New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter is ready to do her own thing.
After spending her first four seasons with the Phoenix Mercury and winning two WNBA championships along the way, Pondexter was traded to New York in the offseason in hopes of starting the next chapter of her career.
Pondexter, who leads the Liberty in scoring (19.7) and assists (4.9), is more than just a basketball player. Off the court, she runs an image consulting firm and knows her designers like she knows her competition.
I had the chance to sit down with Pondexter in Los Angeles this week prior to the Liberty’s 80-68 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks.
MV: Growing up in Chicago, what are your thoughts about LeBron James possibly going to the Bulls?
CP: Honestly, I think it would be great for the city of Chicago. To have a player like Michael Jordan leave a great legacy and to have someone like LeBron to follow him is awesome. Him and D.Rose together, Joakim Noah … it would be great.
MV: What’s the adjustment been like from Phoenix to New York?
CP: It’s been a transition. I have played with Phoenix since I got drafted so my heart is kind of there. I played with one of the best guards in the country and to leave her was definitely hard but I had to move on. It was time for me to have a career change. Other than that, it’s been great besides not being over .500. I think we are starting to come along.
MV: Why did you want to go to New York?
CP: Honestly, I won two championships and I started a business 1.5 years ago that’s based out of New York. It’s an image consulting business and New York was looking for a franchise player and I thought it was the perfect fit for me.
MV: Did you ever feel like you were in Diana Taurasi’s shadow in Phoenix and needed the chance to do your own thing?
CP: We all know Taurasi had a great college career and has followed her in the WNBA. A lot of people didn’t know about me until I got to the WNBA. Honestly, it was never a competition between us. We’re great friends and our games speak for themselves. She’s probably if not the best shooter in the world and I’m one of the best scorers. We were able to go hand-in-hand but it’s definitely hard not playing alongside her and I bet she feels the same way as well.
MV: Did you say anything to Diana when you were both named WNBA Player Of The Week?
CP: We actually didn’t say anything about it. I’m sure she chuckled. I was like “Wow, that’s kind of funny.” I talked to her a couple of days before that because her birthday had passed and I wished her a Happy Birthday. We are going to spend a lot of time together while in Phoenix.
MV: What will it be like on Saturday when you return to Phoenix for the first time?
CP: Emotional I think. I’m going to have my ring ceremony before the game. I have some Rutgers alumni coming. I think it’s going to be emotional. Hopefully I won’t cry. Hopefully the girl side won’t come out. It’s going to be fun. We are both in the situation where we are trying to get over .500 and I’m sure they are trying to win against me and I’m trying to win against them. It should be a great game.
MV: Who is the best player you have played against?
CP: Tamika Catchings is a tough defender. I’m 5-foot-8 and I play like the 2-3 and the 1. She’s six foot almost so it’s hard getting shots over her. She’s very aggressive. She’s probably the toughest defender I have faced.
MV: How does the competition in Russia compare to the players in the WNBA?
CP: When you’re overseas, the talent level is different. It’s not as high. Here you have 11 players and all 11 players are great. They can go to any program. If they are the 11th player coming off the bench, they can go to another WNBA team and basically start. In Russia, the talent isn’t as deep but there are great players. They are more skilled than we are in terms of shooting. You have five players stepping out and shooting three-pointers. In America, our game is more powerful and not finesse. I think that’s the biggest difference.
MV: What’s life like living in Russia?
CP: My situation is great. I have my own driver, translator, apartment; I’m actually living the life. I can’t complain. At first I was kind of skeptical about going to Russia because I wasn’t a fan because of the weather, even though I grew up in Chicago. It’s cold. Russian people are cold. They don’t speak or say hi, they don’t smile. I just left Istanbul, which is an amazing city, and I didn’t want to go. But I just signed another two-year deal and I’m going on my third year. I love it. I love Russia. They know how to have fun. I’m saying off the court. I really appreciate that.
MV: Favorite moment while playing for Rutgers University?
CP: It would have to be my first actual year of playing because I redshirted my first year. My sophomore year in the classroom but my freshman year on the court was probably my best year because we had the biggest turnaround in Division I basketball history – - men or women. My first year we were 9-21 and then we ended up going 21-7. That had to be the best moment.
MV: Tell me about your consulting firm:
CP: It’s a partner’s of mine. We’ve known each other for six-to-seven years now. Her name is Lisa Smith Craig. She’s based out of New York as well. We had interest in terms of fashion and helping people develop images, specifically in the WNBA. It’s not known that fashion and basketball mix. For me, I love fashion and I love clothes. We wanted to develop something and we started this company to help players develop images. Not just players but all people. If you want to work, we want to help you develop that. Personal shopping, we want to do movie sets if we can, photo shoots, music videos. We want to do everything and touch entertainers, actors and just develop an image. That’s our biggest thing.
MV: Who are your favorite designers?
CP: Helmut Lang, Alexander Wang. My favorite t-shirts are Sauce and Evil. Those two top designers I named are my all-time favorites. They are edgy. They can go chic.
MV: Who is the best dresser in the WNBA?
CP: I would have to say myself. I just got to be honest. I love it. I’m not even being bigheaded but I love it. It’s what I want to do after basketball.