Amanda Lassiter – Houston Comets
As the Houston Comets 2001 first round draft pick, Amanda Lassiter knew she was joining a team with a tradition of winning. Though she felt some pressure to keep the “tradition” going, Lassiter took comfort knowing she would back up Sheryl Swoopes. “I thought I was going to go in and get my feet wet,” she says. “Take my time to get to know the system.”
But before the season started Swoopes was lost to a torn ACL and suddenly Lassiter was forced to jump right in.
“So many people were calling me,” recalls Lassiter, “asking ‘what are you going to do now that Sheryl’s down and you know you’re going to be the one that has to step up.'” Lassiter admits there were some anxious nights, but says, “I knew I just had to come in and be ready to go because they were counting on me to make a big impact.”
And she did just that, with, she’s quick to point out, an enormous amount of support from the injured Swoopes. “During games I’d come off court and sit right by her,” says Lassiter. “She’d show me little things to look for when I returned – the keys to the position.”
Lassiter finished the regular season averaging 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds a game, but points to the playoffs, where she averaged 27 minutes, 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game, as a true measure of her growth. The do-or-die second playoff game against the Los Angeles Sparks has become a professional milestone, despite the Comets’ loss. “In a situation where most people would expect a rookie to buckle under the pressure, I ended up being a top scorer.”
One of the hardest lessons she’s learned as a player is admitting when she’s tired. If tries to fight through it, her shot falls short and she’s at her least effective. “That’s when I have to step up and say, ‘I need a breather,’ because I’m not helping the team. It took me a long time to realize it’s not saying that I’m weak, it’s saying that I was working hard for a long period and I need a breather.”
Back at Missouri University completing her degree, Lassiter has also discovered her WNBA experience has given her a new perspective on her college coach, Cindy Stein. Watching the current Missouri team, Lassiter reluctantly reveals, “Now I know what coach Stein was talking about all the times she was trying to get me to do stuff. I’m on the sidelines and I see the little mistakes. It’s really crazy,” laughs Lassiter. “I never thought I’d be agreeing with the coach. Never.”