Chinese teams limit Westerners to one per squad. What was that like?
Chinese is a very difficult language to learn. I had to learn a few basic words to communicate with my teammates on the court and my coach, like screen, rebound, and shoot. It was a different experience for me to use body and sign language to communicate. But that’s the beauty of sports—even when you don’t speak the same language or share the same culture, you can still communicate. And that really brought us together and gave us a quicker bond.
What were the fans like in China?
Before I got there, I think basketball was already pretty popular, but their main exposure is the NBA. And then when I arrived and we went on a 10-game winning streak (it’s traditionally very hard to win on the road there), we drew a lot of attention, especially with my scoring. Fans love to see people who can score. At the final game at home, we had over 9,000 people, which was huge.
Tell us a bit about your basketball academies for young women—why such a big emphasis on character and service?
This is something I’m very excited about continuing to grow. I thought a lot about the pillars I want to stand on, and decided to focus on basketball, leadership, character, and service. Those are things I emphasize in my life and affect who I am as a person. Without them, all the basketball accolades and success would look a lot different because I wouldn’t have my priorities in the right place. Hopefully the academies give a little bit of vision to the next generation.
How did basketball shape you as a child?
Competition is a big learning experience—it teaches you to handle conflict and problems in life. And your coaches—your mentors in addition to your parents and teachers—help you learn how to face challenges. Then you have the team aspect and the concept of looking out for your teammates and sharing and being humble.
What’s your beauty routine before a game?
Very basic—I wear what I wear everyday. I’m a huge Proactiv user, ever since I was a teenager, and recently I’ve been using a Shiseido moisturizer and Olive Body Butter from the Body Shop. I love my eyeliner—that’s a staple. I wear Technakohl Liner in Brownborder from MAC. Then something to keep my lips moist—the one I’m wearing right now is MAC Pro Longwear Lipcolour. My hair changes depending on what style I have, but on the court I usually do a headband and ponytail, with a little wave to the ponytail. I use a sulfate-free D’Cinqué shampoo, an Infusium 23 leave-in conditioner as a hairspray, and a little powder. I’m very used to needing to go from the court to looking great.
What do you do when you're not playing basketball? Any intriguing hobbies?
I picked up drumming when I was 9 or 10. I’m an only child, so I had to find ways to entertain myself if I wasn’t playing basketball, and drumming was perfect to help me express myself. I’ve never had time to play in a band, but during college at shoot-arounds before away games, I’d look around for a drum set in the pep band. When no one was looking, I would sneak over there and rock out for 30 minutes.
Let’s talk March Madness! Who are your Final Four picks?
For women’s, I’d say UCONN, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Baylor. But for men’s, that’s tough because they are so up and down this year. Overall winner, I’ll go with Duke. They won the last time we [UCONN women] won, so I’ll pick them.