Andrea Stinson Q&A – Charlotte Sting

Carolina native Andrea Stinson has played for her hometown Charlotte Sting since the WNBA’s inception. While last season her team struggled to an 8-24 record, the 5-10 guard had her best season ever. She earned a berth on the 2000 East All-Star team and recently completed a two week, 4 game tour of non-WNBA cities with fellow players.

WB: What were the Tour crowds like?

AS: They were young ladies who are interested in the game of basketball. There were college teams. And older people – moms and dads. They were all there. It got to a point where we went out into the crowd. (Laughing) Our security is really good, but there are some times you just can’t turn (the fans) down. We did autographs that we weren’t supposed to do. We did pictures we weren’t supposed to do. You can’t deny a fan if they’re willing to come out and see you and scream for you. I love dealing with the people and the crowd.

WB: Talk about the Sting’s difficulties last season.

AS: We go to the point where we didn’t have any confidence. We were unsure of ourselves. We wanted to play hard, but it just wasn’t happening at the time. When you start to doubt yourself, it’s hard to pick yourself up. The coach can motivate you, anyone can motivate you, but if you doubt yourself it’s really hard.

WB: How does a lack of confidence affect you the player?

AS: It’s frustrating because you know what you can do. You know you’ve done it before. You know you’ve played defense on this certain person before and you stopped them. You can take this certain person to the hole, and you’re not able to do it because in your mind you have doubts. You’re not thinking of going to their weakness. It gets to the point where you just drop your head and you don’t know what to do.

WB: How did you adjust to the trade of Vicky Bullet and Rhonda Mapp?

AS: I was amazed Vicky was gone. I just couldn’t believe it. Vicky and I played together overseas. We got so close, and could play so well together. It was hard losing Vicky. But I have to understand that it is a business. It’s nothing personal. The coaches have nothing personal against her. And nothing personal against me to take friends away — friends and players that I enjoy playing with. It’s a business thing and that’s something I have to learn to deal with. Vicky and Rhonda – those are my friends and they’ll always be my friends. I’m going to miss them, and I hope they do good things wherever they go.

WB: Do you think older players need to “teach” the younger players to appreciate the league?

AS: They have to get in to the league and start to feel the comfort and support of the people and the fans. Then they’ll understand how great it is to have this league. They can say, “Ok it’s great, I have something to do after college.” But, until they get in there and start to play, start to really get in to it, then they’ll learn to appreciate it.

Some won’t appreciate it until they’re not in it anymore. And when they’ve been cut, or not worked hard, or have taken it for granted, now they’re feeling it. They’re like, “Dang, I wish I was there.” They’re trying to get back in it.

WB: You’ve been dubbed “Miss Jordan” for your acrobatic shots — what do you think about that now?

AS: That “Miss Jordan” stuff is great for kids. For myself, I just go out there and do what Andrea can do. This is the style of basketball that I grew up learning to play. I played with a lot of guys and I had to do a lot of different things to keep them from blocking my shots. I hate getting my shot blocked. (Laughs) To this day, I hate it with a passion. So I do anything I can to avoid anyone blocking my shot. If I miss it, I miss it. I’ll come back and get it back sooner or later.

WB: What is it about basketball that you love?

AS: The excitement. The creativity. I just love playing it. It’s so much fun to me. I have so much fun playing it and learning different things. (Laughing) I’m so glad they thought of it.

WEB EXTRA

WB: What were some of the Tour highlights?

AS: For me, all the time with the girls is a highlight because I enjoy being with them. I enjoy being on the same court as them. I got to know Yolanda (Griffith). I got to know Lisa (Leslie). You get to know everybody. You spend two weeks with them and you just get to know everybody.

We had a great time Halloween Night. We went to haunted houses and just hung out together. Walked Bourbon Street. It was just a fun time for me. We hung out with different people. Every night it was a different crew.

WB: How was the Tour different from the All-Star game?

