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WNBA: Stafford’s Chay Shegog Is Once Again A Student
WASHINGTON – The miles have added up quickly for Chay Shegog, with the lessons learned along the way speaking volumes about life as a professional basketball player.
Tulsa, Minnesota, Washington, Connecticut, Chicago, all in the span of a week – it’s the life of an entertainer, a rock star, even though the accommodations rarely come with as much celebration.
“It’s nice that one of the cities was home,” she said Tuesday.
Shegog, a Brooke Point graduate and four-time Free Lance-Star player of the year, didn’t play in the Connecticut Sun’s 77-70 victory over the Washington Mystics at Verizon Center.
In fact, she hasn’t played much; through 17 games and exactly half the WNBA season, the total stands at nine minutes, all on three nights, as her rookie year slowly – or is that rapidly? – progresses.
“I mean, I’ve had friends who have played in the league and they told me what to expect, but in college, we always flew charter, by yourself,” Shegog said. “Now we fly [commercial] with everybody else, so those 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls to fly to another city? That’s tough. But I’m getting used to it.”
The Sun selected Shegog in the second round of the WNBA Draft in April after four years at North Carolina, and with its 11-player roster seemingly set and leading scorer and rebounder Tina Charles in the middle, Shegog didn’t appear to fit.
She made the team, though, after she showed a willingness to learn during the preseason. It also helped that her slender, 6-foot-5 frame gave head coach Mike Thibault and assistant coach Scott Hawk hope she can develop into a capable WNBA center.
“What I told her the very first day of training camp was to come in, play as hard as you can, don’t worry about anything else except getting better every day, figure it out,” Thibault said. “Then when she made the team, I told her, ‘Look – I don’t know how much you’re ever going to play this year, but you have a future down the road.’”
Charles has played against Shegog since they were 13, when their AAU teams would meet in regional tournaments. After Charles left UConn in 2010 – the Huskies and Tar Heels played an annual non-conference game – she continued to check up on Shegog, reading box scores to see her stats.
“She’s handled herself really well, especially her role,” Charles said. “That’s one of the hardest things for players – not even rookies – just knowing that coming from college, your role is going to change. There’s players that came to the WNBA who are tops in scoring, tops in assists, tops in rebounds for their collegiate team, and now their role is different.
“Now her role is to give us a breather in practice, give us a breather here, help around, do little things and that’s what she’s doing. I think she’s handling herself really well.”
Quiet and unassuming by nature, Shegog initially had reservations about playing for a team located so far from home. She chose to play at North Carolina partly because of its proximity, but upon arriving in Connecticut, she found her coaches and teammates to be welcoming and the fanbase, which understandably overlaps heavily with UConn’s, to be supportive.
“I don’t think she’s too comfortable with me yet, but she’s making progress in the area,” said forward Asjha Jones. “You know, she’s just young. She doesn’t want to step on your toes. She wants to fit in. We’d rather have that than someone who’s obnoxious.”
The WNBA will begin a month-long hiatus this weekend for the London Olympics, with Charles and Jones each away representing the United States. That will leave Shegog as the only post player on the team, and Thibault said the practices during the break will be crucial in evaluating what Shegog can do and what she still needs to work on.
Shegog’s hope is that a brief trip home to Stafford, followed by at least two weeks in Connecticut, will help keep her settled for the second half of the season.
“In training camp, my mind was kind of just spinning,” Shegog said. “Like, everything goes so fast, and they throw in [so many] plays and everything, but it helped that we have the veterans that we do.
“I think it’s like with every basketball player – once you step on the court, you get nervous. This is my first year, so I feel like my nerves – I wasn’t even this nervous when I started at Carolina. It’s just a whole other level.”
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