NEWARK, NJ – The transition was from Division I to the WNBA, a significant step to say the least.
In this case there was a similarity in team expectations: A’dia Mathies saw a situation of leaving one very successful organization to join another. Mathies starred at the University of Kentucky, a strong program that wound up advancing to the Elite Eight in the 2013 NCAA Tournament before meeting UCONN, the eventual national champion.
But one of the biggest adjustments for Mathies has been moving into a new role.
“In the league you are going from a primary option in many cases to another addition,” she said.
At Kentucky she was that primary option and marquee player – she was a second team All-American last season. A two-time SEC Co-Player of the Year, Mathies is the only UK player (male or female) to record at least 1,900 points, 600 rebounds, 300 assists and 300 steals for a career.
Yet on a WNBA team with backcourt talent, the 5-9 guard is biding her time and learning.
“I have some great players who have been able to show me how to adapt to the professional game,” Mathies said following the Sparks win over the New York Liberty at the Prudential Center, in which she played five minutes scoring two points. “Kristi (Toliver) and Linsay (Harding) have really helped bring me along.”
And Candace Parker?
“Almost forgot,” Mathies added with a laugh. “But Candace is outstanding and another great mentor and leader.”
Mathies is averaging 11 minutes per outing. The 10th overall selection in this past Spring’s 2013 WNBA Draft, she averages 2.9 points and 1.0 assists thus far in her rookie campaign. Several first-year players spoken with during the season echoed the same sentiments of Mathies: the WNBA is demanding, especially for new faces.
“You really can’t take a play off here (WNBA),” Mathies said. “Anyone can beat you on a given play and you have to keep yourself in top shape.”
At Kentucky Mathies came into a situation where she, “really didn’t know what to expect.” Under coach Matthew Mitchell, the UK women’s program proved there is more to basketball excellence in Lexington than John Calipari’s group. During her four years the Wildcats were in four NCAA tournaments, advancing to the Elite Eight on three occasions.
“I think the Kentucky women’s program has moved to the elite,” Mathies said. “Now top players want to come there and the program is very well respected. I am so proud to be a part of it all.”
The Commonwealth in the rear view mirror, the focus is on the current club and a quest for WNBA excellence.
“We have a great team here,” Mathies said. “I just have to stay prepared and work on both ends of the court on a daily basis.”
A role changes, the commitment does not.
For more on this year’s WNBA rookie class, check out our 2013 WNBA Draft section.