WNBA Stars Answer Your Questions
First-Round Playoff Mailbag

Now you can go straight to the source and get the inside track on the 2007 WNBA Playoffs from the players themselves.

You sent in your e-mails, questions and comments of some of the finest players in the world, and WNBA.com got your answers!

We'll continually be adding new responses as we get them, so be sure to keep checking back during the first round of the playoffs.

Players: Tully Bevilaqua | Shanna Crossley | Janel McCarville | Penny Taylor | Deanna Nolan | Nicole Powell

Tully Bevilaqua, Indiana Fever

Of all your talents, what would you rank as the single most important thing you bring to your team?
- Howie, Philadelphia, Pa.

G'Day Howie, Well my defensive intensity has been my bread butter throughout my whole career so I would go with that. I also like to think I bring that "blue collar" mentality to the team!!

What are the main differences between basketball in the United States and basketball in Australia?
- Jessie, New York City, N.Y.

Thank you for your question Jessie. The biggest difference is the lack height and athleticism in Australia. Here in America you have so many players to choose from whereas we only have a small pool. Unfortunately our league is only semi-professional and most of our top players go over to Europe to make money. This conflicts with the Australian WNBL so it's not as strong as it could be. Although individually me might not be as talented as a lot of the American players, collectively the Australian team is very tough.

Why are there so many Australians doing well in the WNBA and do you think that helps your country during international tournaments?
- Tony, El Dorado, Ariz.

Tony, Thanks for your question mate. Australians have definitely started to invade the WNBA over the years and will continue to do so. Fundamentally we are strong and overall have a good understanding of the game. I can't speak for others but playing in the WNBA has definitely helped me during international tournaments. In the WNBA, you are not only playing against the best in America but some of the best from other countries. So when I come up against them I feel more confident knowing what their strengths and weaknesses may be.

Shanna Crossley, San Antonio Silver Stars

What do you think is the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's team as far as attitude?
- Jax, Kirkland, Wash.

"I think first of all the team this year has unbelievable chemistry. But along with that, we also have added veterans who can help us out during this most important time of year... the playoffs. They have helped us rise to the next level."

Do you thing you are following the path of Becky Hammon?
- Doris, Killeen, Texas

"Well, that would definitely be a compliment if that were the case. I hope that I can accomplish some of the things she has, but we are definitely our own players. She has taught me a lot about this level of basketball and how to improve and excel in many areas."

What did you do this offseason that helped you improve your defense?
- Steph, San Antonio, Texas

"Most importantly, I think, is foot speed and fitness. Defense is a mindset, but it doesn't hurt getting in better shape. I worked tremendously this offseason on slimming down and getting lighter so I can become as quick as possible for my body makeup... both working out and nutrition."

I watched you play in college and you had a great shot then, too, but I don't remember your release being quite so quick. Is that something that you've worked on since you came to the WNBA?
- Michelle, Harrisburg, S.D.

"I've definitely worked on my shot quickness. Being as small as I am and given that I'm never going to be the quickest player on the floor, I have to find an advantage somewhere. I worked with Coach Hughes the entire offseason on different moves off the dribble, moves to get open and footwork, so I have the ability to get my shot off as quickly as I can while still being under control."

Being such a threat on the perimeter that you can score on almost every player in the league, how do you improve your game from day to day and from player to player?
- Stephanie, San Antonio, Texas

"You never arrive. I strive to always outwork anyone I play against whether it be during the season, 1 on 1, or even in the offseason. I try to add as much to my game in the offseason so I have different options to go to during the season. Depending upon who's guarding me, each will present different challenges. I have to be able to knock it down no matter who I'm against."

Did you work hard this past offseason to improve your shot?
- Brenan, Berryville, Ark.

"More than you'll ever know."

Are the Silver Stars doing anything different in practice to prepare for the playoffs?
- Lauren Wolske, Brownsburg, Ind.

"Not really. We sharpen up our game and our chemistry on both sides of the ball, but rest is also important. We prepare a lot physically, but just as much mentally."

How much has Becky Hammon brought to the team and how has she helped you personally?
- Tony, El Dorado, Ariz.

"Becky brings a lot to our team. She's a great leader, a vet who has been through every situation you can possibly be in. She has also helped me tremendously because we were and are in similar situations. She's taught me different moves and little bits of advice for getting open, getting off your shot, moves and views on the court. I'm just trying to soak it all in right now."

