Have You Seen Her? Storm Guard Betty Lennox
Thirty-year-old guard Betty Lennox is in her ninth season in the WNBA. But basketball has been her focus for quite a bit longer. One of nine basketball playing siblings growing up outside of Oklahoma City, basketball has been in her blood from the beginning.
After winning a junior college national title at Trinity Valley C.C. (Texas) and a third-team AP All-American senior season at Louisiana Tech, Lennox was selected sixth overall in the 2000 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx. Her first season, she earned a trip to the All-Star Game and was named the Rookie of the Year after averaging 16.9 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. After three seasons in Minnesota and one uneventful campaign in Cleveland, she was picked up by the Storm in 2004. Her first year in Seattle, she started 32 games and helped lead the Storm to its first WNBA title, winning the Finals MVP award along the way.
Now a crafty veteran, she still plays a significant role with the Storm, starting all 28 so far, and has them in position for another playoff appearance this year. Lennox spoke recently with WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield about her history in the game and how she continues to strive to be the best player she can be.
How did you get your start in basketball as a child?
"I grew up in a big family with five brothers and three sisters in Oklahoma. I'm a country girl, raised on a farm. It was a long ride into Oklahoma City to go to the gym and play basketball every day, so we made our own hoop. My brothers used to play every day and that was our play time. I'd watch my brothers and I eventually got tired of watching. I wanted to be involved too, so they showed me how to play when I was in fifth grade or so. Of course, they would block my shots and make me cry, so I'd run inside crying to my mother. But she was strong with me. She said, 'You're either going to be in or out.'
"So I guess it's kind of in my blood. My mom and dad both played. All of my brothers played and two of my sisters played."
So it's fair to assume that your parents were supportive of you playing
at a young age?
"Oh yeah, very supportive. It's great because everyone's just there enjoying the family situation, the family outing, sitting out in the yard watching the kids play and interacting. My family was like what people do on family reunions on an everyday basis. It was a fun environment."
Who was your inspiration to get out there and play?
"My brothers, definitely! My brothers were my inspiration and my role models. My mom, too. Even though there wasn't a WNBA at the time, they knew that basketball was what I wanted to do and they gave me all the support in the world. I guess that's what parents are supposed to do: support their kids in whatever they want to do whether they agree or disagree. And that's what they all did. My parents, my brothers and sisters were really my role models and inspiration."
Was basketball big where you grew up in Oklahoma?
"Definitely! When we did go into the city, I always noticed that the parks were full. It's like New York City where everyone is out playing basketball all the time. It reminds me of home. (In New York) I told JB (teammate Janell Burse), 'Look! Everyone's outside playing in the park on a really nice day… Shirts versus skins and all that great stuff… To see that in New York really brought back some memories."
At what point did you realize you could take basketball to the next level,
whether that meant playing in college or professionally?
"When I was in grade school and in high school, I always worked hard at being a basketball player, being better than everybody else on the court. I've hard that work ethic for a long time and I knew that if there ever was a professional basketball league for me to play in, that I would do whatever I had to do to be a part of it. Once I got into my second year of college, the WNBA came into being, so it was a dream come true. Ever since then, I've tried to step it up a notch every year, to be a little bit better, to play a little bit harder because playing at this level was my dream. Playing professionally is different from college and high school… it's a huge step up.
"And not once since I've been in the league -- more than eight years -- have I paid attention to the salary. I love the sport that much. And the reason why I'm still here is that I love the sport. I love basketball. For me, it's like being a kid in a candy store. I'm always going ballistic and crazy to be out here."
Who do you see as being the most inspirational person in your development
both on and off the court as a basketball player?
"Again, I'd have to say my sisters and brothers. This has been a real journey for me, and to be able to pick up the phone and get eight different opinions is amazing. My family has always been there for me. My family has really… truly supported me for as long as I can remember.
"And the people here in the WNBA have been supportive as well. People like Renee Brown and (President) Donna (Orender), who has really been like another mother to me. Even other veteran players play that role for me, too, and the whole thing has been just an amazing experience."
What situation in your career presented you with the most adversity?
"I broke my hip my second year with Minnesota (2001), and I thought that everything I had worked so hard for was coming to an end way too early for me. The doctors told me that I wouldn't be able to run or walk again without a limp, so I figured that my career was over. But I had surgery and I fought hard coming back, and I ended up making my return way early because I was so determined to play."
Was there every a point where you said to yourself, 'I don't know if it's
worth it anymore'?
"Yeah, and it was hard. I remember a time when I was on crutches and I thought to myself, 'Wow, this is really it for me.' And an injury like that is different from an ankle or a knee, but your hip is really used for your main mobility. It's hard to walk when your hip is messed up. There was a time when I gave up, but my heart never gave up and that and my spirit and faith were what kept me going."
Who is the most inspirational person now, at this point in your basketball
"One of my brothers, one who I just met a couple of years ago in Seattle. He comes to all of my games now and he's about the flashiest dresser of all time. I haven't seen him wear the same suit twice (laughs). His name is Clarence Lennox, he's on my dad's side, and I met him when I came to Seattle. He's been such an inspiration to me because he's not just a fan of his sister, he's a fan of basketball and he's been just wonderful to me."
Is there a motto that you like to think about during the tough times? Maybe
some sort of saying or credo hanging up in your locker that inspires you to
get out there and work hard every day?
"I do have a motto. It's that faith plus determination plus education equals success. I think about that every day. I also read my favorite Bible verse every day, Philippians 4:13: 'I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.' When times are not so good, I look at my motto and realize that you can't be successful by giving up. It's just not in the equation."
What words of wisdom do you have for kids or players who dream of one day
playing in the WNBA?
"Have fun and be yourself and enjoy what you're doing. If you choose basketball to be your career, really enjoy it and make sure you have that love for it. Because once you lose that love, it becomes a job, and you really don't want that."