The Story of My Career
Basketball was a sport to keep me in shape in between high school volleyball and track seasons.
In order to make the team freshman year, we were told we had be able to dribble with both our left and right hands. I barely knew what a pivot was or even how to shoot properly, now I had to learn how to dribble with both hands?!
I made junior varsity freshman year based on pure athleticism. I was probably the worst player, skill wise, on the team. I knew that, but I was determined not to remain there for the entire year. At the end of the season, I was the only freshman to get moved up to varsity. I couldn’t believe I made it. I never got any playing time, but in practice, I challenged myself to outwork my teammates. I made all kinds of mistakes, but I never quit.
Just as I was getting the hang of things, my family moved to Tennessee. Talk about the mecca of women’s basketball! I felt like I left high school and went to college when I showed up at basketball practice in Mount Juliet. It was so intense and these girls were tough. My effort on the court was the only way I could keep up, my skill level was so behind. I was a sophomore in high school and didn’t know how to shoot a jump shot. Most of my teammates have been shooting since they were 5 years old.
This is when it all changed for me. My high school coaches taught me the fundamentals of basketball that I now rely on as a professional. The improvement I made from my sophomore year to junior year was insane. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in the gym with my best friend and her dad just getting repetitions. I started to resemble a basketball player as my junior went along and then, I cracked my hip.
The same injury that ended Bo Jackson’s career.
I was devastated. Here I was finally getting good at something and really starting to enjoy it, and it was taken away instantly. I was on crutches for a month before I could even start to put weight on my leg. The doctors were unsure if I’d even be able to play again, let alone be able to come back in time for the playoffs or the AAU season. Any thought I had of turning basketball into something more was gone.
I still went to practice every day and cheered on my teammates. I began to learn the game in a different way: from watching and helping my coaches. I became an assistant on the sidelines. Before long, it was time to start walking without crutches. The pain was near unbearable, but I didn’t want anyone to know that. I masked how bad it hurt because I just wanted to get back out on the court. I told my coach and trainer that it felt fine walking around and I felt like I could try and play again. I had a series of tests to clear: balancing on one leg, jumping and landing on one leg, moving side to side. The day of my evaluation, I had to shoot, run the floor and play 1 on 1 in the post without having any pain. I told everyone I felt great, even though I was in pain. I lied. I thought if I could just get through this pain in the beginning, it would eventually feel better and I wouldn’t feel so bad about lying to everyone.
Regional playoffs, that was my goal to be back. I completed workouts for my coaches and trainers before they cleared me to start practicing with the team. I remember feeling so nervous my first practice back. All I kept telling myself was not to favor my hip because that’s when other injuries happen. I got through my first practice and felt pretty good. I was out of shape, but I didn’t even care. I was playing again.
Playoff time was here. I remember the 3-hour bus ride to Henry County like it was yesterday. I listened to the same T.I. song, ‘Be Easy’, over and over again and had butterflies. Once I got in the gym, I could barely keep my hands from shaking. This was it, this was what I had worked so hard to get back to. Warmups came and went, and now it was time to play the game. I remember looking in the stands and seeing my parents, they had a worried look on their faces. I thought to myself, “don’t let that make you nervous. You’re going to be fine.”
I made it through the first half feeling just fine. I’m back. I felt so relieved and excited. Now I was ready to win and move on to sub-state. Then, in the third quarter I got a bad ankle sprain and was out for the rest of the game.
The medical staff told me I would probably be out for the rest of the season too. I couldn’t believe it. What I did believe is that if I wanted to be back on the court again, I was going to have to be fully healed.
I took the next couple of months to rehab and get ready for the summer AAU season.
Senior year, our coaches had us write a list of 5 goals before the season started. Three of the goals had to be personal. This was my weakness. I have focused on the team. I felt like if I write personal goals, I was somehow being selfish. Our coaches didn’t see it that way. They wanted us to each strive to be our best, so when we came together collectively, we would be our best as a team. My goals were: 1) Shoot a FG % of 65 or more; 2) Shoot a FT % of 75 or more; 3) Win a state championship; 4) Win Miss Basketball & 5) Average double digit rebounds.
It was only by the grace of God that I was even back out there. To walk away from my high school career as a state champion, amongst other awards, felt like a dream.
“I started to resemble a basketball player as my junior went along and then, I cracked my hip. The same injury that ended Bo Jackson’s career. I was devastated.”
My college years were kind of a blur.
