Catching Up With Nicole Powell
The WNBA All-Star looks toward her future with the Liberty.
by Ben York
The 2009 season was a strange, albeit successful, year for Nicole Powell.
Certainly not “strange” in the sense she hasn’t experienced success at a high level before; that couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, Powell is widely known as the best high school girls basketball player in Arizona history. She also flourished at Stanford and would become their all-time leader in rebounds (1,143), third all-time leading scorer (2,062), and is the only player in Pac-10 history to have more than one career triple-double (6).
On the contrary, it was unusual because she was selected as a WNBA All-Star before being chosen as a No. 1 pick.
Trust me; there is a logical explanation – and New York Liberty fans couldn’t be happier.
Nicole played for the Sacramento Monarchs during the 2009 season and was named to the WNBA All-Star team the same year. Had it not been for an amazing performance by Swin Cash, Powell surely would’ve been MVP of the game scoring 21 points on 57 percent shooting. Although the Monarchs didn’t make it into the playoffs, Powell had a career-year averaging over 16 points a game for Sacramento.
Once the season was over, the unfortunate decision was made by the Maloofs to disband the Monarchs franchise in order to focus their time and finances on the Sacramento Kings. Powell, and a number of her teammates, were placed in a dispersal draft to be allocated to the remaining 12 WNBA teams. The New York Liberty held the top spot in that draft and selected Powell with the No. 1 pick.
The addition of Nicole Powell to the Liberty provides an excitement to the franchise that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Looking to the future, there is a lot to be energized about if you’re a Liberty fan. Women’s basketball legend Anne Donovan is now the official head coach, a young WNBA All-Star was essentially gifted to you in Nicole Powell, and emerging players (such as Essence Carson) solidify a strong inside-out game.
Powell’s presence also provides a resounding and immediate boost to the Liberty’s backcourt. Perhaps more importantly, her shooting ability will allow the Liberty to spread things out a bit more in 2010 which should increase their scoring average from a league-worst 73.9 ppg in 2009. With a talented 1-2-3 punch in Powell, Shameka Christon, and Janel McCarville the Liberty have high hopes of regaining their elite status.
I caught up with Nicole recently to get her thoughts on her roller-coaster 2009 season, her excitement to be a member of the Liberty, and updates on her off-season in Turkey.
SLAM: How is your off-season in Turkey going so far?
Nicole Powell: Thus far the season is going well for my club, Fenerbahce. Currently, we are first place in the Turkish League (TL) and tied for second in our Euroleague (EL) group. Our hope is to finish the TL in the top spot and to make a move and finish strong in the second half of the EL season.
SLAM: 2009 must have been a whirlwind year for you. Talk about your experience with the Monarchs and your thoughts on becoming a member of the Liberty.
NP: It is an honor to be selected by the New York Liberty. I had a great experience with the Sacramento Monarchs and it is unfortunate that this league has lost such a great organization. I am, however, grateful for the opportunity to continue my career in the WNBA.
SLAM: Head coach, Anne Donovan, has stated repeatedly how excited she is for you to be a member of the Liberty. She’s also said that she is encouraged at how you’ve developed and improved your skills every year you’ve been in the WNBA. What drives you to continually become a better player?
NP: The WNBA is an incredibly competitive league. In order for me to compete at this level year in and year out, it is necessary that I continue to improve and further develop my skills.
SLAM: Your scoring average has increased nearly every year you’ve been in the league. What do you attribute that to?
NP: For one’s scoring average to increase, both evolving as a player and having a strong work ethic are important. I would also add that the team’s system and individual role are equally, if not more important. In my case, the change in the offensive system and my role on the team contributed greatly to my scoring increase the last two seasons.
SLAM: Is there an excitement you feel to be a member of the Liberty – a team with so much history and success?
NP: Absolutely! There’s always a general excitement as a new season approaches and I expect that to be no different for the 2010 season in New York.
SLAM: What do you think the team needs to do to get back into the playoffs?
NP: I am not familiar with the team and what needs to be done in order to get back into the playoff picture. I do, however, trust that the management and coaching staff have a plan to achieve those goals.
SLAM: In your opinion, was the 2009 season a turning point for the WNBA?
NP: The league is still very young, but with each passing year it gains experience and cements itself deeper into the layout of professional sports in America. The 2009 season showcased an extremely deep, high level of women’s basketball and in my mind that made it a success.
SLAM: You do a lot in the community that you don’t always get recognized for. Why is it important to you to give back?
NP: It is certainly important, regardless of recognition, for all members of society to give back whatever they can to those who may benefit. Like most people, I want to do my part.
SLAM: When all is said and done, what do you want to be remembered for as a person and a player?
NP: As a person and athlete in the realm of professional sports, I am chiefly concerned with maintaining my character and integrity.