"Basketball is basketball" for veteran center Nicole Ohlde.
Ohlde began her career as a headline player and team leader in Minnesota for five years, starting every game of every season. In 2009, she was traded to the Phoenix Mercury just in time to be a part of a WNBA championship season. But her role on the court had diminished significantly, partially due to foot and wrist injuries that kept her out of 13 games of the 2009 season and partially due to the cast of characters already in place in the Phoenix organization. In 2010, Ohlde was averaging just over 11 minutes per game for the Mercury, a far cry from the 25.9 minutes she averaged for the Lynx. And you can't overlook the block production sliding from 45 in her first year in the WNBA to just eight in her time with Phoenix in 2010.
Now, after a late-season trade to the Tulsa Shock, the Nicole Ohlde of old is beginning to emerge.
Two games cannot be considered a trend quite yet, but in these two contests against Seattle and Atlanta Ohlde is averaging 28 minutes, 11 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. In contrast to the 11.1 minutes, 3 points and 1.9 rebounds averaged in 20 games with Phoenix, there is one fact that Tulsa Shock head coach Nolan Richardson points out as a difference maker – she's needed in Tulsa.
"Now she's on a basketball team that needs help, so now instead of being a backup player, she will eventually be a player that's got to produce and add something to our program," Richardson said. From those two short games, it's evident that is part of Ohlde's plan as well.
"You know, when I got traded here I just kind of looked at it as an opportunity to get back to just playing basketball and not thinking about it," Ohlde said. "Obviously, I feel better and, you know, the girls and the system has helped me feel that way. Whenever I have questions they're willing to help so they make it pretty easy. Hopefully, I'll continue to get back to where I was [in Minnesota] and hopefully get some wins.
Richardson has seen this easy transition take place before his eyes, too.
"You could tell from the first day we worked out the offense that we run, she picked it up in 30 seconds because it's basketball and that's what they do in Phoenix," Richardson said. "So it's easy for her to come here and adapt to what we're doing."
Perhaps part of the easy transition goes back to her being back near her hometown and her college campus of Kansas State, both less than a five hour drive from Tulsa.
"It feels good. Obviously I love being in the midwest, just growing up here," Ohlde said, smiling as she talked about seeing K State purple in the stands for her first home game. Being close to her childhood home in her new basketball home seems to be translated into comfort and confidence on the court while playing the game that pulses through her veins.
"We've been playing for a while now and so obviously anywhere you play basketball is just – you just know it, it's in your blood," Ohlde said. But above all else, "basketball is basketball."