Q & A

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2002 WNBA Q&A's:

Coco Miller
Washington Mystics

Deanna Nolan
Detroit Shock

Tamika Catchings
Indiana Fever

Kate Starbird
Utah Starzz

2001-02 College Q&A's:

Ayana Walker
Louisiana Tech

Loree Moore

Mary Perrizo
North Dakota

Angie Welle
Iowa State

Lindsey Yamasaki

Mandy Nightingale

Shaunzinski Gortman
South Carolina

Mary Jo Noon

Molly Creamer

Caroline Gruening
Santa Clara

Kari Groshek
Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Iciss Tillis

2001 WNBA Q&A's:

Adrienne Johnson
Orlando Miracle

Cara Consuegra
Utah Starzz

Allison Feaster
Charlotte Sting

Rushia Brown
Cleveland Rockers

Shanele Stires
Minnesota Lynx

Katie Douglas
Orlando Magic

Coquese Washington
Houston Comets

Sue Wicks
N.Y. Liberty

2000-01 College Q&A's:

Kristen "Ace" Clement

Caity Matter
Ohio State

Melissa and Sarah Johnson

Aida Sarajlija

Schuye LaRue

Emily Bloss
Emporia State

Kelly Komara

Brandi McCain

Krista Warren

Max Nhassengo
Central Florida C.C.

Amy Ewert

Allison Coleman
Eastern Connecticut

Jamie Frey

Gibson One on One with
Kelley Gibson
Houston Comets

After a frustrating college career marked with injuries, Kelley Gibson is working hard to help the Comets win a fifth WNBA title.

After a collegiate career punctuated with disappointments, Houston Comets forward/guard Kelley Gibson is grateful for her current situation. Exiting Easton (Md.) High School with school records in rebounding and scoring and the title of Eastern Shore Player of the Year, Gibson's first season with the University of Maryland Terrapins was ended after three games when a knee injury sidelined her for the remainder of the season.

A second knee injury claimed her junior season. And during preseason workouts as a fifth-year senior, Gibson re-injured her left knee, but recovered. Gibson also survived three losing seasons with the Terps.

But despite it all, the 5-9, 135-pound guard, prized for her versatility and speed, managed to rack up a lot or honors in only three collegiate seasons. She won ACC All-Freshman honors, lead the ACC in assists her junior season, and established herself among Maryland's career leaders in three-point shooting, assists, steals, and blocks.

Now in her third year with the Comets, Gibson is healthy and providing a much needed lift to the talented team. During her first-ever professional start, Gibson scored a career-high 10 points against the Sparks, and she continues to relish her role on the four-time championship team.

In this interview, Gibson talks about the surprising difference between the WNBA and college ball, her efforts to stay injury free, and why she spent last winter with the NBA's '76ers.

Gball: How does your role with the Comets differ from your role with the Terrapins?
Gibson: I play behind two great guards in Janeth Arcain and Sheryl Swoopes, so I'm more of a role player here--to come in and give a spark, play good defense, rebound, and when I get an open look, knock it down.

Was that hard to adjust to?
Yeah. When you're a scorer in college, it's hard to adjust to because you want to be involved. But you have to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful. And if the coach says that's what my role is, I'm going to do it, because I want to win.

In what ways has playing pro required you to step up your game?
The biggest difference between college and the pros for me has been the offseason. When you get into the pros in any sport, you don't really have coaches on your back telling you what to do in the off-season. But you have post players like Lisa Leslie who can hit the three and handle the ball, so you have to work on every part of your game. In the WNBA, the responsibility is on you. You know what you have to do, and you have to do it yourself.

Here, weight lifting isn't mandatory like it is in college, but it helps with your game, so you have to do it. There's no coach to take you through drills, tell you to get up, work out, lift weights, and work on your skills. You have to be an adult and take responsibility for yourself to get it done because it's your job.

After suffering two season-ending knee injuries during your collegiate career, staying injury free must be a priority for you. What do you and the Comets athletic training staff do to keep you healthy?
Our strength coach here stays on me about being in the weight room and keeping my muscles strong to keep my knee stable. But I kind of take the initiative myself to stay in the weight room. So I lift and stay in condition so I won't have a lot of stress on my knees. I ice after every practice and game, and I pray.

Did you have to learn to move or land differently to prevent knee injuries?
No. Once you're fit again, the rest is pretty mental -- just trying to get your game style back and doing the things you did prior to your injury. Initially, it's hard because you're afraid you might hurt yourself again. But once you get out there and start going, you usually forget about it.

