Rhoads sees 'next level' as next step in her basketball career

Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 10:02pm

Jence Rhoads might attend graduate school in the future — just not in the immediate future.

After she graduates from Vanderbilt in May with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, Rhoads hopes to do what she has done for most of her life — play basketball.

The 5-foot-11 guard who spent the last four years climbing up the Vanderbilt women’s basketball record charts intends to make a living playing basketball professionally and that journey could start on Monday.

The WNBA will hold its annual draft at 2 p.m. (ESPN) and Rhoads hopes to hear her name called before the three-round, 36-selection event concludes.

“If someone wants me then, yeah, I think I deserve to be drafted,” Rhoads said. “If they don’t want me, then I will find another way to play. ... Obviously when you are really young, that is what you would say, ‘Yeah, I want to be a professional basketball player.’ As I have kept playing, I still love to play and I think I am capable of playing somewhere. I figure I might as well keep playing while my legs still work.”

Rhoads and senior teammate Hannah Tuomi attended a free agent workout on April 3 in Indianapolis during the NCAA Women’s Final Four. They are hoping to be the first Commodores drafted since former Vanderbilt standouts Jennifer Risper and Christina Wirth were selected in 2009.

If neither Tuomi nor Rhoads are drafted, there is still the chance they can get picked by a WNBA team through a free agent tryout. If that doesn’t work, both players are interested in pursuing opportunities to play basketball overseas. In fact, some WNBA players also play overseas as well since the WNBA season is less than four months long.

Rhoads and Tuomi could be on the outside looking in when the draft rolls around. Rhoads, a native of Slippery Rock, Pa., could be valuable running the point guard position but she isn’t a primary scorer and might not be considered as fast as other prospects.

“I think I would be a different point guard at the next level,” Rhoads said. “Obviously I would have to work on my scoring abilities, shooting and just consistency in that. Also, I have to work on my defense and things. That is why they call it the next level because you need to work on everything to be successful at that level.”

At 6-1, Tuomi, a native of Thornton, Colo., would still be a little undersized playing down in the post.

Of the eight forwards or centers the website draftsite.com projects to be drafted in the first round, six are taller than 6-3. The other two are Connecticut star Maya Moore and Danielle Adams, who just led Texas A&M to its first national championship. Both players are 6-1 but both have the ability to shoot from deep, too.

Still, Tuomi and Rhoads enjoyed successful careers at Vanderbilt. Both scored more than 1,000 points in their career and Tuomi ranks sixth all-time with a field-goal percentage of 56.8 percent.

In addition to 1,132 points, Rhoads ranks third all-time in school history with 547 assists and she is the first Vanderbilt player to tally at least 1,110 points, 500 assists and 400 rebounds. This past season, she was selected to the All-SEC first team and later was named honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press.

“I just came to play. I didn’t really have any particular goals. I didn’t know when I stepped on campus as a freshman,” Rhoads, now 22, said. “My goals were to play and be the best I could be and I think I accomplished that to some extent.”