Goodall delaying future for ‘trip of a lifetime’Written by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Like most recent college graduates, Melissa Goodall is wondering if she will have a full time job soon, but the circumstances surrounding the former UT basketball player’s situation are different than the ordinary student.
Goodall is preparing to travel with her former team to Israel in August, where the team will play in a few exhibition games along with site-seeing and experiencing Jewish culture. Her opportunity to go with the Rockets comes with a caveat though: she has to remain an amateur.
The Lexington, OH native, who averaged 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, concluded her college career in April when the Rockets defeated USC to win the WNIT.
“It was pretty much a dream season,” Goodall said. “To be a part of one of the two teams that get to end the season as a champion was a surreal feeling. I wouldn’t trade last season for anything in the world.”
With Goodall’s height (6’2) and her skill level, a career in the professional leagues in Europe seemed like the next step in her hoops odyssey, until coach Tricia Cullop called with some good news.
All during last season the Rockets were engaged in fundraising efforts to fund a team trip to current player Naama Shafir’s homeland of Israel.
“The trip is really an opportunity for our team to bond and also support Naama,” Cullop said. “To have the chance to see where she comes from and meet her family and friends is a great privilege for our team.”
With Goodall’s eligibility expiring at season’s end, she and teammate Jessica Williams thought they weren’t going to join the team overseas.
“Jessica and I participated in the fundraising events, but we didn’t think we were going to get to go,” she said. “But then coach [Cullop] called and told me that the university was going to take us along.”
The chance to travel to with the Rockets and see Shafir, who is Goodall’s roommate during the school year, was a dream come true, but the opportunity came with a catch.
The NCAA will require all players traveling with UT to have an “amateur status.” The NCAA says that a player’s amateur status ceases when either of the following happen: paid (in any form) or accept the promise of pay for competing in an athletic contest or verbally commit with an agent or a professional sports organization.
That means that Goodall cannot sign with any European team or agent prior to returning from Israel at the end of August.
Goodall also can’t be in direct negotiations with any teams either, which will make it difficult to secure a spot on any professional basketball team.
“It’s kind of a weird spot to be in,” Goodall said. “I really wanted to go on the trip, but I wasn’t sure if that meant I would be able to play professionally.”
Goodall spoke with Cullop and several of the coach’s confidants about the challenge that lies ahead.
While all seem confident that she won’t have too much of an issue finding a team at the conclusion of the trip to Israel, none can say for certain whether she will be signed or not.
“There are always some nagging doubts about the process,” Goodall said. “But after talking with Coach and her contacts, I am pretty comfortable going forward with the trip.”
A few advantages Goodall has are the European basketball schedule and the position she plays.
The European leagues play a more traditional sports calendar. Basketball season typically runs from fall through spring, as opposed to the WNBA, which plays during the summer months in the United States.
“Most European teams aren’t signing players until late August or early September,” Cullop said. “Melissa will be just a little behind that time schedule.”
The other is Goodall’s position. According to Cullop, players like Goodall will still have a good chance of being signed late in the free agency period.
“If she were a guard, I think there would be a little bit more trouble, but because she is a post player who is versatile, the process should be easier. I would be surprised if Melissa had any problems when we get back.”
For now Goodall must dabble in the unknown. She will continue working out and try and improve her game to make herself enticing to a potential team.
“I am just getting in the gym and working on my game,” she said.
Goodall is working especially hard on her one on one skill set, which she feels will make her a better all around player.
“I think it will make me better and more attractive to some of the teams who might want to sign me.”
While she waits to find out about her basketball future, Goodall is looking forward to the trip.
“It is a great chance to be a part of a once in a lifetime trip. I get to go overseas with my friends and teammates one last time. I couldn’t be happier about that.”