"I Never Made it This Far"
Mystics fans need no reminder that this is the first playoff season in three years in which Washington and its fans are on the outside looking in. But tonight, as the second round of the WNBA playoffs get underway, there are a few alumnae of the Mystics whose teams are still in post-season competition, and the BCs are enjoying watching them play.
In particular, we could not be happier for Nakia Sanford that -- for the first time ever -- she has the opportunity to play in a Conference final playoff series, after her Phoenix Mercury beat the defending champion Seattle Storm in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs on Monday.
Sitting in the locker room that night after the decisive third game, Nakia
buried her face in her jersey, overcome with emotion. Teased by her teammates, Nakia
said, "I never made it this far." (Video here
). For the BCs, who have followed Nakia
for her entire, improbable
, WNBA career, it was also a very emotional moment.
Yes, Nakia's improbable WNBA career. Nakia graduated from the University of Kansas in 1999, having played for the Jayhawks on the team that won the first Big 12 title. But Nakia was not signed by any WNBA team, and she went overseas to play. Several years passed. No WNBA teams came knocking, and it is likely that Nakia thought she would never play professionally in the United States. Fortune, however, smiled. Nakia was playing one off-season on a team in South Korea with Chamique Holdsclaw, where she was spotted by the Mystics' then-Head Coach, Marianne Stanley. (Our recollection, in fact, is that it was actually Mique who told Coach Stanley she needed to come take a look at Nakia.) In April 2003, the Mystics signed Nakia as a free agent.
The rest, as they say, is history. Nakia spent the next 8 seasons with the Mystics, often as a reserve, although she was thrust into a starting role early in the 2007 season when the Mystics suddenly traded away starting Center Chasity Melvin to the Sky (in exchange for Mo Currie).
Nakia was always one of the most fan-friendly players. She has a great sense of humor, does wonderful charity work, and, maybe because of her improbable late arrival to the WNBA, she never seemed to take the fans or the experience of playing in the U-S of A for granted. Nakia may not lead the league in on-court statistics, but if we were ranking players on how they represented the league, their team, and their city . . . Nakia would be right up there at the top of the list.
During the past off-season, when GM/HC Trudi set in motion her "rebuilding with youth" strategy, Nakia was not re-signed by the Mystics. She found a new home in Phoenix (as a reserve). Bench player or not, tonight Nakia gets to do something she's never done . . . play in a Conference championship series.
The BCs could not be happier for her. Go Kia!