Ayim set to Shock WNBA opponents

By Morris Dalla Costa
The London Free Press
June 3, 2011

The Tulsa Shock may not be the biggest, fastest or most talented team in the WNBA, but they will go into the season as one of the most unique.

And a Londoner will provide a sizable portion of that.

Miranda Ayim is unique among players in the women’s professional league. After making the Tulsa Shock, she becomes one of the few Canadians to play in the WNBA — a number you can count on one hand.

Opening night for Ayim and the Shock is Saturday when the Shock play at San Antonio.

The Saunders secondary school graduate feels a sense of relief at having made the team, but has no intention of relaxing.

“You can never let up, especially coming in as a rookie,” she said. “I’m still trying to work hard to prove myself and give everything to the team and to add anything I can to help this team. I am excited but it’s a little bit of nervous energy, too.”

Several members of the Shock bring their own unique elements to the team. Ayim’s teammates include Sheryl Swoopes and Marion Jones.

Swoopes, 40, was the first player signed to a WNBA contract. Considered one of the best women’s basketball players ever, she’s a three-time league MVP. She played 11 years with the Houston Comets then spent the 2008 season with the Seattle Storm. She’s also played in Europe.

And yes, Ayim’s other teammate is that Marion Jones. A basketball star in university, Jones went on to win five medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a sprinter, only to forfeit them after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs.

“One of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met,” Ayim said of Jones. “You would think that’s a lot of star power but everyone is down to earth and welcoming. There are no big egos on the team.”

Ayim attended Pepperdine University in Californnia amd has played on Canada’s national team and with Alanya in the Turkish First Division.

Now she’s with a coach who’s enjoyed a successful career.

Nolan Richardson is the only coach to have won a national junior college, NIT and NCAA championship. He won the NCAA title in 1994 with the Arkansas Razorbacks. He lost to Duke in another semifinal and to UCLA in the 1995 final. He was coach of the year in 1994.

Richardson became famous for how he wanted his teams to play. It became known as “40 minutes of hell.” He wanted everything done up-tempo with pressure defence all over the floor.

“He does things the same way,” Ayim said. “He expects pressure, pressure, pressure. We work really hard in practice. We go hard against our practice squad and each other . . . full-court press, half-court press. We do everything we can to try to get the team to choke up the ball.

Playing time for rookies is often limited but Ayim might have lucked out with the Shock.

“I’ll take anything I can get as far as time,” she said. “Coach is pretty good about playing people because he wants people to get on the floor, go all out, get off and then get someone else on the floor. It looks like he’ll be using a lot of people.”

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