SALT LAKE CITY — As a young girl growing up in Federal Way, Washington, Megan Huff dreamed of playing in the WNBA.
There were times though, as she’s quick to point out, where the dream of a professional basketball career felt unattainable.
“I always said I wanted to play in the WNBA, but it was just something you said,” said Huff. “It is just something you say as a kid. I never thought it was going to happen.”
Even after a standout collegiate career, with award-winning stops at the University of Hawaii and the University of Utah, the dream still felt a little bit out of reach.
That remained the case Wednesday night throughout much of the 2019 WNBA draft, and for good reason.
After all, the first round went by, and Huff, surrounded by teammates and coaches, didn’t hear her name called.
Then the second round passed, and again there was no mention of her.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be picked.”
And then, two picks into the third round, it happened — her lifelong dream came true.
With the 26th pick in the 2019 WNBA draft the New York Liberty selected Huff, out of the University of Utah.
The selection made her the first Ute taken in the draft in five years — Michelle Plouffe was selected by the Seattle Storm in 2014, with the 33rd overall pick — not to mention the first of Utah head coach Lynne Roberts’ tenure.
“We are so proud of Megan,” Roberts said. “In my talking with a lot of teams in the WNBA in the last month, everyone is aware of her huge upside. The New York Liberty is getting a tremendous talent with so much potential to grow. We are proud of her and we are so happy to have another Ute in the league.”
The prevailing emotion for Huff following the announcement was relief.
“It was a relief, honestly,” she said. “It is kind of unreal. I am excited now to really go to the next level and play out my dream.”
More specifically, Huff gets an invitation to training camp, and it is an opportunity she does not take lightly.
In fact, she welcomes the underdog role that comes with being a later round pick.
“It is OK for me. I like to be an underdog,” Huff said. “I like to be someone that has to work for everything. I like to prove myself, so it is a good spot for me. I am going to a training camp and I can really prove myself.”
She’ll have the opportunity to do so against some of the best players in the world as the power forward position is populated by some of the best athletes league-wide, such as Breanna Stewart, Nneka Ogwumike and Elena Delle Donne.
“Obviously I have to get better at things,” said Huff. “I need to be a better defender and I am going to have to get used to being in the league. I know I need to get better and I can’t ever relax, but I am excited to work hard.”
In her favor is her shooting ability, not to mention a versatile offensive game.
“I think I am a great shooter,” said Huff. “And I have versatility. I am kind of a mismatch for a lot of defenders.”
It was those strengths, demonstrated by Huff throughout her Utah career, that motivated the Liberty to select her.
“She's a shooter, a smooth basketball player,” New York head coach Katie Smith said. “Being able to make a team is going to be the toughest thing, but she can flat-out shoot it, and is just a smooth, decent basketball player.”
Joining Huff on the Liberty will be Louisville’s Asia Durr, the second overall pick in the draft, as well as the 14th pick, Han Xu, from China.
Durr and Xu both made the trip to New York, to Nike’s headquarters, which is part of the dream of every child who wants to play professional basketball.
The chance to hear one’s name called, to walk out on the stage and in that moment be the center of the basketball world is as much the dream as eventually taking the court.
Megan Huff didn’t get that opportunity, but after hearing her name announced, and having been selected by the Liberty, she turned to her fellow Utes with a smile on her face.
“I get to go to New York after all,” she said, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.