TCU women’s three seniors chasing dreams at pro combines

TCU’s Natalie Ventress is one of three Horned Frogs in Tampa, Fla., for the ProHoops and Tampa combines.
TCU’s Natalie Ventress is one of three Horned Frogs in Tampa, Fla., for the ProHoops and Tampa combines. Special to the Star-Telegram

TCU’s three seniors from the women’s basketball team are in Tampa, Fla., this weekend for professional combines representing the WNBA and leagues all over the world.

Donielle Breaux, Chelsea Prince and Natalie Ventress didn’t think they would have such an opportunity.

“I’ve always had a dream to play in the WNBA, so when I found out that I was going to the combine, I cried,” Ventress said. “I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it. I was just so proud of myself and how far I’ve come.”

The trio will be participating in on-court, basketball-specific drills for scouts and coaches, who will gauge their talent, including shooting, ball handling and making reads off pick-and-rolls.

Much of the time will be spent playing three-on-three games, but there will be a full-squad scrimmage and a 3-point contest.

TCU assistant coaches Edwina Brown and Crystal Robinson, who have helped run the ProHoops Combine for the past several years, have helped TCU’s prospects gain a leg up by training with them since the Horned Frogs’ exit from the WNIT on March 22.

“If you say you want to play pro, you need to know what it looks like,” Brown said. “You’re never really prepared until you’re thrown out there. I think that our girls have a little bit of an advantage because they have pros that are helping them transition.”

The WNBA no longer hosts its own combine, so agents, scouts and coaches — such as Brown and Robinson — have developed several smaller combines in its place.

Naturally, all three TCU seniors have held aspirations of playing in the WNBA since they were little girls, but the goal of this trip is to spark an interest with an agent or a coach.

Last year, former TCU center Latricia Lovings participated in one of the combines, which helped her land a gig in Bulgaria.

She said players never know what to expect during the day of the combine.

“When I went to the combine, Lisa Leslie and the Sparks walked in all at one time and you were kind of shocked,” Lovings said. “I really had to bring my A-game if I wanted to impress them.

“Of course, they already have their eyes on people. For you to shine, you can’t prepare to outshine someone, you just have to prepare to shine for yourself.”

It’s not the on-court adjustments that are the hardest to make playing overseas, but the cultural divide, Lovings said.

“You know you’ll be alone, but you don’t know it until you experience it,” Lovings said. “I’ve never felt that alone before in my life. That’s another thing that preparing for is impossible, because you have the support of your family and friends but they’re thousands of miles away.”

The money and the fan support overseas, however, can be much better than the WNBA, Lovings and Brown said.

The TCU trio hold a key skill toward potentially landing a professional contract — shooting ability.

“Every team can use a shooter, so that’s something they can look at,” Brown said.

Prince, the Big 12’s defensive player of the year, finished 19th in the conference in scoring, followed by Ventress at No. 23.

Ventress held the conference’s fourth-best 3-point percentage at 36.2 percent.

Breaux finished the season shooting 37.3 percent from the field and was 13th in the Big 12 in steals, averaging 1.5 per game, behind conference leader Prince, who averaged 3.22 per game.

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