Dominique Canty Is Chicago Cool
Instead she defers to quarterbacking the offense. Midway through her WNBA tenure, Alabama's leading all-time total point producer, men's or women's, smoothly transitioned to point guard effectively prolonging her career.
‘BAMA Magazine/BamaMag.com visited with the lone former Crimson Tide performer presently active in the WNBA at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, home of the Connecticut Sun.
Most athletes faced with a mid-career position change would have succumbed to the pressure but she accepted the challenge and extended her career. Drafted 29th overall in the third round of the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock, she was tabbed to be a scorer. Four years later the Houston Comets traded for her and the transition to point guard ensued. Her poise and presence act as a steadying influence for the fifth year Chicago franchise. "Offensively we look for her to get us into our sets and look for her opportunities to score," said Sky General Manager and Head Coach Steven Key. "She's done a great job for us over the last three or four seasons getting our offense going. There are nights where she has it going offensively and you can see glimpses of her scoring ability from the past."
The word professional connotes a broad spectrum of commitment. Dominique Canty has established a standard most strive to achieve. "Having been around basketball for twenty years, she is one of the true professionals," Key declared. "She probably practices when most people wouldn't. She definitely plays when most people wouldn't – when they are injured. That is part of being a professional and not complaining and saying I'm hurt, I'll see what I can do. If she steps out onto the floor, she assumes she's a hundred percent and she lets everybody else assume she's a hundred percent. She'll never let you know that she's not." Prior to reuniting with the WNBA team in the spring, she sat out half a season in Israel to rest her knees.
Since joining the Chicago Sky four years ago from the Houston Comets, her role has evolved. "I went from being one of the younger players on the team to one of the oldest. You have to be more of a leader vocally. You have to teach the younger players a little bit. I am more of a communicator now than when I was young," said the two-time All-American and four-time All-SEC standout. "When you're young you think you know everything. I'm a lot wiser. I listen more to other people and try to help other people as well." The subtle leadership skills are duly noted. "She may not talk a lot but she is definitely a leader. She has the respect of her teammates and the staff," Key emphasized.
Teammates endorse her on-the-court command and off-the-court affable personality. Canty's bonding with center Sylvia Fowles, the 6'6" former LSU star and Sky center involves an entertaining ritual. "We start our day dancing. We'll walk up to each other and just start dancing. That is a thing just Dominique and I have between each other," said the premier shot-blocker and post defender currently in the game of women's basketball. "Saying nice things about Dominique comes natural. She is somewhat that motherly figure. She takes care of her ‘big girl'. I appreciate a guard like her – someone who is smart and knows the game but at the same time has a cool head." Guard Jia Perkins boasted, "Dominique is our engine. She gets us into our comfort spots. She knows how to run a team. She's a great leader. We try to follow her."
Associate Head Coach Stephanie White shares a unique perspective of Canty having competed against each other as prep stars, as participants in the WBCA All-America Game and in the league. "The interesting part about Dominique is she was such a dynamic scorer in high school and in college. She's adjusted her game to make herself a point guard in order to survive in the WNBA. She has grown so much in sacrificing her individual game for the greater good of her team," she stated. White praised her basketball savvy and IQ. "She's gone from playing the game to thinking the game." Dedicated to improving, the two have spent hours honing the release on Canty's outside shot.
"Get in where you fit in," she jested as the reason for her hardwood seniority. "I was determined to have longevity in the WNBA and to extend my basketball career," said the hard working Canty. "I love the game so I'm not yet ready to quit yet." Her body is sculpted and trim courtesy of a strict workout regime and revamped diet. "I don't lift many weights now. I do a lot of body weight training with our strength trainer. I cut out red meat because that is hard to digest. I don't eat a lot of pasta. I eat proteins and vegetables, good carbs and drink water." Treatment is an integral part of her daily commitment to preserving her body.
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ann Crosby attests to the concerted effort Canty has made to improve her physical well-being. "She really has come to learn what to do to take care of her body in order to be at her optimal health. That's why she's been in the league so many years because she keeps get smarter and smarter. She has done a fantastic job educating her self by asking questions and seeking advice from the proper people."
Her contributions are acknowledged around the WNBA. "She defends night in and night out," said highly respected Connecticut Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault. "She knows her role is to get everybody else involved. Other nights she knows she must score. She knows the players in the league and she is a smart player. It's a credit for anyone to play that long in the league."
