To realize just how hard Vicky Bullett works in a Washington Mystics practice, you need look no further than the gray T-shirt she wears under her jersey.
By practice’s end, the shirt has been reduced to a perspiration sponge. The shirt bears witness to her status as one of the hardest workers on the team and a player who works tirelessly to stay in shape.
The Mystics get a great deal from Bullett, as they have in each of her three seasons on the team. Quite simply, Bullett takes on any task necessary to deliver a victory.
On Saturday, she teamed with Asjha Jones and Murriel Page to hold Charlotte Sting All-Star center Tammy Sutton-Brown to six points half her average as the Mystics won to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Bullett has canned clutch 3-pointers in the closing minutes to help win three games and added a game-saving block to seal a fourth victory. She leads the team in field goal percentage, steals and blocks. If hustle were a measurable statistic, she probably would lead the team there, too.
The Mystics have forged their most successful season with prime performances from Coco Miller, rookies Jones and Stacey Dales-Schuman and most prominently MVP candidate Chamique Holdsclaw. But holding all that together is the team’s chief veteran.
“It’s just being a presence,” Bullett said yesterday after the Mystics prepared for tomorrow’s Game 1 of the conference finals. “You want to contribute as much as you can. I never go home thinking, ‘I should have did this, I should have did that.’”
Bullett makes sure of that by complementing her versatility on the court with astounding durability and stamina.
She remains one of just three players in the WNBA to have played and started every one of her team’s games in league history, along with New York’s Teresa Weatherspoon and Charlotte’s Andrea Stinson. At 34, she has played through injuries while missing few practices. She has not missed a practice this season. In addition to her service in the WNBA, she has performed overseas for years, playing in an Italian league in the past two WNBA offseasons.
Bullett’s workout regimen is legendary; she will put in 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise plus a weightlifting session. She also will get in swimming, jumping rope or some other exercise to keep her active.
“I hate being out of shape,” she said. “I hate coming to the gym and having aches and pains. The older you get, the better you have to take care of your body.”
For younger Mystics like Jones who are finding their way with the rigors of professional women’s basketball, emulating Bullett’s habits would be wise.
“We have a lot of young players and we need direction, and I think she gives that to us,” Jones said. “In practice, I try to be around her as much as I can to watch her. As somebody to learn from, she’s perfect.”
Bullett’s conditioning no doubt has factored in her ability to hit shots late in games. She nailed two crucial 3-pointers late in a June 13 victory over Houston and one in the final two minutes of a one-point defeat of Charlotte on June 30. Three days later, she canned two free throws for the winning margin at Minnesota. Two weeks later against Detroit, her 3-pointer with 21 seconds to go carried the Mystics to victory. She doesn’t shoot from long range often she averages less than two 3-point attempts a game but she gets results when she does.
The dramatics of Bullett’s late-game, long-range daggers are enhanced by the high-arcing trajectory of her shots. It’s a technique she learned from Houston Comets star Tina Thompson.
“I always think they’re going in,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. “She doesn’t take prayers. If you watch her form, she makes a very big percentage of those shots.”
As the Mystics prepare for the conference finals, there’s little doubt they’ll need Bullett to fill several more roles to advance to their first WNBA finals appearance. And if previous performance is any indication, she’ll be up to the task.