Seattle U.'s Breanna Salley keeps playing, even if she can't get on the court
Breanna Salley was Seattle U.'s best player in 2008-09 but was suspended by the NCAA and didn't play her final two college seasons. She's hoping to get a shot in the WNBA.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Time will dance an interesting tango Saturday. Every tick, every stoppage, every passage will be precious for Seattle University seniors Julee Christianson, Salena Dickerson and Tatiana Heck. They'll hold on to each second when SU (7-17) plays host to Cal State Bakersfield (14-11) for its final home game. Then there's Breanna Salley.
"This is not what I imagined my collegiate career to be, to say the least," said Salley, who was the Redhawks' best player as a sophomore but has spent her final two college seasons suspended by the NCAA.
Time can't move fast enough for Salley. She's a 5-foot-11 mystery to most who attend Redhawks home games. A native of Minnesota, she began her college career with the Gophers, then moved to the Seattle area and spent 11 months in a religious leadership program.
She enrolled at Seattle U. and led the Redhawks in scoring (17.5) as the 2008-09 team finished 20-9 in its last season as a Division II program.
But instead of Salley being a beacon as SU transitioned back to Division I under new coach Joan Bonvicini, Salley was shackled by time. She was one of three players suspended for failing to meet requisite credit hours under former coach Dan Kriley.
Bonvicini appealed the suspensions of Salley, Elle Kerfoot and Mercedes Alexander. Only Kerfoot's eligibility was restored. The SU administration allowed Salley to remain on scholarship, even as the NCAA denied her repeated appeals to play.
And just like Christianson, Dickerson and Heck, Salley has shown up for every 7 a.m. practice and remained long after, working on her shot or ball-handling skills. Salley has participated in the scrimmages, her team losing only twice, according to Bonvicini.
And afterward, Salley has wrapped her "jumper's knees" in ice, and watched game film in an effort to improve her skills while also helping teammates by being a better scout player.
"She's a great player and she pushes us just to be better every day," said Dickerson, who is second in scoring (11.1) and leads the team in rebounding (5.9).
"We have a lot of respect for her because we know how much passion she has for basketball," said Christianson, who made the transition from D-III transfer to D-I starter.
"She lost her eligibility, but I know she's still supporting her team," said Heck, who regained her starting position for Saturday.
Bonvicini, who began coaching in 1979, said she's never seen dedication like that shown by Salley.
"I have hard days," Salley said. "But I just keep my vision and keep my dreams. What professional athlete or what person that has met their goals hasn't really hit hang-ups? You can choose to grow or you can let it take you out.
"I was the one that made the mistakes. I just wanted to be an adult and take responsibility completely of what happened and I can really be the only one to blame for the decisions that I made. I don't want to go into detail. ... I'm just ready to move forward and finally get to play in some games."
When the seniors line up with family Saturday night at the Connolly Center in a postgame ceremony to acknowledge their Seattle U. careers, Salley will be the one with the most promise in the sport.
Salley said she'll attend a workout in front of WNBA teams on April 3 in Indianapolis, where the women's NCAA Final Four is being held.
SU assistant coach Kristen O'Neill, who played one season for the Seattle Storm, has spent extra time with Salley so she'll be ready for the tryout.
Bonvicini is putting together a DVD and making calls on the player's behalf.
Both Seattle coaches equate Salley's game to Iziane Castro Marques or Angel McCoughtry, both of the Atlanta Dream.
"I don't really have so much of an identity, so I think that's the cool thing, I can reshape it," Salley said. "And at this point, what the heck do I have to lose? There's no expectation for me at all. I have this storyline of where did this girl come from? It's a quiet confidence."
With nothing but time.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com