Vicky Bullett Q & A – Washington Mystics

35-year-old center Vicky Bullett has played a LOT of basketball. After wining an Olympic gold medal in 1988, Bullett graduated from Maryland in 1989 and continued playing in Italy and Brazil. In 1997 she was an inaugural member of the Charlotte Sting. Traded to the Washington Mystics in 2000, the Martinsburg, West Virginia native is one of three players to start every single WNBA game.

WB: How has the league progressed over six years?

VB: The League has changed a lot – I see it slowing down as well. Certain teams are struggling with fans, but the league is growing. Teams are getting better. They only thing is, for a lot of NCAA players, it takes them a year to get used league. But, the league has given the young ladies an opportunity not just to make money, but finish school in the States. A lot of girls [before the league] left school because they were offered a great deal off money. Just like if you were a high school NBA player, you wouldn’t go to college, you’d go straight to the NBA. Now these young ladies get to go to the WNBA and they’re able to go to their graduation and finish school. That’s the first thing they’ve got to look at – getting that degree. ‘Cause basketball is not going to be there forever.

WB: You’re playing along some young post players, like Asjha Jones –

VB: I don’t consider — she’s young by age, but with her experience – she’s a GOOD player. I wish I had the moves – I think I did, but I don’t remember. (Laughs) She reminds me of myself at her age. Just wanting to do well. She’s got great work habits. She’s willing to listen. She is every coach’s dream. She’s already good, and she’s going to be a great one. There is NOTHING you can’t teach Asjha. [You just need to] teach her the teeny tricks, like grabbing shirts and hooking up. (Laughs) I’m really impressed with her ability. She’s not intimidated by anyone.

WB: The Mystics have gone endured a lot of turmoil at the head coach position – what’s changed under new coach Marianne Stanley?

VB: Everybody’s positive. The atmosphere is so clear. I mean, last year I barely slept. It was just so stressful to play with individuals. I was like, “Coach, I need to play with a team or I’m not going to make it. I’m going to crack.” Losing passion for the game – when you lose passion for the game, you have to leave. And that’s how I was feeling. Coach Stanley said, “Vicky it’s going to be different this season.” And it’s true. I mean I’ve slept since I’ve been here. (Laughs) I still have just as much passion for this game as I did yesterday and the day before. Coach Stanley knows her personnel – she knows what she has and what she needs to make this team function. The plays we need to do that complement the players. She has us doing a lot of good things, and that’s good for our team.

WB: What needs to happen for you to say 2002 has been a successful season?

VB: If we grow as a team. You know, some teams start out 0-5, and they end up having a winning season. That shows their level of play went up and their players were getting better. Teams are supposed to progress as the season goes on. I don’t want to start out good, and then drop, like some teams. For this team, because it’s young, we need to always stay consistent and go up.

WB: You call yourself “self-motivated….”

VB: Oh yeah, if you’re not self-motivated, you need to stay home. (Laughs)

WB: What do you do to self- motivate?

VB: Once I get on the court, I’m ready to practice. I know for two hours, I’m going to give 100%. I’m not the kind of person who, after practice, I’m going to shoot around. I don’t need to, because for those two hours I did everything I set my mind to do. A lot of people say, “Oh, the best players are the ones who come in first and leave last.” For me, that’s not always true. For me, the best players are the one who don’t save themselves to do extra. After two hours, you should be dead tired and it’s time to go home.

WEB VERSION

35-year-old center Vicky Bullett has played a LOT of basketball. After wining an Olympic gold medal in 1988, Bullett graduated from Maryland in 1989 and continued playing in Italy and Brazil. In 1997 she was an inaugural member of the Charlotte Sting. Traded to the Washington Mystics in 2000, the Martinsburg, West Virginia native is one of three players to start every single WNBA game.

WB: Are you concerned about a possible strike?

VB: Not really. Know why? I’ve already been through it for six years. I think the younger player may be concerned about that, but as many stories as they’ve heard about overseas, and the fact that they’ll be gone for 8 months, I can’t see young people going overseas to play basketball. The strike could be next year. Whether or not, I know within a year or two my career is going to be ending, and I’m really grateful I had a chance to do it. But these young people, I’m not sure if they’re going to go overseas for 8 months to play.

WB: Why?

VB: They can’t adjust. There’s no way. I’ve talked to so many people and they couldn’t adjust. We’re so spoiled – we’re so spoiled here. The fact that we have practice gear – for example – and we leave it there and somebody washes our practice gear. Overseas you’re not going to have that. You’re not going to have a training table – or meal money. It’s different, you’re on your own. And then there’s the language barrier. It’s a transition – and they don’t have to do it. If you go overseas, I don’t know if it’s because you want to play, but at that point, you want to play, but it is FOR the money. Going overseas, you won’t get to see much. You’ll be traveling, playing basketball. You won’t have time. I don’t know if the young players will adjust to that as quick as we did years ago.

