Hard Work Highlights Camp’s First Week

By Andrew Nicholson, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: May 1, 2006

With beads of sweat sliding down her face, Cappie Pondexter was happy with her first week of Mercury practice. She said that she came into training camp fresh off her senior year at Rutgers and USA Basketball – both of which she hopes will help her be in top condition for what promises to be the fastest-paced season of her career.

CP23 said that not only is she excited about the style she is going to be playing this season with the Mercury, she is also very happy with her new teammates – although they aren’t really that new to her. Many of them have played together in USA Basketball or at the collegiate level.

“A majority of us have dinner together every night, and we all get along great,” Pondexter said.

The camaraderie isn’t just off the court; they are meshing together on the court, as well. Mercury forward Kristen Rasmussen says that the team is getting used to playing with one another and learning this “completely different style of play.”

“Earlier in the week, we struggled a bit, and had a lot of players who had to ice down a lot,” Rasmussen smiled.

But she says, now that they have already had eight practices, they are getting used to the style and have no choice but to get in better condition. The style imposes 95-percent of the game into a cardiovascular workout.

As practice ended on Friday morning, a few players stayed behind to work on their footwork and shooting touch. Seeing the envelopes for the bi-daily stipend brought a smile to most faces, and then they recalled how coach closed practice for the morning.

“Good practice and I will see you tonight,” Westhead said.

After a mentally and physically draining week, they still had five more practices to go by Monday – then the practices would start all over again.

Monday morning brought a new look to many players who were sporting wrapped thighs, knees and ankles. Mandisa Stevenson even had a bag of ice on her shoulder.

Mercury Legend Bridget Pettis’ humor brought out the two most noticeable distractions to Monday’s practice, injuries from a week of playing one’s heart out and the realization that cuts were going to be made soon.

“It’s like everyone is on the IR (injured reserve),” Pettis quipped. “You better send me a check; I’ve made it through all 45 practices!”

Although it was said in the middle of practice, the comment echoed through at the end of practice as players gingerly walked off the court. One of the only players without a hitch in her step was Crystal Smith - the Mercury’s third round selection in this season’s draft. But even she hasn’t survived training camp unscathed.

“I had a minor head injury (concussion),” Smith said. “So they kept me out for precaution for a while, but I’m back and I’m healthy.”

Although she is back on the court, there is now another issue on her mind and many of her teammates – being waived. Latoya Davis was one such cut made Monday.

“Yeah, (it’s on everyone’s mind),” she added. “Everyone’s playing really hard, giving it all they got. We have to. Cuts are coming up soon, and we have to give it everything we have.”