One on One With Nakia Sanford
The Mercury bolstered its inside presence with the free agent signing of veteran forward/center Nakia Sanford. The Kansas product who spent six seasons with the Washington Mystics sat down with PhoenixMercury.com to discuss her WNBA career and move to Phoenix.
PhoenixMercury.com: You have been in the WNBA for eight seasons, all with the Washington Mystics. What excites you about making this change at this point in your career?
Mercury forward/center Nakia Sanford: Change is always exciting, a little nerve racking too. This type of change, at this stage in my career, gives me a boost. Itís like putting spice back into my relationship with basketball.
PhoenixMercury.com: What can Mercury fans expect to see from you on the court? What aspects of your game standout and what will you bring to the table for the Mercury?
Sanford: I am a hard working, energetic player. Mercury fans can expect the same effort on the court that has carried me through eight seasons in the W.
PhoenixMercury.com: What has head coach Corey Gaines told you about where he sees you fitting in on this team?
Sanford: I will be adding more depth to the roster. Coach Gaines has already put together a heck of a team. I am one of the pieces that add more depth inside. This is a championship team, I am so excited to be a part of what the mercury have built.
PhoenixMercury.com: Talk about the transition from playing in the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference, which has won five of the last seven WNBA titles and 11 of the 14 overall?
Sanford: Switching allegiance is going to be so WIERD!!! I have always hated on the West, and rooted for the East. I don't even know anything different. The East coast style is different from the West. I think the East has historically been more physical and the West more fineness. I want to defend the east against.....but what can I say...its "West siiiiide" from here on out. Lol
PhoenixMercury.com: Have you spent much time in Phoenix or know much about the Valley other than your one trip each season with the Mystics?
Sanford: NO, and NO!!! It has been hotel, gym, and back for the most part. That heat doesn't leave you feeling much like site seeing. I have gone shopping a few times over the years, but that is about it.
PhoenixMercury.com: What are your thoughts on playing with one of the greatest players in the world, Diana Taurasi?
Sanford: I look forward to playing with someone of that caliber. She makes the people around her better and is a great leader. We have bumped into each other around the world here and there. I am looking forward to playing with her instead of having to deal with her on the other side of the court.
PhoenixMercury.com: You came out of the University of Kansas undrafted. Talk about that feeling of not being drafted and then your path to making a WNBA squad.
Sanford: I don't have a word to describe how it feels to have built a career like I have, looking at how it all began. Blessed doesn't seem like a big enough word, neither does lucky. I have seen many players more talented than me, or with bigger names than me not make it half as long. I am grateful everyday that this is my job. And my career is proof that hard work and a good attitude can take you further than anything else.
PhoenixMercury.com: Tell us a little about Nakia, the person. What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies or special interests?
Sanford: Well, I have a shih tzu named Zoey, and she is more well known than me wherever I play (I'll be looking for babysitters :). I love good food, and mostly just hanging out at home. I am a couch potato whenever I can be. I am usually working on a project or curled up reading. My life is pretty boring, with exciting moments sprinkled here and there. I am currently testing the waters of entrepreneurship in Georgia. I own a small restaurant, American Deli 2, and I run a non-profit as well.
PhoenixMercury.com: What are some of your off-court activities? Any community projects you are especially involved with?
Sanford: I have a non-profit organization, The Betty Ann Robinson Foundation (thebarfoundation.net). Our principle program is Girl Talk, a program that helps young women navigate through issues they face growing into adulthood. Last year we launched "Tools for Teachers"; a program designed to help teachers buy school supplies for classrooms. Within the foundation we have Club43 which sponsors various fund raising events and other charities. I am a Boys and Girls club alum, and work on projects with them as well. I love working in the community. Itís most likely what Iíll do after basketball.
PhoenixMercury.com: Youíre playing in Turkey this offseason. How is the season going?
Sanford: I am having a great time. We have four Americans so itís nice having all these different personalities. I am playing with LaToya Pringle, Barbara Turner, and Vickie Johnson. We are tied for third right now behind Fenerbache and Galatasary.
PhoenixMercury.com: How long have you been playing in Turkey? Tell us about some of your other stops during your professional career?
Sanford: This is my first year with Pankup, the team here in Kayseri, but I was in Turkey about seven years ago, after I finished a season in South Korea. Other than these two countries I have also played in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Israel, and Russia over the past 10 years. Basically I have played everywhere I have ever dreamed of playing, and even some places I didn't!