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"I'm always telling kids to dream big," says Nolan. "If they're not told, some will never realize that they can do whatever they want to in life."
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images
Shock guard Deanna Nolan is a four-time All-Star and a two-time WNBA champion. She is one of the league's most athletic and dynamic players and her 16.9 points per game so far in 2007 have helped lead the defending champs to a league-best 17-5 record.
Detroit's first-round pick (sixth overall) in the 2001 draft, the now 27-year-old Nolan grew up in Flint, Michigan, where she got her start in the game. But what drives the former Georgia Lady Bulldog? WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield digs deeper:
Q. How did you get your start playing basketball? How old were you?
A. "I was in the third grade at Civic Park Elementary School in Flint, Michigan. There was an open gym, and you know how exciting an open gym can be to a third grader. Everybody was going crazy, jump-roping here, hop-scotching there… but two other kids and I picked up a basketball and started shooting around.
"At that time, I was into a lot of different sports like track, football with the guys, baseball, you name it. It wasn't until sixth grade or so that organized basketball really started for me. From that point on, basketball was what I wanted to play."
Q. Was your family supportive of your basketball playing? Did they come
to watch you play?
A. "Oh yeah, all the time. I was the only one in my family to play basketball, and then I later found out that my mom and aunt had played in high school."
Q. What was your inspiration back then to get out on the court, shoot, stay
in shape and practice hard?
A. "Once I started playing and realized how good I could be, I just wanted to keep it up. I played a lot with guys and to hang with them, you have to do what they do to keep getting better and to not get pushed around. It also motivated me that I knew I had a little bit better skills than everyone else and I wanted to keep playing against better competition."
Q. What's your inspiration now that you're well beyond that point?
A. "Same thing. Keeping up with the competition and knowing that I have to keep making myself better. This is my seventh season (in the WNBA), but I still learn from the rookies and everybody else. I'm always watching their moves and keeping track of the little things."
Q. What about your training schedule? Do you work out really hard in the
offseason? Do you like to focus on weights, aerobic activities or running?
A. "I go overseas every year, so I really just try to stay in shape. I have great metabolism so I really don't gain weight… if I do, it's like a pound or two. And that usually comes off pretty easily. So I usually focus more on the little things that my coaches and teammates tell me that I need to work on and improve at: rebounding, passing, 3-point shooting, team defense… improving my skills."
Q. What about your diet? Do you pay really close attention to the things
you do eat and eat healthy?
A. "I do. My mom also pays very close attention to what I eat. She has to, because I'm a candy freak. I don't eat chocolate, but I love it up on candy! Airheads, Now and Laters, Haribo gummi things. Everyone has always told me to leave it alone, and if I do eat it, don't eat it a lot of it in bulk all at one time. So I try to stay aware of that and slow down. But I'm pretty good for the most part.
"But on the healthy side, I'm into a lot of organic foods. Wheat breads,
Whole Foods, things like that."
Q. What is the one thing that you feel presented the most adversity in
your basketball career?
A. "Injuries. I've had a lot of freak-accident injuries. I tore my patella tendon in college and I couldn't run or jump for three months. In my senior year of college, I broke my right metacarpal bone. Overseas I chipped a bone in the same hand. I've gotten a lot of little knick-knacks. But if you've never had a serious injury and you start getting all of these little setbacks… it's like 'oh, man!' "
Q. How do you overcome those setbacks when they do happen?
A. "You just have to get back into shape. Or really, the key is never getting out of shape. With leg injuries, you can't run, so you have to do other things to stay in shape so you don't lose your edge once you get back into playing. Once you get to a certain level, then all of a sudden you get an injury, it's hard to get back to where you were."
Q. Who has been the most inspirational person in your basketball career?
A. "My mom and the rest of my family. They've really supported me in whatever I've done. Whatever career path I wanted to follow, they were there. They supported me 100 percent. Even though my mom doesn't fly, she would drive to whatever games she could in college. If you have support like that, it's pretty easy from there."
Q. Do you have an inspirational motto or saying that you live by or that
is important to you?
A. "I'm always telling kids to dream big. If they're not told, some will never realize that they can do whatever they want to in life. Especially if you have the right people supporting you and guiding you, you can do whatever you want."