Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
When: Wednesday, 5 p.m. MT
TV: ESPN2 (first round) and ESPNU (second and third rounds)
Aside from a sun burn on the tops of her feet, Kennedy Leonard returned from a weekend in Florida feeling good and optimistic.
The Colorado senior is one of several players around the country hoping to hear their name called during the WNBA Draft on Wednesday night. Leonard could become the first CU player drafted since Chucky Jeffery in 2013.
“It’s exciting for sure,” Leonard said. “It’s super nerve-racking. On Wednesday I probably won’t know what to do with myself.”
Last weekend, Leonard was in Tampa, Fla., the site of the women’s Final Four, to participate in the Merit Pro Combine, along with about 100 other prospects. She was invited to the camp to play several shortened games in front of WNBA coaches and general managers. She was then one of 20 players selected for the “all-star” game to conclude the one-day combine.
“They want to see how you’re body goes throughout the day, which is good for me,” Leonard said. “I handled it pretty well, I think. It was a good overall experience.”
Several others at the combine were fresh off participating on the big stage of the NCAA Tournament. Given CU’s struggles this season, Leonard had not played in nearly a month since the Buffs were eliminated in the first of the Pac-12 Tournament. Throw in the fact that she missed 10 games with a stress fracture in her foot — and still wasn’t 100 percent healthy after her return — and Leonard felt she had a lot to prove to scouts.
“They were able to see me play again,” said Leonard, who graduated as CU’s all-time leader in assists. “Last time they had seen me play I was still pretty fresh off my injury. I had a month to get back to who I usually am (before the combine). That gave people a chance to actually see me in person.”
As is the case with all the prospects, Leonard has had to put together a detailed injury history for WNBA teams to view. That included providing updated MRI results and X-rays of her foot.
Leonard, who averaged 12.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists as a senior, is now fully healthy, and has spent the past few weeks training for her pro opportunity. CU assistant director of sports performance Adam Ringler put together a workout program for her, and Leonard often works in the gym with assistant coach Shandrika Lee.
“I’m here probably more than I was during the season, especially when I was hurt,” she said. “It’s been a bunch of weight lifting and speed training and ladders to get my burst back. Also to get back in basketball shape. A ton of shooting, a ton of working on the fundamentals.”
Leonard goes into Wednesday unsure if she will be among the 36 players selected in the three-round draft. Some mock drafts online project her as a draft choice, while others don’t. She remains hopeful going in, however.
“My agent (Eric Wiesel) just said that every GM knows me, every coach knows me; they all know who I am and I’m on their radar,” Leonard said. “Realistically I could go a lot of places. Pretty much at this point, I’m good with whoever wants to take me.”
Leonard would love to land with the Dallas Wings, where she could play close to home, or with the New York Liberty, because her father often works in New York. Ultimately, she’s not too picky; she just wants an opportunity.
“It is really exciting and it’s been a long time coming,” she said. “The road hasn’t always been easy. If anything, I’ve proven that I’m a competitor and no matter what you get from me, you’ll get someone who has a competitive edge and will fight for everything.
“I’m excited and nervous and all the emotions, but hopefully it goes my way and it’s in God’s plan for me.”
If Leonard is not drafted, she is almost sure to get a training camp invitation. Playing overseas is an option, as well.