Kelly Mazzante entered her third WNBA season with the Sting ready for a fresh start.
�I came into this season with a new mindset and a new focus and am just trying to contribute,� she said. �I�ve kind of put my first two years aside, and now it�s my time to set up and contribute.�
Five games into the season, Mazzante�s contributions are easy to see on the stat sheet.
She is second on the team in scoring (10.2 points) and steals (1.80), fourth in assists (1.6) and fifth in rebounding (2.8), while shooting a team-best 43.5 percent (10-23) from three-point range and 100 percent (5-5) from the free throw line.
�Kelly came in this year with a lot of attitude,� Sting Head Coach Muggsy Bogues said. �Last year I told her I wanted her to come into camp aggressive, looking to shoot the basketball. And that�s exactly what she�s doing -- she came in aggressive and she understands exactly what I want on both ends of the floor.�
But Mazzante�s aggressiveness isn�t the only change that has helped her to elevate her game after averaging 2.3 points and shooting 27.6 percent (27-98) from long range her first two years in the league.
She also feels more comfortable in Bogues� new, fast-paced coaching style and appreciates the confidence he brings in her game.
�A lot of it starts with the confidence he has in me,� she said. �He got my confidence back. He also brought that confidence back to the Sting, so I can do what I know I�m capable of doing.�
Bogues is also giving Mazzante the opportunity to showcase her skills. After averaging 9.3 minutes in 61 games in her first two seasons, Mazzante is averaging 21.6 minutes off the bench for Charlotte this year.
�I feel I can play here and participate, and I finally feel like I am playing the game I know I can play,� she said. �I am now willing to take more shots -- that�s what happens when you play those minutes -- you make some shots and you miss some shots, but he (Bogues) is confident in me to make those shots.�
For Bogues, the reasoning is simple -- confidence comes with production, and after scoring in double-digits in three of the Sting�s first five contests and averaging 12.5 points against the back-to-back defending Eastern Conference champion Sun last week, his confidence in the 6-0 shooting guard is soaring.
�I think playing time definitely really helps you gain confidence and not only that she�s helping herself -- she�s out there producing,� Bogues said. �If I had to give an MVP award at this point, she would get it. She�s really been a big plus for us so far this season.�
With her recent success, Bogues admits he has given some thought to moving Mazzante into the starting lineup, but believes bringing her off the bench is best because she has been so effective doing so.
�I knew she was going to be a plus for us coming off the bench,� Bogues said. �She�s coming in with a spark. She stretches out the defense. I expect for her to continue to play the way she has been playing and pick up that game even more so. Kelly is a heck of a player and could be whatever type of player she wants to be.�
For now, Mazzante is just enjoying playing an even bigger part for Charlotte and hoping to help turn things around in the win column.
�I like being that spark. They look at me to come in and have instant energy and that�s my role right now,� she said. �I understand that, and we�ll see what happens. Right now, I�m taking it game-by-game, just trying to help and contribute, and we�ll see where it goes. I�m just enjoying basketball. We have a great team here, we just have to start capitalizing.