Series note: The Storm conducted exit interviews on Thursday, giving me the opportunity to ask players everything from views on their season to fashion and hair tips. I’ll post conversations from each in the upcoming days. Centers Ewelina Kobryn (Poland) and Ann Wauters (Belgium) won’t be featured due to their quick return home. Here’s a conversation with power forward Camille Little, who was the only player to start all 34 games. She was the Storm’s second-leading scorer (11.3) and rebounder (5.1), not counting Lauren Jackson, who missed 25 regular-season games. Little attempted a career-high 33 three-pointers and shot a best 33.3 percent when attempting 20 or more in a season.
Q: You flew home first-class, is that the norm for you during the season?
Camille Little: Yeah, unless (Storm coach) Brian (Agler’s) on the flight. He always gets the upgrades first because he’s platinum. I’m close to platinum, but haven’t got it yet. Delta just changed it to where if you use your miles, you keep your miles. You used to lose your status when you used your miles. Now you keep it, so I’ve accumulated more now. I think they just changed it two years ago. It’s a big difference.
Q: You’re going back to Shanghai this offseason, why is that?
Little: It’s a combination. The experience was nice — the team I was on, the location, the people, the organization, the length of the season. I mean, I play three months. The first game is the 27th of October and the last game is like in January. The playoffs start after that and that can’t last but a couple of weeks. Compared to a six-month season, I played in Israel and you don’t get done playing until April. There’s no argument and the money is the same, if not more (in China). It’s a no-brainer.
Q: It’s not the same team as Australian Liz Cambage, right?
Little: No because it’s only one foreigner on a team. A lot of teams don’t have any foreigners at all.
Q: Going over there last season, it seemed you really worked on your three-point shot, will you continue to work on that or add something else?
Little: China is a good place to just expand. I have the green light to do whatever. When you play like that, it’s probably the best when you have no worries. I can just shoot when I want and I can work on my offensive aggression. It helped me for sure this year.
Q: Before going over last year, you also said you wanted to feel what it was like to be a Lauren Jackson or Sue Bird, where you have to carry a team. You were a constant, so how did you feel about being that person this year?
Little: Personally, it wasn’t anything that made me feel a certain way. I just tried to do what I could for the team. We struggled all year from so many different standpoints. If my job was to be the constant, then that’s what I wanted to be. If my job was to be the best defender or whatever, then that’s what I wanted to do. Because we struggled with our chemistry and to get points on the board, when I had time to be aggressive and I felt like I could score, then I did that. In the past, I don’t think a lot of teams (I was on) paid much attention to me. I had more time and more space, more of a green light to do that with Lauren not being here. Ann Wauters was new to the team, Tina Thompson was new to the team, I was the only post player that’s been here, so, I took the responsibility to lead the way without saying anything. I think sometimes the best way to lead is to do it by example. I just wanted to make sure I had a presence inside and that it was felt on a regular basis. If that makes sense.
Q: With that, does it bother you that other teams or maybe even the league hasn’t respected your abilities?
Little: Not really. It’s not why I’m here. I don’t play in the league to get respected, you know what I mean? I love playing basketball. I love this group of women here and the friends I’ve made in this organization. I really like being here. I couldn’t see myself playing on any other team, you know. It’s just something I love to do. I look forward to the season every year. Not just from the basketball standpoint, but I miss my teammates. Me and Lauren were talking last night and it’s weird cause I’ve only seen her for a couple of weeks. I was like, ‘Man I haven’t seen you and now you’re leaving, again.’ So, this is where I feel like I’m supposed to be. Every year, if my role changes, I’ll accept it.
Q: You’re under contract for one more season, is an opportunity in the future to play a bigger role on a different team of interest to you?
Little: No. This is a good organization and this is my second home. I can’t predict the future, what the owners’ plans are or what Brian’s plans are but for me, I love being here. If they’ll have me, I’ll continue to play here as long as the situation presents itself in the right manner. And I feel like what they’re offering is correct, I’ll be here until I retire, you know what I mean? I just feel like this is a great opportunity. I’ve played on a couple of teams and I feel like things happen for a reason. I feel God has a plan. I’ve played on different teams and had situations where I wasn’t used in a way where I thought I could be effective. Then I get here and it’s off to the races. My whole career changed from hardly playing at all in Atlanta to just kind of being a screener, passer in San Antonio to a starter here. I think it matters where you are. What kind of coach you have, can they use you in the correct way? I think Brian, he saw potential in me, he’s trusted me and let me grow as a player.
Q: Are you a verbal player? If you feel you’re not being used the right way, would you say something to your coach?
Little: As a rookie, you don’t have those kinds of talks. I was just happy to be playing in San Antonio (in 2007-08). At that point, I’m 21, 22. When I saw opportunities to do something, I took advantage of it. But you don’t realize those things until after the fact. I wasn’t the player that I am now then anyway, you know what I mean? A lot of things that I am now, I learned from them. You just have to have an opportunity to do more and until you do that, you don’t know what you’re capable of. There have been players that play on teams and they get traded and their whole career changes because they are put in a different situation. Like I said, everything happens when it’s supposed to happen. If I was put here too soon, maybe I wouldn’t be starting. Maybe I wouldn’t have been ready to start. The things I experienced on other teams, I’m sure prepared me for being here. Those things humble you and make you appreciate where you are. When I left Atlanta (in 2009), I was 0-13, I never lost that many games in my life…
Q: Until you got to this season, right?