AS: We had time to prepare. You have time to get to know the people on your team. And then, of course, you have time to get to know the West. You play them so many times you know what they’re going to do. You know what their weaknesses and strengths are. It’s not one of those “OK, you’ve got a day to prepare,” (Laughs) and then go play the game.” We had time.

WB: What was it like playing under coach Carolyn Peck?

AS: It was great. She kept things on a professional level. But she didn’t let it go too serious (to the point) where we weren’t having fun. It’s a game were you’ve got to have fun. If you work hard, you’re going to have fun. If you don’t work hard, it’s going to be a chore to you. We all took it to where we worked hard. We played the West hard. We got to a point to where we were down to limited post players, but we still played hard.

WB: What were the crowds like?

AS: They were great. Everywhere we went, the people responded. It was unbelievable, considering they don’t have women’s basketball – a WNBA team or an NBA team. But the people came out and really showed support for the WNBA.

WB: Do you think the crowds were surprised at the quality of play?

AS: I think they enjoyed the quality. Some really liked it. I had some people from Charlotte drive from Alabama. They drove to Alabama to see us play. I was like, “What are you all doing here.” (Laughs) They drove down there to see us play, to watch me play in this Tour. That was just touching to me. That they would even take time to think about it — to even know that I was in the Tour. But then, to drive all the way down there…it was great for me.

WB: What can you say about the difficulties the Sting had this season?

AS: A lot of people asked me during the year, “What’s happening?” “What’s going on?” And I couldn’t tell them. I really I didn’t know. I just didn’t. There was no reason that I could give them. I just had no reason. Maybe they thought I was lying. Maybe they thought I just didn’t want to say. But I couldn’t. I really had no reason, no explanation for why we were having the season we were having.

You’ve got to want to play. I wanted to play every night, but everybody didn’t want to play every night. I’m not saying that I did my best every night but at least, in my mind, I went out there wanting to play.

WB: What of those outside voices telling you how “good” the team was supposed to be?

AS: We know we’re talented. Stop telling me we’re talented. On paper we look good, but you’ve got to bring it to the court every day. You’ve got to bring it to the court every day, ‘Cause if you don’t bring it, it doesn’t matter what the paper says.

WB: In spite of the team’s struggles, this was your best season in the WNBA. What do you say to those who say you carried the team?

AS: It’s too hard for anyone to do that. I look at it like this: When Michael (Jordan) first started, he tried to carry them, and he couldn’t do it. They had to get some people around him. And as soon as they got people around him, it was a Championship every year. You’ve people around you. I’m not trying to carry the team. I don’t want to carry the team by myself. It’s just impossible to carry a team. I want to have people around me who want to play. That want to feel those good feelings when we win — or even when we lose, but we played hard. That’s all I ask for.

WB: Rhonda Mapp and E.C. Hill have been traded this off-season. Did you think you might be traded?

AS: I didn’t know what was going to happen. (Laughs) And you still don’t know what’s going to happen. I knew something was going to be shifting, but I didn’t know exactly what. There had to be some changes, because things weren’t going well the way there were. And there’s no need coming back another season and things not going well again, having the same people, same system same everything. I didn’t know if it was going to be the coaching, or if it was going to be players, or if it was going to be management. I was just sitting back waiting to hear what’s going on and trying not to make any assumptions.

WB: What do you need to do to integrate Allison Feaster and Clarisse Machanguana into the Sting?

AS: I don’t try and get to know people’s games. When I get on the court with them, then I’ll learn. And I kind of pick it up quickly. I don’t try to get tapes of them and study. I mean, I know Feaster can shoot and Machanguana can rebound. (Laughs) You know, that’s all I need to know. They want to play. That’s the main thing. They want to play and they want to win.

WB: What do you think the Sting has to do to get the crowd back into the arena?

