"Are you ready for us yet?"
The gaggle of women dressed in Shock Gold entered the practice gym at the Reynolds Center on the University of Tulsa campus. All were ready to speak to the media in preparation of the inaugural season of Tulsa Shock basketball.
And talk they did.
Each media team had a different approach on the day and for Swish the goal was to introduce these women to the city, show their already evident team chemistry and get some quick and candid thoughts on their teammates, coach and new city.
The overwhelming answer to the "What did you know about Tulsa before arriving" question was NOTHING. To which I was mildly surprised. But also mildly excited by the prospect that this team can change those perceptions across the league and country with their solid play, akin to the Oklahoma City Thunder putting the capital city on the map in a positive and distinct way. My favorite responses were Shavonte Zellous', "nothing but cows and corn and everything else that's here", Kara Braxton's, "the Bible Belt" and Shanna Crossley's, "there's a bunch of oil rigs". If these are the thoughts the rest of the nation has about the city, then there should be no problems proving that Tulsa is so much more.
There were a few questions that basically had consensus picks. "First to the gym" was won handily by the rookies, primarily Amanda Thompson, with a few nods to Vivian Friesen. "Sweetest shot" was overwhelmingly won by Crossley, also known as "Layup". Plenette Pierson and Alexis Hornbuckle were tabbed as the obvious "Team Leaders", with one wise answer of Coach Nolan Richardson being uttered by Braxton.
Head Coach Nolan Richardson:
When asked about the differences between Coach Richardson's style as compared to other coaches the players and staff had been around the answers told a tale of hard work in a fast-paced environment. Just about what you might expect to hear. Richarson himself chuckled and said, "we work. Real hard," when talking about his style. Olayinka Sanni said she's "never seen anything like this", assistant coach Tammy Bagby's analysis of Richardson is smart, passionate and hands on. Christi Thomas and others talked about the briefness of the practices, with many calling them intense, to the point and fast.
Two that have yet to attend practice are draft day acquisitions Chante Black and Amber Holt, who just arrived to join the team and get in on the action of media day. While these two haven't seen the court, they are both excited to get started in the Shock system after playing together for the Connecticut Sun prior to the trade.
Veteran team leader Plenette Pierson:
Pierson was not only tabbed as one of the leaders, but also as one of the funniest women on the squad. The laughter must be often and plentiful - and could be seen as groups of ladies joked around while getting photographed. Open tryout survivor Juanita Ward and free agent training camp invitee Natasha Lacy were mentioned along with Pierson, Hornbuckle, Braxton, Sanni, Zealous, Thompson for the honor of funny woman.
Many ladies received votes for "most impressive" and "most underrated" from their fellow teammates, showing the potential of just how dangerous and talented this squad could become over the course of the WNBA season. Even the three coaches came up with different picks for their underrated, impressive and potential breakout player of the season. Assistant coach Wayne Stehlik says "there is a chance for many to flourish in our system" and from the talk of the team, this is already beginning.
Tabbed as the best defender was Scholanda Robinson - by more than a handful - but Hornbuckle, Lacy and Pierson also got mentions from their teammates. Coach Richardson, known for his defensive style said, "none of them can defend. Not yet," before revising is answer to throw credit to Robinson's aggressive, lock-down style on the court.
Rookie Marion Jones:
The rookie transition for Marion Jones has been what she has called a humbling experience, as she is not exempt from the rookie treatment that all the first-year players laughed about. Washing cars, being the first to be taped and the last to shower along with just wearing the name rookie for the season were all mentioned as part of their transition to the league. And for Ward, her rookie experience is a bit different, still just "one day hoping your name gets called" while waiting "on pins and needles" for the roster reductions to take place.
But until that time, this bunch is already forming tight-knit bonds that could be seen throughout the day as laughter and camaraderie and a spirit of team was evident throughout.
So to answer that first question that pierced the gym, yes ladies we are indeed ready for you.
The Tulsa Shock are first in action on Sunday, May 9th in a 1:00 p.m. preseason game against the Seattle Storm.
To view all of the videos from each and every player and coach who was at Tulsa Shock media day, please visit our facebook page. This page will be utilized throughout the WNBA season as a home for featured videos and photos that you might not otherwise see in their entirety on Swish Appeal. So click that fan button and hop on for the ride!