"With the third pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft, the Chicago Sky select Armintie Price."
CLEVELAND, April 5, 2007 � "Armintie Price is the most exciting player in the Draft," said ESPN analyst Doris Burke. "She's already among the best athletes in the league. ... Once this woman gets a consistent 3-point shot, she will be impossible to guard."
High praise for anyone, much less a newly professional 22-year-old hailing from Myrtle, Mississippi, a town of 407 people according to the 2000 census. The Ole Miss senior was impressive enough throughout her college career to be taken third overall in Wednesday's Draft by the Chicago Sky. Price spoke with WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield about her less-than-traditional basketball upbringing, her relationship with her late mother and her dreams of WNBA glory.
Q. What have you been up to since the end of your season with Ole Miss?
You had a pretty incredible run in the Tournament.
Price: "A lot of meetings with different agents. I came to Cleveland with Ashley (Awkward) and Jada Mincy, the two other seniors, and we've just been enjoying the week here, trying not to be so serious."
Q. What was your time like at Ole Miss? What did you learn while you were
Price: "It's been very exciting� almost like a dream come true. When I came, there was a new coaching staff� it was just after Coach (Carol) Ross had been hired and Ashley and Jada had also come in. I didn't think I was going to play. But when I came in, I told Coach I was going to be the hardest working player she ever had. And I kept my word!
"She said she wanted to take us as far as we wanted to go. My freshman year, we had a good group of seniors and we made it to the NCAA Tournament. We lost in the first round, but it upped our expectations because we knew what we could do. Sophomore year, we made it to the NCAA Tournament again, but we fell short again and lost in the first game. My third year, the leadership was kind of shaky with some quiet seniors� they were great people, but we only made it to the NIT.
"Then this year, with me, Ashley and Jada, our goal was to make it to the Final Four. We wanted to go to Cleveland. But we kept that idea within the team, because we didn't want everyone saying, 'Oh, you can't do it. Your dreams are too high.' Come summertime, we were working. When the freshmen came in, we made them work and we all had one goal� 100%, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Come Tournament time, we were ready to go.
"When we saw TCU on Selection Monday, we were excited. Then when we saw the other teams down the line -- Maryland, maybe Oklahoma and Tennessee -- Ashley and I stopped and looked at each other. Maryland had just gotten through blowing us out (Mississippi fell to the Terps 110-79 at a tournament in the Bahamas earlier in the season). But we said we were going to go and get this thing done. We're going to show everybody who we are.
"We beat TCU. Then, when we got to Maryland, we were so focused on playing our game that we didn't even remember who we were playing. Everything just fell into place. Then we played Oklahoma and the Paris twins and we busted through them. Then, we got to ole mighty Tennessee, and our little trains just ran out of steam.
"But we had no regrets. I enjoyed everything I did. I feel like I left everything on the floor since my first game as a freshman. And we were just glad that we made it that far."
Q. What's the transition like now? You go from trying to take your team
to the Final Four to trying to make it in the WNBA. How hard it is to turn the
page after your college career?
Price: "It's really not that hard. I'm just excited. With every new thing put in front of me, I'm just like, 'Oh yeah, let's go!' After being drafted, there's a little bit of shock, and I feel like I still need to figure out what's going on. Right now I'm full of energy, but once I go to my team, it'll probably hit me. But the transition to the pros? I think I'll be alright. It'll be exciting to see how this works out."
Q. What are the most important strengths that you'll bring to whatever team
picks you in the draft?
Price: "My jumping ability is something that a lot of people have heard about and don't really believe until they play me or come watch. My energy on the court� the ability to run like a deer, that's what my coach calls it. The competitiveness (to deal with) whoever you throw in my face. I'm going to be facing the best players in the world, and it's going to be a challenge and I'm going to be knocked down more than once. But I will keep standing up and fighting back. Hopefully I can bring all of that and my razzle-dazzle offense and my oh-so exciting lay-ups. Some of them will get knocked back to the 3-point line, I know. But most of all, I'll bring my personality and I'll come in ready to work."
Q. Are there specific skills you feel like you need to work on to make a
difference in the WNBA?
Price: "I need to work on my outside game� my range. My confidence level has really gone sky high this Tournament, but so much of my offense is from driving to the basket. I'd rather take a lay-up than a jumper. But the Tournament has given me a lot of confidence. And that won't go away, but it would still help to take it up to the next level."
