Liberty All Access With Tara Petrolino: Nicole Powell
Nicole Powell says that her parents always made her birthday extra special growing up. She recalls one year in particular when she was treated to jumbo size pancakes for breakfast and lots of fun decorations around the house. A sweet memory for the only child from Sierra Vista, Arizona.
Powell turned twenty-nine on June 22nd but didn't wake up in the comfort of her parents' home. Instead, she celebrated with her teammates and coaches in Tulsa, the last stop on the Liberty's three game road trip.
Whatever the (untrue) stereotypes are about only children being bossy and selfish (and I'm an only child, so I've heard them all), Powell proves to be the ultimate myth buster by being the consummate team player.
This year's Liberty squad features many fresh faces, including three rookies and new head coach, John Whisenant, whose "White Line Defense" has everyone talking. For many it's a completely new system, but for Powell, who was coached by Whisenant in Sacramento, it's more like a refresher course. Still, she admits there are going to be some growing pains.
After starting the season 2-0 against Atlanta and Indiana, the Libs gave both back to the Fever and Dream at home. Now, at a standing record of 3-4, Powell explains that there are many angles and nuances involved with Coach Wiz's D, and that it takes time picking it all up. But she also remains confident that the transformation will happen soon and credits her teammates for sticking with it.
Whisenant praises Powell's ability to keep relaxed on the court and credits his forward as being a great guide for the team, calling her "excellent."
The Stanford graduate, who's been in the League since 2004, has a resume that includes a WNBA Championship with the Monarchs as well the Most Improved Player in 2005 and an All-Star selection in 2009. She has built her career on respecting those that she plays on the court with every day - respect that stretches far beyond the Liberty bench.
Powell takes great pride in her draft class, one that featured Diana Taurasi, Alana Beard, and Lindsay Whalen, along with Powell in the top 4. And when we met, I recalled the juggernaut of a year it was, saying "Wow. That was a great class." Then the #3 overall pick quickly rebuts "we still are a great class," while pointing her finger as if to put a exclamation point on her sentence so i wouldn't forget.
Over the last seven years, Powell has not only been a top performer here in the USA, but has played all over in the world including stints in Italy, Russia, Spain, Turkey and most recently in Poland with the Wisla-Can Pack, where she will return at the close of the 2011 WNBA season.
She smiles when I ask her about her team in Poland, which is comprised of players from Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, Australia, Poland, America and a coach from Spain.
I asked her if the language barrier was an issue, and she very casually answered, "Not really. Jose (Jose Ignacio Hernandez, Wisla Can Pack head coach) speaks Spanish and English and our general manager speaks Polish and English, with a lot of players speaking some English as well, so we all kind of work together to figure the rest out."
I'm struck by Powell's easy going and friendly nature as I sit across from her in the player's lounge. She says her pre-grame ritual is a nap and a cup of coffee - seems simple enough. But I'm quick not to confuse her laid back, West Coast attitude for a lack of intensity.
Make no mistake, this woman is laser focused on winning. She'd bet her birthday candles on it
To see the interview, check it out at MSG