published Saturday, April 19th, 2014

UTC's Taylor Hall invited to WNBA tryout

  • photo
    Chattanooga's Taylor Hall, left, attempts to pass around the defense of Syracuse' Briana Day during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, March 22, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Taylor Hall's plans of going to medical school after college graduation could be on hold for a bit.

The graduating basketball player for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga received news earlier this week that she has received an invitation to try out for the WNBA's Seattle Storm, who made the announcement official Friday afternoon.

Hall becomes the third UTC player to receive a WNBA opportunity. Alex Anderson was the 39th pick in the 2008 draft and now plays overseas for Finland Catz Lappeenranta. That same season, Laura Hall was invited to a tryout with the Connecticut Sun.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity, and hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of it," Taylor Hall said. "I was probably going to take this year off [from school] anyway, because I wanted to play overseas and get that experience, but this will give me a chance to tell if I can play at this level. I had a lot of fun this season, and I really enjoyed playing for Coach [Jim] Foster."

The 6-foot-1 point forward was the Southern Conference player of the year for the 2013-14 season, averaging 15 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.5 steals per game as the Mocs went 29-4 and won 25 consecutive games before falling to Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament. She led the SoCon in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.7 (148 assists to 88 turnovers).

"I think my versatility is my greatest strength," Hall said. "I'm a guard if I need to be, or I can play under the basket if they need me to. I'm not great at any aspect of the game, but I can contribute to the team. I had been running distance to stay in shape since the season ended, but I hadn't had a ball in my hand until I found out about this."

Foster got the ball rolling on the process, sending video and putting calls into Storm head coach Brian Agler and associate head coach Jenny Boucek, "to talk sense and fruition to them."

"It's great for the UTC program to have a player to have an opportunity. It's great for any player, since there are only about 140 jobs available to play professionally," Foster said. "It's a great opportunity for Taylor. When the bench is limited as it is in our league, her versatility makes the bench longer.

"She can play multiple positions and help you in a lot of different ways, and she stretches your bench in a very significant way."

The past few days have been somewhat of a whirlwind for Hall. She is supposed to fly to Seattle next Thursday, three days before her tryout. Since finding out, she has picked the brain of current UTC assistant Brittany Johnson, who had a tryout with the Atlanta Dream after a four-year career at Ohio State, and has been working out with former UTC standout Johnny Taylor, who was the 17th pick of the 1997 NBA draft.

"I'm kind of stressed now. This has all happened fast," Hall said. "Any weakness I've ever thought I had has crossed through my mind, but I'm not going to be timid. I can't let the surroundings, or who I'm playing against, change who I am as a player.

"I'm nervous, of course -- I can't lie and say I'm not -- but this is a great opportunity and will help me as a basketball player. It will give me another opportunity to play basketball and hopefully will open another door to play professionally."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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