Carey on! Jamie's Q&A from rookie season with WNBA finalist Connecticut Sun
Former Texas sensational guard Jamie Carey returned to the UT campus this week to continue her graduate studies, and caught up with TexasSports.com to talk about her exciting summer as a rookie with the WNBA Connecticut Sun, runnerup for the WNBA crown for the second year in a row.
It was a whirlwind summer for Carey, who was drafted in the April WNBA third-round by the Phoenix Mercury, then cut in training camp, then immediately signed by the Connecticut Sun as a free agent. Carey had an incredible training camp with the Sun and made the 11-player roster. During that time, she also garnered another prestigious award as she was named the State of Texas' NCAA "Woman of the Year", selected from all female senior athletes across the state from all NCAA-sponsored sports in all divisions.
Carey got valuable minutes for the Sun, which finished 26-8 in regular season action and clinched the Eastern Conference Championship for the second straight year. In the playoffs, the Sun beat the Detroit Shock and Indiana Fever (2-0 in each series) to advance to the WNBA Finals for the second year in a row. There, the Sun fell to the Sacramento Monarchs, 3 games to 1, in the finals.
Jamie averaged 11.8 minutes per game in the playoffs, and ended the year shooting 37 percent from the field (including a 4-13 effort from 3-point range). Her best game came against Sacramento in the Finals on Sept. 15 when she logged 21 minutes and had a career-best four assists in a thrilling 77-70 overtime win - the Sun's lone victory in the finals.
Jamie catches us up below on WNBA life, her fall studies, and on her future plans of playing more basketball this winter.
Q: First of all, congratulations, Jamie, on a fantastic first season with the Connecticut Sun ... We know many of the Texas fans followed you and the Sun throughout the summer and into the Finals... Talk about the team highlights and personal highlights of your first WNBA season.
JC: "First of all, it is always so great to return back home to Austin! I missed Austin greatly and am very happy to be back! I want to thank everyone for their support...I felt it all the way out in Connecticut!
Our team highlights were winning the Eastern Conference Championship for the second straight season while obtaining the best regular-season record ever posted in the WNBA, and making it to the Finals for the second straight season.
Individually, the highlights were being a member of the Sun organization, learning from some of the best players and coaches in the country, and playing in the WNBA Finals."
Q: You got lots of minutes down the stretch of the season... What was it like playing a back-up role, and what did you learn from playing with the likes of All-Star point guard Lindsay Whalen?
JC: "Playing against Lindsay every day in practice was a great learning experience. She is a special point guard, different from most others. Lindsay already knew the system from the previous year, so it was always beneficial playing and conversing with her on a daily basis. She is a tremendous person and player."
Q: Sun head coach Mike Thibault and his staff have done a great job of molding a WNBA championship-contender... What was it like playing for him, and what did he help you with most?
JC: "Coach "T" is one of the most intelligent masterminds of the game of basketball I have ever encountered. He sees the game in a different light and conveys his thoughts in manners I had never experienced before. He is an incredible man and one I learned so much from."
Q: The WNBA Playoffs are obviously a big deal and not to be taken lightly, but is it still possible to have fun and enjoy yourselves out there?
JC: "Any time I am on the basketball court, I enjoy it and have fun. Our team felt the same way and always had a blast being on the court together every single day."
Q: Is there one skill or trait that one of your teammates has that you wish you could steal or adopt?
JC: "I am constantly looking to improve on many aspects. Every one of my teammates brings different things to the table and I can learn from all of them."
Q: OK, let's switch gears to your opponents ... Who were the most impressive players you went up against this year, and why?
JC: "(Indiana Fever forward) Tamika Catchings...her work ethic is uncanny to most....(Detroit Shock guard/forward) Deanna Nolan- her pure athleticism is unmatched in the league....and, I have to include Taj McWilliams-Franklin on our team; she is one of the best post players offensively and defensively."
Q: You spent the summer up Connecticut where people have a huge passion and knowledge of basketball... Is that what you found at the Sun games? In the community?
JC: "Yes. The fans and community support for the Connecticut sun were very loyal and spirited. The home atmosphere at the Mohegan Sun was great with such an intimate setting!"
Q: Talk about living in Connecticut and making that adjustment from life in Texas to life in New England... What did you like the most about being there?
JC: "Life in Connecticut was very different from my city life here in Austin! The part of Connecticut where I lived and where the Sun are is very rural. At first, I thought that there was nothing there but huge trees! Then, I learned that there were things there, you just had to find them amongst the trees! The area was beautiful, with lots of water (lakes and the Atlantic Ocean), which I loved."
Q: What were your arrangements in terms of short-term housing and a car? How does the WNBA handle that for the players? ....
