Chantelle Anderson makes return to Nashville

For an instant, it might have been a Wednesday afternoon in Memorial Gym in September, 2002, instead of 2003. Ashley McElhiney was sitting behind the baseline on the visitors' end of the court, and then the unmistakable 6-6 Chantelle Anderson walked into the gym.

NASHVILLE-- For an instant, it might have been a Wednesday afternoon in Memorial Gym in September, 2002, instead of September, 2003. Ashley McElhiney was sitting behind the baseline on the visitors' end of the court, and then the unmistakable 6-6 Chantelle Anderson walked into the gym.

But excited shouts of "Chantelle's here! Chantelle's here!" and the sight of freshmen Caroline Williams stretching against the goal post and Dee Davis shooting baskets were a reminder that this wasn't a magical return to the past.

No, it wasn't time travel. Rather, for the former Vanderbilt All-American center, it was just a visit to Memorial Gym, a rest stop on the long and winding basketball road that's crossed the country countless times and the oceans more than once.

Surgery in Iowa in April to repair the toe she dislocated in February, a trip to New York for the WNBA draft where she was chosen as the #2 pick, Vanderbilt graduation in Nashville, and WNBA training camp in Sacramento, and the compressed WNBA season followed in quick succession.

For Anderson, it was a sometimes frustrating season. Rehabilitation following her surgery took longer than anticipated, and an already deep Sacramento front court made it difficult for a rookie center to earn playing time. After averaging nearly 30 minutes and 19 points a game during her college career at Vanderbilt, Anderson averaged less than seven minutes per game with the Monarchs.

"My toe is finally 100%," she said on Thursday. "I think I tried to come back to soon. I struggled with it all season, and it finally feels like it's better."

"But one thing I learned is that I can play on this level," Anderson said. "But I have to get tougher and stronger. It's definitely a mindset. Even in college, when I had the mindset to dominate, I dominated. And when I didn't, I didn't."

The remedy is to work at it, and that means playing, playing, and playing some more. With the WNBA season over, like many WNBA players, Anderson has packed her bags and will soon be heading overseas to play for Team TCS in southern Hungary for the next seven and a half months.

The Hungarian team actually will be playing in two leagues, the Hungarian league and also in the Euro league. Each week, the team plays one game in each league. While the Hungarian league is confined to Hungary, teams in the Euro league travel the continent.

"It'll be cool. I'll have my own car, my own apartment, and I'll get to travel around Europe," she said. But the real reason for the European trip is to have the opportunity to play basketball day-in and day-out, to work on her game and her mindset, to get tougher and stronger.

There's a downside, of course. Anderson had hoped to come to Nashville often to see her former teammates play. But the long European season won't allow many opportunities.

"We'll get a week at Christmas, and I'll visit my family," she said. "And if it turns out to be two weeks, I'll come here." But the chances are that while the Commodores are adjusting to the post-Chantelle era, Anderson won't be able to see much of it. Instead, she'll be working towards her goal for her sophomore season in the WNBA.

And that goal is already firmly in her mind. Houston Comets center Michelle Snow, whose friendship with Anderson provided an irresistable story line when Snow played for the University of Tennessee, received the WNBA's Most Improved Player award this season.

"They gave out the award during the playoff game when we played Houston," Anderson said. "I was so proud of her."

And inspired by her, too. "That's my award next year," said Anderson. "That's my goal. There is no way -- no way -- I'm going to have another season like this one."

And the work towards that goal lies just around the bend. After her few days of R&R on her old familiar turf and in the friendly confines of Memorial Gym, Anderson's road crosses the Atlantic Ocean once again on Monday, where new cities, new teammates, and a new season are waiting.


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