AS: We need people who are going to come out and just play hard every night. They want to see you hustle. They want to see that you really want to play. It’s not a fact of always winning, ’cause you can’t win every game. But they want to see you hustle. They want to see you willing to do whatever it takes to try to win the game.

I think we kind of got away from that. I think there were times that we didn’t really want to win the game. We really didn’t hustle. That’s what kind of turned some of them away. I think that’s it. But if they come in and see you hustle every night, and see that you want to play, they’ll come back. Because they’ll be able to say, “At least they tried. They tried to win that game. They hustled the whole game.” That’s all.

Plus, you have to have people selling us. They’ve got to sell us. And we have to get out and do things. (Players) do our community things, but there are times when you are not called to do it and you simply have got to do it.

Last year I went to an event I wasn’t scheduled to go to, but a friend of my worked for UPS. They did a carnival thing at a boys and girls club. I told her I would go –not even setting it up with the team. I went because all these kids (were) going to be there. Just letting them see that we’re interested, then they’ll get interested in coming to see us.

That’s just part of being a professional athlete. Kids look up to you. They want to come see you. But if you don’t show them that you care, that you enjoy doing what you’re doing, they’re not going to come. They’re not even going to pay you any attention.

I try to remember the kids, but you can’t remember them all. (Laughs) But I remember the places you’ve been and when they mention that place you can say, “Oh, yes I remember.” They enjoy that you remembered them.

WB: Can you remember your feelings at the inception of the WNBA?

AS: I was excited when they started. And then to come home and actually start playing during the season. Being in the midst of the crowds and the people and everything, Oh, man, it just made me want to play more, to raise my game to another. It just made me get in to the league. It really does.

WB: How has the league changed during your four years?

AS: Everything has changed. I’ve looked at the league, and the talent has continued to rise. This is supposed to be one of the best classes coming out this year from college. I’m excited about that, because we have the second pick. Everything has grown.

The WNBA has surprised a lot of people. I’m happy to know that we are becoming a household name. The crowds and the family atmosphere that we have going on with the WNBA — that’s the thing we wanted to create. That’s the thing that they talked about the first year.

We want to create a family atmosphere, not just the business part like the NBA. There’s a lot of business side to basketball. We want to be the family side. We want the men to come out and see us too. We want the fathers to bring the daughters and the sons, so they can enjoy the game. The (fans) can talk to us. We’re not so snobbish to where they can’t talk to us and see us and get our autographs. We want to be with the fans. And the fans have really enjoyed it.

It’s been something that — especially the women — that we can call our own. They love coming and wearing the jerseys and screaming. I just enjoy it everywhere we go. They don’t boo people. If you make a good move, they’re going to let you know it’s a good move. Even if you’re not on their team.

We’re continuing to grow. You know, a lot of people have an issue with the money, of course. I don’t have an issue with it. I think we’re playing four months. And you’re going to get what you’re going to get for four months. If it was eight months, okay. You would cry and beg or whatever. But a lot of people don’t go overseas, so it’s an issue for them.

WB: Did you watch any of the WNBA playoffs?

AS: Oh, yeah, I watched the games. I watched some of the games. I was mostly doing appearances, though, on the road. As soon as the season was over I was doing sponsor appearances. But, yeah, I watched some of the playoffs. Especially that Cleveland-NY series. (Laughs) It was an amazing series.

WB: What did you think of the battles between Cleveland rookie Ann Wauters and the Liberty veteran Sue Wicks?

AS: It just showed that the league is growing. You don’t just have Spoon (Teresa Weatherspoon) against “whoever.” You have all these younger players playing against each other. And they’re playing against the older (players) too. They’re learning and teaching at the same time.

WB: Would you like to be chosen as part of the USA National team?

AS: (Laughing) I wish they would. I sit back waiting. This USA thing is something a lot of people are sitting back and waiting on. And I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not. And you just keep on playing, and you can’t worry about it. I can’t worry about it. I’ve got a WNBA career and I’m happy with it. I’m happy with my career and what I’m doing.

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