Ex-Cornhusker Dishes on Polish Food, Language Issues and Tamika Catchings

Q&A With Fever Guard Anna DeForge

With WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield

Poland might not be the first place that comes to mind when planning a winter vacation. And to be fair, Anna DeForge isn't really vacationing.

"We're in first right now, and I feel that our chances for repeating are pretty good," says Anna DeForge, currently playing for Wisla Can-Pack in Poland.
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After winning Polish league MVP honors last season, the 30-year-old Indiana Fever guard has returned this offseason to Wisla Can-Pack in Krakow. The 5-10 Wisconsin native answered some questions the day after a EuroLeague loss to Ros Casares in Valencia, Spain.

Q. What's it like playing in Poland? How do the game and fans compare to playing in the WNBA?
"Obviously the gym is smaller. The arena seats only about 2,000 people, but the fans are really engaging and supportive. We probably get about 2,000 at every game. It's a little gym, but we pack the people in there.

"The competition is really great, too. In the Polish league and particularly in EuroLeague as well, it's really tough every night because you see a lot of WNBA players."

Q. How does the media coverage compare over there?
"It's way different. Obviously, everything here is in Polish, so it's kind of hard for me to follow. There's a lot of interest after games, but other than that there isn't that much media coverage. The Web sites do a good job of promoting their teams, but as far as TV or newspaper goes, it's pretty quiet unless it's a big Polish or EuroLeague game."

Q. You were named league MVP and won the Women's PLKK Championship Series (Polish league) title playing for Wisla Can-Pack last year. How are you faring this season? And which team has been the toughest to play against?
"We're in first right now, and I feel that our chances for repeating are pretty good. There are a few teams that could give us a run for our money. Like Gdynia, for example, which has WNBA players (Fever guard) Tan White and (Storm guard) Betty Lennox, so they're tough. But we have a really talented team and we've fared well in the Polish league all season. From what I hear though, it always comes down to Gdynia and Wisla."

Q. There are some other WNBA players on your team, too, right? Does it help to have other English-speakers around in such a foreign place?
"Yes, I've been playing with (Comets guard) Dominique Canty and (Sparks forward) Chamique Holdsclaw. When I decided to play over here, I wanted to go a team with another American. It's just a comfort factor. And to have a couple (English-speakers) is even better."

Q. Do you find yourself in a leadership role because of your success last year?
"I think it's more of an 'experience' role. I'm a little older and even though I haven't played for that long in Europe, having good coaches (back home) and going from high school to college, then college to the pros, you try to be as much of a sponge as you can. It's learning and knowing the game that helps you to take a leadership role."

Q. Do you speak any Polish? What's the communication like with your teammates over there?
"Luckily everyone speaks English, because my Polish is pretty poor. The language is really hard. Practices are even conducted in English."

Q. Is there one skill in your game that you really focus on while playing overseas?
"Last year, I concentrated on getting to the rim more. People think of me as a three-point threat, so I wanted to work on doing a little more off the dribble, while still doing what I do best."

Q. What do you miss most about home? Some kind of food or a TV show? How do you spend your free time?
"The food here is actually good. The TV is a different story. I'd kill to know what's going on with Grey's Anatomy and Lost. You miss that kind of stuff. We don't get ESPN over here, either. I watch Eurosport, but there's a lot of soccer over here, and I wasn't much of a fan before I came over here. Of course when you come over, they say you have to like soccer now. But the shopping is decent and I spend most of my time reading, on the Internet or hanging out with the team. Movies are in English, so that's a good thing."

Q. How often do you speak with family and/or friends back home?
"I speak to my family probably two or three times a week whether it's instant messenger or on the phone. I stay in touch with my family more than friends, because it's a little hard to stay in touch with everybody when you're so far away."

DeForge is best known in the WNBA as a three-point threat but has spent much of her offseason working on driving to the hoop.
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Q. If there's one thing you could take back with you from Europe to the WNBA -- either something tangible or more subtle -- what would it be?
"You bring your experiences back with you. I think that's the biggest thing about coming to Europe. You experience a different way of life, a different culture, a different lifestyle. You get to visit so many different countries. You get to see so many different things. Yes, the basketball part is a job and we're getting paid for it, but you experience a lot of things that most people never get to. They won't be forgotten."

Q. You're from Wisconsin, but played in college at Nebraska. Is there resentment that you didn't stick around to play for the Badgers?
"No, not at all. Wisconsin was going through a lot of changes when I was coming out of high school. And it just wasn't for me. I didn't get such a great feeling when I went to visit there, and I just went with my gut feeling and went to Nebraska."

Q. You were out of the league for a few years after your rookie season with Detroit. What did you do in the meantime and what did it mean to make it back to the WNBA three years later with the Mercury?
"I just worked on my game. I did it for two years straight, and it's no secret that I worked on it with Nancy Lieberman. She's been very important to my career. Who better to have on your side? All we did for two years was work out and try to change my game. Then I got the opportunity with Phoenix."

Q. In your first season with the Fever last year, after making the playoffs, you were bounced in the first round. How pleased were you with the Fever's 2006 campaign?
"It was my first season with the Fever, and they had a very successful season the year before, but they had made a lot of changes. And with those changes, we ended up pretty much the same as the team the year before. Still, I think we did really well. We came together as a team. We lost to Detroit in the first round, but then Detroit went on to win the whole thing. They were just a tough matchup for anybody, not just us.

"Now, with the Charlotte players being dispersed, the entire league is stronger (from a talent-pool perspective). And we've strengthened our team with Sheri Sam. There are only a few pieces left for Indiana to be where we need to be. We know we're going to be in the playoffs, but we want to take that next step and get to the championship.

Q. So what does the team have to do to improve and advance further in the playoffs? Is it signing someone on the free agent market? Is it changing something about the team's style of play?
"Obviously we need some tweaking offensively and defensively... every team does. But I think we need more of a presence inside: more rebounding, a little bit more inside scoring, more production. That's what we lacked last year. And of course we have to shoot the ball better as a team, too. We didn't shoot the three very well, and that needs to get better."

Q. What's it like playing with your do-it-all teammate Tamika Catchings? What have you learned from her?
"She has a huge heart. She takes on an incredible amount of challenges every game. She is the most complete player I've played with. And the best part about her is that she's so unselfish. On and off the court, she's just an amazing individual. There aren't enough words to describe what Tamika Catchings really is. She's been an awesome teammate and she'll be someone I always admire for the way she plays."

Q. What are your expectations for 2007?
"Definitely the championship. That's all we talk about."

Despite 18 points from DeForge, Wisla Can-Pack went on to lose to Ros Casares in the second leg of their EuroLeague matchup on Feb. 2. Follow DeForge in the Polish league and next season in the WNBA as her Indiana Fever shoot for their first title.