Letterman Magazine


Chelsea Newton: Lady Bulldog Legend

Q: What are you from?

A: I grew up in Monroe, Louisiana.  Cypress Point had a lot of athletes at the time. That was where I first picked up a basketball, so I was able to go out in the neighborhood and play against the boys.

Q: What are some challenges you faced?

A: The biggest thing as far as challenges is finding a competitive league amongst girls, everyone goes to the rec leagues. But you really don’t have anywhere where you could go to build your skill set, but I was very fortunate to be apart of an AAU team that was nationally recognized (The Monroe Magic). So for me it was a blessing for me to be seen on a National level and get the notoriety and recognition to be recruited on a national level.  I was blessed to be apart of that team coming out of Monroe. I think on that team we had 3 WNBA players, so we were loaded with talent.

Q: Give me a brief rundown of your high school career at Carroll High School?

A: I pretty much started all four years for Carroll. Freshman year, kind of was a rough year because you are just coming in. When I first got there I didn’t really know what to do. Also, you always want to be that player that everyone looks to and depends on to make stuff happen, especially when you’re playing with older players. For instance, there were people there like April Cooper and Dewana Franklin. It was a bunch of girls on the team that were really good. So coming in as a freshman you just have to learn how to blend in and still be able to be you. Play together with your team and make sure everyone else is successful.

Freshman year was pretty good, sophomore year was actually a really good year. That year we actually went to the Sweet 16, so for me it was my most memorable year. I remember the most competitive game was us playing Bastrop at the Sweet 16. It was so packed that people were trying to crawl through the bathroom windows just to get in! After that we loss to Capital, for the next three years Seimone Augustus was my nemesis that I could never get pass (Laughs). But thank God I got past her in college and the pros, so I’m cool on that. But as far as my personal career in high school every year was a better year.

Q: How does it feel to be one of the few people to have their jersey retired at Carroll?

A: It feels great, I know at the time there was a lot of backlash from it. You know people asking “What made me the special one?”  I’m grateful, especially to Coach Madison because she pushed for that. Had it not been for her that it probably would not have happened. Do I feel like I deserve it? Yes I do. Do I feel like Elaine Powell deserves it? Yes she does, and I’m sure there are many other athletes that deserve it also. But I can only speak about people I know in the present, so I was very grateful and blessed. It’s something that every time you walk in the gym and see your name and jersey hanging up, it’s a great feeling to be honored in that fashion.

Q: What were some of your major transitions that you had to adjust moving from high school basketball to college ball?

A: Well, as you know I went to the extreme college(Rutgers). Vivian Stringer was the coach, who is a Hall of Famer in every fashion. You know high school is high school. You’re out there playing on pure talent. You go to school, go to practice and that’s it. If you want to do something extra it’s cool. But when you get to college every second, every minute is accounted for. For me it was my physical condition that was my biggest hurdle that I had to get over. It’s just really getting to that level of great conditioning. Level of competition is easily distributed across the board, so you’re not that stand out player anymore. Also the strenuous hours were another big thing. You’re practicing three to maybe four hours a day. Pretty much everything you do is surrounded by basketball and you don’t really have time for anything.

Q: As far as recruiting, what are some of the things you would tell young people to pay attention to when they are picking a college or being recruited by a college?

A: First, I would say relationships, like someone showing their colors when they are recruiting you. Be able to have an open relationship and an open dialog with a coach. To me that’s one of the number one things I try to get across to kids. You need to be able to relate to someone that is recruiting you. Second, I would say academics, and by academics I mean (What are your interest? What do you need/want?) make sure they have that. I’m not just talking about a major, I’m talking about if you know you need support in certain areas.

Make sure the school can provide you the support that you need (tutors, family, etc.) to be successful.  Also I think you should look at the history of the program to see how they treat their athletes, and what their athletes have gone on to do after they complete their four years. Everybody pays attention to wins and losses for four years and that’s it. They don’t really pay attention to what really matters which is the next four years of your life. So you need to do research on the people that have graduated and left, those are the people who you need to talk to. Not just the basketball players currently there, but the people that have moved on to see if this is a place to become a better person. All of the other stuff it doesn’t matter because you can get that at any other school.

Q: Can you briefly describe your college career and how it led to the WNBA?

