Maddy Siegrist Diary: On scoring her first WNBA points — Las Vegas Aces banner-raising — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, May 31, 2023
(Editor’s note: Happy Basketball Wednesday! I am delighted to bring you the Maddy Siegrist 2023 WNBA Diary. Every two weeks throughout the 2023 season, Maddy will be sharing her thoughts directly with you, readers of The IX. Maddy’s ability to put everything from her on-court performance to the off-court growth of women’s basketball into broader perspective will be vital to our understanding of the road ahead. I hope you enjoy this as much as I am. – Howard)
By Maddy Siegrist, as told to Howard Megdal
So far this season, every arena is new, so I was pretty excited when we arrived at Wintrust on Saturday, like — I know this place. [Editor’s note: DePaul, a Villanova Big East opponent, plays home games at Wintrust Arena, as do the Chicago Sky.] I got to go in to start the second quarter, and [head coach] LT [Latricia Trammell] immediately drew up a play for me, and was like “All right, you’re coming over two screens. If you have it, take it.” Like there wasn’t even another option.
And in my head I was like, “I’m just shooting the ball.” I’ve been one of my toughest critics throughout this whole thing. But if I’m clear, if I have the shot, I’m taking it. And I got open, I realized I had a second — I didn’t even think — and then before I knew it, I was running back on defense.
Minutes have been hard to come by early on, but so many people around me have reminded me — my dad, [Villanova head] Coach [Denise] Dillon, [former Villanova head coach] Harry [Peretta] that I know what this is like. That first year at Villanova, I redshirted. So that first year is a lot like my early time in Dallas. It wasn’t, right off the bat, scoring 20 points a game, because I did have that redshirt year. But, the further you get from that, the harder it is to remember it. So I’ve had a lot of conversations over the past few weeks.
And they’re all reminding me: Maddy, it’s not an instant translation. You’ve got to give yourself a little bit of grace here. Of course you want immediate success. And you go from playing 40 minutes a game to — not.
So what I keep telling myself is: I can’t control whether I play 2, 20 or 40 minutes. I don’t control that at all. What I do control is, I’m going to make an impact in the game in a positive way. Like, rebounding was something I focused on in Chicago. Get your hands on some balls, be able to tip them to your teammates, just try to give your team extra possessions.
I had two main defensive assignments against Chicago, and they were very different: Marina Mabrey [a playmaking guard] and Sika Koné [a 6’3 big].
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Mabrey’s a great player. And there are so many great players in this league. I mean, she shoots it from anywhere. So I’m just trying to be as long as possible, make her shoot over top of me. You have to be confident in yourself that you’re up for the challenge, whatever it is.
My first preseason game (also against Chicago), I was so nervous. And when I play nervous I don’t play my best. So against Chicago, I kept telling myself: what’s the worst-case scenario? I get scored on? Okay, then you go down on the other end. So just trying to make it as tough as possible, like whatever the team needs and just try to show that you’re going to battle every single possession.
I had my “welcome to the league” moment in that first preseason game, by the way. That game, I was guarding Rebekah Gardner. And I got absolutely nailed on a screen by Elizabeth Williams. And I was like: wow, I am not used to that.
But I liked guarding Koné, battling inside. Most of the time at Villanova, whenever we played a really strong forward or center, I’d end up guarding them for more than half the game. So just trying to have that translate over, use my length, use my quickness. I think like when I play with my mind, that’s my advantage. I’m not going to win, like, a muscle match. And then also, the more comfortable you are with your teammates, you know, your help’s there.
And that’s true off the court, too. Veronica Burton’s been the most vocal among the vets to be in my ear, telling me: “Your time will come.” But Natasha Howard, too, she’s been really nice, always checking in, asking: “You good?” Just touching base, you know?
Ashley [Joens] and I have been doing almost everything together. We’re the rookies — Lou [Lopez Sénéchal] is, too, but she’s been injured, so it’s a little different for her. So every new city we go to, it’s like, “All right, where are we going to eat?” It’s nice, knowing that is going to be there for me, no matter what.
Even though I’m only playing a few minutes a game right now, it doesn’t feel like that, because I’m so locked into what I’m doing, I just feel it. But even when I’m not in there, I feel really connected to it all — we’ve got a short bench, and we’re all talking through every possession, just help the people who are in.
It does feel a little different for me. But I think the base thing I remember is: it’s going to be hard. I’m going to keep my head down and keep working, while doing everything I can not to lose confidence in my ability. I’m supposed to be here, and I keep reminding myself of that.
I’d like to say I’m really good at compartmentalizing, doing things to take my mind off basketball, but that’s not really true. So you have a choice: are you going to sit there and be miserable when it doesn’t go your way? So I’m still working on doing that, to remember: I’ll get my work in, and then find ways to get my mind off of it. The best way came when my former teammate at Villanova, Kylie Swider, came to visit for three days. We didn’t talk about basketball at all — it was this unspoken, like, she got it. We went to dinner, we shopped at Boot Barn — I was shocked how much I liked the clothes there. I’m probably not going full Southwestern style, but I’m definitely going to sprinkle some things in.
And I’ve been reading, which helps reinforce that message and gets me through the many WNBA travel days. Like I was not a huge reader, but in the past two weeks? I’ve become a huge reader. I had this book, Unstoppable, that Denise gave me when I was a sophomore, and it totally changed the way I thought about myself, so I got that out and read it again. And then I read Bet On Yourself. I really like to try to make myself a little bit better every day. And for me, the best players always have a really strong mind. So that’s something I want to continue to grow.
The flights are a little bit different. They’re fine, and even though we mostly chartered my last three years at Villanova, back in my freshman year we flew commercial. But we’re also on our own a little more on the flight. We drive ourselves to the airport. And I can wear sweats on the plane, but back at Villanova we had to wear exactly the same outfit as everyone, down to the sneaker. So the freedom’s nice.
And once the plane takes off, before I open my book, I remember something Harry said to me recently.
“You’re supposed to be here. And it’s hard. But you can do hard.”
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