Originally Published: October 2011
Hometown: McKeesport, Pa.
College: University of Connecticut
Born: Sept. 22, 1979
Team: Seattle Storm
• 2-time NCAA National Champion
• 2002 NCAA Women’s Basketball
Tournament Most Outstanding
• 3-time WNBA Champion
• 6-time WNBA All-Star
• 2-time WNBA All-Star Game MVP
• U.S. Women’s Basketball Team
Olympic Gold Medalist
“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life…” – Psalm 23:1-3
I grew up in McKeesport, Pa., which is a town of about 24,000 right outside of Pittsburgh. It was a quiet place for my mom and stepdad to raise our family, which consisted of me, my two younger siblings and my older cousin, who became my older brother after my parents adopted him.
As a kid, I participated in all kinds of activities. I played sports, danced, played musical instruments and was a cheerleader, but my greatest love was basketball. I was always tagging along with my boy cousins to play, which didn’t necessarily make me tougher or better, but it definitely made me like sports more than my Barbies.
Growing up, my family went to church every Sunday. From that, I knew about the Lord and had a foundation of faith, but in my mind it was just a part of our family routine. I never really asked questions or investigated it for myself, so I wouldn’t say I had my own walk with God.
Once I got to high school, though, that all changed. My basketball coach, Gerald Grayson, was a man who truly cared more about our team’s spiritual development than about the wins and losses. He was adamant that we get to know God for ourselves and understand how doing so would change our lives. Through his encouragement, I started seeking God and spending time with Him on a personal level.
At the same time, our basketball team was really good, and I was playing well—so well that people started to notice. The expectations on me eventually got to be so high that I had to be careful not to get caught up in it all. Thankfully, Coach Grayson was there to remind me that my relationship with God was more important than basketball.
After high school, God continued to bless me with mentors—teammates and fellow believers—who helped shepherd me. Through college and now into my pro career, these brothers and sisters in Christ have taught me many lessons, including the important truth that my walk with Christ is my own and that I should never compare it to anyone else’s.
Mutual faith in Christ has also brought me closer to other women in the WNBA such as Ruth Riley of the San Antonio Silver Stars. We played for rival schools in college (she at Notre Dame and I at UConn), and we didn’t know each other personally or particularly care for each other’s teams. But while playing together for the Detroit Shock, we formed a special bond and have become true sisters in Christ. I have been so blessed by our mutual encouragement, and thankfully, through Christ, I’ve been able to develop several relationships like these over the years, which have proven invaluable.
Whenever I can, I try to embrace the opportunity to share my faith with teammates who aren’t believers. As they go through life’s challenges, I tell them about the assurance and peace that Christ gives me, and I let them know I’m praying for them and am there for them. To me, that’s our responsibility as Christians: to love and care for others and to help them accept Christ’s love and invitation to relationship for themselves. Beyond the locker room, I also see the platform I’ve been given as a professional athlete. It’s a responsibility I have, and I take it very seriously.
As Christians, our faith is constantly being tested. There will always be trials that come along, but we need to try and see them as opportunities to strengthen our faith— obstacles that can become pieces of our testimonies as God’s disciples.
My story—and really my purpose—in sports is still being written. Whenever I need encouragement in my faith, I look back to a lesson my mom taught me while I was in high school after our team had lost the state championship. I was so devastated that I couldn’t go to school for days, and I didn’t want to do anything. But my mom reminded me in that moment that God had a bigger plan for me and that all I had to do was trust in Him. That vital truth stayed with me, and now, years later, I can see that His plan for me has been far greater than I ever could have imagined.
Thankfully, it’s still not finished. There is still so much more that I want to give to this world, and, through His grace, I know He will use me for His glory to achieve those purposes. My role is simply to focus on becoming a better woman, daughter, friend and leader and let Him take care of the rest.
Photos courtesy of the Seattle Storm