A: Freshman year I was thrown into the fire right away, I started half/half that season. It was a pretty bad season, but yet we were the number one recruiting class in the country. We also had loss a lot of key people that year. I played pretty well for a freshman. I broke my finger and had to sit out for a month, but within that month of me sitting out I think that’s when I really learned what I needed to do when I came back. I was a much better basketball player after being able to sit back and watch.

Sophomore year was a pretty alright year, got into the gym that summer worked like crazy got in really good shape. Once the season started I was doubling average and pretty much started every game. Junior year rolls around I get into the best shape of my life, that year I was ready! My coach saw how hard I was working and the shape I was in and decided to call everyone who she could so I could play on someone’s USA basketball team.

The last workout of the summer I was doing a push jerk, a normal workout something that I do all the time. Brought the weight down and my shoulder split out of place (tore my shoulder). So going into my Junior year I had to sit out the first three months. I had to have surgery and it seems my shot never really came back from that, and I think that’s why I became the great defender that I am. I learned how to play good defense, we went to the tournament that year and had a decent season. After my junior year my shoulder still wasn’t healed, ended up having to have to more surgeries (Which would put me at 3 now).

Going into my senior year I’m pretty much healthy and start all games, we had a great season. We beat pretty much every team you could imagine, we ended up top 5 in the country. Won the Big East, I won Big East Defensive Player of the Year. We made it to the Elite 8 that year, but got eliminated by a team we had previously beaten that season. After the season I had no intentions of going to the WNBA, I wanted to go to Temple for business school and get a MBA in Athletic Administration.

A couple weeks later I get a call asking me to come to draft camp in New York, and I’m like “okay” not a really big deal for me. I get there and enjoyed myself, great experience. Draft day comes, my mother was in town and we were at IHOP eating and hanging out. So when I get home as I’m walking in the front door I get a call, and its Sacramento and they say “You’ve been picked, would you like to be a part of our team?” I’m like “oh, ok” cool. So, I get out to Sacramento and there were about six rookies. First thought in my head was I know all of us can’t make it, so time goes by and I make the first and second cuts and I thought to myself “Man I think I might make this team.”  

At the time it was Ruthie Bolton Holifield who was an Olympian and it basically came down to me and her, but last day of training camp Ruthie retires. So I got the opportunity and made the team, the season begins and I start every single game for Sacramento. I go on to make the all rookie team, and also won the WNBA title all within my rookie year(my mind was blown). Then I went on to play in Israel and Poland, and then I got picked up in the expansion draft by the Chicago (played there for a year). Chicago was cool and a great experience, but my home and heart was in Sacramento. They traded back for me and I finished up my last three years there.

Q: Who was a female basketball player who you looked up to when you were younger?

A: Well, it was hard not to be at Carroll and not know who Elaine Powell was. You get to see someone like her go on and play college basketball at LSU, then she went on to have a successful basketball career across seas and in the WNBA. So to see someone like her go on to do great things like that and to know she is from Monroe it’s like “man I want to be doing that to.”  Elaine and I grew into a relationship and we also both played together in Chicago (which was crazy, two girls both from Monroe and Carroll playing on the same team). She was just an inspiration on the court and gave us someone to look up to.

Q: What is the importance of your teammates on a high school and college level?

A: I’m a very big person when it comes to teammates, I know I can’t do what I do if I don’t have a squad next to me. And they are not behind me, they are next to me. You can’t bring the ball up by yourself, you can’t pass to yourself, and you can’t do everything by yourself. A lot of those individual stats that people are worried about, they can’t do that by themselves. You need to win games, they are really important especially for their emotional support. You need that bond, you need to learn how to work with people and build relationships. Whether you want to believe it or not you’re going to be on teams for the rest of you life, so being on a good team is half the battle.

Q: Once you reach a certain level of success, can you explain how important it is to give back to the community and being a mentor to kids who look up to you?

A:   I always say that if you’re in a position to do it, there is nothing more gratifying than to help someone get to the next level and open their eyes to things that are there. I always say Carroll has some of the best talent in the world, and they just haven’t seen anything past Carroll. People look at me and ask me what high school did I go to in Monroe and I’m proud to say “I went to Carroll”. So I feel that those of us that have and can do things to help these kids get out of these situations is important. They want to, but they just don’t know how and it’s our job to teach them how. So I just think it’s really important to help people see that there is life and other places to see outside of where you live.

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