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Lady Rebels star signs WNBA training camp contract

Updated April 13, 2023 - 12:46 pm

Former UNLV and Spring Valley guard Essence Booker signed a training camp contract with the Phoenix Mercury on Wednesday.

“This opportunity means a lot to me,” said Booker. “I get a chance to compete for a roster spot at the highest level of basketball.”

The 5-foot-8-inch Booker played two seasons at UNLV, guiding the Lady Rebels to consecutive Mountain West regular-season and conference tournament titles and two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

She was a two-time all-Mountain West selection and earned 2022 Mountain West tournament MVP. UNLV was 57-10 with Booker on the court and only lost three conference games during her tenure.

Booker began her collegiate career at UNR, playing two seasons with the Wolf Pack. She then spent one year at Ball State before transferring to UNLV to join coach Lindy La Rocque.

“What a wonderful opportunity for Essence to start her professional career,” UNLV coach Lindy La Rocque said in a statement. “She’s shown Lady Rebel fans how great her determination is when she sets a goal, and this is another to check off as she continues the next stage of her development.”

Former UNLV guard and North Las Vegas native Sequoia Holmes was the most recent Lady Rebel to appear in a WNBA game, playing three games with the Aces in 2018.

Booker said she felt blessed to have the opportunity to pursue a professional career. She’s looking forward to training camp, which begins May 30, and is excited to spend time with WNBA legends Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner of the Mercury.

While Booker is likely a long shot to earn a roster spot, it’s not impossible. During the past season, Las Vegas native and former Centennial guard Sam Thomas earned a roster spot as an undrafted free agent with the Mercury.

Booker said she is excited to compete and hopes to continue representing Las Vegas as she begins her professional career.

“I’m allowing my nieces and nephews to see that anything is possible, no matter the challenges you are faced with,” she said. “I want to continue to be that role model for them and for Las Vegas.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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