Wicks is the right kind of All-Star – 7/11/00

For many sports writers covering the WNBA, the words “Sue Wicks” and “All-Star starter” may seem an oxymoron. Some groaned at the possibility that the New York Liberty forward might be chosen over Cleveland’s Eva Nemcova or Washington’s Vicky Bullett. When Sportsline.com’s Clay Kallam saw Wicks was leading in early fan balloting, he wrote that he could only hope “that cooler heads prevail.”

But what some forget is that All-Star games are not about “cool heads” but about fans’ hearts.

Like any other professional league, the WNBA’s All-Star game is a chance for fans to honor players they respect and admire. That often results in the selection of a player with great name recognition or great stats. Sometimes the choice combines both.

But sometimes – just sometimes – something else enters the mix. And in the case of Wicks, she has a “something” that has resonated with her fans.

Personally, I think it’s the kneepads.

Teresa Weatherspoon calls her “Our Warrior.”

“I’m not surprised,” T-Spoon said of Wicks’ selection. “Sue’s a great ball player. You tell me who works as hard. Anywhere else in the Eastern Conference, you tell me who works as hard, No one. No one works harder than Sue Wicks. And I’m not surprised at all. I’m proud of it. I’m very happy for her. And the people are voting her in. They’re watching her. So, who can complain?”

Fans call her SUUUEEEEEEE!

If All-Star teams are made up of Ferraris and Lexuses, then by voting for Sue Wicks the fans have invited a Chevy pick-up to the game. Tough, reliable, and not a lot of flash.

Sue would be the first to acknowledge she’s no superstar. Talking Saturday about her All-Star selection, she said, “I can name three or four Liberty players who are a better players than I am.” She laughs, anticipating her All-Star selection will ruin her “underdog” image. She envisions a post-All-Star game encounter with fans, pointing a finger at an imaginary Sue. “She didn’t score any points,” she thinks they’ll say. “OVER RATED!”

Over rated, only if evaluated by numbers and statistics. To appreciate Wicks as a player, you simply need to watch her in action. NBC analyst Ann Myers called Wicks the “ultimate hard worker” because she does those little things that don’t show up in a box score. For instance, after Saturday’s game against the Miami Sol, teammates Vickie Johnson and Tamika Whitmore were deservedly named players of the game. But Miami Coach Ron Rothstein credited Wicks with the big play of the game, a scrambling rebound and feed that lead to a Vickie Johnson 3-pointer. “That,” said Rothstein, “was a back breaker.”

And for Wicks, almost a knee-breaker. Despite the famous kneepads, she sat in the locker room after the game swollen and bruised, a vivid testament to her efforts on the court.

Wicks the player

Teammate Crystal Robinson likened Wicks to an oversized Debbie Black (Miami’s point guard). Rebecca Lobo once called her a one-person press. “I love watching her play,” said Lobo. “Whether it’s tipped balls that don’t count as rebounds, or diving on the floor, or playing incredible help defense, she brings incredible energy to this team.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Tari Phillips, the newest Liberty player. “She’s a constant force out there. It’s a privilege to play with her. She has a certain flavor out there on the court. It’s hers. It’s undeniably her. She brings a flair out there on the court. She works hard. She’s a hard worker. And I respect that. I respect that to the utmost.”

And so do the fans. It’s as if every time Wicks pushes herself beyond her limits, they think, “I can do that. I can try harder, be extraordinary, through simple desire and force of will.”

There is no “I” in “team” or “SUEEEEEE”

For Wicks, the team is everything. During the current season of upheaval and change, Sue has started and come off the bench. She’s played 30 plus minutes and she’s played 15. Whatever her role, she’s not complained.

“I just want to be part of this team,” she explained. “I’d rather be sitting on the bench for the New York Liberty than playing for another team. I just feel very good in New York. I feel very good to be part of this team. And, I guess as an original part of it, I feel my personality is a little bit in this team. I couldn’t play for another team. Whatever role I would play on this team, I would be happy to do my best, to be my best in that role.”

The simple fact is that Sue Wicks flat out loves being part of the New York Liberty and playing in Madison Square Garden. And the fans see it every time she steps out on the court, every time she takes the time to sign an autograph or shake a hand. Fans not only respect the intensity with which Sue plays, but how she handles herself as a player.

Wicks may chose to make this her last season with the Liberty. If that’s true, then perhaps she will consider her 48,030 votes as the fans’ personal invitation to bask in the Phoenix All-Star sun.

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