Everything was happening so quickly I could barely keep up. In my two years at Belmont, I was able to achieve some amazing things. To be freshman AND player of the year was a HUGE deal. I was the first player in the league to ever do that. Then to follow up that performance with another player of the year award and our team’s first NCAA bid, some would say I was having quite the successful start to my collegiate career.
That’s not how I saw it. I never got caught up in the accolades, I was always worried about what I could have done better or what I still needed to improve on. I knew I had more in me. I knew I had more to learn. I wanted to challenge myself even more and see if I could really play with the top players in my class from around the country.
That’s when I decided I wanted to transfer. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I knew I had to go somewhere. I had friends that played at some of the other local universities, so naturally I called them asking about their experiences at their respective schools and if they could see me playing there. Middle Tennessee State seemed like the right fit for me to be able thrive in my style of play. Not to mention, I was very familiar with the coach there from playing in their high school’s summer camps and hard fought games during the regular season.
My redshirt year was probably the second hardest year, after my junior year in high school. In the beginning, it just felt like I was working and practicing for nothing. I’d show up, work my butt off in practices and shooting sessions, but then couldn’t play in games.
It ate at me.
I tried to stay positive and focus on the long term goal, and that was to test myself against top competition the following year. My junior came and went. Awards were coming in and I didn’t even know it. People would congratulate me and I had no idea what they were talking about. I was so focused on our team goals of winning a championship and my individual goals of continuing to make a way for myself.
Senior year, I started to think about the potential of playing professionally, and the opportunity was so close. I didn’t want to let that slip away so there was no time for anything else. I was miserable. I would go home and cry after practice because I just didn’t feel like myself. I put so much pressure on myself to not let my teammates, coaches, family & fans down. I was accomplishing so much, most for the first time in collegiate history and in my family, so I put on this happy face because that’s how someone should be when all this great stuff is happening. I didn’t feel good enough, I was comparing myself to these other players around the country and feeling like I wasn’t anywhere close. You’d think after 4 player of the year awards, two back to back national scoring titles, conference championships, MVPs and more that I would feel I had made it. I really accomplished a lot. But, it’s not how I felt.
“Some would say I was having quite the successful start to my collegiate career. That’s not how I saw it. Senior year...I was miserable. ”
In 2010, when my senior career was finished, I started planning on what my next move would be.
Would I be good enough to play as a professional, would I get a chance to try out in the WNBA? For once, I was actually excited about the possibilities my collegiate career could provide. I got the call that I was one of the 14 women being invited to the WNBA draft. I was SO excited that I got invited. Finally, I was going to be on the stage I’ve been working so hard to get to. I had my parents and my coach with me and couldn’t believe it was real. Literally 6 months earlier, it was just a possibility that I COULD get a chance to play at the next level. Now, it was actually a chance. When I heard my name called on the 17th pick, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Seeing the proud look on my parents’ faces is all I ever wanted. I wanted to make them proud of their daughter. It was an amazing day.
Camp was fast. That’s all I could remember. There was so much you had to learn in such a small amount of time. I would go home and write down plays we learned that day, what I could’ve done better, and goals for the next day. There was no one making you lift, or shoot extra shots. It was all you. I loved being challenged every day and getting pushed outside of my comfort zone.
“When I heard my name called on the 17th pick, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Seeing the proud look on my parents’ faces is all I ever wanted.”
I got cut on the last day of camp my first two years in San Antonio.
I was crushed.
I didn’t even want to be seen by anyone back home. I felt like a failure, but tried to turn my focus to my first overseas season in Israel to improve my game and get back to the mentality I had as a college player. I told myself I would give the WNBA one more shot and if I didn’t stick, I was going to just play overseas.
“I told myself I would give the WNBA one more shot.”
Fast forward 6 years to 2016, and I just finished my fifth season in Seattle, and my fifth in Israel. To think I almost didn’t want to give it another shot.
All the relationships I’ve built, all the lessons I’ve learned, all the experiences, have put me in a position to take one more step up this career ladder. I’ve earned a role within an organization and on a team, and I’ve once more challenged myself in a new country, playing against some of the best players in the world.
I’m thankful that God helped me look through His eyes and see the good in things instead of the bad, and guide me through overcoming the obstacles. If you asked me as a freshman in high school if I saw myself, 15 years later, where I am now…I would’ve laughed in your face and said no way. I still have a long way to go, but this work ethic and changed perspective of mine is going to help me get there.