Coming off a record-setting senior season, Jennifer Coleman continues to set new standards for Navy women’s basketball.
Coleman, who became the first Navy player to be named a Division I All-American with her honorable mention nod from the Associated Press, has accepted a training camp invitation from the Washington Mystics and will become the first former Midshipmen player to try out for the WNBA.
“We are truly excited for Jenn to have this opportunity to showcase her skills on one of the greatest stages,” third-year Navy coach Tim Taylor said. “This opportunity with the Mystics is a culmination of all of the hard work, time and effort that Jenn has put in to improve herself, both on and off the court. We are all so proud of her.”
General manager and head coach Mike Thibault will commence Mystics training camp this weekend with a week of practice sessions prior to playing exhibition games against the Atlanta Dream on April 24 and Minnesota Lynx on April 27.
“We are all so appreciative of the administration here at the Naval Academy for their efforts in giving Jenn this chance,” Taylor said. “I know she will represent the Naval Academy and Navy women’s basketball extremely well.”
While the Naval Academy leadership has given its blessing to Coleman participating in the two-week training camp, it is unclear whether she will be allowed to play in the WNBA. Coleman, along with several other Navy senior athletes, has submitted a request to delay commissioning in order to pursue professional sports.
Navy football players Diego Fagot and Michael McMorris, who are both considered NFL prospects, have also applied for the “pro sports option” established by the Department of Defense during the presidency of Donald Trump. That policy, set forth in Directive-Type Memorandum 19-011, allows service academy athletes to pursue professional sports immediately after graduation.
Navy men’s soccer player Matt Nocita, selected seventh overall in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls, has also applied.
Thibault was among many WNBA executives who reached out to Taylor about Coleman prior to Monday’s WNBA draft. Questions surrounding Coleman’s long-term availability likely affected the possibility of her being selected in the draft, which featured just 88 picks over three rounds.
However, the Mystics were quick to sign Coleman to the training camp contract immediately following the draft and that news was posted to the Navy women’s basketball Twitter account first thing Tuesday morning.
Coleman was one of 70 players invited to participate in the women’s basketball ProHoops Combine, held April 2 at Concordia University in Minnesota in conjunction with the Final Four. She hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the all-star game that capped the event.
Taylor did not hesitate when asked if he thought Coleman had the ability to make a WNBA roster.
“These are hired professionals running a business, and they would not have invited Jenn to training camp if they didn’t think she was capable of playing at that level,” he said.
Coleman had hoped to be selected late in the third round of the WNBA Draft but knew it was a “longshot” and wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t happen. She said the Mystics called less than an hour after the draft ended to extend the training camp contract.
“I just feel honored about the opportunity in front of me. It’s definitely a dream come true and I’m just so excited,” Coleman said. “I’m also very grateful to the Naval Academy and ready to represent this institution to the best of my ability.”
Coleman will report to the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast Washington over the weekend to undergo a physical and other orientation. Training camp begins in earnest Monday and lasts until final cuts are made and the roster is set for the Mystics regular season opener at home against the Indiana Fever on May 6.
“My goal is to continue to play with a chip on my shoulder, give max effort and leave it all out on the court. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Coleman, who will continue her academic work remotely while staying in a hotel in D.C. during training camp.
“I’ll be in close contact with my professors to develop a plan of attack for schoolwork and I’ll stay in close contact with my chain of command as I have been doing through this whole process,” she said.
Coleman was the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and a first team All-Conference selection after averaging a double-double with 22.2 points and 10.7 rebounds. Coleman, who scored 20 points or more in 23 of 31 games, also led the Midshipmen with 149 assists. The 5-foot-9 combination guard ranked seventh nationally with 21 double-doubles as a senior and finished with 37 for her career.
When all was said and done, Coleman had shattered the Navy single-season records for total points (689), rebounds (333) and minutes played (1,179), while her 86 steals rank third all-time. The Richmond, Virginia, native became the first player in program history to notch a 20-20 game when she scored 22 points and grabbed 20 rebounds versus Lafayette on Feb. 9.
“Jenn had a historic season and it all started last season with her commitment to be the best player and person she could be,” Taylor said. “She’s now reaping the rewards of that commitment and hard work she put in during the offseason.”
Coleman also etched her name into the Navy record book with career statistics of 1,368 points, 726 rebounds, 313 assists and 185 steals amassed over 2,661 minutes in 84 career games. She ranks third in program history for both points (16.3) and rebounds (8.6) per game, fifth in steals (2.2) and sixth in assists (3.7).