Haiden Palmer Uses Gonzaga Experiences To Forge New Career
SPOKANE, Wash. - Haiden Palmer is just the latest in a long line of Gonzaga University women’s basketball players making her mark professionally.
Ask the former Zag great what it takes to be a professional basketball player, and she might tell you all about the mental and physical toughness and the perseverance required, to believe in yourself enough to know that your next opportunity might just come in the instant after you’ve picked yourself up off the ground from life’s latest knockdown blow.
Ask her the best place to prepare for the roller coaster ride of professional basketball, and she will definitely tell you about Gonzaga.
After starting her collegiate career and playing one year at Oregon State University, Palmer found her right fit at Gonzaga, starting for three years for the Zags en route to All-America honorable mention status and becoming the third-round pick of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever in 2014.
“Gonzaga is different in that they work on developing you as a person as well as a player, so I’m able to take challenging situations and see the good in them and enjoy them,” says Haiden.
Those challenging situations have recently included a late cut by the Fever on the eve of the regular season, and immersion in a new culture in the pursuit of a professional career overseas where she now plays for the Mayaguez Indias in the Puerto Rican league.
“I went to the WNBA combine right after the season and was drafted by the Indiana Fever. I made it to the final cut and it was between me and another girl and I didn’t make the team. I played in four pre-season games which was amazing. I learned so much about my game on and off the court and had the opportunity to play against a lot of great players,” she said. “I got an offer to come to Puerto Rico to play so that’s where I am."
Palmer points to her ability to be strong and be ready for life’s challenges.
“You have to be strong enough to endure many different things and create new and different experiences for yourself. I have enjoyed my experiences in the WNBA and in Puerto Rico. I’m getting the opportunity to meet a lot of awesome people and play in a different country, take in the culture, the scenery and the people, so it’s been awesome so far.”
While Haiden uses her experience as a springboard to her professional life, her backcourt mate from the Zags, Jazmine Redmon, is also forging her professional basketball career, recently signing to play for the Rhein-Main club in Germany’s first division.
According to Zags head coach Lisa Fortier, the Gonzaga system helps prepare players for life after college, whether that’s in the WNBA, playing overseas or in their chosen profession outside of basketball.
“What makes our players attractive to professional teams is they are able to play at a high level here and we have an individual strategic development plan to help them improve their game. All this contributes to our players being coveted by professional teams, whether it’s the WNBA or overseas,” says Fortier. “We often have professional teams inquire with us because they know and trust our system. When there’s a fit for what they need with a former player of ours, there’s usually an opportunity that follows because of the reputation our players have forged.”
Fortier said that development is more than just on the basketball court.
“Beyond basketball, with the academic support we have and our emphasis on excellence in the classroom, we make sure our players are best positioned to reach their academic goals and get to the next stage of their lives. We have former players working successfully in a number of careers from medicine, to education, to business and many other fields. Gonzaga helps prepare them for whatever they want to do.”
For Palmer, her passion for non-profit work was evident in Spokane as she worked with a number of organizations, and she hopes to continue that one day.
“I’ve wanted to work with non-profit organizations for a long time. I’ve already done that in Spokane and I’m trying to get something worked out with an organization here in Puerto Rico. When I’m done playing, I want to help people however I can in my career,” says Palmer.
For now, she’s using her Gonzaga experience and her own personal traits of perseverance and strong work ethic to make her name on the court, wherever in the world that court may be.