Nicole Powell enjoyed an extremely successful college career at Stanford – she was named a three-time Kodak All-American, Most Outstanding Player in the 2004 NCAA Midwest Regional, two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year, Pac-10 Rookie of the Year…the list goes on and on.
She also has a bright future ahead of her and will be a marquee player in the WNBA. So who better to explain life in the WNBA than Nicole Powell herself? Six games into her rookie season, Powell sat down and talked to www.charlottesting.com about beginning her WNBA career, fitting in with the team, life on the road, returning home to Phoenix and graduating from Stanford.
On a Charlotte Sting team that is filled with proven players, Powell is learning to adjust to a few things to which she isn’t all that familiar: coming off the bench, setting up others to handle the scoring load and adapting to various roles on the court. As much of a transition as it may seem, she relishes the situation and is bright enough to know that the experience will only benefit her in the long run. After all, Powell is learning the ropes from some of the greatest players in women’s basketball history: Dawn Staley and Andrea Stinson to name a few.
Staley, the Sting’s second three-time Kodak All-American from the University of Virginia, ranks as one of the best players in women’s basketball history and is a great teacher of the game. Stinson is one of just three players to score 3,000 points and is the only player to start every game in WNBA history. The two seasoned veterans are stalwarts in the Sting lineup, comprising the starting backcourt for an unprecedented sixth year in a row. Additionally, Allison Feaster, Charlotte Smith-Taylor and Tammy Sutton-Brown have been mainstays in the starting lineup since 2001.
All of this experience creates a unique situation for Powell and rookie teammate Kelly Mazzante, the third and final three-time Kodak All-American on the Sting roster. Together, the rookies intend on watching, listening and soaking up all the knowledge the veterans pass along.
“I was ecstatic to be chosen by the Sting and be selected third. Right now, I'm still trying to figure out my role and trying to find a niche on this team. I have a great enthusiasm for the game and want to do whatever the team needs me to do,” said Powell.
So while Powell may not be in the starting lineup yet like other high-profile rookies Diana Taurasi, Lindsay Whalen and Alana Beard, she insists that this is a great opportunity to grow as a basketball player and that her time will come…sooner rather than later.
“I just want to do my best in the amount of time I am on the court. From game to game, it's a question how many minutes I'll play. So if it's just five minutes, I'm going to make sure I play my best five minutes on the court. I want to come in and help this team win.
I know I am capable of scoring and contributing in a lot of different ways, so it is just a matter of time before that happens.”
On Draft Day, Sting GM/Head Coach Trudi Lacey mentioned Powell in the same sentence as Magic Johnson. A tribute to Nicole Powell’s versatility, Lacey can play the rookie at point guard, power forward or anywhere in between. Powell transitions from position to position in practice, knowing each play from many different perspectives. Her basketball IQ, skill level, height advantage and athleticism combine for a potentially sizeable advantage.
Lacey says, “She does so many things well. We have to look at our offensive system and see what best suits her and maybe have to make some adjustments there. She’s a very good player, great rebounder, very good passer, has a very high basketball IQ, very versatile. I think she’ll be able to do great things in Charlotte.”
“I think she, with her versatility, will be able to make contributions in a lot of areas. She can play the point position, she can play the power forward position, she can shoot the three, she can rebound and she’s very good with the ball in her hand. She’s a great passer. She makes other people around her better. I think she will eventually be a marquee player in the league. She is a difference-maker. She put the program at Stanford back in the national light. As I said before, she made that team at Stanford better and I think she’ll do that for the Charlotte Sting. She could be one of the best players to play in the league.”
This week, Powell and the rest of the Sting hit the road for games at L.A. and Phoenix.
A native of Phoenix, Powell attended Mountain Pointe High School and attended several Mercury games while growing up. In fact, Powell’s class of 2004 is the first to have grown up with the WNBA in existence – they were freshman in high school when the WNBA tipped off in 1997. Thus, Powell has always had a goal of making it to the WNBA.
“I don’t think there was an exact moment, but over time I realized that could be me out there one day. I attended some Mercury games when I was younger and it was an exciting time. My parents took me to some games and were big supporters of the idea. As I progressed through high school, I knew I wanted to play in the WNBA,” Powell stated.
As for returning to the West Coast and playing in front of family and friends, Powell admits “it’s always good to go back home regardless of where you are playing. It’s great to have family and friends come out and support me and the entire team.”
Powell also looks forward to making a pit stop in her hometown, which she calls a “great place to grow up, a growing city where something is always new.” She might even find time for a meal with her parents at Carlos O’Brien’s, one of her favorite spots in the Valley of the Sun.
The game on Friday night will feature the #1 vs. #3 draft picks in Taurasi and Powell. While the pair isn’t quite as hyped as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were last season in the NBA, Taurasi certainly garners her share of national attention. It is a tale of two rookies, two unique situations and two outstanding athletes who will compete and make things interesting for years to come.
“I never played against Diana in college, but I did play with her on some USA Basketball teams and know what kind of impact she has on the game. I think Diana is a good, good player. You have to try to make the rest of her team beat you and pressure her as much as possible.”
Following the Sting vs. Mercury game, Powell will fly to Palo Alto to participate in graduation ceremonies. Her take on it is simple.
“I am so excited about graduation. It will be great to participate in the ceremony with my friends and classmates and have my family there to celebrate the event.”
Powell will walk with her classmates, but is three classes shy of earning her degree in Urban Studies. While she will return to school in the fall to finish up her Stanford education, her WNBA education has only just begun.