played nine games and made two starts, scoring five goals. This week she was back on campus less than 24 hours before she was at her first lacrosse practice Tuesday -- watching, not participating -- and she was in attendance when Princeton beat Cal on Wednesday.
"It was the hardest decision I ever made," said Dietrick, who will earn her bachelor's degree in English in May. "I was extremely emotional about it. My coaches were so supportive, and they understand it's an amazing opportunity."
Dietrick started all 32 games in basketball this season, averaging 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists. She shot 48.9 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. She earned a spot on the Naismith Trophy Midseason 30 for the best collegiate player in the nation and the Nancy Lieberman Watch List for the best point guard in the country.
Dietrick will take part in the 3-point contest at the men's Final Four next weekend in Indianapolis.