Saturday, May 9, 2015

JMU's Okafor: graduation today, WNBA tomorrow

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when the morning dawns. 
Psalms 46: 5 -- the message on Lady's cap

Today she celebrated. Tomorrow the next chapter begins. And for James Madison's Lauren Okafor, who graduated on Saturday with her bachelor's of science in premed/psychology, that next step is WNBA training camp.

To her surprise, Okafor was drafted in the third round, the 34th pick overall, by the Atlanta Dream.

"When everything happened, I was in shock," said Okafor, who attended two combines in Tampa after JMU (29-4) ended its season in the first round of the NCAA tournament. "I wasn't really jumping up and down. I was taking it all in."

Okafor had just returned from the end-of-year JMU banquet with her teammates when she learned she had been drafted. She began getting texts and seeing the news on Twitter before she got the call from the Dream. Even coach Kenny Brooks was taken aback, though he thinks she can make an impact.

"She understands their needs," he said. "They're looking for someone who can defend, rebound, run the floor. She can do that."

Since the draft, the 6-3 Okafor has worked with JMU's strength and conditioning coach to improve her physical conditioning. She's aware of this, noting, "You can get drafted, but the process doesn't end there."

In a league where first-rounders can get cut early, a third-round draft pick can be dispensable. Okafor will be fighting to earn a spot on a roster that includes Rutgers forward Monique Oliver and Mississippi State forward/center Martha Aiwei.

Okafor's long-range goals include graduate school in the health sciences. "I want to be a psychiatrist," she said. "I also want to own a medical spa. And I want to have a nonprofit for young, underprivileged girls who are trying to make an impact on their communities."

Her future, with all its promise, starts today.

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