I won’t lie to you guys and say I didn’t have winning ROTY as one of my goals.
I definitely did.
It was more in the back of my mind, though. It was the kind of thing where I was like, Okay ... if I just go out there and be me, then good things will happen. ROTY will come.
So when I got that call that I won, it was such a rewarding feeling. Just knowing all the work I’ve put in, and knowing the confidence my team had in me this season to go out there and do what I do — it’s amazing to see it all pay off. It’s amazing to get recognized.
And it makes me think about how far I’ve come to get to this point. I still remember being a kid and playing one-on-one with RaShawn (my older brother) on our little hoop in our basement. Back then I was so small he would have to play me on his knees, but best believe he ain’t trying to see me on the court now haha.
And I remember playing for a team for the first time, and trying to get along with our head coach — my mom. Ha. To all my coaches’ kids out there, you know there’s a big difference when your parents are coaching you! They’re going to be wayyy harder on you than on anybody else. I’d be sitting there all mad, like, “Why you not yelling at everybody else like that???” Mom had me doing all these drills with the cones out, you know the ones. But what really got me was those damn dribbling goggles she’d have me wear. I wouldn’t even want to talk to her on the ride home after some of those practices.
But I’m grateful for my mom, for real. Not just because she’s my best friend, but because she really believed in me from the start. The player I am today is all because of her — and to have her on this journey with me, and get to see all that I’ve been able to accomplish, it’s probably my favorite part about today. I love you, Mom!!
I’m also feeling grateful for Kentucky today. Basically from my first visit there, chilling at Coach Mitchell’s house, I knew that Lexington was the place where I needed to be. And for four years, that was home. They’re my family too in a way. And going to school there definitely helped prepare me for this moment.
Man … I still remember those first workouts they put us through. Haha I think I knew I was in college when I found out that for those first few weeks we weren’t even going to be touching a basketball — just running. That’s all we were doing, running for fun. I’d be trying to get back to my dorm so fast, just so I could lay in the bed and get some energy to do it all over again.
But when that first game of the season came? I was so ready. I just kept thinking to myself, If I can play in the SEC, that means I can really play. I knew I was doing something then.
One thing I love about Kentucky is how it’s not just your own coaches and teammates, it’s everybody at the university who genuinely wants to see you succeed.
It’s funny, only a week ago Coach Cal had texted me — for no reason other than just checking up on me and saying how proud he was. (And I saw that he and the team were in the Bahamas and I was like, “You sure you don’t need me out there with y’all?” Ha.) But that’s what I mean when I’m talking about the Kentucky program being a family. You’re really in it for life.
So I just wanted to give a shout to all of Big Blue.
And then of course the last thank you I have on my mind is to my Atlanta Dream family.
I’m so grateful to have been drafted by Atlanta. I’ll never forget Draft Night — sitting there at the table with my mom, my brother and Coach Elzy. And I’m just shaking. Man for real I literally couldn’t stop shaking. I was texting Naz and Veronica Burton the entire time because of how nervous I was. I’m talking about the nervousness that makes your stomach hurt.
I was just, like,Whew, OKAY, can we get this STARTED. I was too nervous to stay patient! Haha. But when the draft finally got going, and I heard my name … all I could do was breathe, and think,Wow. We really did it. I’m in the WNBA. Also, the Dream didn’t just take me #1 — they traded up to take me, you know what I mean? They believed in my potential, and were willing to do whatever it took to get me. That’s a big honor. And it made me extra motivated to go out there and do my part.
I wanted to show everyone they were right to believe in me like that.
A good example of the faith Atlanta had in me is how Coach Wright and the staff wanted me to be a scorer. That’s not a role that every rookie gets immediately. But they really felt like I was ready for the responsibility. And I wanted the responsibility — especially if it was going to help us win games.
Probably the biggest thing I learned this year is how a rookie is only as good as their vets. Your vets are everything. And I gotta say, I have some of the best vets in the world. Wheeler, Parker, Vaughn, just everybody … man, they would be telling me to go out there and don’t even hesitate to shoot the ball. They put that confidence in me from the jump, like, We don’t care if you gotta take 30 shots and miss all 30. We know you’ll turn it around and make 30 more. You can’t ask for better support than that.
Ha, and I probably took their advice to the extreme though, because my first game in the W, I won’t say it was the nerves … but it could’ve been, because I shot TWELVE threes that game. I was letting those shots fly hahaha. After we won, Coach came up to me and was like, “You know you shot 12 three-pointers tonight, right?” Don’t tell Coach, but I probably would’ve shot it from half-court that night if they let me, that’s how much every shot was looking good … I just really didn’t know any better lol.
But as the season continued, I think I started understanding which shots to take, and finding my rhythm. I’m really proud of that. And I’m grateful to the team for giving me their trust, and giving me this room to grow. Now it’s on me to keep growing.
And then the last thing I want to say is: As excited as I am to be ROTY, I’m even more excited about what this team is about to do in the future.
Listen to me when I say that we are coming.
We know that we still have a lot to experience, but when it finally clicks for us, it’s going to be a scary sight. We saw a glimpse of it this season, and that’s why I love this team and this culture we’re building in Atlanta — because we believe in ourselves, and our main goal is nothing individual. It’s just winning basketball games. Period.
And next season we’ve got to be ready to take that step to the playoffs. It was tough this year, with us coming up short. But the expectation has been set now. We know we can make it. And we know we will.
Honestly, it’s just the beginning for this team.
So if you’re a Dream fan already, I love that. Thank you for always bringing that crazy energy. I can’t wait until next year when we give y’all a playoff run.
And if you’re thinking about hopping on the bandwagon, trust me when I say the time is now. Y’all won't be disappointed with what’s to come from us. More trophies in the future, I bet.
Just keep watching.