Inside Evina Westbrook’s 10 crazy days since UConn’s season ended

The first round of Monday’s WNBA Draft concluded without any UConn women’s basketball players selected.

Evina Westbrook sat on a chair in her family’s living room watching the draft on TV and waiting in their Salem, Ore. home. She was confident her name would be called, but she had no idea when or by whom.

She got chills when her teammates Christyn Williams (the No. 14 overall pick by Washington) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (No. 19 by Los Angeles) were selected. Their professional careers were beginning.

Then, with the No. 21 overall pick, the Seattle Storm banner appeared along the bottom of the screen. On the far-left corner it read ‘Pick is in.’

The banner rolled up, reading “Evina Westbrook.”

Westbrook leaped from her chair. Her dreams were now a reality. She jumped up and down.

She turned away from the TV and clapped her hands. She walked toward her dad and leaned into his chest. His outstretched arms embraced her and held her close.

Out of 108 women in the draft candidacy pool, she was one of the 36 selected. She had made it.

“Just sitting there and at any time I’m just … my heart is pounding,” Westbrook said Tuesday. “As soon as it (happens), you’re like, ‘OK, so and so has drafted…,’ and your heart just kinda stops for a second. A lot of us have been waiting for that moment since we’ve been dreaming about it and for it to finally come true (Monday) night, I’m still honestly in shock. Like it really does not feel real.”

The past 10 days have been a whirlwind for Westbrook. She finished her collegiate career in the national championship in Minneapolis on April 3. She moved out of her apartment in Storrs — a place she’s called home for the past three years — five days later. The Storm drafted her on Monday and she moves to Seattle on Thursday to begin her professional career.

Westbrook has learned to handle life’s ups and downs with poise. She remained upright through UConn’s season of injuries, through the death of her childhood coach, through a transition into a new role off the bench, and through some memorable losses — including the program’s first in a national championship game.

It all prepared the 6-foot guard for her next chapter. She’s grown mentally stronger and has learned so much more about herself and her passions off the court.

“It was and still is hard to process, like I was just at school a couple days ago, I just said goodbye to my teammates a couple days ago, my room (in Connecticut) is completely empty,” she said. “I was just drafted by the Seattle Storm, like it’s just, oh my God, the emotions, they’re just all crazy inside of me still.”

During the second quarter of UConn’s national title loss to South Carolina, Westbrook rolled her ankle. She limped to the bench and sat out until the third quarter. A trainer diagnosed her with a sprain, yet Westbrook — who transferred to UConn from Tennessee for games like this — played on.

“Once I got back in the game, my adrenaline kinda kicked in and I was good,” she said. “But I mean, it definitely hurt. But it’s the last game of the season so I’m trying to go out and play.”

Westbrook finished with seven points, four rebounds, two assists and one block. As the Gamecocks danced in raining confetti on the court, Westbrook was seen outside the Huskies’ locker room bawling.

UConn flew back to Connecticut the next day. Westbrook began packing up her apartment while starting rehab on her ankle. She flew home to Oregon a week after the title game.

She felt anxious falling asleep Sunday night. She had closed the UConn chapter of her life and the next day would turn the page and begin her WNBA chapter.

Monday was spent preparing the house to host about 50 family members and close friends for the draft. Westbrook’s mom, Eva, scheduled a make-up artist to do Westbrook’s makeup. She wore a light, nude-green pantsuit.

“All my emotions just leading up to the day were honestly just all over the place,” Westbrook said. “All I could think about was hearing my name being called and seeing my name pop up on the screen. Just to have it at my house, with all my family with me and just really love on me, I think was the biggest thing.

“I don’t think it mattered where it was. Being at the draft would have been an honor but I’m really glad that I got to do it at home with all of my family there.”

The Westbrook house erupted in celebration when Westbrook’s name appeared on the screen. Not only was she a WNBA draftee, but she was staying local in the Pacific Northwest.

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