Q&A With Charde Houston

When the reserves are announced for the 2009 WNBA All-Star Game next week there's a good chance they could include Minnesota forward Charde Houston. It would be quite an accomplishment for Houston, who wasn't expected to be much of a factor in the WNBA after she was selected in the third round by the Lynx in the 2008 WNBA Draft.

But even if Houston doesn't get selected for the mid-season event in Uncasville, it would not lessen the impact she has had on the Lynx and the league this season.

Along with Candice Wiggins, Nicky Anosike and others, Houston has played a pivotal role in turning the fortunes around of a Minnesota franchise that hasn't experienced a winning season since 2004. With leading-scorer Seimone Augustus out for the season with a knee injury, the Lynx have needed players to step up to stay in contention in the competitive Western Conference, and Houston has done just that. In the team's most recent game -- a win over San Antonio -- Houston poured in a career-high 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, including 4-of-5 from three-point land. Through 14 games, Houston is the team's leading scorer (if you exclude Augustus) and the Lynx are an impressive 9-5, currently good for second place in the West.

But the second-year forward is more than just a point producer, and that's what makes her so effective. She's also the team's second-leading rebounder at 5.6 rpg and owns averages of 2.2 apg and 1.2 spg.

I talked with Houston to get her thoughts on her increased production in 2009, Minnesota's strong start and what lies ahead for her and the young Lynx.

WNBA.com: First off, I wanted to talk about your most recent game, in which you scored a career-high 26 points in a win over San Antonio. Can you take us through that performance and what was working for you?

HOUSTON: �I think that everything was working. From the beginning of the game I was extremely focused, reflecting back on when we played San Antonio in Minnesota. I didn�t play as well as I wanted to play. I didn�t play as well as I could have, missing defensive assignments�it wasn�t just me, but our team as a whole, although I felt like I had something to prove.�

WNBA.com: A lot of people expected the Lynx fall off after the hot start, but you continue to come through with wins when you need them. How have you guys been able to keep it up?

HOUSTON: �I would definitely have to credit that to our sense of camaraderie. Everybody predicted us to fail. But we understood that the only way we could go down is if we did not support each other. With this team we don�t have one person that can carry us. In order for us to continue to win games and play as well as we�ve been playing, we have to look to one another and just be there to support each other. As you can see every night it�s always somebody different that steps up, that has an amazing game. It makes us more dangerous and goes to show that we have an unbelievable amount of talent on this team. And when you put it all together and have it work all together, as opposed to individually, it just shows that we are such a great team.�

WNBA.com: When Augustus went down with an injury a few weeks ago, what was the team�s reaction when you found out she was going to be out for the season?

HOUSTON: �Of course, there was devastation, but at the same time we are professionals and we have to find a way to continue. She�s done a great job in making sure that she�s here to support us. Every game that she�s able to attend she�s still in the back, telling us what she sees. It helps out a lot to know that our leader is still leading even though she�s not on the floor. But as a team everybody raises their expectations. The coaches raise their expectations and so do each and every player because you can�t continue to do the same thing. Everything now is magnified because if something happens Seimone was always there to bail us out. But now in order for us to score a lot of points, we have to be there to support one another.�

WNBA.com: What was the team�s reaction when Don Zierden resigned just before the start of the season and what has it been like playing under Coach Jennifer Gillom?

HOUSTON: �It was shocking because I never saw it coming. But at the same time because it happened so close to our home opener we didn�t have enough time to sit back and figure out where do we go from here. Having Coach Jen last season as an assistant coach and then having her transition to the head coaching position it helped us out a lot because we know what she�s like. We know her level of expectations. It�s not like we have to go in and learn different plays and things like that. Everything stays the same except for the fact that her position changed. She�s very positive. She�s a motivator and inspiring. Even if you have a bad game she�s always going to turn it into a positive. I went through a couple games when I wasn�t playing well and she sat me down before shoot around and was like, �What�s wrong? What�s going on?� I just looked at her and was like, �Honestly, I�m still the happy-go-lucky person I usually am. It�s just that my shots aren�t falling so my game looks a little bit different.� After that she just continued to encourage me to stay positive and play hard and everything will work itself out.�

WNBA.com: This is your second season in the WNBA and your numbers are up across the board. What has been the key to your success this year?