Little: Not in a row. No way. I mean 0-13. Back to back to back. I leave there and become a winner the next day. That’s just the nature of the beast. What can you do? You live and you learn. Now, I feel like I’m in a great position.
Q: You’re 27, how do you feel about being surrounded by a lot of older veterans?
Little: I love it. For me, at this age, you try to take every nugget you can so when I’m their age, I can be doing the same and help the players coming into the league. Every year. Playing with Swin (Cash) was a great experience for me. She’s just a really good vet. Tina (Thompson) was great to be around. I always get nuggets from Sue (Bird) and Lauren all the time. T (Tanisha Wright) and I talk all the time. What else can you ask for? You make friends throughout the league and you learn things, but to have two, three, Katie (Smith)…You couldn’t ask for better veterans. I mean, Tina’s been here from the very beginning. Katie has almost been here from the very beginning. Then to have these two superstars here. Hall of Famers. I can look back on my career, forget what everybody thought about me, I had super experiences and I learned a lot from some great people. I made some really great friends. I can say, ‘I know Lauren Jackson. I know her.’ How many people can say that? She’s not going to be just walking down the street talking to people.
Q: Do you feel your age helped you not get injured this season or do you do something that helps?
Little: I don’t know. They way I play, I should.
Q: Maybe it’s the way your parents cook that good southern food for you?
Little: Maybe. God is good. I’ve never had any serious injuries, surgeries or anything like that. You always get nagging injuries. But I’m blessed. I don’t lift the way I used to lift. I’m not the strongest I’ve ever been in my life. In college (North Carolina), we used to lift like crazy. I probably could bench press…in college, we lifted with the football coaches. We were dragging sleds, bench pressing and dealing with chains, squats, Olympic…everything you can think of we were doing that every other day. I know right now I couldn’t do that.
Q: Maybe it gave you a strong base?
Little: Maybe it did. Because we lifted and it was serious. I couldn’t imagine my body doing that right now.
Q: Are you a dedicated person to stretching?
Little: No. I need to be. For sure the whirlpool. But even the way I walk, my hip flexor is tilted. The muscles are so tight…I don’t walk (with my butt out) on purpose. My hip flexors are tilted and I can’t lay on the bed without…it’s ridiculous.
Q: Should you drop down the heels a couple of inches?
Little: I don’t think that matters either. I think I stand straighter with the heels on. I don’t know. Like I said, God is good. I can’t be in control of those injuries. And I play year-round, too. Tina doesn’t even play in the offseason. You just never know. Things happen.
Q: Do you think there will come a day when you don’t play year-round?
Little: Your body kind of tells you when it’s time. T’s not going this year, she’s going to rest. The first two years I went (overseas) but I didn’t play as long. That may have helped me, I don’t know. China may have helped me. I had time to rest. I was home February 14 last year. I had a month off, did cardio when I was home. Shot, played pick-up some, got to camp and felt good. The rest helps. I don’t know the recipe. I just kind of go with the flow.
Q: Alysha Clark mentioned one of her highlights this season was when your parents came and cooked a massive team dinner, what was that like?
Little: We got there early (Alysha’s apartment complex) that day and we cooked there. Well, they cooked. I did my dish, sweet potato casserole, which is the bomb. I don’t want to cook. If they’re going to come and visit me and cook, I should let them do it. I try to stay out the way and let them do what they’re supposed to do because when they come to my house, they want me to cook. This year I told them they didn’t have to (make a big team dinner) but everybody was asking them, ‘When are you going to cook?’ So, we started cooking.
Q:That atmosphere, what did that do for the team?
Little: We had the Xbox in there. We were playing the Olympic game and we were rapping. We have a fun team, man. It was a time to just forget about practice or whatever we’ve been doing. We do that kind of stuff. Every couple of weeks you just want to wind down and just laugh and have fun and eat some good food. We had a good time.
Q: I’ve always wanted to ask, is that your hair? It’s very pretty.
Little: Thank you. This is a piece (weave). It’s just easier because you play and sweat then you get dressed all nice to go out to eat, you don’t want a ponytail stuck on your head. Last year I had my natural hair. It was long, too. My ponytail was almost as long as Sue’s. She had me by that much (inch). I’m going to grow mine out, again.
Q: So, you’re not getting married or anything this offeason?
Little: Why does everybody ask me that?
Q: Because you’re all gushy with him on Twitter.
Little: No. That’s doesn’t mean I should get married. I can’t get married in China, anyway, my mom would kill me. It’s pretty, but I can’t get married there.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Camille Little in the KeyArena corridor by John Lok, The Seattle Times.