The following is an interview I did with former Maryland guard Kristi Toliver about her reuniting with former Maryland guard/forward Marissa Coleman in Los Angeles.
(Image from wnba.com)
Terrapin Station: What was your reaction when you heard Marissa [Coleman] was coming to the Sparks?
Kristi Toliver: I was surprised to get the news actually. I didn’t think that Riss would ever leave DC, but I think she could fit in well in LA.
TS: Do you think Marissa will be a good fit for how your team plays offensively/defensively?
Toliver: Yea, I know we have wanted our identity to be a uptempo team who takes pride on the defensive end, so with that being said I think Riss can contribute on both of those ends. With her height and length she will be able to defend and I know at Maryland we were a good transition team, so she obviously can be effective in that area as well.
TS: The Sparks missed the postseason for the first time in 13 years last season. On paper, now that you have Marissa, do you feel like you’re a playoff team?
Toliver: I felt like we were a playoff team last year actually. We got hit with some injuries throughout the season and fought back to put ourselves in the hunt, but just couldn’t capitalize. Riss brings a lot of different things and our team is full of players that can play multiple positions, so Riss is just another player who can add to that kind of versatility.
TS: How have the two of you changed as players since college? What has Marissa improved about her game/ what have you improved?
Toliver: Since college I can say we have more experience as pros. Understanding the game is a little different, we have both adapted and brought our strengths and improved on our weaknesses. In college Riss could bully players because of her size and athleticism, but now I think she has added to her fundamentals and improved her outside jumper. As for me, I’ve gotten better at being stronger with the ball and my penetration to the rim. In college I could settle for shooting jumpers a lot, but lately I have been working on my explosiveness to the basket.
TS: Are the two of you competitive against each other? Do you think you make each other better?
Toliver: We are both very competitive individuals. Not only in basketball, but in everything we do. Every player in LA is extremely competitive and that’s how we get better. Practices are like games. Riss and I have always played well together and I’m sure that’ll only continue as professionals.
TS: You guys scored pretty much the same amount of points in college. Marissa had you in rebounding, you had her in assists. Did the who is Batman/ who is Robin question ever come up or were you pretty much able to avoid that?
Toliver: We never really dealt with the Batman and Robin thing so much. We would just say we were like “Yin and Yang”. We know in order to be successful as a team everyone has to put their ego aside and that’s why we were always on successful teams together. Batman knows he couldn’t be Batman without Robin and vice versa. Everyone else can decide who’s who, but we don’t worry about that kind of stuff.
TS: Do you consider yourself lucky to have had someone as good as Marissa to play alongside at Maryland?
Toliver: It’s always a honor to play with good players and Riss is one of them that I was able to play with for 4 years. I know that we couldn’t have accomplished the things we did at Maryland without her there. She was such a versatile player who understood the game, so of course as a point guard that’s a dream! I couldn’t have imagined playing 4 years with anyone else.
TS, Extra Question: What do you think about Alyssa Thomas and the [highly ranked] Terps?
Toliver: Well before I headed to Russia to play I worked out with the girls and I got to see AT just about every day for a month. She plays like she always has something to prove. There is such a big chip on her shoulder that I feel sorry for her opponents and for the practice guys that have to go against her on a daily basis! She is the female Lebron as far as her strength and body goes. Once she improves on her jump shot and quick release she will truly be a force to be reckoned with. I’m proud that this Maryland team is finally back on the national stage. They’re playing hard and together which is the Maryland way. They’ve found ways to win in tough situations and I believe they have what it takes to make a run to the Final Four.