Sunday, June 23, 2024

Hoops, Rap + All the things Black: Unique with Sparks’ Evina Westbrook

Evina Westbrook grew to become a family identify in school basketball when she stepped foot on Tennessee’s campus as a prime recruit in 2017. After two stellar seasons because the Volunteers’ place to begin guard, she put her identify within the switch portal with just one college in thoughts: the College of Connecticut. She’d spend the 2019-2020 season redshirting and rehabbing a surgically repaired knee earlier than changing into a significant piece to a Huskies squad that reached the Remaining 4. Upon graduating from UConn, she’d take her skills to the W the place she was drafted twenty first general by the Seattle Storm, making historical past because the first-ever Mexican-American to play within the League. She’s presently with the Los Angeles Sparks and relentlessly working towards a breakout season.

Whereas on her strategy to a exercise, Evina spoke with me about her upbringing, recruitment, trusting the method, making historical past, being a hip-hop producer in her previous life, interning with the Portland Path Blazers, and extra.

CURTIS: How are you doing? How’s the low season been treating you?

EVINA: The low season has been actually good. I undoubtedly miss enjoying, however I’ve simply been getting my exercises in loopy. I both work out in Portland or Eugene. And I reside in Salem, so I’m an hour from each. It’s identical to, I’ve received to get it in regardless. And I really feel actually totally different this low season, I really feel actually totally different. 

CURTIS: You grew up in a basketball household; are you able to speak about your loved ones’s introduction to the sport?

EVINA: Basketball was the one sport my household ever performed; my mother was the one individual in my household who didn’t. My dad performed at OSU and abroad. All my brothers performed. My youthful brother performs. So it’s like basketball is simply what it’s.

CURTIS: So what was the second if you knew you had been particular and knew you had been totally different out of your friends who you had been competing towards?

EVINA: I grew up enjoying with boys. After I was getting actually good with my boys crew, we might have dad and mom from the opposite groups complaining like they didn’t need a lady on the crew. It’s such as you’re getting mad that I’m a woman, however I’m beating your son’s ass. When it received to that time it was like, ‘okay, I feel we received one thing particular.’ My coach rising up all the time advised me that I used to be gonna get a scholarship from anyplace I wished to, that I used to be gonna go to UConn, that I used to be gonna win a nationwide championship. He actually spoke it into existence. It was simply all coming true due to all of the work I put in.

CURTIS: Piggybacking off of that, popping out of highschool you had been a prime two prospect within the nation. Are you able to communicate to the preparation that’s mandatory to achieve that time? What did your day-to-day appear like rising up as you had been changing into probably the most wanted recruit?

EVINA: Considering again on it now, it was sort of loopy–like the kind of day-to-day I used to be having, particularly at a younger age. And training youngsters now, I really feel like they don’t do what I used to be doing and simply sort of eat, reside and breathe basketball. I simply beloved the sport. I beloved the sport to some extent the place I felt myself getting higher and I didn’t wish to cease. I might get up and my coach–his identify is Worth–would decide me up from my home. Me and my brothers would go to the gymnasium and get it in at like 6 a.m. Then he would take us to the donut store, we might all go to highschool, and after college I might discover some strategy to the gymnasium. If my dad and mom had been at work and couldn’t take me, I might stroll like an hour to the gymnasium. And I might be there till like 10 o’clock and I wouldn’t depart. I missed out on loads of issues, however again then it was like I didn’t wish to be anyplace else. The gymnasium was my protected place, so I used to be simply there on a regular basis and I used to be good there. 

CURTIS: How did your recruitment out of highschool unfold, what made Tennessee the fitting selection initially?

EVINA: Basketball-wise Notre Dame was the place I wished to go. However the college half, I used to be like nah this isn’t gonna work. I keep in mind happening an unofficial go to to Stanford as a freshman and as quickly as we had been strolling away from the coach, my mother and I checked out one another and I used to be like, ‘this ain’t it.’ There was nothing incorrect with it, it simply wasn’t for me. Then once I received right down to my prime 5, there have been undoubtedly a few colleges I didn’t wish to inform no. I felt like on the time, Tennessee had every little thing that I wished. That they had a Black cultural middle. I’m like, ‘that is the place I’m presupposed to be, my persons are right here, I really feel at house.’

