Rebecca Greenwell, as she rehabs, is doing it all

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 25: Duke Blue Devils guard Rebecca Greenwell (23) and North Carolina Tar Heels guard Jamie Cherry (10) during the 1st half of the Women's Duke Blue Devils game versus the Women's North Carolina Tar Heels on February 25, 2018, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC. (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 25: Duke Blue Devils guard Rebecca Greenwell (23) and North Carolina Tar Heels guard Jamie Cherry (10) during the 1st half of the Women's Duke Blue Devils game versus the Women's North Carolina Tar Heels on February 25, 2018, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC. (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The former Duke star currently works for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and has dabbled in sports marketing and broadcasting

Since the Washington Mystics drafted her in 2018, Rebecca Greenwell hasn’t played much basketball. The culprits? Two knee surgeries, requiring 12 and six months of recovery. Greenwell is currently three months removed from the second surgery and eyeing a return in time for the Mystics’ training camp in May.

But while Greenwell hasn’t gotten the WNBA experience that her peers have, she has used her time away from playing to explore other careers in the sports world.

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Shortly after the first surgery—which took place on the same day as the WNBA Draft—Greenwell moved to Chicago to pursue a sports marketing internship with Intersport, a media and marketing company. The former Duke sharpshooter had met Intersport CEO Charles Besser while competing at the 2018 State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships and, like former Duke men’s star Grayson Allen the summer before, was able to secure an internship.

When her internship ended, Greenwell moved back to Durham to rehab at Duke and work in the women’s basketball office “do[ing] whatever is needed.” One thing that the team ended up needing was color commentary on the radio broadcast of its games, and Greenwell agreed to try it for a few games. She wound up traveling with the team and commentating for the entire season.

“I’ve always had a lot of people tell me that they could see me doing that,” Greenwell said, “but naturally I’m not the most talkative person or the most outgoing person, so I’d kind of just shied away … [I] ended up loving it.”

Greenwell’s experience doing color commentary also helped her think about other career options. She said that broadcasting gave her a lot of insight into the Duke program from the coaches’ perspective, and although she has not tried coaching yet, she identified it as a potential area of interest. In addition, broadcasting helped Greenwell recognize that she could stay involved with basketball even if she had to stop playing.

“I didn’t really start to accept that I’ll be okay without [playing basketball] until this past year,” Greenwell said. “… I was working at Duke and really enjoying doing the radio broadcast because I was like, ‘Okay … I would definitely rather be out there playing. But at the same time … I can still enjoy what I do and still have a passion for this and be satisfied in a different way.’”

The end of the basketball season marked 12 months since Greenwell’s draft-day surgery, but it was becoming clear that her knee had not recovered as expected. She still hoped to play overseas in late 2019 but decided that a more immediate change of scenery might help her both mentally and physically. Greenwell moved to Atlanta to be near some of her family and began looking for a job.

“I figured [working for] the Atlanta Hawks would be an incredible opportunity,” Greenwell said, so she reached out to the only person she knew within the organization—who happened to be the Hawks’ owner, former Duke star Grant Hill. He helped Greenwell get hired on the Hawks’ basketball development staff, which works to grow and market the game.

As an operations assistant for the Hawks, Greenwell has been involved in the Hawks Basketball Academy for boys and girls, USA Basketball’s “Women in the Game” Conference, and the Lady Ballers program for girls ages 7-16.

“It’s really a perfect situation for me, my interests, and my strengths,” Greenwell said. The highlight for her has been the Lady Ballers program, which runs camps and clinics and brings in female role models to speak to the girls. Greenwell explained, “To be able to create those experiences for [the girls] and see their eyes light up when they hear someone like [Atlanta Dream point guard] Renee Montgomery speaking to them … has been extremely rewarding because I know that was me 15 years ago.”

Greenwell also appreciates how flexible the Hawks have been as she rehabs her knee, allowing her to travel to New York as needed to see her surgeon and stay in her job longer when it became clear she would not be ready to play overseas this winter.

“They’re very supportive,” Greenwell said. “… It’s really a win-win to be able to continue to grow off the court with long-term career plans but also have the ability to focus on what my immediate goals are—and [those are] to get back to the court.” She currently works full-time with the Hawks, but her schedule may change when she begins on-court workouts in preparation for WNBA training camp.

Shortly after Greenwell joined the Hawks, the team signed Jabari Parker and drafted Cam Reddish, both of whom played at Duke for one year before turning pro. There are also Duke alums across the league in both player and executive roles, which gives Greenwell a large network to tap into. For example, before the Hawks played the Sacramento Kings in early November, Greenwell talked to Sacramento assistant coach Lindsey Harding—Duke’s all-time leader in assists—about Harding’s transition to the NBA.

“There’s so many people from Duke that have made their way in the NBA,” Greenwell said, “… so it’s been fun to learn from them and just to see all the different career paths you can take … That’s been another good feeling to have, knowing if I can’t make it back to the court, I’m gonna be just fine because there’s people like me every day that are finding a way to get it done.”

While living in Atlanta, Greenwell has also done some commentating for Kennesaw State. She calls the ability to work for the Hawks and as a commentator “the best of both worlds.” In addition, she offers small group and individual training through her website and has hosted camps the past two summers at her alma mater, Owensboro Catholic High School in Owensboro, Kentucky. These opportunities to work with young players have given Greenwell a taste of coaching, and she said she would love to try college coaching “at some point down the road.” She added, “I feel like I’ve almost touched every different [career] path … but that’s just one avenue that I haven’t explored yet that I could potentially see myself doing.”

Greenwell’s career to date has been a product of hard work, making and maintaining connections, some good luck (following a lot of bad luck with injuries), and openness to trying new things. She acknowledged that opportunities “just kind of started to fall in my lap” after her 2018 surgery, but she also took the initiative to reach out to people such as Besser and Hill and ask for help. And when opportunities did open up for her, she took them. “I’m always open to trying new opportunities, even if I know I … may not be successful,” she said, explaining her decision to do color commentary for Duke. “So [I] gave it a shot.”

Greenwell hopes that she’ll get to shoot her shot in the WNBA this May. But whether or not she can ultimately play professional basketball, Greenwell has set herself up to have a successful career around the sport.

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