JC: "We were all given our own apartments in Groton, Connecticut. They were very nice and fully-equipped with everything we could ever possibly need. The only thing missing, however - was my puppy Hope - I had to leave her with my parents in Colorado at the start of training camp, but my parents took GREAT care of her :) !! As far as the car situation goes, there is one rental car assigned to every two players on the team. I shared my car with Laura Summerton, my beloved Australian buddy!"
Q: The WNBA season is so short (three months), and there are such quick turnarounds between games. What was the travel like? How much down time did you have on the road, if any?
JC: "Well, the travel WAS plentiful! I managed to rack up quite a few frequent flier miles! There were days we would play in one city in the evening and another city the very next night. So, we would play at night and have to take the earliest flight out the next morning to play the following evening. Those days were very tiresome. There was one stretch during our season where we played eight games in 12 days. The schedule and travel can be somewhat intense at times. It is fair to say that I am trying to stay away from airports for a while!
As far as down time goes, travel for the WNBA is far different than travel with collegiate teams. We typically did not have Sun team meals together, so we would actually have quite a bit of time to ourselves on the road, which I loved. It was always fun to stroll around the various cities and find random coffee shops or see some of the sights."
Q: Community service and outreach are really important ventures for WNBA players, and community service and volunteerism has always been very important to you... What types of community service activities did you do with the Sun this year?
JC: "I really enjoyed the community out-reach and interaction aspect of the WNBA. We participated in several "read to achieve" events with kids in various schools. We would go to the schools and speak to the kids about the importance of reading. We even read to the kids sometimes. We also participated in "be smart, be fit" activities with kids, stressing the importance of staying active."
Q: And, when you did have down time, on the road and at "home" in Connecticut, what did you do? In your WNBA diaries, you talked about making some travels around New England... Tell us about that.
JC: "For my down time the first part of the summer, I read for enjoyment. I think I ended up reading 10-12 books. It was GREAT! I actually took the time to sleep some too, which is unusual for me. Honestly though, I spent a great deal of time in the gym...shooting more than I probably ever have...and loving every minute of it!
I also spent a great deal of time writing on my own, something I love to do! I was able to travel around a little bit. I went to Newport, Rhode Island; to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts; to Mark Twain's House in Hartford. I also spent some time in Brooklyn, New York and at various Rhode Island beaches. All of my experiences were fun!"
Q: You had a very quick turnaround from WNBA life to graduate school here at UT, returning back to school last week right after the Finals ended ... But, UT classes started almost a month ago. How have you handled the start of fall semester while playing in the WNBA?
JC: "It has NOT been easy, to be very honest. I have kept up with the readings from afar, but it has been difficult thus far because I do not like to miss lectures. But I will try to get all caught up in the next few weeks! My professors have been great in helping me through the situation, which I greatly appreciate!"
Q: How many more classes do you have remaining to complete your master's work in sport management? After you finish your degree, what do you plan to do?
JC: "I have four classes left to finish, with an internship and a comprehensive exam to complete. Almost done...yay!!! I am taking three of the four classes this fall. Then, I am heading to Colorado in January to play for the Colorado Chill in the National Women's Basketball League (NWBL). This will be fantastic, as Colorado is my home and I will get to spend time with my mom and dad...which i am so excited about!
So, I plan to play basketball as long as my body and mind allow me to do so. Then after that...who knows...there are so many things I want to do... I am still holding onto that dream of opening my own coffee shop in Austin!"
Q: Let's talk about those upcoming plans to return to your home state and play hoops for the Colorado Chill. How did that all come about?
JC: "Coach Kelly Packard contacted me back in May about potentially being a part of her organization, and I accepted the offer this past August. I am excited about the opportunity - although, to be honest, not so excited about the cold snow that awaits! I don't even own a winter coat any longer...and my puppy Hope is going to freeze too, after growing up in Austin!"
Q: What are the most important lessons learned from your rookie season, and how will you use them to elevate your game with the Chill and then, next year in the WNBA?
JC: "One of the most important things reiterated to me this summer is the importance of treating people well. The Connecticut Sun franchise truly is comprised of champions from the players all the way up to our GM. It was a fantastic experience! Furthermore, I am continually reminded of the importance of happiness and following your heart...Who would have ever thought a little 5'5 point guard from Thornton, Colorado would have been playing in the WNBA Finals?
I want everyone to keep dreaming...for dreams do come true!!!!! What would we be without our dreams?"
Q: Thanks for the time, Jamie... Great to have you back on campus and congratulations again for your NCAA Woman of the Year honor and for your success in the WNBA!
JC: "Thank you. I look forward to seeing everyone at the games this fall...And as always, deeply engrained in my heart...I say HOOK 'EM!!!!"