Selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics Stefanie Dolson is a bona fide winner. Dolson helped lead the UConn Huskies to four straight Final Four appearances and consecutive national championships in her junior and senior seasons.
While jovial off the court the Connecticut graduate is all business when the whistle blows. The 6-foot-5 center's high basketball IQ and well-rounded skillset makes her dangerous on the court.
While playing limited minutes for the Mystics (18 mpg) Dolson shoots a stellar 50% from the floor. Unusual for a post player, she's also a good free-throw shooter with an 87% average from the line.
The 2014 WBCA Division I Defensive Player of the Year is ninth best in the WNBA in blocks averaging one per contest and fourth overall in the league in blocks per 40 minutes.
Dolson does it on both ends of the floor and is the unequivocal future of Washington Mystics basketball.
Dolson chatted with Swish Appeal about her transition from college to the pros, her recent encounter with President Barack Obama, and the Mystics mindset heading into the playoffs.
Swish Appeal: How do you feel your rookie season is going?
Stefanie Dolson: It's going well. It was tough coming from college to the WNBA. I've been playing hard - as hard as I can. I've been listening to what Coach Thibault's telling me and the girls have done a great job of helping me get acclimated.
SA: How does having Bria Hartley here help you with your transition?
SD: It helps a lot having that other person who we know kinda how each other plays. We know when each other is up and down, whether we're playing well or not playing well. It gives that added comfort of knowing I have someone there that I can talk to if I'm lonely or bored or something. I always have that one person that I know I can go to. It makes it a little bit easier.
SA: Coming from UConn and being a starter was it difficult for you to come off the bench in Washington?
SD: No, not at all. I've always been someone who plays whatever role I need to. Whether it's coming off the bench of being a starter, I'm a team player. That's what Coach Thibault wants from me is coming off the bench. Obviously we have great posts on this team so I don't have any problem coming in after Kia. It's kind of nice to watch the game happen first, see what she does, and go in after.
SA: How did you feel on draft night when your name was called?
SD: Great. It's always a dream of a player to be drafted in the WNBA. That's why you play and you work so hard to get to that point. To get drafted number six is something that I'll never forget. I know that my family is very happy and proud. I'm just very glad it happened.
SA: What are the differences between Coach Geno Auriemma and Coach Mike Thibault?
SD: No difference really. There is a little difference but nothing crazy. They both have the same outlook on the game. Their intensity is pretty much the same. They both emphasize the little things we do and how hard they want us to work. It wasn't a very hard transition going from coach to coach.
SA: Have any of the vets taken you under their wing?
SD: Yes. They all have, specifically Kalana and Mo Currie. The two of them have really helped Bri and I get used to the way things go, what we have to do to help this team, and how hard to work. Overall they all have helped throughout the whole process -- Kia, Ivory, and Kara especially.
SA: What's been the toughest part of the pro game for you to pick up?
SD: The slowing down. Although the game is faster it's about slowing down. In the half court if someone is hot that night you get ‘em the ball and if they can beat their player one-on-one you let ‘em do it, whereas in Connecticut there wasn't a lot of one-on-one. It was either a ball screen or run whatever play. Here I had to learn to slow down and take a second to watch what develops and if someone has a good one-on-one just let them go, because everyone on this team and in the league is capable of going one-on-one. That's definitely the biggest transition I've had.
SA: Who's been the toughest person for you to guard?
SD: Sylvia Fowles. She's a veteran. She's been in the league for a while so she knows how things go. She's huge, she's strong, she's quick, she finishes well, and rebounds hard. The last time we played them was the first time I ever played her and it was tough. As a rookie going against her was hard.
SA: What was it like to play in the triple-overtime game against the Sparks back in June?
SD: It was exciting. I had never been in a three overtime game. For me it was tiring. My body was tired. I was mentally exhausted by the end of it, but happy to come out of it with a win. It was hard. Coach Thibault left the young players in and it was cool to know that we battled against a vet team in the Sparks and we came out with the win. It gave us a lot of confidence that we can play against them and play against a lot of the girls in the league.
SA: How'd the purple hair come about?
SD: I left Connecticut and got to do what I want. I actually saw a girl with purple hair on Pinterest and I was like, "I want that." It's not much you can do to change other than tattoos or something, which I've gotten a few. So visually it was my hair.
SA: What was your experience on Jimmy Fallon's show like?
SD: Awesome. I mean, not a lot of people get that experience.
UConn's trip to the White House
On Monday, June 9, 2014, the Connecticut Huskies men's and women's basketball teams visited the White House in Washington, D.C. after winning both NCAA Division I basketball championships for the 2013-2014 season.
SA: What made you call him out that night?
SD: I give it to Kaleena [Mosqueda-Lewis]. The year before when we won I called out Ellen because we were in her hometown. I said it earlier that I would call him out but I didn't think about it. At the time I wasn't going to do it but Kaleena was in my ear going, "Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Fallon!" So I was like, "Oh yeah, Jimmy Fallon hit me up." It kind of came out of nowhere. I gave her a lot of credit and if they had allowed me to bring someone it would have been her but they didn't. It was just a fun experience to meet him. He's an amazing guy. He's so funny, even off camera. He's a bit hyper like, "Let's go!" but the whole show was fun.
SA: What happened with the incident at the White House when you had a little "misstep"?
SD: Things happen. There wasn't as much room as I thought. I took a step back and the podium thing was not there anymore. Not where I remembered it being so I just fell. Thankfully I caught myself. I would have literally died. Oh my God, I would have been so embarrassed.
SA: What the President like?
SD: [Laughs] He's cool. I mean he's a nice guy, obviously. He's very nice. He was respectful and appreciative of us coming there and meeting us. The men's team being there too was awesome. You can tell how much he loves sports. He's very welcoming. Even the fact that he came to help me when I fell was very nice.
SA: How does the team feel going into the playoffs?
SD: We feel great. We've gotten a lot better since the beginning of the year. This season we've come to know how each other plays so we're a bit more cohesive on offense. Defensively, I think we have one of the best defenses in the league. We're just going to go into the playoffs and play hard, make the smarter plays than others teams, execute what Coach Thibault draws up for us and what his game plan is for each game. We know if we execute what he has us do that we will win ‘cause we know we can. We're going into it with a lot of confidence and I think we're all excited for the playoffs to start.