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When she was practicing in middle school gymnasiums and on Toledo playgrounds, Natasha Howard set a goal for herself: to play basketball for as long as she possibly could. That meant playing high school basketball, and hopefully in college. Maybe even at the professional level.
Monday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., the 2010 Waite graduate reached one of the many goals she had set for herself. The Indiana Fever selected Howard, a 6-foot-3 forward at Florida State, with the fifth pick in the WNBA draft.
“This opportunity means a lot for me,” Howard said Monday night. “I was dreaming about this since I was in middle school and my dream finally came true. All of the hard work I put in finally paid off.”
Howard, 22, is the first Toledo high school product to go to the WNBA since 2007 when the Connecticut Sun drafted Bowsher graduate Kamesha Hairston, who played at Temple. The Detroit Shock drafted Ericka Haney, a Central Catholic grad who played at Notre Dame, in 2002.
Indiana’s training camp begins April 27 and the Fever open the WNBA season May 16 at Chicago. Howard has been training in Tallahassee in preparation for being drafted and joining a WNBA team.
“It’s going to be a big step,” said Howard, who will graduate from Florida State this summer with a degree in social science. “It’s different from college. It’s more physical, the tempo is quicker and I have to make sure I’m prepared and staying in shape.”
Howard will also be close to home as Indianapolis is less than a four-hour drive from Toledo.
“My family can come see me play instead of flying around,” Howard said. “They can drive and come to see me play, and I’m happy about that.”
At Florida State, Howard was honorable mention on the Associated Press All-America team. She averaged 20.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 2.1 steals and a school-record 15 double-doubles this season. Howard also set FSU records with 41 career double-doubles and 1,047 rebounds.
The WNBA and the Women's National Basketball Players Association agreed in February to a new collective bargaining agreement. Prior to the new CBA, first-year WNBA players earned a base salary of $37,950 a season. The top four picks in the WNBA draft earned a salary of $48,470 in their first season, picks 5 through 8 earned a base salary of $44,835, and the remaining first-round picks earned $39,988.