Atlanta Dream guard and former undrafted player turned All-Star Game MVP Erica Wheeler recently joined the Get With It podcast to discuss her journey thus far in the W.
Wheeler and WSLAM’s Camille Buxeda and Jianni Smith covered many topics, but one reoccurring theme that kept popping up is the importance of Wheeler’s mother and the effect she had on her life.
“When I go at anything like this interview, when I’m on a court, when I’m doing anything that I can impact I always just try to do it to the best of my ability because let the world know that someone who struggled most of her life raised a great daughter.”
The impact Wheeler’s mother had on her is put to heart in a new adidas PE that’s being released in honor of her. On the latest episode of WSLAM’s pod, Wheeler gave an exclusive sneak peek at the design of the shoe.
“It has ribbons under the sole and in the ribbon it says ‘For Mom’ …. it cuffs my feet and my feet don’t slide. And it also give me that boost feeling because it’s soft,” Wheeler said of the shoe. “My mom passed away from cervical cancer. The ribbon of cervical cancer is teal, so the shoe’s all teal. And I think the dope part about it is the bottom of the shoe. It’s clear, and it has ribbons all over them.”
Along with talking about the new adidas PE, Wheeler and the Get With It crew covered quite a few topics spanning the whole length of Wheeler’s career. Wheeler decided to attend Rutgers University over UConn, LSU, South Carolina, and others. She says it all started with a visit from head coach C. Vivian Stringer.
“The conversation was super family-orientated because we just started talking about food, it wasn’t even about basketball,” Wheeler told WSLAM. “I think the one thing that stuck out to my mom is was I never let home, so she felt more comfortable with me going to Rutgers because how Vivian approached our family.”
According to Wheeler, Stringer let her know that she’d be able to graduate in four years and ‘know how to talk, how to represent herself, and etiquette.’ As the first to graduate from college in her family, Wheeler also saw the school’s etiquette classes as something she could ‘bring home’ to teach them.
After 77 wins and three NCAA Tournament appearances in four years with Stringer at Rutgers, Wheeler reflected on something Stringer taught her that still sticks with her to this day. “Honestly, just being relentless. Like, she never gave us nothing. She didn’t care how good you were; I was the number one player leaving out of Florida when she recruited me, and she didn’t care. Like I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to work for everything.”
This relentless attitude enabled Wheeler to fight through being undrafted in the WNBA Draft, and ultimately taking a chance on herself in Puerto Rico after getting a call from a friend to play for a club team.
“I was working at True Religion and a drug abuse facility,” Wheeler says. “So for me, I’m like, Okay do I walk away from almost 3,000 to make only 1,000? But this is not my calling, like this is just work. Basketball is my calling. So I’m just like, ‘Man me walking away from this is basically betting on myself.’ So I just decided, I’m like, Alright. I ended up quitting both jobs.”
After winning a championship down in Puerto Rico with the team, Wheeler was able to showcase her talent briefly overseas and land a tryout with the Atlanta Dream. There, she put on a ‘I’m bout to bust they ass and get this spot’ attitude to eventually be selected for the one open roster spot after competing against three other players.
While Wheeler only played 17 games in Atlanta, it was a jumping point for the rest of her career. A mere four years later, she became the first undrafted player in history to be named All-Star Game MVP, representing the Indiana Fever. However, Wheeler admits that she didn’t even see the All-Star nod coming at all.
“When I got that, I thought it was a prank honestly,” Wheeler says. “I’m thinking my best friend or my brother told a girl to call me to prank call me. Because if you ask Bethany, I’m like ‘man stop playing get off my damn phone’ like cursed at the lady and everything.”
Wheeler was instrumental in Team A’ja Wilson’s 129-126 victory, recording a game-high 25 points and seven assists in 19 minutes of run to secure the victory for her team.
It all eventually came full circle for Wheeler, who made her way back to Atlanta this season. She’s currently averaging 9.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game for the 4-1 Dream. Wheeler has a strong message for the rest of the W and anyone who is sleepin’ on ATL.
“Just keep sleeping on Atlanta if you want to. I think we woke some people up that first game though,” Wheeler says. “When we lose we gon’ lose together, when we win we gon’ win together, and we never separate… y’all gon see.”
The post Erica Wheeler Talks Journey to the WNBA and New Adidas PE on WSLAM’s ‘Get With It’ appeared first on SLAM.