By Kyle Williams
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee -- As the 2017 WNBA Draft on April 13 proceeded from the second into the third and final round, Schaquilla Nunn was just leaving class, ready to get some food before she watched the live telecast on her phone. None of the teams had contacted her that day, and her prospects of being selected were, in her mind, never a certainty.
So when teammate Kamera Harris told the Lady Vols' senior via FaceTime that she had just been chosen by the San Antonio Stars, Nunn's reaction was "No, I wasn't; what are you talking about?"
After she was shown the announcement being made on television, the reality set in for Nunn, a 6-foot-3 forward from Fayetteville, Georgia.
"She turned the camera around and had it on the screen and I started crying," she said. "Then I called my family, I called my Auntie and she was screaming and my Dad was just smiling. They were really excited. Honestly, it was a shocking moment."
Nunn's pleasant surprise on draft night led to a quick turnaround that had her beginning physical tests and practice in San Antonio last weekend. And although she just met her teammates and entered training camp as a rookie in a new city, adjusting to something unfamiliar has never hampered the confident young woman known to many as "Qui."
As was the case when Nunn arrived to Knoxville in 2016 as a graduate transfer from Winthrop University. Although she started 86 out of 88 games over three years for the Eagles, Nunn only did so five times this season for Tennessee. But while coming off the bench can sometimes set back a player's confidence, Nunn decided to focus on how she could impact the game in the time she was given.
"To be honest, in my mindset, starting or not starting, it doesn't really matter," she said. "It depends on what you do in the game, and I felt like regardless if I started or not - (if I had) five minutes or anything - I could still change the play."
Although she averaged under 12 minutes per contest, Nunn certainly made her presence felt for the Lady Vols in 2016-17. The senior posted 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 53 percent from the floor.
UT fans will no doubt remember her key contributions in a jubilant home win over sixth-ranked Notre Dame and will recall her second double-double of the season, a 14-point, 15-rebound effort vs. Dayton in the NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps it was that efficiency along with her attitude that drew the attention of the Stars, who picked Nunn with the 25th overall selection of the draft. San Antonio is no stranger to adding talent from Tennessee, however, as former Lady Vols Vicki Baugh and Isabelle Harrison both currently play there. Nunn said she is excited to have a pair of teammates with similar backgrounds that she can lean on as a rookie.
"When I'm in contact with former Lady Vols, it's like family. It doesn't matter in which class you graduated," she said. "What you've accomplished, you being a Lady Vol is all that matters, and everyone tends to have each other's back."
Nunn has shown time after time that the path towards reaching a goal can be unconventional. She played volleyball and ran track in high school and didn't begin playing basketball until she was 17. The late start never held Nunn back, though, and her love for the game has grown ever since Winthrop was one of only a handful of schools to offer her an opportunity to play basketball at the college level.
"I kind of like writing (my) own story," Nunn said. "I know there's people that have been playing 15 or 16 years. I'm just not one of those people. But I still try to put in all the work and I know I have so much more to learn about the game and that's the part that I love."
Nunn had to spend a year recovering from a broken foot before she could play for Holly Warlick. She left Winthrop holding the school record for rebounds (910) and blocked shots (279). However, Nunn feels her experience at Tennessee, even for one year while playing fewer minutes, was worth it.
"(It has meant) everything, honestly. It exposed me to a lot more than I can really explain. I've seen how basketball is handled at a higher level," she said. And while it is what she did on the court that Nunn hopes to carry into a WNBA career, she added that her time in the UT community will be remembered fondly as well. "I've never met such amazing fans like this before in my life. I'll be somewhere and they just approach you. I mean, everyone is family."
In addition to that close-knit feel of the UT women's basketball family, Nunn was thorough in her research of the academic offerings here, where she has augmented a business administration degree with emphasis in finance at Winthrop by pursuing a master's in human resource management as a Lady Vol. She garnered a UT Chancellor's Honors Scholar Athlete Award for her work toward that goal.
As Nunn looks back on her time in Knoxville with fond memories, all of Rocky Top will be watching closely as the San Antonio rookie begins the next chapter of her career. They will be pulling for a fan favorite who accepted and thrived in her role and represented the program with class, on the court and off.