CURTIS: So after having two impactful seasons, you determined to switch; what went into that call and why UConn?

EVINA: There was simply loads of stuff happening at Tennessee. I nonetheless haven’t any regrets. I’m nonetheless tremendous grateful that I went there and spent my time there. I met some unbelievable individuals who I nonetheless speak to. And it’s not like I wasn’t getting enjoying time. I used to be the place to begin guard each years, main the crew in scoring and assists. I advised myself I by no means wished to be the child to switch and go to a different college. After my first yr, there was a lot happening outdoors of basketball that was affecting us on the courtroom. However I wished to stay it out and do no matter was attainable to make issues higher. However then it received worse. I didn’t really feel like we had a real tradition. The yr I transferred was the primary yr of the switch portal. I put my identify within the portal and my AAU coach was involved with UConn. I had loads of colleges attain out however I used to be turning folks down left and proper. I just about knew the place I wished to go. I didn’t need this elaborate course of. I knew if I had a very good official go to that I used to be gonna commit on the spot.

CURTIS: After two nice years at UConn, it was time to determine what your subsequent steps had been. Did you think about using the additional yr of eligibility that was granted on account of COVID?

EVINA: Hell no, I used to be able to go [laughing]. 5 years was already an excessive amount of. I had a extremely good redshirt junior yr, I actually virtually left after that. I performed tremendous properly within the match and so they had me projected within the prime ten, however we didn’t win. We misplaced within the Remaining 4. Me being stingy, I used to be like we received unfinished enterprise and ended up coming again the subsequent yr, which I don’t remorse both.

CURTIS: How did your time at UConn put together you for the W?

EVINA: Actually, the transition from UConn to the professionals was fairly simple, and I feel it’s as a result of we have now a pro-like system already embedded in UConn. Each on the courtroom and off the courtroom, at UConn, we have now to decorate and current ourselves a sure approach. It was annoying at occasions, however you then get to the league and it’s like, ‘oh shit, this is smart.’ So transitioning, I don’t assume was onerous in any respect. However it was undoubtedly totally different in realizing there’s solely 12 groups and barely 12 roster spots. There’s solely about possibly three folks on every time with assured contracts. You’re coming in considering they’re gonna preserve you, however they don’t care the place you come from. Typically it’s not even about whether or not you performed good or dangerous. For instance, once I received drafted to Seattle, it was the proper crew, excellent scenario, incorrect time. However it’s such as you simply gotta preserve it pushing. And it’s onerous for a younger participant to leap round. I’ve been on 5 totally different groups in two years.

CURTIS: Are you able to communicate to trusting the method and what that appears like for you?

EVINA: It’s undoubtedly been a journey and it’s tremendous powerful not letting your thoughts get to some extent of considering you’re not ok. However in every single place I’ve been, each place I’ve been to, I’ve continued to place the work in, whether or not I used to be enjoying or not. You simply gotta preserve your thoughts into it. All of the work I put in helps me by no means waver from realizing I’m ok and belong within the league. I’m getting higher. I’m gonna get my time on the proper time. And I feel if you simply proceed to place the work in–like particularly this low season, I simply really feel totally different.

CURTIS:  What do you love to do if you’re not hooping?

EVINA: I really like music. I’m listening to music on a regular basis. All of the totally different phrases, the totally different beats. Perhaps I used to be a producer in my previous life. Both that or a mob spouse, I feel [laughing]. However yeah, I really like listening to music and simply vibing for actual. I like going to concert events. I simply be chillin’, watching films. I don’t actually be on nothing loopy.

CURTIS: Who’re your favourite hip-hop artists?

