Angie Bjorklund gets back to work

Angie Bjorklund's collegiate basketball career is completed, but she's getting as much time in the gym and the weight room as she did during her senior season to prepare for training camp next month with the Chicago Sky, which took the Lady Vol sharpshooter in the second round of the WNBA draft.

Angie Bjorklund, in true student-athlete fashion, was taking an exam during the draft on Monday afternoon and had to log onto her laptop afterwards to catch up with the selections.

Bjorklund wrote about the experience on the website of the Chicago Sky.

"I was just waiting until my name popped up," Bjorklund said in a phone interview with Inside Tennessee. "I was definitely anxious and excited."

The Sky selected Gonzaga point guard Courtney Vandersloot in the first round with the No. 3 pick, and took 6'6 Boston College center Carolyn Swords in the second round as the 15th overall pick, followed by Bjorklund two picks later at No. 17.

Bjorklund already knows Vandersloot, who played with Bjorklund's older sister, Jami, at Gonzaga. When Bjorklund made trips home to Spokane Valley, Wash., for the summer she played pickup games with Vandersloot at Gonzaga.

"We've already texted," Bjorklund said. "I'll go back and work out with them and play pick-up so I have definitely gotten to know her on and off the court.

"She is obviously one of the best point guards so as a shooter and a scorer I would love to have her on my team."

Bjorklund also knows Sky center Sylvia Fowles, who was a senior at LSU during Bjorklund's freshman year at Tennessee when the Lady Vols lost to the Lady Tigers in the regular season and then beat them for the 2008 SEC tourney title in Nashville and in the semifinal of the Final Four in Tampa in 2008.

Bjorklund chest-pumped Alexis Hornbuckle after Hornbuckle hit the game winning shot with less than a second left with a stick-back and then suddenly remembered to get back on defense. After the game Pat Summitt reminded the players to act like they had been there before – Tennessee was the defending champs – and Bjorklund smiled and reminded her coach that she had not.

Bjorklund will depart Tennessee in May with a psychology degree and a 2008 national title ring. The last three years were not nearly as smooth, especially her sophomore year when Bjorklund was the lone veteran starter on a team of youngsters. She never returned to the Final Four but leaves with a lot of memories.

Prior to Monday, the last time Bjorklund had talked to the media was in the locker room in Dayton, Ohio, after the Lady Vols lost in the Elite Eight to Notre Dame. A shattered Bjorklund struggled to speak but handled every interview.

This week Bjorklund sounded much better and said she had started to come to terms with the end of her college career and the beginning of her professional one.

"It still hurts thinking about it," Bjorklund said. "I continue to try and encourage my teammates, and they've all been encouraging to me. They reminded me it's not the end even though it felt like the end.

"It's good to have a chance to reflect back over the four years. Tough ending, but it can't take away from the previous four years and the experiences that I've had and the relationships I've made."

Bjorklund was devastated after the loss and needed some time away from basketball for a few days. She also used the break to make up for missed classes during the postseason. But before leaving for Chicago, Bjorklund intends to sit down with the staff and complete the last chapter of her college career.

"I've been using my time trying to catch up with school and getting ready to graduate, but absolutely having a month to prepare before I take off to Chicago I will meet with Pat and all the coaches and thank them," Bjorklund said. "She has done so much for me."

Bjorklund was happy with the WNBA calendar, which means she has until mid-May to report to training camp. It does mean, however, that she will miss graduation ceremonies.

"I have a month to prepare and a month to finish school," Bjorklund said. "I have time to make the transition. I've asked past players, ‘What do you suggest? What is training camp going to be like?' "

Bjorklund talked to Briann January, a guard with the Indiana Fever who played at Arizona State. Bjorklund and January played on the same AAU team several years ago in Spokane.

"Get in good shape," Bjorklund said of the advice. "That is the main thing everyone has been saying. It is a lot more competitive. It is basically a toughness factor. Working on footwork defensively and offensively getting your shot off quicker. I am trying to work on that this next month. So just trying to stay in shape and playing pickup."

One knock on Bjorklund during pre-draft analysis was her defense, but she usually was assigned the toughest perimeter player in college.

Bjorklund said she hoped to "definitely" surprise people with her defense, but she added, "It's going to be different, but I think I know what to prepare for."

The next month will be spent in conditioning, weights and gym workouts on Tennessee's campus. Former Lady Vols Nicky Anosike and Candace Parker also recalled the way Bjorklund drained shots in practice in her freshman year.

"I even talked to Candace," Bjorklund said. "She mentioned, ‘Stay confident.' It was a rough last couple of games obviously, but she said take a month to prepare physically and mentally and get your confidence back.

"All my teammates have been encouraging me. They've been great. I appreciate all the help and support from my teammates and family."

Bjorklund laughed out loud when she was asked how her family reacted to the draft news.

"They were hyper on the phone," she said. "They were excited."

Bjorklund looked forward to playing alongside Fowles, as opposed to going against the 6'6 center.

"I know she dominated this past season, so I am excited," Bjorklund said. "Anytime you have a good inside game it's going to open up things for the outside."

Bjorklund also was familiar with Sky Head Coach Pokey Chatman because of her past ties to the SEC and LSU.

"Everyone I have talked to says she is a great coach," Bjorklund said. "I have heard nothing but good things so I am excited."

Making a WNBA roster is tough, because slots are limited to 11, and there is no injured reserve. With 12 teams that means just 132 players are in the league, which draws worldwide, is loaded with veterans and drafts new players every year.

Summitt thinks Bjorklund can make a roster.

"As long as she carries a big old attitude about ‘I'm your answer,' " Summitt said. "Angie has got to go in there very confident and step up and show them what she can do other than shoot the ball. She is a pretty good defender. She's got a good step-back and pull-up."

Bjorklund agreed with that assessment, especially the mental approach to making a team.

"I think that's the attitude I have to have," Bjorklund said. "Being a solid shooter I think will definitely help me and like Coach said, I think confidence is going to be the big thing.

"My mindset is that I am going to work my hardest this next month to prepare. I am going to work my hardest when I am at camp and whatever happens is meant to be. I am excited."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories