Interview: Rachel Jarry talks life in the WNBA

Interview: Rachel Jarry talks life in the WNBA

It’s not often a girl can go almost immediately from a WNBL Grand Final, to a roster spot on the defending WNBA champion, playing alongside some of the league’s best players on a stacked team. Rachel Jarry did it though. Playing time may be limited on a roster filled with talent, but the 21-year old Jarry is happy to play her role, and learn from the best.

Basketball Australia caught up with Jarry after the Lynx defeated the New York Liberty on Saturday night.

Basketball Australia: How’s the rookie season coming along? How have you found the experience?

Rachel Jarry: Yeah, it’s been great. It’s been tough – being a rookie can be tough at times – but honestly, I love all my teammates and they’ve made it so welcoming. I love Minnesota and coming out and being part of such a successful team has been really enjoyable.

I’m just having so much fun.

BA: What’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make coming from WNBL to the WNBA?

RJ: I think, just understanding my role and being a rookie and coming in behind such amazing players like Simone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalan at the guard spots, it’s obviously tough to get minutes here-and-there. It’s just about being efficient when I come on the floor and being there for my teammates when I can.

BA: Do you find it hard playing sporadic minutes and then coming in to play your role?

RJ: It is something that takes a while to learn, but I guess I was lucky enough with the Opals last year to have a similar thing where I had to come off the bench and had to learn my role. I’ve sort of got experience in it. For me it’s just [about] coming on and being efficient and playing defense and giving the starters a break when I can.

BA: Obviously the WNBA doesn’t play as many games as the NBA, but is there a ‘rookie wall’ that you’ve hit at any stage of the season? Have you reached a point where you just feel fatigued?

RJ: I think I might have hit a wall a few weeks ago, I had a couple of injuries and was out for a couple of games and training [sessions], but I guess that was around All-Star break so I got a bit of break then and I feel good now. I’m just looking forward to playoffs.

BA: You were drafted in Atlanta then traded to Minnesota on draft night in 2011, but didn’t come over until this year. Why did you wait a year? Did you feel like you needed to develop your game further?

RJ: Atlanta drafted me but immediately traded me to Minnesota so it was always in the works, but the Lynx wanted me to get that international experience and come over when I was ready.

That’s what I did and then I made the Olympic team and then they said, ‘come on over.’

BA: You actually found out you were traded via Twitter, didn’t you?

RJ: I found out I was drafted and traded via Twitter! [Laughs] It was actually the draft that Liz [Cambage] got drafted in so we were all sitting around watching it, and they cut it off after the first ten [selections] and we were all excited for Liz and sending her messages and then someone tweeted me saying ‘congratulations on being drafted!’

All of a sudden I had people ringing me---

BA: So, you went from the high of being drafted to finding out you were traded?

RJ: A few hours later I found out I was traded, which wasn’t too much of a shock. My manager had been in contact with Minnesota so I thought if I was going to get drafted by anyone, it would be them.

BA: Did it open your eyes to the fact that the WNBA is a business?

RJ: Absolutely. It’s a different culture [compared to the WNBL], we’re [considered]

‘products’, and a lot of teams will chop and change [rosters] through the season. It’s a lot different.

BA: How much has the stability within the Lynx helped? You’re defending champs with a team stacked with great players.

RJ: It’s massive. Even the core group has been together for the last three years – won a championship, been runners-up. It’s important, especially in close games that chemistry comes out and it’s fun to watch and be a part of.

BA: What do you learn from these girls as you’re sitting on the bench? Do you pick up different aspects that you incorporate into your game?

RJ: They’re so smart and they’ve been around, they know where to be on the floor and where to get shots and that kind of thing. Obviously, for me, at training competing against them, working on my skills because they’re on another level. Sometimes they’re just un-guardable. Seeing how much work they put into that, and then emulating that.

BA: How has your relationship with Liz helped you over here? It must be good to have an ex WNBL teammate playing here at the same time?

RJ: It’s great. I love when we play teams with an Aussie in it; it’s just like a sisterhood. Obviously Liz and I are the same age and have been playing together since the age of 14. It’s always good to see her, and Jenna [O’Hea] and Penny [Taylor] and everyone. It’s just good to have someone there if you’re missing home. It definitely helps.

BA: What’s the team’s mentality now headed into the home stretch and then the playoffs?

RJ: We definitely want to get top spot in our conference, and we’ve got a few tough games still to go. We’ve got L.A. twice more and that will sort of decide top spot in our conference. Every game for us we want to play as if it’s a playoff game.

BA: What’s next for you after the WNBA season? You’re headed back home?

RJ: Yeah, headed back to be with the Melbourne Boomers – as they’re now known. I’m looking forward to that. I think it’ll be a really big change; but one that’s necessary.

We’ll be wearing purple and gold---

BA: Jenna’s L.A. Sparks colors!

RJ: [Laughs] I know, I know!

By Nick Metallinos in New York