Q+A: Shavonte Zellous
SLAMonline sits down with the Indiana Fever guard.
by Sherron Shabazz / @SherronShabazz
The Indiana Fever were hit hard by injuries at the start of the 2013 WNBA season. The team had six different players sidelined at once, including leading scorers Katie Douglas and Tamika Catchings.
Shavonte Zellous had to carry the scoring load and put the team on her back in their absence. Zellous is averaging career-highs in points (15.3), rebounds (3.8), steals (1.1), blocks (0.9), field-goal percentage (40 percent) and three-point percentage (35 percent), and the fifth year guard out of Pittsburgh was named an All-Star reserve.
“It was a rocky start for us in the beginning,” Zellous explained. “We went on like a little seven game losing streak, which was kind of tough, especially coming off winning the championship. I think we learned from that. That was a part of adversity that we overcame.”
The Fever have turned things around in the Hoosier state after getting some of their patients back from the MASH unit. Indiana’s seven game losing streak was followed by a 9-3 run that included a four-game winning streak and back-to-back wins over the East-leading Chicago Sky. The team is now at 10-11 and right back in the playoff mix.
“Right now we’re grooving,” said Zellous, “and we’re trying to take it one game at a time.”
SLAMonline spoke to Zellous about the Fever’s injury plagued season, playing in her first All-Star game, and Indiana’s quest to repeat as WNBA champions.
SLAM: You’re having a career year; to what do you attribute the growth in your game?
Shavonte Zellous: I think working hard. I kind of think that winning that championship with the whole playoff run that we had and the injuries that we faced, I had to play a bigger role. I think that translated over to Europe when I went to go play over there and into this year too. I knew I was going to have to play a bigger role to give Katie who is out right now, Tamika, and Bri (Briann January) some type of help and I think I’m doing a good job of doing that.
SLAM: How difficult was it to hold down the fort while your team was dealing with all those injuries?
SZ: Difficult. Not only for me but also for everybody. Some of us had to do more than we expected and had to play more minutes than we expected. But you know what, when adversity hit us we just had to find a way to get through and I think we did a good job of doing that.
SLAM: You made your first All-Star game this year. What was that experience like for you?
SZ: It was so fun. I had the best time of my life being around the other All-Stars and taking a moment from serious basketball just to have fun and give the fans what they want to see. To be there with Tamika and experience it with her was a big deal for me.
SLAM: How did you feel when you found out you were selected as an All-Star?
SZ: I was excited. I was like, Are you serious? I didn’t know. Even though I was having a career year sometimes you really don’t know. When I did find out I was really happy and excited.
SLAM: You mentioned Tamika earlier, what’s it like playing with a player of her caliber?
SZ: Amazing. She’s like a big sister to me so whenever I have problem with anything, not just basketball, she’s going to be like a big sister to be there and help me. Just to be around her you can learn a lot. You can learn how to be a leader, motivate people, and work hard. She’s one of those leaders that lead by example.
SLAM: In the playoffs last year, you lost the first game to Atlanta and then went on a roll. Did you ever lose confidence after dropping that first game?
SZ: We always had confidence; the ball just didn’t bounce into our hands at that time. We lost to Atlanta but we had to regroup and we did that. We all came together and went on a big run.
SLAM: What do you think of the improvement of teams like Chicago and Washington in the East and how does their success affect Indiana?
SZ: I don’t think it affects us personally but it affects the playoff run. Chicago is playing unbelievable right now. You have Washington with a new coach in Mike Thibault who did an amazing job in Connecticut so I think the East is not just a push over conference where you know Atlanta or Indiana is going to be in the top two or they’re for sure going to be in the playoffs. Now you have six good teams that are out there really battling and competing.
SLAM: Is seeding important to your team?
SZ: Some people may look at it as important. Of course you want to get home court advantage because your fans can help you but as long as you get to where you’re at, grind out, stay hungry, and compete day in and day out it really don’t matter what seed you’re in.
SLAM: What did it feel like to win the championship last season?
SZ: Man, it was unbelievable. I think everybody dreams of winning a championship when you come to the league but to actually be a part of it and help contribute toward it is a dream come true. Sometimes we still can’t believe it when we’re in our gym and look up at our banner. It was just a year ago; it wasn’t 2-3 years ago so we’re hungry to try to get back to the finals.
SLAM: What does this team have to do to repeat as champions?
SZ: What we did to get us there. We didn’t give up. Adversity hit us when we were in the playoffs. We lost some key players. We lost one of the elite players in Katie Douglas in the conference finals and then we lost Jeanette [Pohlen] in the finals. So I think we just have to stay hungry and keep competing.