Professional basketball was not much of a goal for Michelle Plouffe as she was growing up.
There’s no doubt she loved the game. She put in as much time working on her craft as anyone, including late-night sessions at the gym, with hard work in the weight room as well. But the WNBA was a pipe dream to her. She watched her favorite players on television and all. But being raised in Canada, all she could see is what was directly in front of her.
A college basketball career in Utah.
“I honestly didn’t think about it much,” Plouffe said. “I was just focused on being the best player I could be with the Utes.”
Now, Plouffe is on the cusp of a pro career, with the WNBA Draft on Monday night. She’s projected to be picked in the middle of the first round, and would be the first Ute selected since current assistant coach Morgan Warburton was taken in 2009.
She’s one of the most versatile players available, one who can play two positions rather easily. Her ability to stay consistent through a sometimes difficult career and carry the Utah program on her shoulders has made her a standout.
“She’s someone who represents everything that Utah basketball is all about,” Utes coach Anthony Levrets said. “She’s made big shots on the floor, she’s led us off the floor and she’s been a mentor to the younger players. There’s no way that we’re going to replace Michelle Plouffe. I’m so proud of everything that she’s become.”
Levrets said he’s been in contact with teams and scouts since the end of Utah’s season. Right now — hours before draft time — Plouffe’s camp still can’t pinpoint where she will fall and what team she will end up with.
According to Levrets, Plouffe could be taken as high as the top 10, but might go as low as 23, and maybe even drop out of the first round. Plouffe’s countrywoman Kim Smith is the last Utah player to be taken in the first round, as she was selected 13th in the 2006 draft by the Sacramento Monarchs. And like Smith, Plouffe offers myriad skills, all wrapped in a 6-foot-4 body.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what team takes me,” Plouffe said. “My role is probably going to change a lot. At Utah, I had the ball in my hands almost every possession and I created a lot of the offense that we ran. Wherever I go, I’m going to be a rookie, so I’m going to have to fit in.”
This year will be a rarity for the state, with BYU’s Jennifer Hamson also expected to be drafted. Plouffe — for her part — said sleeping will be difficult in the days leading up to the draft. She may not have started playing basketball with the goal of the WNBA in mind. But when she realized a pro basketball career is attainable, she pursued it relentlessly.
And now, she’s right on the cusp.
Michelle Plouffe file
• The 6-foot-4 forward was a first-team all-conference selection the past two years.
• Could be the first Utah player selected in the first round since Kim Smith in 2006.
• Would be the first Ute drafted since Morgan Warburton in 2009.
P Monday, 6 p.m., ESPN2; 7 p.m., ESPNU