When Natalie Novosel was a sixth-grader, her biggest basketball dream was to make the varsity team at Lexington Catholic.
At the time, she never even allowed herself to think that basketball would take her from Catholic to the hallowed halls of Notre Dame and now on to the WNBA, where she was taken as the eighth overall pick in Monday afternoon's draft.
"I always thought it was a dream, never a reality," Novosel said, her voice still quivering, less than an hour after she was selected. "It's amazing where life carries you."
Life will now carry Novosel to Washington, D.C.
"That was my top pick personally," she said of the Mystics. "I couldn't be any happier."
Novosel had a couple of personal reasons for wanting to land in the nation's capital, including getting to be close to twin brother Nathan (also a standout at Catholic), who will be teaching there for two years as a part of the Teach for America program.
It's been a whirlwind few weeks for Novosel, a 5-foot-11 guard, who played in the national championship game (a loss to Baylor) less than two weeks ago.
On Monday afternoon, she was able to exhale for what felt like the first time in weeks after her name was called as the eighth overall pick in the draft.
"You have to wait five minutes between every pick," she said. "It was really awful." When her name was called, "it was a huge weight off, very relieving."
The guard said she saw her dad Nick's eyes well up with tears as she hugged him and her mother, Jaine, and then she went up on stage at the ESPN studios to accept her new Mystics jersey.
"I tried to enjoy the moment," she said. "It was an unbelievable feeling."
Her basketball life has been filled with many memorable moments, including winning two state championships in 2005 and 2006 while at Catholic, where she averaged 14 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.7 career steals. She finished with a 130-11 record in four years with the Knights.
While at Notre Dame, she scored 1,569 career points to go with 482 rebounds and 260 assists. She helped lead the Irish to back-to-back championship games.
"Now I have the opportunity to become a world champion," said Novosel, who averaged 15.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and two assists a game for the Irish this season.
The Mystics will have some work to do to become world champions. Washington was 6-28, but head coach Trudi Lacey said she's excited by the team's first-round draft picks Novosel and former Louisiana State standout LaSondra Barrett.
"Natalie and LaSondra give us players with three-point shooting ability and versatility," Lacey said in a team release. "They also bring a team-first mentality, and we are very excited to have them both on our roster."
Novosel's whirlwind will continue to spin as she departs South Bend, Ind., and makes her way to Washington, D.C.
She still has to finish a class in molecular revolution to graduate before she reports for training camp April 29.
When she's done playing professionally, Novosel said her plan is still to become a physician's assistant, but for now she's excited that her basketball career will continue.
"I'm excited to close this chapter of my life and move on to a new one."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com, ukwomen.bloginky.com