As if her athletic ability and hard work weren't enough, Raegan Scott has also been blessed with perfect timing.
Following a couple of storybook seasons at Mountain View High in Orem, Scott went on to star at the University of Colorado. Just before she put the finishing touches on her collegiate career, the NBA decided to give birth to a professional women's league, the WNBA, which begins play this summer. Not only was Scott chosen in the inaugural WNBA draft, the team that selected her was none other than the Utah Starzz.Years ago, when she was performing jaw-dropping feats in high school gymnasiums, who could have seen this coming? Plenty of Utah boys grow up dreaming of playing for the Jazz. But what was a girl to do? Even as recently as a couple of years ago, who would have imagined there would be a big-time professional women's team in the United States? Let alone in Utah?
"It was something I never worked for because the possibility was never there," said the 6-foot-4 Starzz rookie.
Scott passed on the chance to play in another women's league which sprung up last fall, the ABL, in the hopes she would play in Utah. In fact, the ABL salary would have paid her twice what she'll make this year with the Starzz. She also passed on playing with her best friend and Colorado teammate Erin Scholz, who signed with an ABL team.
"I know I made the right decision. I think this league is here for the long run," she said. "I hope both leagues last a long time.
I took a chance and I prayed that I'd end up in Utah. I can't put a price on playing before my home town and my family."
While Scott met with Utah representatives at the pre-draft camp this spring, she had no idea which team would call her name.
As it turned out, it was Starzz, in the third round, 21st pick overall, in the April WNBA draft.
Scott Layden, vice president of basketball operations for both the Starzz and the Jazz, said drafting Scott, who was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 1997, wasn't a public relations stunt. "We were thrilled to get her in the draft," he said. "The fact she's a local product is another positive thing about her. You can't have a winning team just by bringing in local players. You have to bring in players who can help you win."
It would appear that everything has fallen into place for Scott. But her path to the Starzz and the WNBA hasn't always been smooth.
Before her junior year in high school, Scott and her family moved from St. Louis, Mo., to Orem. At the time, Scott felt burned out on basketball, having played since the age of five. "I was born with a basketball in my bassinet," she said. Her father, Ray, had been a coach in a women's basketball league in the 1970s.
"My dad was a huge influence on me. I was always around the game," she said. As a youngster, she met and played with Nancy Lieberman, whom Ray coached for a time. When Raegan was in fourth grade, she was the only girl playing on the boy's sixth grade team.
By the time she was in the ninth grade, she stood 6-1 and was almost 6-3 as a junior at Mountain View.
Nobody was more thrilled about Scott's arrival than coach Dave Houle. Yet Houle sensed that she was taking basketball too seriously and needed to enjoy herself more. "He was like my second father," said Scott of Houle. "All I was known for was basketball.
He taught me there was more than just basketball. He made me love the game again. The combination of him and my dad made me the player I am now."
At Mountain View, Scott was a two-time state MVP and led the Bruins to a pair of state titles. So dominant was Mountain View that she rarely played more than one half. In a game against American Fork, she set a state record with 21 rebounds.
"She was an unselfish superstar," remembered Houle. "For all the attention she received, she always liked to share it with her teammates. In practice, she'd put her arm around a sophomore who was struggling. She's a super girl."
When it came to choosing a college, Scott was confused.
Recruited by powerhouses like Stanford, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as local schools, she felt torn, even after settling on Colorado.
"The decision was difficult," she said. "I was in tears and I felt like I was going against my religion. It seemed like BYU was where I was where I was supposed to go. But I had prayed and I felt like I needed to go to Colorado. Someone at BYU, who is no longer there, told me it was like turning down an invitation to the Celestial Kingdom. That hurt me."
In Boulder, Scott became the fifth-leading rebounder in school history. She averaged 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in four years and in 1995, the Lady Buffs came within a basket of going to the Final Four.
But what happened to her off the court at CU was just as important. She graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism. She also met her fiance, Australian native Graeme Sheperd, whom she has dated for two years. The couple's wedding plans are on hold since Sheperd can only stay in country as long as his visa permits, which is about three months at a time. Sheperd plans to return at the end of the Starzz season, in late August.
As a member of the LDS Church, Scott acknowledged she stood out at Colorado for more reasons than her height. "I'm not challenged by other cultures," she said. "Boulder is as liberal as it gets. Anything goes. It's a place that loves those who are different."
Ray managed to attend almost every Colorado home game. He won't have to travel nearly as far to see his daughter play this summer. "Now we don't have to spend all that money, it's just a matter of driving to the Delta Center," he said.
Houle can't wait, either, until the Starzz opening game on June 21. "That will be a proud moment," he said. "It will be an emotional time to see her in that uniform. When I found out she got drafted, I got teary-eyed."
The ramifications of Scott's spot on the Starzz roster extends beyond the Orem community, of course. It's a fact not lost on Houle. "I think everybody in the state, players and coaches on every team from 1A to 5A, should be proud," he said. "Everyone can share in this."
Houle has been talking up the Starzz to the young girls attending his basketball camps this month, and Scott said she and her teammates will probably drop to talk and play with them one day before the season starts.
"It's cool that a Utah girl is playing professionally. She's the first, but I don't think she'll be the last," said Houle. "Now there's another level beyond college for our girls. Girls can have that same dream that boys have had for years."
Not only is Scott inspiring young players, she is helping Starzz players-most of whom have never before been to Utah-get accustomed to their new surroundings. She also finds herself explaining the state's eccentricities. She has taken a few teammates on a tour of Temple Square and one player's parents from New Zealand is staying with her family in Orem.
All in all, it appears Scott is in the right place at the right time. "Things have worked out," she said. "The pieces have fit together for me."