Cut by the New York Liberty, Dukes Abby Waner is not yet ready to say goodbye to the sport she grew up with and still loves. Broadcasting and coaching are possible career options, but the McDonald's High School All American and former Naismith candidate is not going to rule out a return to the court. She's in a position shared by more high-quality collegiate players than ever this year given the depth of the WNBA and its shortened rosters.
She hasnt been a fan before. Abby Waner never had to be -- until now.
Id give anything to be on the court right now, said the 5-10 point guard who was a staple of the Duke offense the past four seasons. I miss it. I miss it terribly.
Basketball became a part of my soul. Its who I am. Im still who I was in college. Its tough, very difficult not having that to come back to.
Waner, the 2005 Gatorade and McDonalds National High School Player of the Year, started 111 times at Duke, including her first collegiate game. As a Blue Devil she advanced twice to the Sweet 16 and once to the national title game. Twice she was a Naismith candidate. She owns a pair of gold medals from USA basketball.
Waner was a National Player of the Year candidate, when she drained 68 3-pointers as a sophomore, a feat that tied for first on Dukes single season chart. Her range slipped her senior year, when she shot 30 percent from behind the arc. Hustle and scrappiness were never in doubt though.
The transition is difficult, said Waner, waiting in JFK airport to return home to Englewood, Colo. Waner was back East to interview for broadcasting opportunities with ESPN. Television is a future she embraces, while at the same time admitting its a struggle to leave her playing days behind.
Waners pro career was short lived. Drafted in the WNBAs second round, 21st overall, by the New York Liberty, she was waived on May 29 a sign of the depth in the league heightened by the folding of the Houston Comets and reduced roster size.
Being drafted, hearing my name being called, is one of the cooler experiences of my basketball career, she said. I felt good about my experience there; there simply wasnt room for me. I dont have regrets.
Waner doesnt rule out playing again. Her agent is exploring opportunities in Europe, and she hasnt made any decisions, though Russia is appealing.
But broadcast opportunities have come her way, too. Last year she worked as a sideline reporter for ESPN and ESPNU for one mens basketball game and three football games at Duke. She also hosted coach David Cutcliffes Duke Football Show. The summer of her junior year, she did the grunt work of an ESPN intern, working in the studio for Baseball Tonight.
Waner, who majored in English, shows the poise of a veteran in the booth with a natural warmth. She loves the idea of analyzing a sport that has been such an integral part of her life.
Waner began playing in first grade. Back then she was alongside her older sister, Emily, as part the AAU team, the Colorado Hoopsters. At ThunderRidge High School, Abby guided the team to three Class 5A state championships.
Ive lived, breathed, ate, slept all basketball my whole life and I love it, Waner said. Mens college, womens college, mens pro, womens pro.
Waner took an avid interest in this years NBA playoffs, holding her own in a running battle of words about the NBAs best player with best buddy, Marissa Coleman. Coleman, who plays for the Mystics, swears by LeBron James; Waner favors Kobe Bryant.
We always get into arguments, said Waner, who stays in touch with Coleman daily. I think LeBron is the best player in the world. That being said, if I was putting a team together, Id want Kobe.
Waner promises to get to Washington to see Coleman in person later this season. Her other plans include coaching AAU in Colorado and working out with Emily Fox, an AAU teammate who was waived by Minnesota but plans to play in Greece.
Waner also plans to watch her brother, Alex, play in a basketball tournament in Las Vegas, and she will attend a family reunion on the beach in North Carolina later this summer. She has discovered a renewed interest in piano As of now Disney is my forte, she said and shed like to learn Spanish.
Basketball will remain front and center, however. "Ex-athlete" is not part of her self description at this point.
I cant say that, Waner said. Im not ready to say Im done.