Price is Right for the WNBA Rookie of the Year

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Sept. 8, 2007 -- Chicago Sky guard Armintie Price was honored today as the 2007 WNBA Rookie of the Year. She is here to attend Game 2 of the Finals at The Palace, and she took some time to chat with WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield.

So, Armintie… Rookie of the Year! A year ago you were getting ready to begin your senior year at Ole Miss. A year later, you have a very successful professional season under your belt. But could you have dreamt that your rookie year would go so well?

AP: "When I first came into the league, I set some goals for myself. I told myself that I wanted to be the Rookie of the Year and I wanted our team to go to the playoffs. But I didn't tell anybody else (smiles), because I didn't want them to laugh and make fun of me if I didn't accomplish them.

"But after the All-Star break, things really started to get serious for both the playoffs and for Rookie of the Year. That's when stories started coming out about the Rookie of the Year race and my name was getting mentioned here and there… and it just made me really nervous. I stopped reading the papers. I stopped watching TV. Coach Bo (Overton) asked me at one point if I'd thought about the Rookie of the Year, and I was like, 'Um, yeah!' But until the President of the WNBA calls me, I wasn't going to believe anything.

"So a day or two ago, I got messages on my phone from Bonnie (Thurston, the WNBA's Coordinator of Player Programs), (Sky owner) Michael Alter and Coach. I thought to myself, 'Uh oh, what did I steal this time?' (Laughs.) 'Did I leave my wallet in Chicago or something?' So I called Michael back and asked him if there was something wrong. He said, 'Oh yeah, there's something wrong. You won Rookie of the Year!' And I just started crying. I was very excited."

I know you have a ton of respect for this year's other rookies and have become close friends with some of them. Who do you think was your stiffest competition for this honor?

AP: "This is a competitive league, and it's not easy to come in as a rookie and start right away and make plays the way you're used to doing in college. But I knew Sidney Spencer was a great scorer at Tennessee… I sure wish I could shoot the three like her. She's a super player and she'd just come off a championship season, so she knows how to win. And she busted right into the starting lineup in L.A. and played really well. Her teammate Marta Fernandez had a great season also.

"Lindsey Harding is another. She's just a terrific, smart player who definitely could have won this award if she hadn't hurt her knee. In fact, I was scared to get out on the court for a couple of games after Lindsey went down.

"And I can't lie. Toward the end of the season, I was keeping tabs on how the other rookies were doing. 'How many points did she score?' 'Did they win?' 'Did she start that game?' (Laughs.) I got a little too caught up in it, almost to the point where I started to lose focus on the game. I wasn't having as much fun and my mind was focusing on other things. But I say myself down and told myself not to worry about the award. I really focused on trying to help my team win and make the playoffs, and if I'm meant to win the award, I'll win it. From that point on, I had so much more fun and was better able to play my game."

You were drafted third overall by the Sky. How good a fit for you was Bo Overton and the Sky franchise?

AP: "It was a great fit. At first, I was just glad I didn't get traded, which seemed to be the hot thing to do at the time (with No. 1 pick Harding and No. 2 pick Jessica Davenport both changing teams in draft-day deals). But Chicago was great. I was close to my dad's side of the family in Milwaukee, so they came to see me play a lot.

"But Bo runs a great program. And the good thing about it being such a young team is that they don't really have the time to pick on rookies. They didn't call me names or anything (laughs)!

"Everyone there is so focused on success. Candice Dupree is a great player and an amazing role model for me. I'd tell her almost every day that I can't believe how down to earth she is. I really enjoyed being with the group there and I can't wait to get back next year."

What was it like going from being a superstar in the college ranks to being a first-year player on a young team at the pro level?

AP: "It was a big adjustment. Before I came to the Sky, I couldn't remember the last time I was told to pass the ball to a superstar. When I was at Ole Miss, I had some great teammates, but I wanted them to get me the ball. But in the WNBA, I had to look at it from the perspective of my old teammates at Ole Miss: get the ball into the hands of the superstars. Get it to them when they want, where they want it and how they want it. I didn't want Candice to say, 'Oh, I can't play with that Armintie.'

"But as the season went on, I realized, 'Hey, I'm a professional now. I can play at this level. I can score a basket, too.' So as I got more confident, I was a little less ready to pass the ball. Maybe I'll have to settle with Candice being a little mad with me every now and then (laughs).

"Still, I learned so much from the veterans on my team. There were some games where I missed some shots and got down on myself. But in the locker room after the game, people like Stacey Dales would always tell me to keep my head up. 'You're playing hard,' she'd say. 'You can't lose if you're playing hard.' And it was so encouraging for me and it really helped me stay positive."

