WNBA Draft Diary: Gustafson talks about draft day experience
NEW YORK — God doesn't make mistakes.
I would say that this was the single best piece of reassurance that I was given from draft orientation, and it stayed with me all throughout draft night. This phrase comforted me once I heard it, and helped calm my nerves as I woke up on the big day.
My day started with video game player scans (I know, crazy, right?!), and there were two stations for two separate video games. The first station I had to sit in a chair and there was what I would call a "camera cave" that surrounded half of me. After that, I headed over to a table where a woman helped me put on a not-so-flattering cap to cover my hair. To be honest, I felt a bit dorky, but I guess that's fine since that tends to be my personality anyway!
At this point in the day, I think everything started to sink in: I could be in a video game, draft day really was here, and I was about to get the chance to become a professional basketball player!
I spent a few minutes with my parents before they attended the draft day parents' meeting. While they were occupied with this, I explored the area around the hotel with my older sister, Emily. Madison Square Garden was a five-minute walk from the hotel, so of course we first went there; I am a basketball geek after all. Even though we only walked around the outside, it was amazing to be able to see the most famous basketball arena in the world.
Once back at the hotel, I had an online draft day Twitter chat with the AP. My Iowa SID, Brandee Britt, met me in the lobby, and we were both reading questions. I had a laptop, and she had my phone. Brandee has gotten to know me over the years, so she even helped type out responses she automatically knew the answers to. She'd show me what she thought I'd reply and I was taken aback by how on point they were; it's like she was reading my mind. We had a lot of fun, and to be honest, we could've sat there and responded all day. We didn't want to be done after the 30 minutes.
I finished up getting ready with my family, and then that's when the nerves started to set in again. Honestly this day was a roller coaster of emotions, and I am glad for it, because it means I truly care about the game of basketball and about my upcoming professional career. Before I knew it, I went to the lobby to greet my Iowa coaches and then got on the bus that would take us over to the Nike Headquarters.
This is getting real, people — hang on tight!
Lights, camera, action. All three of these and an orange carpet was what greeted us as we arrived for the draft. Once we pulled up, we could see over a hundred or so different media and paparazzi waiting to get a glimpse of the draftees in their outfits. Let me tell you, this was crazy, and I felt like we were going to the Emmys. We each did a couple of interviews on the orange carpet, and then individually posed for photos as countless camera flashes came at us from every direction. I haven't had much practice at posing in a dress and heels for people, so I sort of just stood there and smiled. I immediately thought of the line "Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave" and I almost started laughing.
It was time. The night had come, and we were all in our seats. My parents and coach Bluder were at my table, and coach J (that's what we call my post coach, Jan Jensen) and my sister were standing close by. They would both occasionally give me expressions of encouragement throughout the night. Once the show started with the intro video, everything started to sink in all at once. This was real. My dream was hopefully about to come true. All the hours and hours spent in the gym were about to pay off. Tears of excitement and anxiousness were threatening to fall, but I was able to hold them at bay. I took a deep breath, and before I knew it, the first pick was being announced.
I'll be completely honest with you, the wait was tough. It was tougher than I expected it to be. Not because I anticipated my name to be called earlier (I had realistic expectations that I could go either first or second round), but because other people's futures were being unveiled to them right in front of my eyes, and my future was still so uncertain. But my family and coach did a great job of encouraging me. By the time the first round ended, I knew that my name would eventually be called, so at that point I started to relax a bit more and enjoy my whole experience.
"And with the 17th pick of the 2019 WNBA draft, the Dallas Wings select Megan Gustafson from the University of Iowa."
I was able to collect my bearings a few seconds before that wonderful sentence was announced because the TV cameras came over and pointed them all at me. It was such a relief hearing my name! I immediately got up and hugged my parents and my coach, and then proceeded to walk up on the stage. Holding that jersey and smiling for the camera is a moment I will never forget. Suddenly my near future was decided for me: This Hawkeye is going to Dallas.
I have heard great things about this program and about the new head coach, Brian Agler. I am so, so, so (let me just put one more "so") excited to get the opportunity to be on this team.
Hey there Dallas Wings fans, this girl is ready to meet all of you soon. Speaking of fans, I loved hearing a video and seeing the tweets from Donald Driver congratulating us — I remember loving him in a Green Bay Packers jersey while growing up in Wisconsin — you could say I'm a big fan.
After I left the stage, I was immediately put into the media circuit where I did a bunch of different activities. The first (and best) one was when I watched a surprise video of my best friend and college roommate Adorabol Huckleby congratulating me — I'm not going to lie, the tears started to flow then.
To wrap up draft night, I went to Shake Shack with my coaches and family to celebrate (this was amazing by the way), and then my family and I decided to walk around Times Square.
I suppose I should wrap this thing up; not bad for a marketing and finance major, huh? But first, I just want to say thank you so much to the University of Iowa for allowing me to put on an Iowa jersey for the past four years. It has been a complete honor wearing the Black and Gold, and sadly it is time to pass the torch. But I am now looking forward to the future. I would also like to thank coach Agler and the Dallas Wings for taking a chance on me. I promise to work as hard as I possibly can so that I can wear the blue and green one day soon — I can't wait to get to training camp.
Thanks for following my draft journey. Let's do this again sometime.
Go Wings! Go Hawks!