One-on-One With Helen Darling

Helen Darling may be the newest member of the Charlotte Sting, but she�s no stranger to the WNBA. The 5-6 guard is a four-year veteran, having played with the Cleveland Rockers and Minnesota Lynx before being obtained by Charlotte in a sign-and-trade deal last month. Darling will provide depth at the point guard position for the Sting, helping Dawn Staley to run the show.

Darling will be reunited with several familiar faces in Charlotte � Kelly Mazzante and Cheryl Reeve. A 2000 graduate of Penn State University, Darling will team up with Mazzante, a second-year pro for the Sting who also attended PSU. Although they never played together for the Nittany Lions, both have been honored as Big Ten Player of the Year, had their collegiate jerseys retired and rank as two of the top players in Penn State�s history. Additionally, Darling played for current Sting assistant coach Cheryl Reeve during the 2003 season while both were with the Cleveland Rockers.

A proud mother of triplets, Darling just wrapped up her first year as an assistant coach for the University of Memphis Women�s Basketball Team. She recently visited the Queen City as the Lady Tigers participated in the Conference USA Tournament, hosted by UNC-Charlotte. During her stay in Charlotte, she took a few minutes to go one-on-one with charlottesting.com.

How was your first year working as an assistant coach for Memphis?
It was definitely a learning experience. I didn�t think I wanted to coach, but then this opportunity presented itself and I thought I would give it a try.

How do you think being a coach will help you as a player?
I would hope it would help me understand the game a little more. When I play however, I don�t want to think too much and overanalyze the game. I just want to go out there and play.

What�s the best thing about being in the WNBA?
I love the team unity. I also enjoy the travel. I�m a people person. I love to talk with and meet new people. I also just love the game. I would be playing even if we didn�t get paid.

What do you think will be your biggest value to the Sting?
I think I will bring leadership, strong defense and aggressiveness on the ball. I think that what I bring is not necessarily reflected on the stat sheet. I will be the person who makes the first pass to the person who gets the assist or the deflection that leads to the steal. I think that the presence that I can bring on the floor means more than stats. I try to do the little things that help a team win.

What do you like to do in your free time away from basketball?
I�m a busy woman. When I�m not spending time with my three kids, I�m working on writing a book. I also like to read. I�d rather get into a good book than watch TV. When I do watch TV, I like to watch Law and Order. I also like to go roller skating and bowling.

What do you think it will be like to play with Dawn Staley? Are you looking forward to it?
Dawn is great. I've been a starter for 4 of my 5 years in this league, but Dawn is one of the best point guards in the history of the game. We know each other from playing against each other, and always knew it would be a great game when we matched up. I've been fortunate to play alongside Suzie McConnell-Serio and Teresa Edwards, and now Dawn. Those are three Olympians and three great point guards. Maybe it can help me be an Olympian myself someday!

You will be forming a Penn State connection on the Sting with Kelly Mazzante. What can you say about her?
I never played with Kelly at Penn State, but during my fifth year in school we worked out a lot together. She helped me get ready for my WNBA season by playing one-on-one and shooting. She really worked on her defense while I worked on my offense. I think we helped each other a lot and it will be fun to team up with her.

How do you feel about all the Sting roster moves, including yourself, that have been made over the last month?
Well, we've definitely made the biggest moves and the most changes so far. My purpose for playing, besides the fact that I love it, is to win a WNBA Championship. I'm trying to get a ring and I feel like we can do that here in Charlotte. No matter what my role is - starting, coming in off the bench...

I played against Tangela Smith in college when she was at Iowa and she has always been one of the most underrated post players out there. She had a great career with the Monarchs and it will be good to have her with the Sting.

Sheri Sam is going to make a tremendous difference. She is a player who plays without thinking. She's a scorer - she can get into the lane and she 's got an outside shot as well. There were several superstars in Seattle, but if she can do for us what she did for the Miami Sol it will be great for the Sting.

You'll also be reunited with coach Cheryl Reeve in Charlotte. Talk about that her and also about former Rockers coach Dan Hughes coming back into the WNBA down in San Antonio.
Coach Reeve is a silly goose, but a great lady. She's a great coach but can relate off the court and have those inside jokes. She's great.

I'm excited for Coach Hughes. He'll do well in San Antonio. He's another great person and just a loyal guy.