EVINA: In all probability Kendrick proper on prime of Cole. However then generally I’ll throw in Younger Dolph or BigXThaPlug, just like the Tennessee will come out, you’re feeling me? It actually is determined by what my temper is. Typically Dame D.O.L.L.A shall be within the combine. Dame can actually rap.

CURTIS: Apple Music or Spotify?

EVINA: I’m an Apple Music lady.

CURTIS: What’s your Apple Music replay wanting like, who’s on the prime?

EVINA: It’s fairly versatile. I do know Larry June received it. I’ve been listening to him like loopy. His album that got here out this yr might be my favourite from prime to backside. I take heed to loads of Mexican music attempting to work on my Spanish somewhat bit.

CURTIS: Oh wow, that’s an ideal segue as a result of I wished to ask you about that. You’re the first, and solely, Mexican-American to be drafted in WNBA historical past and be enjoying within the League. Are you able to speak about your roots and what it was like if you first discovered that you simply’d made historical past? 

EVINA: I feel it was my mother who advised me as a result of somebody had stated it on Twitter. She was like, ‘I didn’t know you had been the primary Mexican-American to be drafted.’ Man, once I received my Mexican passport, I cried, like actually tears popping out my eyes. Simply because it means a lot to me. I’m half Black, half Mexican and all my life, as a result of I’ll not seem as a Mexican, folks didn’t imagine me. So once I received my passport, I’m like you possibly can’t inform me shit, that is legit. I’m actually Mexican, my mother is full Mexican. So simply with the ability to have that passport, how a lot it means to my household, it actually does imply lots to me. Hopefully, in the future I’ll have the ability to put a Mexico jersey on. 

CURTIS: How has your identification formed you as an individual?

EVINA: Simply feeling the love from my household–I feel that’s what it’s about, proper? They arrive as much as me and inform me I make them proud. They inform me to maintain going and that I give them hope and only a totally different perspective. I’m like ‘rattling, actually? I’m simply placing the ball within the hoop.’ After I hear them speak to me like that, it’s identical to I don’t ever wish to cease–realizing the influence I’ve on my household and for the individuals who all the time believed in me. I performed down there this previous yr and that was tremendous cool. And I feel that’s the primary cause why I’m attempting to be taught Spanish now. That’s undoubtedly my aim. I advised all my Mexican teammates to solely communicate to me in Spanish. That’s the one approach I’m going to be taught.

CURTIS: I learn that you simply interned with the Portland Path Blazers. What was that have like: what’d you do, what’d you be taught? There’s a wave of W gamers actually rising within the NBA/media area. Are you able to speak about why you selected to intern with the crew, and what a few of your off-court aspirations are?

EVINA: I used to be an intern for basketball operations. I used to be studying every little thing–salaries, wage cap, contracts, scouting. There are such a lot of layers to it. I discovered the best way to lower up movie. I used to be serving to with warmups and a bunch of different stuff. It was an enormous studying course of, simply to sort of see the opposite facet of issues. I’ve been the participant, so not being on the participant’s facet of issues was totally different. The cash the NBA is enjoying with is completely totally different. I’d moderately do a 10-day within the NBA than a full season within the W [laughing]. However yeah, I wanna hoop so long as I can, however I wanna produce other stuff going whereas I’m hooping. 

CURTIS: Final query: What’s one factor folks could be shocked to find out about you? Could possibly be something.

EVINA: Perhaps that I’ve a giant and fairly humorous persona, simply not taking life too severe[ly]. Individuals round me are like, ‘I didn’t assume you had been gonna be like this, I assumed you had been only a cute face.’ I hate folks like that. You already know, he or she appears to be like good or appears to be like cool, however their persona is trash. I by no means wished to be that sort of individual.

Pictures through Getty Pictures.

As all the time, right here’s the official Hoops, Rap and All the things Black playlist. It’ll be up to date weekly with every column. Add the playlist to your library to remain within the know, and you’ll want to comply with SLAM on Spotify.

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