Ashley Earley gets WNBA work out in New York

Vanderbilt senior Ashley Earley's collegiate basketball career ended two weeks ago Vanderbilt lost to national runner-up Michigan State in the regional semi-finals of the 2005 NCAA tournament. But this weekend, she was back on the court again.

Earley is one of forty of college seniors invited to the 2005 WNBA Pre-Draft Camp being held in Tarrytown, New York, this weekend. The camp gives WNBA coaches and general managers a chance to evaluate the 2005 draft class in preparation for the WNBA draft which will be held on April 16.

When Earley arrived at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Friday, a driver holding a card reading "WNBA" was waiting for her. Although the other WNBA hopefuls would all be arriving on Friday, Earley was the only one at that time, so she had the car and driver all to herself for the 30 minute drive to Tarrytown.

The drive gave Earley (right, photo by Neil Brake) her first-ever glimpse of New York City. "My driver was trying to explain while we were driving through," Earley said Saturday night. "I feel like he named them all -- Manhattan, the Bronx. . . I wish I could see a little bit more of the city."

But this weekend was all about basketball, not sight-seeing. After arriving at the hotel near the Madison Square Garden Training Center where the camp is being held, the players checked in to the hotel, got their keys and their gear for the weekend, including uniforms and bags. After getting checked in, they headed over to the training center for physicals, photos, and other media obligations.

Saturday morning the camp began in earnest. "We started out stretching on our own, shooting a little bit, and then today we went on to do a few drills just to warm up, a little halfcourt, like post work, 3 on 2, 2 on 1, all that," explained Earley. The drills went on through the morning.

Then there was a two and a half hour break for lunch. "We were just hanging out in the Liberty's locker room, watching TV, a couple of people took a little nap," she said.

After the break it was back to the court. In the afternoon, it was six games of 5-on-5. "There are two courts, four teams, with ten people on each team," Earley said. "You play for 25 minutes with a running clock. You just sub in and out. "

While the drills and games are in progress, WNBA coaches and general managers sit along the sidelines, watching the games and taking notes as they evaluate what they see.

As the day goes on, the players' agents are talking to the coaches, finding out what they're looking for and what the players need to do - and, in Earley's case, convincing them that taking a look at the 5'10 Earley is no different than taking a look at a 6'2 player.

After the long day on the court, the players had Saturday night to relax and recuperate before hitting the court again on Sunday morning for more 5-on-5 before camp breaks up at noon.

It's a grueling schedule, but Earley says that the key to just go out there and have fun.

"It's pretty much the players that are relaxed are the ones that play well here," she said. "Have fun and do what you've been doing to get here."

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