Smiling occasionally after a successful sequence on the court, Canty rarely changes her expression especially after the team falters. She realizes positive body language and verbal encouragement soothes the younger players. "You have to be positive as the point guard because if they see I'm down then everything is out of whack. If someone messes up, I just tell them to keep their head up and just keep playing," she explained. Exuding calmness is welcomed in a sport noted for volatile momentum shifts testing the resolve of the team's character.
New York vs. Chicago, Tennessee vs. Alabama constituted the natural rivalries of her past with Chamique Holdsclaw. Acquainted since they were teenagers, the longtime competitor collaborated with Canty to win a Polish league championship. "'Mique is like a sister to me. I've been knowing her since high school when we played in the WBCA All-America Game. That's my sister. I love that girl like she was a real family member," she proclaimed about the former Lady Vol and three-year teammate while in Poland.
Four years ago, the Sky management was scouring the league for a veteran guard. They sought out the street wise former scholastic basketball star from Chicago's Whitney Young High School. Canty's return was a joyous occasion for family and friends who attend every home game. "It's been great for me. Going back home is very special to see my family and friends. I haven't played in front of my home crowd since college. It was a pretty easy decision," she exclaimed. "Now I have the whole summer to see my twelve nieces and nephews grow. Another child is on the way too. I look at them as my own."
Competing in the WNBA and overseas provides only a one or two week hiatus from the rigorous globe trotting schedule. Time away from the court is spent in a relaxation mode. Her acquired affinity is reflective of the same purposeful attitude displayed on the court. "I like to read books that are informative. I'm into real estate. I have a couple of properties. I read books about real estate," she said. Purchasing foreclosures, the self-taught entrepreneur consults her mentor, Mickey Elahi who she met through a cousin. Her interests are varied as Canty has a big picture vision of life after basketball. "I also read books about fitness because I would like to be a personal trainer someday," she said with hopes of owning a fitness training studio.
The coaching fraternity is another occupation she is seriously contemplating. Prior to spending the last six WNBA off-seasons overseas, she served a one-and-a-half-year stint as a Chicago State assistant. Initially she was not enamored with a future in the profession. The avalanche of late night phone calls from players seeking counsel was cumbersome but maturity has curbed any prior reluctance. "Later on down the line I can see myself being a coach because I want to stay in the game of basketball," she confessed. Her coach agrees. "I think she can. She has quietness about her and a great understanding of the game," Key stated.
Blessing is a word frequently uttered describing the perceived gifts in her life - returning to Chicago, the dozen years in the WNBA, the love of her family and friends along with the worldly travel experiences associated with a transcontinental career. "Where I'm from a lot of people haven't even traveled outside of that part of the city. I've been blessed enough to go across the water and see things people couldn't imagine. And it's free," she chuckled. "My life has been a blessing." Life has been enriched with the travels abroad and associated experiences. "The best place has to be Israel. Going to Jerusalem and seeing the Old City, the Walls and the Gaza Strip – all those places," she recalled. "I was riding on a camel. That was crazy, the scariest thing ever."
Her devout, spiritual commitment is reflected by the choice of tattoos. Marked on her body is the statement, ‘The Lord has blessed me' along with her initials in Hebrew and a depiction of praying hands on her back. Aptly symbolizing her style of play is the panther on her thigh from her college days. A panther's penchant for killing larger animals outweighing them personifies Canty's fearless penetration into the paint inhabited by tall bodied defenders which belies her height of 5-9.
Canty has persevered by consciously nurturing the body and mind en route to achieving WNBA career milestones. She became one of ten players to amass 2,500 points, 900 rebounds and 900 assists. Her versatile play is highlighted by being one of only eight members in the "Quad 800" club – 800 field goals made, free throws made, rebounds and assists. Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings and Katie Smith are a few of the prestigious club members Canty joins. Surpassing 8,000 career minutes in June made her the 28th player in league history to reach that mark.
The locker room is an athlete's sanctuary to interact with teammates. Although quiet by nature, Canty counters the pervasive verbal jousting by wielding capable comebacks. "She's too cool for school," professed Perkins. She's not the first one to express those sentiments embracing the smooth reputation. People crossing paths with the stylishly composed Canty are happy to be in her presence because she is cool, Chicago cool.