Amy Jaeschke becomes first NU player ever to be drafted by WNBA

Colin Becht

While few post players get credit for their speed and endurance, athletic director Jim Phillips said Amy Jaeschke was an exception.

“I remember seeing her, out my office window, running sprints during the spring and summer on our football practice field, and she was just out there by herself, and I just thought that was so impressive,” Phillips said. “I’ll always remember those moments where I would see her and no one else even in the vicinity so it was her dedication and commitment that shined through.”

On Monday, Jaeschke’s unforgettable work ethic cemented her place in Northwestern history as she became the first NU women’s basketball player drafted to the WNBA when she was chosen by the Chicago Sky with the third pick in the third round. She was the 27th overall selection.

“I really had a lot of anticipation coming up to this day, ” Jaeschke said. “Right now, it’s just kind of a sigh of relief, knowing that I did get drafted.”

The senior center was forced to wait a little longer than expected to hear her name called in the draft. While several mock drafts had Jaeschke going early in the second round and ESPN tabbed her as the 11th-best prospect in the draft, Jaeschke had to hear 26 names called before she got her moment.

“Truthfully it was pretty excruciating just watching name after name come up and you’re not called,” Jaeschke said.

Jeff House, assistant coach of the Sky, said he didn’t expect Jaeschke to still be available in the third round, but was happy the Sky could draft her that late.

“A four-time All-Big Ten player and All-Defensive player in the Big Ten with all her points and accolades and accomplishments that she’s had,” House said, “We were a little surprised” she had not been drafted yet.

Bob Jaeschke, Amy’s father, said that although the wait during the draft was hard, it’s inconsequential now that Jaeschke has been drafted.

“It doesn’t matter what number you are,” Bob Jaeschke said. “You’ve got an equal chance to make the team and play hard.”

For Jaeschke, the extra wait was worth it in the end because it allowed her to stay near NU and her hometown, Wilmette, Ill.

“Honestly it was a blessing in disguise because I’m so excited that I got to be picked up by the Chicago Sky and play in front of a hometown crowd and near my friends and family,” Jaeschke said. “Having them come out and support me is more than I could ever wish for.”

The Sky finished last in the Eastern Conference in the WNBA last season posting a 14-20 record. While that indicates the team will need some rebuilding, it also means Jaeschke enters the team with a strong crop of fellow rookies.

Chicago selected Courtney Vandersloot, a three-time West Coast Conference Player of the Year and the NCAA’s leader in assists for the past two seasons, with the third overall pick of the draft. The Sky then drafted Carolyn Swords and Angie Bjorklund in the second round, two players Jaeschke has competed with in the past games and tryouts for USA teams.

Jaeschke said Bjorklund “can shoot lights-out” while Swords was “a very highly skilled post player.”

Given that Swords is also a center, she and Jaeschke will likely fight for minutes backing up two-time All-Star center Sylvia Fowles.

“Amy is a very good complement to the roster that we have,” House said. “Amy doesn’t have to come in and be somebody that has to dominate right away. She can come in and Sylvia will challenge her.”

House said the Sky was impressed with Jaeschke’s outside-shooting ability, a rare talent for a player with her size.

“The skill set she brings is very unique for someone that’s six foot five to be able to shoot threes,” coach Joe McKeown said. “There are very few players that can do that.”

However, a draft pick does not guarantee Jaeschke a spot on the roster, a fact of which she is well aware.

Jaeschke said her only goal right now was to simply make the team.

“Once I make it, I can make more goals from there,” she said. “But I’m just keeping it short-term at this point.”

For a player who set out to reshape the culture of women’s basketball at Northwestern, getting drafted is the pièce de résistance of that effort, proof that NU can produce professional players.

“It’s her fulfillment,” Bob Jaeschke said. “It’s something she’s desired, and this year getting the opportunity to move to the next level is just incredible.”

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