What does the team miss most about not having Erin Buescher?
- Tony, El Dorado, Ariz.

"Other than our friendship and her contageous smile, we miss Erin's versatility. She helped us so much with her energy and athleticism, getting out in transition, defensive pressure, rebounding and also with her height. We are definitely undersized right now and that became more evident when she went down."

How do you think that preparing for the NCAA Tournament and preparing for the WNBA playoffs differ?
- Courtney, Chicago, Ill.

"Preparing for the NCAA Tournament was completely different because you had a week all to practice. And believe me... we did. It was also different because you may play a team you played before, but chances are you haven't. And you just play them one and done. In the WNBA, a lot of preparation is mental, you don't have a lot of time, and you play the same team that you have already played four times another three times. There's also not near the media attention."

Janel McCarville, New York Liberty

After the season is over, when and where will you be playing oversees?
- Janel, Bushkill, Pa.

"I'm heading to Slovakia on October 1 until Christmas. I'll go home for a week or so. Then I will head back shortly after New Year's and stay until just before the WNBA preseason starts."

Did you think that your team would make it to the playoffs this year?
- Jamie, West Babylon, N.Y.

"It would be hard for me to assess the situation, seeing as I didn't know the players coming in. But once I got adjusted to the team and Patty's style of play, yes I did think we could make it."

Did the injuries and lack of playing time ever put a dent in your confidence?
- DCSkate, Washington, D.C.

"Unfortunately, yes, I was very unsure of myself in my first two seasons in the league. It wasn't until I was overseas, played hard and got valuable minutes that my confidence came back."

What helped you dig in for the last quarter of the Chicago game? You were looking really tired and frustrated (and no wonder, at the end of three games in four days) and then you came roaring back and put in 10 points and some big rebounds.
- Margaret, Brooklyn, N.Y.

"I was frustrated that game with a lot things… myself being one of them. But I had my teammates to calm me down and I stayed with them. Plus, Patty reassured me that everything was going to be OK, so I was able to bounce back."

How does it feel to be in the playoffs after you and the team worked hard for it and earned it?
- Chrissy, Manhattan, N.Y.

"It feels great having the opportunity we have, fighting that last week of our season to get here was exciting. It was a tough road to go down, but we stuck with it, came together and here we are."

What do you have to do to beat Detroit?
- Lisa, Bronx, N.Y.

"We have to stay composed, take care of turnovers and execute plays. Those have been our three goals through the first two games of the series, and will be in Game 3."

Do you have any pregame rituals or superstitions?
- Wayne, United Kingdom

"I don't have either. I am relatively laid back before games. I sometimes listen to music and sometimes I don't. I go with the flow of my teammates and get a vibe from them."

Penny Taylor, Phoenix Mercury

To what do you credit your rise to star status over the past two seasons? All your fans know you've been great all along, but now it seems you're at a whole new level.
- Howie, Philadelphia

"It's a credit to the team and to the system run by our coach. I don't think I'm doing a whole lot differently... maybe being a little more aggressive... and I maybe have a little more confidence too. In my seventh year I should have plenty of experience."

What's it like going into the playoffs knowing that you have such a strong team with you, with Diana, Cappie, Tangela and Kelly?
- Edwin, Lowell, Ind.

"It's a great feeling. Our whole bench is strong, too, and can give us whatever we need which helps give us a lot of confidence. It's enjoyable being on a team where you know every game people are giving their best and we have so much talent you sometimes feel overwhelmed."

How are you enjoying/enduring the style of Coach Westhead and has it affected you for better or worse as a player?
- Alice, Mesa, Ariz.

"It's definitely good. It's so enjoyable to run the floor. It's a little freelance but we have guidelines. He gives us the opportunity to make decisions on the floor, and not a lot of coaches would do that. It's a lot of fun and with the girls we have here it just makes it even more enjoyable."

What do you think it is going to take to get past Seattle?
- Brian, Elizabeth City, N.C.

"It's going to take focus. We're not going to try and stop Lauren -- you can't completely stop her -- but we do want to force her to do things she doesn't want to do. We also need to focus on all their players because they do have such a good, strong all-around team."