Q. Did you have a favorite WNBA team or player growing up?
Price: "No, I was born and raised in Milwaukee, but I moved to Mississippi when I was in the fourth grade. And I really didn't start playing until I was in eighth grade. I was raised in a very religious family. We didn't do anything but go to church, sleep, eat and pray. (Laughs.)
"I didn't know anything about the WNBA, I didn't know anything about the different (college) conferences or anything. And I didn't really know anything about college until 11th grade. And I chose Ole Miss, not even knowing that (the SEC is) the best conference in the nation."
Q. Are there players in the league who you watch now and appreciate or model
your game after?
Price: "Watching TV, I'd be flipping through the channels and I'd see Teresa Weatherspoon. She is someone that I really want to meet. I loved her game, loved her hairstyle, loved her braids. I tried to get my sister to do my hair like hers. She's one who I really looked up to. Lately, I'm becoming a fan of Tamika Catchings. I'd also love Lisa Leslie to block my shot, so I could get on one of her posters. (Laughs.) Another one is Seimone Augustus. I love her game. And I played against her in college and I'd love to be on her team. There are a lot of great players in this league who I admire. I hope I can get some of their moves from them on the sly."
Q. Do you like to talk trash out on the court?
Price: "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The only people I talk trash to are the people I know. I just like to show my game. If I hit a 3, I might look at my teammates, but I would never go one on one with anybody."
Q. What do you see as the most momentum-changing play in basketball?
Price: "Getting a defensive stop, but then letting the other team get an offensive rebound. They always kick it right back out for a 3. That seems to always happen! You can count on it."
Q. What should a WNBA fan know about you, the person?
Price: "I'm a very, very religious person. I know that despite all of the great people around me and the talent that God has blessed me with, it can all be gone tomorrow. I'm not going to take any of this for granted. I'll sign any autographs, I'll take as many pictures as you want me to take. I'm just very grateful to be here and I know that God is smiling upon me and my family."
Q. How important to you is a proper diet, working out and fitness?
Price: "My routine at Ole Miss was, 'Armintie, eat five meals a day.' But eating right is very important, especially for me, since I'm so little and I do so much on the court. I have to have my energy and strength, so I have to have my vitamins, my fruit, my pasta. If I don't, I'm going to get cramps all the time when I play. I just have never been a big eater. But I'm looking to gain weight. I'm looking to be about 145, and right now I'm only 135. I love going to the gym and lifting weights, but it's all about my eating. I can lift all day, but my weight will stay the same because I don't eat. I'm willing to do it right this time, because if I don't, these girls (in the WNBA) are going to run through me! (Laughs.) I want to be able to take a charge and pop back up without losing my voice!"
Q. What do you want do after basketball?
Price: "I want to teach. Before basketball ever came into my life, I always wanted to teach... fourth grade. When I was in fourth grade, I had a great, inspiring teacher who always told me to quit cutting up, stop trying to be the class clown and learn something. She really helped me, and I've always wanted to teach ever since."
Q. Did your parents play a big role in your development as a basketball
Price: "No, no one really taught me how to play ball. I just started playing in eighth grade. My parents got a divorce when I was young, and my dad and I just got reconnected when I was in 11th grade. But then we started playing (against each other) and he's left handed, and I would never beat him. He always said, 'You'll never be a great player unless you beat me.' And I would visit him in Milwaukee and we would go play at the YMCA and I would never beat him. But then I finally beat him during my sophomore or junior year in college and� oh man! I laid on the court and when he told me to get up, I said, 'No, I'm gonna enjoy this! I'm the best player in the world!' He's getting his ball and his Gatorade and he's packing up to go home, and I'm still singing: 'I beat you� I beat you� I beat you.' (Laughs.) Then I asked him, 'Dad, so are we gonna come back up here tomorrow to play again?' And he said, 'No, you're going home.' It was the best moment ever. If you could have just seen his face�"
Q. What's your source of inspiration? What gets you going?
Price: "My mom. She passed in August, but before that she was just someone I could talk to. She made my day so much brighter. I remember one time when I got this new camera and I took it home and I dropped it. I was so angry: 'Oh no! Oh my gosh!' My mother stopped me and said, 'Armintie, it's just a material thing. You can't take it to heaven.' Every time after that when I dropped the camera, I was like, 'Awww, it's alright. I'll pick it up later.' (Laughs.)
"So even after my mom passed, I'd talk to her at night. Thinking about her just keeps everything so much better. She keeps me happy� she keeps me smiling."