Essence Carson: The Jersey Girl turned WNBA All-Star
On Tuesday, July 19, Rutgers head women's basketball coach and Hall of Famer, C. Vivian Stringer, tweeted: "Congrats!! @cappa23, @Pr3pE, @Piphdagreat10 for representing the Eastern Conference and #RHoops at the 2011 WNBA All-Star game"
That is exactly what Essence Carson has done her entire career. Now, she will have a chance to represent the New York Liberty, Rutgers hoops, and even Paterson, New Jersey - her beloved hometown- on one of the biggest stages offered in the WNBA.
Carson found out about her selection to this year's All-Star team from WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, Renee Brown, who called the New York Liberty forward on Monday to deliver the news.
The first-time All Star selection's initial reaction? "Very happy," Carson says. Then I asked her if she expected it. "Not necessarily," the Jersey girl explains, "I mean I knew I was playing really well, but this is the elite of the elite...but apparently, in the coaches eyes, they found me deserving, which is an honor."
To make the journey sweeter she will be traveling with current teammate, Cappie Pondexter, who was named an Eastern Conference starter last week after receiving the most fan votes at the guard spot.
This will be Pondexter's fourth trip to the league's Mid-Summer Classic. I asked Carson if the vet had any advice for her..."She said to just keep doing what I'm doing...that I deserve it."
When Carson arrives in San Antonio she will meet up with former Scarlet Knight teammate, Epiphanny Prince of the Chicago Sky, who was also named to the Eastern Conference roster. Carson and Prince reached the national championship game together while at Rutgers and have remained very close since turning pro.
Carson said that she and Prince exchanged some tweets when the reserves were announced, joking, "I told her (Prince) that I would see her on Saturday, and she quickly responded 'Oh, not on Friday?!'" Carson chuckles telling me the story...but kidding aside, it's easy to pick-up on how much these women are looking forward to getting on the floor together...like they did back at the "RAC" in Piscataway.
The Rutgers name has been well represented in the WNBA over the years, but never have there been three players in an All-Star game at one time. Carson is proud of that fact, saying, "Jersey basketball is definitely being represented."
And so is Carson, whose #17 jersey was named one of the top selling jerseys in the WNBA this week. Coming in third behind Minnesota's Maya Moore and Los Angeles' Candace Parker, Carson knows what a big deal it is to be in the top three with those two names, calling it "a huge honor."
So what's the crowd appeal? Carson quipped, "The step-back jumper," then laughed and reflected more seriously, "I think it's the way I play...giving 110% whether the team is up by 20 or down by 20. I'm a hard worker and selfless... it doesn't matter whether I start or come off of bench (both of which she has done this year), I play hard." Then she paused, and returned to her original thought, "But mostly, it's the step back jumper."
Carson is looking forward to getting out and playing this weekend. She loves the entertainment quality the game brings to the fans, hinting to doing things you might not normally see in a typical game.
My interested piqued, I asked, "Oh. Planning on breaking out any new tricks Saturday?" She coyly answered, "Now why would I tell you...you'll have to watch and see." And even though we were on the phone, I can picture Carson flashing that mega-watt smile.
The kind only an All-Star can flash.