HOUSTON: �My level of focus. My drive to want to be a better player. I always set goals for myself and at the end of each season I set goals. When I went overseas (in the off-season) there were things I wanted to improve on, not necessarily points per se, but rebounds. I really wanted to increase my number of rebounds because last season as a post player three rebounds (per game) isn�t enough. So I just want to make sure that every single year every time training camp comes I want to step onto the court and know that I�m a much better player that I was the previous season.�

WNBA.com: I noticed you�re shooting a lot of three-pointers this year after not even attempting one all last season. Is there a reason for that? Is that just something you were focused on improving?

HOUSTON: �That�s something I wanted to add to my game. With the coaching change, Coach Jen sat me down and she was like, �I really want to see you work on your three-point shot so that you can become a threat from the three-point line. And I wanted to take on the challenge and I just knew that would help me become a better player and help the team become a much better team also.�

WNBA.com: Let�s go back to the 2008 WNBA Draft. You were the last player in attendance that was drafted � Minnesota selected you in the third round. What was going through your mind at the time?

HOUSTON: �For me I was in complete disbelief. I knew I didn�t have a celebrated career at UConn, but I had no idea that I would be going 30th. I appreciated it because I came into training camp with a drive, with a desire to make the team. To me there was no other option. I knew coming in I had to work extremely hard and everything else would take care of itself.�

WNBA.com: You, Candice Wiggins and Nicky Anosike all came into the league at the same time and have played really well together from the get-go. What�s the reason for that?

HOUSTON: �We all come from good programs, so we�re just so used to winning that when you lose it�s almost heart-breaking, the feeling of knowing you could have done so much more when you lose. I think that we play so hard, we work so hard because we don�t want to lose. We don�t want to accept the fact that Minnesota is just so used to not going to the playoffs. That�s not something that we came in willing to accept. In order to try to improve that of course it�s going to take time. Last season we didn�t make the playoffs, but we did take steps in the right direction. This year we know that the sky is the limit for us. We are the only returning players from this team besides Seimone. We know what it takes. We know the feeling of somebody telling you you won�t be making the playoffs and I think for each of us that�s never happened before on any level."

WNBA.com: All three of you are strong candidates to make the All-Star team this year. Is getting selected something that is important to you?

HOUSTON: �It�s extremely important. Not very many people even have the option of being a candidate. It just goes to show that our hard work isn�t in vain. Everything we do we do it to improve so that our franchise can take steps to the right direction.�

WNBA.com: What�s it like playing with your former college teammate Renee Montgomery at the pro level?

HOUSTON: �It�s extremely exciting because you know the type of player she is and her personality. She hates to lose. She works extremely hard and she�s selfless. She tries to do everything in her power to make sure that she produces so that the team can go in the right direction. She�s vocal. You know that when you step on the floor Renee Montgomery is going to pressure the guards, she�s going to try to run the team, she�s going to try to do whatever she possibly can to make sure that we are going in the right direction. And you can�t say that for everybody. Her personality alone just does a lot for the team.�

WNBA.com: In a conference full of teams led by experienced veterans, how can a team full of young players keep this up and stay in the playoff mix the entire season?

HOUSTON: �Every day (Coach Gillom) reminds us that this shouldn�t be taken for granted. At any point in time you can go down in the standings if you don�t approach practice or if you don�t approach every game like it�s you last. With her reminding us of it and seeing the type of drive that she has and knowing that in order for us to make it anywhere we have to be supportive of each other. Any time we decide to stray away from that then that�s when we start to lose. It�s been proven, so nobody wants to lose. We understand that we absolutely need each other to win and I think that�s what is driving us.