Q+A: Ticha Penicheiro
SLAMonline sits down with the Chicago Sky guard.
by Sherron Shabazz / @SherronShabazz
In her 15th WNBA season, Ticha Penicheiro finds herself in a role she’s not accustomed to. Like Jason Kidd accepting a reserve role with the New York Knicks to mentor Jeremy Lin, Penicheiro has been asked to groom Chicago Sky youngsters Courtney Vandersloot and Epiphanny Prince.
Penicheiro is the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists with 2,578 dimes under her belt. What better person for a young guard to learn from? Unfortunately, nagging leg injuries have slowed the 37-year-old point guard down a bit. Penicheiro has took the court in only seven of Chicago’s 16 games. In those games, she’s averaging more turnovers than points and rebounds.
Despite Penicheiro’s struggles, the Sky’s All-Stars Sylvia Fowles, Vandersloot and Prince all cherish Ticha’s leadership.
“We have veteran leadership now,” Sky guard Epiphanny Prince said. “They’re always helping us out, talking to us, and giving us pointers. Even Ticha, even though she’s not playing, she’s always in our ear telling us what plays to call for what players.”
SLAMonline sat down with one of the Top-15 players in WNBA history and discussed her mentoring the Sky’s young guards, why she’s a LeBron James fan, and Chicago’s Championship chances.
SLAM: What led to your decision to play in Chicago?
Ticha Penicheiro: It was a combination of different things. When I talked to Coach Pokey [Chatman] I felt a connection with her right away. I was also playing with Sylvia and Piph in Turkey so I got closer to them. I felt it was the right situation for me. We have a great upcoming point guard named Courtney Vandersloot and I feel like my role at this point in my career is more of a mentor. Of course I could still play, if I didn’t think I could play I wouldn’t be in this league. I just like how everything was fitted. I thought it was the perfect situation for me.
SLAM: Being one of the greatest point guards in WNBA history, do you think Courtney can bring her game to that level?
TP: I think she has all the tools and all the skills. If I had to criticize her, and I’ve told her this to her face, I think she needs to be a better communicator. She needs to be a little bit more vocal as a point guard. It’s something that she’s lacking but she’s working on that. I feel like she has the total package. We know what she did at Gonzaga. She was a great college player. She can shoot and distribute. She’s a great player and I hope I can help her become more mature and everything.
SLAM: Do you think it’s just part of her personality to be quiet?
TP: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s just a personality thing, but sometimes when you’re a point guard you have to get out of your comfort zone. Everybody is looking at you to make decisions on the court. She’ll get better at it. It’s just like working on your shot or working on your passing. It’s something that she has to work on.
SLAM: Piph speaks very highly of you, what advice have you given Epiphanny and Courtney to improve their games?
TP: Well, they’re both great players. The thing about it is you have to work on it every day. You can’t relax. Piph, I saw her grow right in front of my eyes in Turkey. She was staying extra after practice, shooting extra and eating better. There are a lot of things that go in the pot to make a great meal. Right before Piph got hurt she was having an MVP type of season. Not just leading scorer, or our best player, but MVP—the best in the league. Unfortunately she got hurt. Hopefully that will make her grow too because sometimes when you’re taken away from basketball it makes you appreciate the game even more. The work ethic is something that I pride myself in. Come in early take extra shots, lift, and taking care of my body off the court. That’s something I’ve been doing my whole career and that’s why I’ve lasted so long so I try to spit a little bit of knowledge when I can.
SLAM: How has the leg injury affected you this year?
TP: It’s been very frustrating. I’m a player. This is my 15th season. I’m not used to missing games. I’m never in the training room. Nothing personal but I don’t like trainers [laughs]. I feel like if you’re close to the trainer then something is wrong with you. All my career I’ve taken pride in taking care of myself, eating right, being in the weight room, stretching, ice bags, you name it. This is something that came out of nowhere and it’s bothering me. I’m frustrated. I don’t feel like myself. I feel like I’m letting everybody down. I’ve had bad days where I feel useless. They brought me here to play and I can’t even play or practice. I feel better but not 100 percent. I feel like I can play 15-20 minutes a game and try to help the team a little bit. I’m glad we have that break. I hope I can get myself together in that break and finish strong.
SLAM: What exactly is your injury?
TP: It started with a strained calf. I’ve always had tendinitis on my achilles and everything is attached. I’ve had calf problems and achilles problems and it’s something I’ve had to deal with every day. I have my own stim machine so I stay at home icing and stimming. I probably will have graduated from training school once I finish with the season [laughs].
It gets better and then it gets worse. In the morning I can barely walk. When I get out there and start warming up it gets really stiff and then it loosens up. When I sit on the bench I sometimes try to be on the bike to stay loose. Sometimes it gets tight on me and feels like someone is pinching my achilles and it’s both of them so I can’t really compensate. Like I said if I feel like I can help even if I’m limping I’m going to be out there doing what I can to help this team.
SLAM: How does the Olympic break affect a team when you come back to the WNBA season?
TP: I think a lot of teams are dealing with injuries this year more than any other year. I think this is a good thing because when you look at our situation and Phoenix, we are very blessed. Myself and Piph and other people have bumps and bruises so it’s a good opportunity to take care of the bumps and bruises that you have. Unfortunately we’re going to lose Syl and Swin [Cash] but for a good reason, they’re going to be representing Team USA in London. We’re very glad that they’re on the team but we’re going to continue to work. It’s a long month so we have to continue to work on our chemistry because we are a young team. We aren’t 100 percent with our chemistry so it’s something we can use to get better and when they come back they’ll just continue what they were doing.