Q+A: Essence Carson
SLAMonline sits down with the New York Liberty forward.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
Essence Carson has seen many ups and downs in her career. The New Jersey native was a star at Paterson Eastside; college coaches drooled over her athleticism. Coach Vivian Stringer wanted her so bad that Stringer learned to play the piano to get the music lover’s attention and whoo her to come to Rutgers.
Carson lived up to the expectations, leading her team to the Final Four and displaying her grace and athleticism nightly at Rutgers. She then went to live every player’s dream: to play on the highest level in your own backyard. The Liberty drafted Essence sixth overall in the 2008 WNBA Draft and put her into the starting lineup. She handled the pressure well, posting double figures on very good Liberty teams.
In her third year, she ran into a minor speed bump. Coaching changes and roster movements left her out of the rotation. Rather then sulk and accept her fate, Carson fought her way back into the lineup this year, and has been a key player for the Liberty during the 2012 season.
SLAMonline recently got a chance to link with Essence to talk about her re-emergence, how the new coaching scheme fits her style of play, what fuels her on the defensive side of the ball and more.
SLAM: Essence thanks for taking some time out today.
Essence Carson: No, Thank you. I’m happy you reached out today.
SLAM: I actually have been watching you play since high school—I played basketball for a rival school Montclair High, some really great matchups—and it was really cool watching you grow as a player.
You are a rare player in sports, to play your whole career in the tri-state area in front of your family and friends. How does that sit with you, do you see if as a gift or curse? Would you have changed anything, possibly went away further for college perhaps?
EC: No I don’t wish I would’ve done anything differently, I love the choices I made, and I had great success with those decisions. No complaints.
SLAM: You have really come on this year offensively. I have always known how talented you were offensively, but for the first time I feel like fans are really starting to see and appreciate your offensive game. What are some things you worked on in the offseason to elevate your game?
EC: Well I studied a lot to help take my court vision to another level this year. I also have focused on remaining aggressive for the entire 40 minutes of a game. I have always had a good mid-range game, but this year I really wanted to put it out there for the world to see. I also spent a lot of time working on the three-ball as well.
SLAM: Do you think the new offensive system and coaching has played a big role in your re-emergence this year?
EC: Yeah, I feel the way coach runs the offense suits my skill set well. The opportunity to be out there on the floor a lot, the increased minutes have been a help for me to get comfortable as well.
SLAM: You have really been a true professional, starter first two years, off the bench two more after. Now you are inserted back where you belong in the first five on the floor. Do you feel that being one of the first five has been a boost to your game?
EC: Well I have been thrown into a lot of different situations, starting early, then taking the back seat. I have really learned to be ready at all times throughout my career. When your number is called, it’s your time, whether you are the 11th called or one of the starting five.
SLAM: Essence you have been known for as long as I can remember as a fierce competitor and tenacious defender. Where does the passion come from? If a kid were to ask you a bit of advice on how to become an elite defender, what would you tell them?
EC: Well the passion comes from being a competitor; I never want anyone to score on me. I remember when I was young on the playgrounds and never wanted anyone to score on me, ’cause it makes you look bad, it started then for me.
In regards to advice for a kid, defense is all about heart and determination. Physical attributes play a factor some, but that’s when you have to be a smart defender. Know your capabilities, in comparison to your skills. Coaches used to tell me defense is 75 percent hustle and 25 percent mental, and I can agree with that, because the mental is the piece that will take you to the next level.
SLAM: You ladies have become much better as the season went along, what do you feel has been a big factor in your growth this year?
EC: Time. We are building the chemistry. Right now we have a lot of injuries, but when everyone comes back we will be strong competitors for the playoffs. Its really about getting us all on the same page. It’s like having a car that doesn’t work on all cylinders, but once it does, it’s a smooth ride from then on.
SLAM: You have a month-long break, how do you plan to stay sharp during the break, and what are some things you would like to see change and say the same for this team, post-Olympics.
EC: Well, I plan on giving myself a little mental break, everyone needs that. Once that is done, it’s time to hit the gym, work on our individual games and implementing the stuff we work on into team practices.
One thing we would like to see change would be our rebounding, I would also like to see us getting to the free-throw line more, I feel that will put us over the hump. One thing I would like to see stay the same would be our energy. The outcome may have not always been wins, but the energy is much improved in comparison to the first couple games early in the season.
SLAM: Last question, I remember in high school, you used to have some bounce, and you could easily dunk a tennis ball back then. You still got hops, and you ever think you going to catch one in a game?
EC: We’ll see [laughs]. Maybe I will catch a put back, depends if the opportunity presents itself. But I still got bounce.