Basketball Traveler

Although most of the other girls in her hometown of Markham, Ontario were more focused on shopping, boys and hanging out, anatomy, timing and destiny placed other things on Tammy Sutton-Brown�s agenda.

�I kind of got pushed into basketball when I was about 13. I must have been about 6'1" at the time. You know, the height thing,� recalls Sutton-Brown, now 6'4" (1.93 meters), the starting center for the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA.

�When I was growing up, there weren�t many Canadian girls into basketball,� she adds. �Not a lot going to university in the U.S. on athletic scholarships. But ever since the Toronto Raptors came to town, basketball has grown both with the boys and with the girls.�

But this was the early-90s, and when Sutton-Brown, now 27, realized she had some serious moves and a chance to go to college in the U.S. all expenses paid, she enrolled in a high school a distance from home that was more hoops oriented. She also played club ball, so her skills could grow and her exposure was upped.

�When you succeed in life, half of it is hard work and half of it is being in the right place at the right time. I�ve been very fortunate,� says Sutton-Brown, who eventually was spotted by someone from Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, N.J.

She spent four years as a Scarlet Knight, playing for renowned coach C. Vivian Stringer, who left a lasting impression.

�She taught us a lot about how to be a competitor on the court, but be a woman off the court, be classy,� says Sutton-Brown, who helped lead the team to an appearance in the Final Four her junior year. �She�s so knowledgeable about the game. I learned so much from her, but off the court is what I probably took away more than anything.�

Despite her ability to battle it out in the paint with the likes of Lisa Leslie and Yolanda Griffith, she�s still a self-proclaimed girlie girl. So Sutton-Brown recoils when told about a conservative columnist who recently wrote a venomous column about how physically unattractive WNBA players are.

�I�ll be at the grocery store or out and people come up to me and say, �You look totally different off the court than you do on the court.� Duh! It�s two totally different worlds,� she says. �I like to have my fingernails and toenails done. But when I step on the court, I�m going to throw on a headband and make sure I�m ready to compete.

�As soon as the game�s over, you go into the locker room, shower and that�s when everything else comes out.�

For the past decade, the courts and locker rooms Sutton-Brown has occupied have taken her far from home. Now in her fifth season with the Charlotte Sting she has also played internationally each off-season�twice in Russia and twice in Korea.

�After my rookie season, I went to Korea. I think it was the first year they opened their women�s league up to Americans,� she says. �It was like playing one-on-one in the post with Americans. They only have six teams. There were 12 of us there, but only one could play at a time. So you were just playing one-on-one with the other Americans. You had four Korean players running around, but basically that�s what it was like.�

Thankfully, the 10 p.m. curfews imposed on the Korean players did not go for foreigners. Life in Russia was decidedly less restricted, and despite the cold, Sutton-Brown soaked up the experience.

�Overseas is not for everyone,� she states. �It depends on who you are and what you like. For me, I like to learn about different cultures. But it still isn�t the easiest thing.�

Sutton-Brown has also played internationally with the Canadian national team, including the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where they finished 10th. They did not qualify for Athens in 2004, but she will do her utmost to help them take to the hardwood in Beijing in 2008.

But despite the travels Tammy Sutton-Brown is very decisive on where she calls home.

�I�m very, very Canadian. Ask any of my Charlotte Sting teammates,� she says. �They�re always messing with me and I�m always messing with them about Americans.�

Although she hasn�t emulated other Canadian athletes who�ve gotten Maple Leaf tattoos, she says, �After the WNBA season, I know the first place I�m going. My parents still live there and I�ve got a place there. Toronto is home.�

By: Lois Elfman, Access Magazine