What lessons do you feel you've learned in your rookie year?

AP: "I learned that there are times when you just have to let it go. When I was in college and we lost a game, I could be mad for two or three days. Here in the WNBA after a loss, I'd still be upset, but Stacey would always be telling us that this one is over, so now we have to move on and be ready for the next one. She helped to change my whole mindset. She'd say things like, 'We need you. Don't worry about the last play. We need to have you out there doing the things you do.' Stacey was kind of like my mentor. She was the first person I met and was someone I really looked up to throughout the year."

How do you think you grew as a person over the course of your first professional season?

AP: "I think I'm still pretty girly and childish in lots of ways. I still get excited when I do anything new or go somewhere interesting. But I've definitely gotten more comfortable in dealing with the media and I feel like I'm learning more about how to carry myself as a professional.

"I'm just so grateful to be here. And if there's one autograph to sign or 100, I'm going to sign them with a smile on my face, because this life could have been given to anybody. I feel so lucky to be here and to be doing what I'm doing. This is a dream come true for me.

"So I'm just very grateful that I'm able to do this and be here. I feel like a kid in a candy store. When I first met Tina Thompson, I was so nervous. All I wanted was a hug! Next time we played them, I felt so cool because I felt like she was my friend (laughs).

"We were playing the Storm one time and I was guarding Sue Bird. They were getting ready to throw the ball in and I was up on her trying to deny the ball. But I stopped for a second and looked at her. 'Sue Bird,' I said, 'you're amazing! You're such a great player! I used to love watching you on TV!' She smiled, shook her head and looked at me like I was crazy. Then I remembered where I was and got back into my defensive stance. It was too much.

"But I don't try to hide anything. I'm so excited to be here and I just want to soak all of it in. I'm not a big, flashy person. I'm not playing this game for the money or the diamonds or the pearls. I'm out here to have fun. And I'm gonna try to enjoy every bit of it."

How do you think you've grown as a player during your rookie season?

AP: "I've learned a lot about playing the offensive game at this level. I can rebound and I can play defense pretty well, but I've learned that there are times I need to be more attack oriented on offense. And I still have a lot more learning to do and I have even higher expectations for myself next year. Especially now that I'm the Rookie of the Year, people's expectations are going to be even higher for me, so I'm going to try to beat them to the punch!

"I'll have to work harder in the offseason, and I'm going over to Russia to play with (Connecticut Sun rookie) Cori Chambers. It will be nice to have someone I know over there with me. And I know that even though the WNBA is the highest level I can play at, I know that I have to keep improving my game and getting better every year."

Is there some skill in particular you're going to be working on this offseason?

AP: "My shot. Definitely my shot. If I had a nickel for every time someone ripped me for my shooting, I'd be a rich girl. But I do understand what they're saying. There are plenty of times I should have shot this season, but passed to a teammate… and it almost feels as good when they end up hitting a three on their own. But I need to improve that part of my game.

"I really just want to be an unstoppable player, and to get there, I have to become a better shooter. If I could combine pieces of different players to become unstoppable, this is who I'd use: Kara Lawson for her shooting, Lauren Jackson for her height, Lisa Leslie for her mobility and Tamika Catchings for her speed and drive. If I could be that player, oh my goodness! I so want to be that complete player, and to do that, I have to be much more comfortable shooting threes. I can't have any hesitation to shoot, because I can do everything else pretty well… I can run, I can jump, I can rebound."

Looking ahead to next year, what are your hopes personally and for the Sky?

AP: "I want to make the playoffs so badly. This year we were so close and next year I think we're going to be there. It will be easier for me too, because I'll have a year under my belt and I won't be coming right off a full college season. I think I'll be more ready and more focused.

"Like I said, I want to be unstoppable. I want teams to worry about me out around the three-point line. This year, there were times I had the ball out there and no one was even close to me. I was like, 'Hey, isn't anyone gonna come guard me?' It was embarrassing (laughs). I'm thinking to myself, 'Hello! I have the ball out here!' I just want to be a threat wherever I am on the court."

Are you excited to be here at the Finals? And who do you think will take home the championship?

AP: "Oh yeah, I'm very excited to be here. I love watching both of these teams and I love their styles.

"But it's also motivation to get here to the Finals, myself. Why would you even play the game if it wasn't your main goal to make it to the Finals and win titles? Maybe next year it'll be us in that position.

"I'm not picking favorites or anything. But it will be a great series because these ladies get hungry out there… they'll claw your eyes out if you're not careful (laughs). But I'm looking forward to watching the rest of it. I think it will go to five games, but Detroit has to win the decider at home."

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