MERIDEN — Today is the day that Damika Martinez has been dreaming about her entire life.
Martinez, who has dominated at every level of basketball that she has played, hopes to hear what every women’s basketball player aspires to hear: her name being announced by a WNBA team at tonight’s draft.
It all transpires tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena. ESPN2 will televise the first round beginning at 7 p.m. ESPN3 will air the second and third rounds starting at 8 p.m.
Martinez will be watching here in the Silver City with her family.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Martinez said Wednesday night. “Like everyone else, I’m just hoping for the best. I will be with my family waiting. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. There were times I didn’t think it was possible and other times I did.”
There are three rounds in the draft. There are 12 WNBA teams. That means 36 players will be chosen.
Draftsite.com projects Martinez to go 30th overall to the San Antonio Silver Stars.
“I’ve seen the projections,” Martinez said. “I can’t be too excited about projections, but it feels good to know my name is with the basketball players in the country.”
Martinez said her agent has been in contact with different teams, but she isn’t concerned about that.
“Right now, I’m just thinking about what is next,” Martinez said. “I’m not caught up in anything else. There is always, ‘Think about Plan B.’ I’m not trying to get too excited. I want to make sure I have something to fall back on. But if I do get drafted, I would be proud of myself for the first time in my life that I accomplished one of my goals.”
There has been plenty of pride for what Martinez has accomplished over the years. She was a star at Platt for four years. She signed off as Meriden’s leading scorer of all-time with 1,857 points, a mark that stood until Roosevelt Shider broke it last year. She remains the city’s top female scorer.
Martinez left such an impact in the Silver City that current Platt girls head coach Tina Gonyea and Maloney coach Amy Gilchrist gathered 65 current students who will take a ride down to Mohegan Sun tonight in hopes of hearing their hometown hero’s name.
“We are extremely proud of what Damika has done and that she is being considered for the WNBA draft,” Gonyea said. “I want the kids to know that if you have a dream, you can accomplish it like Damika did. She went to Platt, not a private school or a magnet school or anywhere else. She was one of the best players to walk through these doors. She didn’t win a state championship. She didn’t win a national championship in college, but she is being considered for the WNBA draft and that is a product of her hard work.
“You can do that at Platt or Maloney or Wilcox Tech. If you are good enough, they will find you where you are.”
Gonyea said Martinez is someone the students of Meriden look up to. That seems beyond dispute judging by the number traveling to Uncasville tonight, even with Martinez not in attendance.
Martinez said she is flattered by the outpouring of support from her fellow Meriden residents.
“Of course, I would like to be up there,” Martinez said. “But my agent and I think it’s for the best to watch it with my family.”
Although she made her name in Meriden, Martinez’s career reach national prominence at Iona. She was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Year in her initial campaign and the MAAC Player of the Year in each of the next three seasons. She led the conference in scoring in each of her four years.
Martinez, third in the nation in Division I scoring this year at 24.2 points a game, was a finalist for both the Nancy Lieberman Award and the Dawn Staley Award.
Like she did a Platt, Martinez became the most prolific scoring in Iona history. The 5-foot-7 guard’s 2,581 career points were not only the most all-time for the Gaels, they also broke the MAAC women’s record as well.
“We are all very excited for Damika,” Iona coach Billi Godsey said. “We hope (tonight) is the start of a wonderful professional career.
“Everyone on campus is excited for Damika. It extends beyond the basketball team. We all hold her in high regard. We are happy she is watching draft at home with her family, but we are hoping to have a big send off party for her when she gets back.”
The Iona team will be gathering together to watch the draft in support of Martinez at the New Rochelle campus.
Martinez hopes to join an exclusive club of Meriden pros that included NFL players Tom Rychlec and John Jenkins and NBA player Jay Murphy.
Rychlec was a tight end from 1958 to 1963 for Detroit, Buffalo and Denver. Jenkins, a nose tackle, will be entering his third season with the New Orleans Saints this fall.
Murphy was a second-round pick of the Golden State Warriors in the 1984 NBA draft. He played four seasons in the NBA.
Martinez said she been successful because of a tireless work ethic.
“I’m always working to be the best at my craft,” Martinez said. “I will never settle for being good. I’m always trying to be the best. It’s all about dedication and the hard work you put in.”
With the years of hard work in the books, Martinez is on the verge or reaping the ultimate reward for a kid with a dream: a pro contract.
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