How are you going to handle Lauren Jackson in the inside?
- Carol, Buckeye, Ariz.

"Try and force her out, try and deny her the ball and when she does get it, make her do things she doesn't prefer. Things like forcing her to go left and not allowing easy shots and mainly blocking her out and doing the little things. Against anybody that's tough to do, but if we focus as a team it should make things easier."

How are you approaching the playoff series against Seattle given you lost the series in the regular season?
- Susan, Stanthorpe, Australia

"I think they know as well as we do that nothing that happens during the regular season counts in the playoffs. I think they have a lot of respect for us and know that we're going to come out hard and they're going to have to run the floor hard. I don't think anybody's thinking about the regular season at this point."

Compare the fans in the WNBA to other fans around the world. Which fans are the most passionate, most knowledgeable and most critical?
- Tony, El Dorado, Ariz.

"I've seen a lot of negative things. I've had things thrown at me overseas. Here the fans are definitely knowledgeable and know what's going on on the floor down to the details of our plays. They cheer in all the right places and boo in all the right places which makes it enjoyable to play in front of them. We know they appreciate what we're doing."

Deanna Nolan, Detroit Shock

Do you have any pregame rituals?
- Dom, Dixon, Calif.

"I don't have any pregame rituals. The only thing I do regularly is listen to music before games, but even then I don't have any particular songs I listen to. It just depends on my mood and what's in my iPod at the time."

What do you think the key is to winning the WNBA Championship?
- Danielle, Rocky Mount, N.C.

"Coming together as a team. For us it starts with defense, but come playoff time, you have to be able to score as well. Also, you have to be mentally tough -- you are going to face adversity at some point during the playoffs, and you have to stay focused enough to work past it and not let it consume you."

How many shots do you take in practice?
- William, Minneapolis

"I have no idea how many shots I take during a normal Shock practice. It all depends on what we're doing that day. But at least part of every practice or shootaround is devoted to shooting. If I'm shooting by myself with a ball machine a normal routine is probably 100 jump shots, 50 three-pointers and 50 free throws."

How do you improve your confidence?
- Theodora, England

"Confidence is something that builds over time and comes with finding initial success and then repeating the things that made you successful in the first place. You also need to surround yourself with supportive people. Whether it's teammates, parents, coaches, teachers or friends, you'll need other people to encourage you along the way and overcome obstacles that stand in the way of achieving your goals."

How does it feel being one of the best female basketball players in the world?
- Jazmine, Middletown, Del.

"I feel very blessed to be considered among the best women's basketball players in the world. Basketball has always been a passion of mine, and I'm fortunate in that I'm able to do something I really enjoy for a living and also make a lot of other people happy at the same time."

What sort of lower body work is responsible for that incredible vertical leap? Do you have problems with your shins/knees as a result of your amazing hops?
- Billy, Pittsburgh

"My vertical leap is just God-given ability. I've always been able to jump higher than most people. Thankfully I haven't had any shin or knee problems yet, and I hope I never will."

If you could play one-on-one with anyone in the NBA, who would it be?
- Cierra, Detroit

"Allen Iverson. I think I can take him (laughs)."

If the team makes it to the Finals, do you think you'll get MVP again?
- Muffy, Holly Hill, S.C.

"We have so many talented players on this team that if we make it to the Finals and win it again, any one of us could be MVP. Hopefully we'll be in a position to win it again this year, and I'll be in a position to make a difference in the outcome. Regardless of who gets the MVP trophy though, winning the championship is what it is all about."

Nicole Powell, Sacramento Monarchs

How come you no longer wear your "trademark" headband?
- Liz, Ripon, Calif.

"Just for a change. To go with something different."

What kind of adjustments do the Monarchs have to make to be successful in the playoffs?
- Liz, Ripon, Calif.

"We need to continue to do what we've been doing all year, but better. We need to focus on the little things, that's what makes the difference."

When the season tipped off, did you think San Antonio would be a contender for the WNBA title? Why or why not?
- Tony, El Dorado, Ariz.

"No, but I really wasn't concerned about any other teams, only the Monarchs."

How far do you think you guys can go into the postseason with all the great talent in the West?
- Brandon, Glenwood, Ill.

"I think we can make it all the way the way to another Championship. We need to execute the little things. The West is very competitive and we have a tough match up with San Antonio, but we are capable."