By Kyle Williams
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee -- Jordan Reynolds came to Tennessee in 2013 as a McDonald’s All-American in high school. She started 85 games over her career, made the SEC All-Tournament team as a sophomore, and had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference as a senior in 2016-17.
Each of these accomplishments would make it not surprising, then, that the Atlanta Dream chose Reynolds with the 19th overall selection in the April 13 WNBA Draft. One person, however, who wasn’t sure whether she would be picked early - if ever - was the 5-foot-11 guard from Portland, Oregon, herself.
“I didn’t think I was going to get drafted at all, because my agent told me a week before that my name wasn’t on the draft board,” Reynolds said. “Then he called me the same day of the draft and said my name was on the board, and he said ‘you might get picked, you might not,’ so I told myself to not get my hopes up. Then it happened and words couldn’t express my joy.”
Reynolds, who said she was in a movie theatre when her agent called her with the news, didn’t have a chance to see the outpouring of support she received until later that night.
“I had turned off all my notifications on my phone, and people had been texting me so I had like 50 unread text messages,” she said. “It was crazy to see.”
She was able to spend time celebrating with her teammates and coaches, but the reality of achieving a goal she had spent so much of her life working toward was the ultimate feeling for Reynolds.
“Nothing’s ever set in stone, so it was great just to see that my dreams were coming true,” she said.
Reynolds had little time to process the thrill of being drafted, as she reported to practice in Atlanta just four days later. She will have the privilege of playing under head coach Michael Cooper, a five-time NBA champion as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers and two-time champion in the WNBA coaching the L.A. Sparks.
Reynolds said she is already enjoying the experience of learning from a coach with a championship pedigree.
“He’s a very enthusiastic coach, but he’s very forward, and very blunt,” she said. “It’s just a different coaching style, and he’s really hard on us but he does care a lot about us. He tells us things for the greater good, and I really like it so far.”
Reynolds was the first of two Lady Vol seniors to be selected in this year’s draft, as Schaquilla Nunn was taken by the San Antonio Stars in the third round. Reynolds acknowledged how important it was not only to see a friend be chosen, but also to continue the legacy that Tennessee has established in the WNBA.
“It just goes to show what type of program Tennessee is for women’s basketball,” she said. “Since I’ve been here, someone’s gotten drafted every year.”
In fact, UT now has had eight players taken by the WNBA during the five-year Holly Warlick era. In all, 39 student-athletes from Tennessee have been selected during the league’s history.
Reynolds was grateful for the exposure she got playing for a premier program as well as against the highest level of competition.
“That’s what prepared me the most,” she said. “With our tough schedule over the past four years, I’ve probably played against everybody. When you play in the league that we play in, it was a great standpoint to see all the great players and teams, and to just get prepared for something like (the WNBA),” she said.
Reynolds said she would like to one day travel overseas and compete for an international team. While she hasn’t considered a specific location, she feels the experience would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that many women’s players have taken advantage of over recent off-seasons.
“I think it would be a great opportunity just to say I’ve done it,” she said. “A lot of players have gone through it and they either enjoy it or they don’t, but I just want to have the experience for myself when the chance presents itself.”
Looking ahead to life after her playing career, Reynolds said she could see herself coaching at the college level, particularly because of past success that former Lady Vols have found in that field. She also would like to work for sportswear giants Nike or Adidas, which both have headquarters in her home state of Oregon.
For now, Reynolds will look to bring crowds to their feet in the WNBA the same way she did so often in Knoxville, a place that she felt gave her an advantage for when she arrived to a professional training camp.
“Coach Holly told us that you never know who’s watching you,” she said. “You have to be your best you at all times no matter where you are, because we have fans across the country and they know who you are, so that’s totally changed me as a person.”