Joyner Holmes’ childhood dream of becoming a WNBA player will start out much differently than she ever anticipated.
Holmes won’t be in New York City clad in her best attire when her name gets called at the 2020 WNBA draft on Friday night. Instead, she’ll be on her couch in Cedar Hill, Texas, surrounded (6 feet apart, of course) by a few close friends and family.
“It was a dream for me to go to the draft, not have the draft at my house,” Holmes said. “But since that’s the only way we’re able to have it this year, I’ll just make the most of it.”
Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 led the WNBA to conduct this year's draft virtually. The circumstances aren’t necessarily ideal for the potential draftees, but Holmes’ unique collegiate career has made her flexible and resilient in the face of adversity.
“Honestly, whatever round you get drafted, whether it’s first or second, everybody’s going to have to fight for a position,” Holmes said. “So I feel like in my life, I've actually had to overcome struggles and battles in certain instances, so … I know what it’s going to feel like.”
A suspension from UT due to an unspecified University violation took Holmes off the basketball court for the first half of her sophomore season in 2017. However, Texas didn’t relinquish Holmes' scholarship or push her to the wayside. Holmes’ teammates and coaches took a bet on her, and she delivered, remaining a key piece for the Longhorns in subsequent seasons.
Holmes hopes a professional team takes a similar chance Friday night.
“I have the athleticism, I have the IQ, I can probably compete with the best of the best, but it’s just on me to show them right now,” Holmes said.
ESPN analysts Holly Rowe and Rebecca Lobo would agree. In a Monday teleconference, Rowe lauded Holmes’s ability to fit the WNBA mold.
“Joyner is great,” Rowe said. “I think that her frame alone is WNBA ready. I think she has talent. She is committed to being good. I love her footwork. She is a great personality. She would be a great asset in a market for marketing and just her fun, unique personality. I think she is someone that could go high in the draft.”
Lobo agreed that Holmes has a future in the WNBA but also mentioned the forward has room for improvement in some areas, particularly in terms of her finishing efficiency around the basket.
And Holmes is willing to put in the work. Since her senior season abruptly ended in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she has spent the past month of social distancing and quarantine working out with Texas women’s basketball alumna Ariel Atkins, who now plays for the Washington Mystics.
Like Atkins was in 2018, Holmes hopes to be drafted in the first round, continuing the legacy of Longhorns making the leap to the WNBA.
“I think it is important being a part of the statistics of the Longhorns that went in the first round,” Holmes said. “But also it’s a drastic difference in the amount of money that you’ll be receiving … I think I’ve proven myself to be a first-round pick, so I hope that happens.”
With the status of the 2020 WNBA season in question, Holmes will deal with more uncertainty in the coming months. But Friday night, she will celebrate with her loved ones as the WNBA and women’s basketball are spotlighted on ESPN.
“This is a big night for us,” Holmes said. “This is a big platform. I think we should be put on a pedestal as such. We don’t get a lot of exposure and we’re not out there enough, so I think this is good for everyone. There’s nothing to watch on TV but the draft, so I hope everybody tunes in.”