Former Dayton forward Ally Malott was the Washington Mystics’ first-round draft pick last month and is preparing for her rookie season, which will start with training camp late next week. The Washington Times spoke with Malott about being drafted, her memories from Dayton, issues surrounding women’s basketball and the transition to Washington.
Question: What was your reaction as soon as you were drafted?
Ally Malott: I mean, I was really excited. I had no idea where I was going to go. With D.C., everyone I’ve talked to since then was like, ‘D.C. is an amazing city. I’m so excited for you. You’ll be so happy there.’ I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
Q: Is that kind of a weird spot to be in? You know you’re going to be drafted, but you have no idea where you’re going to spend the next several years of your life.
A: Yeah, it’s kind of the opposite of college, where it’s kind of all up to you and I can pick where I go. Now it’s just kind of waiting to see who wants you to play for them instead, so it was a little change of pace, but I think it’s good and it’s part of the process, and like I said, I’m really excited to meet people in D.C. and get started with the team.
Q: Did you have any idea Washington would draft you, or did you find out from the TV when everyone else did?
A: No, I mean, I talked to Coach Thibault a little bit. I had a couple conversations with him. I mean, they can’t promise you anything, and I understand that, so it was kind of just a waiting game. I thought that the coaches called before you got drafted on TV. I’m not really that familiar with the process, but no one called, and so I was like, ‘Oh.’ They were up for the eighth pick, and there was like, 15 seconds left, so I was like, ‘OK, well, I would have liked to go there, but that’s OK. There’s still a lot of spots left.’ Then I saw my name pop up, and I was a little shocked.
Q: Did you have a giant party? Were you at home, at some restaurant, watching by yourself?
A: No, I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. Since I live pretty close to Dayton, I drove home and watched it with my parents and my brother in our family room, so not a big thing at all.
Q: But still a special moment, I would imagine, because your family is there, right?
A: Definitely. I wanted them to be a part of it.
Q: At Dayton, you had a heck of a season and a lot of accomplishments. What was your biggest takeaway from your college experience?
A: Wow. I mean, I loved everything about playing at UD and going to school there. A lot of people questioned when I first committed there why I would go to UD, but it was close to home and I loved the people there, and I think our team was so special because we had such good chemistry. I mean, we were all best friends. We really gelled together off the court, and it translated on the court, so I hope that in D.C., I’ve heard a lot of good things about their team chemistry, too, so I’m excited to get started with my new teammates.”
Q: A lot of people noticed your team playing UConn in the Elite Eight. How much did you learn from that game?
A: I mean, I think they’re just so good, and I don’t think you realize how good they are until you actually play against them. We had a lot of confidence in the first half, and we had to say, ‘Don’t pay attention to the name on their jersey,’ because I think a lot of teams, when they go in to play UConn, that kind of intimidates them, and then they already have a 20-point lead when you start. That was kind of our mindset going in. We had nothing to lose. No one expected us to be there in the first place, much less win, so we just had to go out and play our hardest. I think that kind of taught us that we can play with top talent, and I guess, for myself, personally, it was kind of a good gateway into the next level.”
Q: And you guys led at halftime, too, right?
Q: What was that like at halftime? You must have felt like the game plan could beat them, but there also had to be a little bit of surprise, too.
A: Yeah, you’re right. I mean, we went into halftime thinking, ‘Yeah, we can play with them, but they’re going to come out firing even more.’ I mean, they played — they’re such a team of runs, and so they’ll go on a 10-0 run and it will be over at the snap of your fingers and before you even realize it. So, we kind of talked about that, too — and unfortunately, that’s what happened. Still, it was just such an amazing experience.
Q: Going into the WNBA now, you’re basically among the first generation of players who grew up with the league. Does that mean anything to you?
A: I can’t say that I watched a ton when I was really young, but when I got older and I kind of understood how important it was to have people who paved the way for the WNBA, like when I was in high school or college, I tried to watch. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on as much as people would like it to be on TV, but yeah, I definitely watched it when I could.
Q: Diana Taurasi made a statement by choosing not to play this season in favor of staying healthy and fresh to play in Russia. Have you paid attention to her decision, and what do you think that means?
A: I paid attention to it just through news articles and stuff that I’ve read about it. I haven’t talked to anyone about it, but I think, like, yeah, she’s shown such a great commitment to the league up until this point — even still. But, it’s her career. It’s her life. Obviously, if she’s making much more of a living playing overseas in Russia — I mean, it takes so much of a toll on your body. I mean, I haven’t even begun to experience that yet, but how many years has she been playing, literally, year-round basketball? I mean, that takes such a toll, and I could completely understand her decision.
Q: Between that, and you mentioning that it’s not always on TV — what do you think now are the biggest challenges for women playing basketball?
A: That’s a good question. I still think that, just being around the college population still, I guess I can kind of share that aspect of it. When I was drafted, people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, now I have a reason to watch the WNBA!’ And I’m thinking, ‘Well, just because I’m drafted doesn’t mean that’s the only reason you can watch it.’ There’s amazing talent in the league. It’s kind of sad that no one really gives it the respect that it deserves. Everyone watches the NBA and knows all about it, and no one really knows about the WNBA.
Q: What do you know now? You’ll begin training camp in two weeks?
A: Yeah, the 16th or 17th. I know that I go down Monday.
Q: What’s the process been like since being drafted?
A: Yeah, it’s been kind of a whirlwind. I chose an agent, and I’ve just been trying to stay in shape to the best of my ability. I’ve been going up to UD and working out since graduation. I graduated on Sunday, so yeah, just a lot of working out and trying to get my stuff ready to go up to D.C. It’s been fun.
Q: Have you had a lot of contact with the coaching staff?
A: Not a ton right now, but I mean, I think it’s because it’s just a matter of getting the details ready for travel and all the paperwork and stuff. I’ve been talking to the director of basketball operations, and it’s just little detailed stuff like that right now. … She just explains that the trainers need physical forms and doctor’s appointments, so when I get there, I have to pass a physical, obviously, before I’m allowed to be in training camp, so I do that the day after I get there, and then just living arrangements. She basically explained everything to me about what I’ll expect for the next week, and then hopefully, more details will come, I’m sure, when we get closer to leaving and stuff.
Q: Is that overwhelming or exciting?
A: It’s a little bit overwhelming, but it’s not too bad, though. It’s a good overwhelming, because it’s a whole new experience and a whole new chapter of my life.