Jordan Horston: ‘Everything happens for a reason’

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

As soon as Jordan Horston’s name was called in the WNBA draft, the Lady Vols tweeted to Seattle a highlight reel and the words: It’s a hooper on the way.

Indeed it is.

Horston became the 45th women’s basketball player from Tennessee to be drafted into the WNBA, which began playing in 1997. The 6-2 guard from Columbus, Ohio, went in the first round to the Seattle Storm, which probably felt like a gem landed in the Emerald City.

“Seattle was one of the only places that I didn’t have a conversation with (before the draft),” Horston said during her press conference in Manhattan at Spring Studios, where the 2023 WNBA draft was held Monday evening.

That is not surprising. The Storm didn’t pick until No. 9, and Horston was expected to be off the draft board by then with multiple teams ahead of Seattle. But drafts don’t always go to plan – and it turned into an ideal situation for Horston, who didn’t expect to have to wait for the ninth pick to hear her name.

Horston’s mother, Malika Horston, posted on social: I cried tears on and off today! All went as planned! When you watch your child go through storms (pun intended) to reach a dream, that makes all the rain worth it! I know what God said about her, next steps will be greater than her ladder! Humility can cause doubt! But God.

Horston endured her share of setbacks in college, none bigger than the fractured dislocation of her elbow that ended a stellar junior season, an injury an orthopedist referred to as “traumatic” and came when an opponent dove for a ball and landed on Horston’s arm. The pain was so intense, Horston briefly lost consciousness on the court.

Jordan Horston and Kellie Harper (WNBA)

But all of that started to wash away as Horston and the Storm waited for names to be called by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

Washington, which had been mentioned as considering the Tennessee player, set the Horston-to-Seattle path in motion by taking a 6-6 center who is coming off major knee surgery at No. 4 and then immediately trading her to Dallas in exchange for first and second round picks in 2024. It made sense for both teams. Dallas has multiple roster needs – and ended up with four first round draft picks in 2023 – and Washington has its eyes on a loaded 2024 draft class.

Dallas, Atlanta and Indiana then all took other guards as the draft crept toward the No. 9 spot. When Atlanta took a post player at No. 8, the draft room in Seattle on the opposite coast must have erupted. A clip on social media showed Seattle calling in its draft pick of “Jordan Horston of Tennessee” and then the front office staff and coaches celebrating loudly.

Horston sat at a table with her parents, Malika and Leigh Horston, and her sister, Jazmin Horston. The college coaches and other supporters ringed the room and as Horston waited, she looked for Tennessee coach Kellie Harper.

“The whole draft I could see coach,” Horston said. “She was in the corner. I’m over here, hands, palms sweating. It calmed me down. That goes to show you she brings me peace.”

Jordan Horston

Horston was looking down when Engelbert said her name, and she raised her head with wide eyes, as a look of love washed over her mother’s face, followed by hugs with her family and Harper.

It was the fulfillment of a childhood dream for Horston and a big reason she opted to enter the draft rather than return for a fifth season at Tennessee.

“I’ve always had aspirations and dreams of playing in the W,” said Horston referring to the WNBA by its shortened name. “I’ve watched it growing up. I feel like this is my time. God was giving me this opportunity, and I feel like I had to jump on it.

“I’m a strong believer in everything happens for a reason, and this was meant to happen.”

Making a WNBA roster is the hardest feat in sports because there are just 12 teams with 11-12 spots each, and hundreds of players vying for a place. Every draft brings new college talent, along with international players, trying to get on a roster that could be loaded with veterans and past years’ draft stars.

Seattle lost several players to free agency, and point guard Sue Bird finally retired at the age of 41 after 22 years in the WNBA. Veterans who can physically hold on that long – Diana Taurasi returns in 2023 at the age of 40, as does Candace Parker, who is 36 – also are roadblocks for rookies.

Jordan Horston arrived at the WNBA draft in style. (WNBA)

But Horston has an excellent path to make the Storm’s roster, and she will join former Lady Vol Mercedes Russell, who has played in the WNBA for five seasons, in Seattle. Russell was a Lady Vol when Horston visited Tennessee as a teenager.

“I remember coming on a visit, I don’t remember how old I was, but she was there and I was looking up to her,” Horston said.

Horston is a versatile player who can operate on the perimeter and in the paint. She played point guard in high school and quite a bit at Tennessee, and the ability to move her around the court was appealing to Noelle Quinn, the head coach for Seattle.

“Very versatile, amazing talent, can defend multiple positions, can score on multiple levels and just all around good fit for us,” Quinn said. “We want to play an up-tempo, fast-paced offense, so to have an athlete like her to run the lanes or to initiate our offense is very important.”

Horston also slayed the style game – fit with a team is one thing; fit at the draft is another – with her suit and accessories. While players can make elaborate plans for the outfit well in advance, Horston went shopping in New York the day before the draft and selected Louis Vuitton.

“It was thrown together last minute,” she said. “I didn’t want anything too crazy, but I needed something that had to make a statement. I feel like this was the right fit for me. I think I pulled it off.”

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.


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