Q&A with Shavonte Zellous

June 13, 2011

It has been one year since Shavonte Zellous, the former Detroit Shock first-round draft pick, was traded to the Indiana Fever. She scored a career playoff high 23 points during the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals at Conseco Fieldhouse against Indiana and nine months later she arrived in Tulsa where the Shock had re-located.

On May 27, 2010, she was traded by the Shock to Indiana. Less than 36 hours later, on May 29 while still in Tulsa, she drove to the BOK Center and promptly dressed in a Fever uniform while literally being introduced to her new coaches and teammates. Ironically, she ate a pregame meal – more of a ceremonial goodbye meal – with former Detroit and then Tulsa teammates Kara Braxton, Plenette Pierson and Alexis Hornbuckle.

The Fever lost that game in what was the Shock’s first win in their new home arena. Zellous, only in Tulsa for a month, left the arena with her new club and shipped boxes of personal belongings with broadcaster Chris Denari, assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg and PR director Kevin Messenger who drove back from Tulsa in order to deliver Denari safely to a racing broadcast the next morning. The remainder of her personal affects traveled by plane with the Indiana team.

On the eve of Tuesday’s home game against Tulsa and now in Indianapolis for over a year, Zellous took time after a Fever practice to discuss her career and the transition from Detroit to Tulsa to Indy – and aspirations of being a tattoo model!.

FeverBasketball.com: What was that like, to be traded one day and switch uniforms against your own team, in your home arena, less than 36 hours later?

Shavonte Zellous: “It was awkward, that’s for sure. I mean, I was playing against my friends and teammates. It was hard, I'm not gonna lie. Going from unpacking all of my things to packing everything back up in 24 hours and having to move it was very hard. I know that I shipped three of my bags and I still took three on the flight with me. it wasn’t an easy thing and I needed a lot of help from everyone.”

FB: A year later now in Indiana, talk about growing more comfortable in your new surroundings.

SZ: “I think I am a little more comfortable since I was here for most of last season. Then after being here for training camp, you get more used to everything. It has been good so far.”

FB: You were born and raised in Orlando. What made you decide to leave Orlando and go to Pittsburgh for college?

SZ: “Growing up in Orlando, born and raised, you just want something new. You want to get away for a couple of years. That’s what I did, I got away by going up north to a winter that I wasn’t used to – but it was a great experience for me. I was able to do great things there; set many, many records and just be myself. And I was thankful that the coaches came and recruited me and wanted me to go there.”

FB: Was it the recruitment that made you decide to go to Pittsburgh or was it just that you wanted something totally different?

Zellous: “I think it was the recruitment. Sometimes you don’t have to go to a school with the UConns or Tennessees that already have their players. Pitt didn’t really have that. It was an up-and-coming program that me and my teammates helped get to the NCAA Tournament a couple of times. It was really the recruitment that also helped me look at other factors like, ‘Will you be a dominant player there? Or will you be coming off the bench?’ Stuff like that. It was really good for me.”

FB: You were ranked second overall in the WNBA in free throws as a rookie, was it a goal of yours to have a high ranking as a rookie and how did you accomplish it?

SZ: “When I was in Pittsburgh, it was something that I always did anyway. Going to a powerhouse team such as Detroit, the championship experience always exists on the team. I just took what I did in college, which was just penetrating, pulling up and getting to the free throw line. That’s what I did in Detroit and I was successful at it.”

FB: How have been the coaching differences between your current coach, Lin Dunn, and your former coach, Bill Laimbeer?

Zellous: “Well, Bill and Rick [Mahorn] were known as the ‘Bad Boys.’ You had to get after it in their system or you were going to be on the bench. The first thing that he always said to anybody was ‘If you don’t know something come talk to me. Don’t pretend that you know, then go out there and mess up because then you make yourself look bad.’ So, being under their system was all about physicality, getting into peoples’ head and just straight bullying people. Whereas, here, I don’t want to say it’s about bullying people, but we try to play physical too. We just try to see what teams do with their offense, then make adjustments.

FB: How has the style of play been different between Detroit and Indiana?

SZ: “It was a hard transition going from my rookie year, where I went to the free throw line a lot and was basically freelancing. I had more opportunities to do stuff. Whereas, here, everything is so structured – you have to be in certain spots and do certain things. Being here last year for a majority of the season and coming back this year, I know the system so it’s not anything new.’

FB: Do you have any goals or expectations for this year’s season, whether personal or for the team?

SZ: “You know, personally and for the team, I just want to come off the bench and do what I was able to do in Detroit. I was bringing energy scoring, playing defense, rebounding, anything that they needed me to bring at the time. Just coming off the bench and doing my thing, trying to win a championship and helping this team win a championship.”

FB: What did you enjoy most about playing in Latvia and Israel last winter?

SZ:  “Haha, Latvia?! Too COLD! You know, I always said I was used to being cold, but not THAT cold! (laughing) And Israel, well it’s a great experience that I would suggest to anyone that has never been over there, especially to go visit Jerusalem. It’s a great experience and really I learned a lot. I really had fun over there.”

FB: When you’re not playing basketball, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing?

SZ: “Relaxing, I’m a house girl. I would rather sit in the house and watch sports all day. I really love sports. If I’m not doing that, you will usually catch me at the mall shopping.”

FB: If you weren’t a WNBA player what do you think you would be doing?

Zellous: “Well I have two things. One, I want to be a tattoo model. Everybody laughs at me, but I do! Two, I want fulfill my degree which is criminal justice. I want to be a detective someday. I don’t know if I would go back to Orlando, but its something I am looking forward to doing.”

FB: What makes you want to be a tattoo model?

Zellous: “I don’t know! I have a lot of them. It seems cool so it’s just something that I want to do.”

FB: Do they have special meanings to you, the ones that you have? Or were they just neat designs that you found?

Zellous: “A majority of them have meaning. I go there with ideas and they just give me some ideas and feedback on them.”

FB: How did you choose Criminal Justice?
Zellous: “Well, I’m not good at communication (laughing), and English is not my subject! Math, I was kind of good at, but I just really was not into it. I felt like criminal justice, right now with everything that’s going on in the world, gives me some knowledge of the law. And by taking those classes I learned a lot about what police can do; and what people cant do to you.”  

- Lauren Nelson