WB: Is that because women college players are treated differently now than they were?

VB: Well, I don’t know – I don’t know if the college players are coming out of college with big heads because they know they’re going to the WNBA – I’m not sure. It’s kind of hard to pin point. As soon as I finished college, I knew I was going overseas to play basketball because I was still in love with the game. If there was the opportunity to keep playing, I was going to go.

Plus, overseas coaches are not going to take a kid fresh out of college – you’d have to be exceptional. You really would. They will look for a player my age. When I got over there (this season) other people wondered “Why in the world are you getting someone 35 years old?” And Jennifer Gillom, who’s 38, played with me. And then they get there, they’d go, “Oh, okay, I see.” They won’t seek these younger players. The language barrier, the way they were brought up, they’re spoiled, they won’t be able to practice twice a day for 8 months. There’s no way.

WB: How has the post position evolved since you began?

VB: It’s improved SO much. The thing I would like to see more post players coming out of college do is be able to shoot the three and penetrate from the high post. They have to be a complete player even though they’re 6’2″. Coaches get those kids in college and they’re on that block and they have their back to the basket. That’s good, but they need to teach them to be versatile as well. In the WNBA, you learn how to shoot the three because (the opposing team) is just going to pack the lane and wait for you to pass.

Jennifer Gillom (Phoenix Mercury center) is a prime example. When Jennifer was in college, I guarantee you that she probably never shot a three, probably never penetrated much from the high post. But she went overseas and she did all that to score. And now, it’s so hard to defend Jennifer Gillom because she plays like a guard, she thinks like a guard, but yet, she remembers everything as a post player. If I was a coach in college, I would teach post players to be a guard. To work fronting the basket, to shoot threes. I think that’s the weakness of college players coming into the WNBA. If you’re versatile and you have good mobility, you should be able to do those things.

WB: Sounds like you want to coach.

VB: Oh, I’d love to coach, but I’d never coach at a level higher than high school. I’d like to teach the fundamentals. I get so mad to see kids shoot incorrectly. If I teach, I’m going to teach the young kids up to high school level, ’cause that’s the period that’s more important for the growth of an athlete.

At that age, they don’t really have a personality – they just want to play and have fun. But yet, with all that playing and fun, they’re learning stuff. A lot of coaches don’t see that. They see an “athlete” and say, “let’s play this – and you get the ball and score.” That’s not how it works. You have to involve ALL these kids. If I ever had a team, all the kids would play and I couldn’t care less WHAT the score was.

These days, you have kids who are on the bench who are great athletes, but the dad’s the coach and his daughter his always playing. I could never do that to my child. I’d say don’t worry about the score, just go out there play, work hard, learn what you’ve been taught and don’t look at the score. It’s not important at that age whether you win or lose.

WB: In 1997 you talked about only “one more year” in Italy, yet you were back again this off season.

VB: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s always like that – one more year, one more year. I wouldn’t go back if I didn’t have the passion. It has nothing to do with the money. Sometimes I think when I don’t want to play anymore it’s because I’m tired and I just need a break. And a few days is a break for me. My old coach over there called because he had a young team and he wanted a player with experience who already spoke the language. I couldn’t say no. Plus, I like Italy because my boyfriend’s Italian, so it’s great to go back. (Laughs)

WB: What’s the basic difference between the American and Italian players?

VB: It’s the teaching. Those Italian coaches should go to high schools in the world and learn the fundamentals. It’s not that they don’t have the talent – they can DEVELOP fundamentals. They don’t shoot correctly – all those little things. The kids there are so behind in playing the sport. Here, we have camps every day, and we have college and high school. They don’t have that opportunity to have that – all year round basketball with good coaches: people who want them to progress and move forward. They just have professional basketball. And with all the foreign players that play, THEY don’t have a chance to play.

WB: How difficult was it to play against your former teammates after your trade in 2000 from Charlotte?

VB: It was really hard the first year, because I love and adore Andrea Stinson. First the ACC, and then overseas — we’ve played together so long. I’d grown so close to her I felt silly guarding her. I got really emotional when I first saw Stint. I was like, “Stint, maaaan.” She knew the reason why I wanted to leave, and she understood. But, you know, time goes… Just the fact that Stinson was a part of that team made it difficult ’cause she’s always been there for me — and we’ve been there for each other.

WB: What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you on the basketball court?

VB: When I got traded to Washington and we were playing Charlotte, we were losing but I thought we were wining because I’m thinking I’m playing for Charlotte. (Laughs) I’m like, “Y’all, we’re up, so keep workin’ hard!” But at the end, I’m like, “Hey WAIT a minute, I’m on WASHINGTON’S team!” I actually looked at my jersey. I had to look at my JERSEY. I was SO confused. (Laughs) It was a close game the whole time, and there was about a minute left and I looked at my jersey and I’m like, “We are LOSING, and I think I’m playing for Charlotte.” (Laughs) I was just lucky I didn’t pass the ball to Stinson.

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