June 27, 2018

Taking Circuitous Route Back to WNBA, PU Alumna Dietrick Thriving With Atlanta

A DREAM COME TRUE: Blake Dietrick heads to the basket in 2015 during her senior season for the Princeton University women’s basketball team. The star guard is currently in her second stint in the WNBA, playing for the Atlanta Dream. Dietrick has made eight appearances for the Dream, getting a season-high 18 minutes with three points in a 79-72 loss to the New York Liberty on June 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After a brilliant career for the Princeton University women’s basketball team and a stint in an Italian pro league, Blake Dietrick achieved her goal of playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) as she made the opening day roster for the Seattle Storm in 2016.

But Dietrick didn’t stick with the team, appearing in two games for the Storm and then playing in one game for the San Antonio Stars on a seven-day contract.

“Your rookie year is always challenging in many ways, you don’t know the ropes,” said Dietrick, a 2015 Princeton grad who was the Ivy League Player of the Year and a second-team All-American as a senior in the 2014-15 campaign and is fourth all-time in program history in assists (346) and 12th in scoring (1,233).

“I am not sure I was ready to be in the league that year. I needed some time overseas to understand the pro game better and improve my game.”

The Wellesley, Mass. native traveled to opposite ends of the world to hone her game, playing in Australia and Greece. Dietrick competed for the Bendigo Spirit of the Australian
National Basketball League after her WNBA stint and then moved on to AO Dafni Agioy Dimitrioy of the Greece League.

“I went in hoping to dominate in Australia but that is not how the season went,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, who averaged 7.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and shot 47.7 percent for Bendigo before chipping in 18.5 points a game for AO Dafni Agioy Dimitrioy along with 5.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

“I went to Greece and had a really good season. I was just better prepared. I knew that if I wanted a chance to get in the league again, I would need to step up my game and be totally focused on basketball, and that is what it was. I was just looking to score, but also making the right decisions and getting my teammates the ball when I needed to. Between Australia and Greece, I revamped my fitness and I was in the best shape I have been in.”

Dietrick’s progress earned her a second chance at the WNBA as she was invited to try out for the Atlanta Dream this spring.

“Compared to previous camps I have been in, I really felt like I belonged and I deserved to be on the team,” said Dietrick.

“That is not to say that other people don’t, there are amazing people who get cut in this league everyday, which is crazy. I just felt more comfortable; my teammates were always supportive of me and believed in me too so that is always helpful.”

On May 17, the last day of training camp, Dietrick learned that she had made the team during a meeting with the Dream’s coaching staff.

“I am pretty sure I cried. It is just an emotionally draining experience, not knowing where you stand,” said Dietrick, recalling her thoughts when she got the good news from the coaches.

“You are putting your heart and soul into it every single practice, every single day, doing everything you possibly can to make the team and then not knowing whether it will be you or the next person. It was really exciting, a dream come true but just something I have worked so hard for.”

Coming off the bench for the Dream as a shooting guard, Dietrick is working hard to make an impact for the team.

“Right now, I think my role is to be an energy player,” said Dietrick. “I just want to be as much of a person who can lift my teammates up and give them energy as much as I can. I run the floor really hard, I defend the best I can, and I shoot the three.”

In recent weeks, Dietrick has been seeing more playing time, having made eight appearances, getting a season-high 18 minutes with three points in a 79-72 loss to the New York Liberty on June 19.

“I still have a lot of work to do,” said Dietrick, who has totaled five points with three assists and four rebounds in her eight games.

“I do think I am improving for sure; it is 100 percent because our guards are so talented. They are really helpful in terms of my defense and my ability to make plays on offense because I am doing it against the best in the league. That makes it easier when you get into the game.”

With Dream having gone 7-6 so far this summer and sitting sixth in the WNBA standings, Dietrick is looking to help Atlanta make a push for a postseason spot.

“I just do whatever the team needs, that is really all I focus on,” said Dietrick.

“It is whatever I can do to help us win and make it to the playoffs and be successful; whether that is defense or making shots, or anything else.”