In high school you placed second in the high jump and third in the long jump at state, so why didn't you pursue track instead of basketball?
Track was something our coach suggested we do in the off-season. And I enjoyed it. But basketball has always been my number one love. I played it non-stop when I was a kid, and that's my passion.

What got you started?
Growing up around a bunch of guys, basically. That's all that me, my brother, and my cousins in my neighborhood did for recreation. We played basketball with crates or whatever we could find to make a hoop. As long as we could put a ball in it--even if it was a bicycle tire rim that we'd bust the spokes out of--we'd play. I've been around basketball forever--my father played college ball--so it's in my family.

What about it most appeals to you?
It's just fun. I can't explain it. Once you step out on the court or pick up a ball, you get this rush. It's something that you love, and if it was taken away from me, I wouldn't know what to do. When I was hurt, I questioned myself about coming back and playing. But I kept fighting and reached my goal to play professional basketball. So basketball is just great.

What is a typical game or practice day like for you?
On a normal practice day, practice starts at 11 a.m., so I wake up at 8 a.m. or 8:30, eat breakfast, and get to the gym about an hour and a half early to lift weights prior to practice. Then I try to get out on the court a good 15 minutes early to get some shots up before practice starts. Practice goes from 11-1 p.m., and then we're done. Sometimes we may have a signing session after practice, so we get out at 2:30.

On game days when we have a 7:30 p.m. game, we usually have a shoot-around at 11 a.m. On those days, you don't usually lift before the game unless you're really into lifting, in which case you might do some light lifting. Shoot-around lasts about an hour. Then, we're out of there, and I usually come back home and cook a meal--generally pasta or steak--and then relax and shower so I'm ready to leave by 5:15, because we have to be at the center at 6 p.m.

Is the time commitment more or less than in college?
I think it's actually more in college. Because you have to go to class, study hall, etc. But on the other hand, a lot of WNBA players have other things they get involved with. Some coach in the off-season, so they have to keep in contact with their schools. And after practice, for example, they may have a conference call with their coaches.

What athletes do you most admire?
Michael Jordan is my favorite athlete. I admire his work ethic. He's very athletic, and sometimes very athletic players tend to be lazy or not work as hard as the non-athletic player. But he gets up every morning and lifts weights, and I admire that. I've tried it once and I can't do an a.m. workout. Yet he does it every day.

And this past season, he suffered a knee problem. To have a surgery at 38 years old proves his passion for the game. He's pretty well off, so he doesn't need to play anymore, but he wants to prove to himself that he can help make that team better. He could have just said, "I'm done." But he had the surgery because he's that competitive and works that hard.

Tell me about the internship program you took part in this summer.
The WNBA provides an off-season program for the players to take part in called the WNBA Player Job Internship Program. You could be assigned to an NBA team or one of their corporate sponsors. I worked with the Philadelphia '76ers in the marketing department. In college, I majored in kinesiology but also had an interest in marketing. So seeing how things were run on an NBA team was a good learning experience for me.

It was a nine-to-five job, and I learned that whether you compete in a professional sport or have a marketing job, it's the same principle--you need the same amount of passion. Before I interned, I never paid attention to how much work and time those people put into their jobs. Because when you're an athlete, you focus on playing. Working there made me more appreciative of what I have and have accomplished.

Was there anything that surprised you about what goes on behind the scenes of a professional team?
Probably how much of a show the actual game is. The NBA really is entertainment. I worked under a woman in charge of game operations. Everything's on a schedule just like a show, and you have to coordinate it all with the time-outs of the game to keep the fans entertained--everything down to the national anthem.

I was in charge of putting the game script together. For example, I decided send-times for the dance team and for the mascot. Then you have to put the game promotions in there. So the first time-out in the first quarter, we'd do the Reebok giveaway. We'd ask a trivia question, and whoever got it right, everyone in their row would win a Sixers hat. And the sponsors also have to be shown during the game, so getting everything put together was very time consuming.

How do you envision the Comets' season ending this year?
Of course, getting the ring. No less than that.

What's that going to take?
Right now, we just have to continue to play hard and prepare for the playoffs. At home we've won 12 straight, but we've lost a few games on the road. So we need to get our focus back and just play Comets ball. Just get out there and have fun. We're a very talented team, and it's going to go down to the wire. But I think we have more experience going into the rest of our games. And we have Sheryl back, and she provides us with everything. So I think we'll be ready.

Interview conducted by Gball Editor Shelly Wilson.

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