Friday, October 24, 2014

Pursuing dreams professionally

Avery Warley continues her basketball career at the highest level, whether it is playing in the WNBA or overseas

Not many women have an opportunity to play professionally in the WNBA. In fact, only a few more than 100 players have the opportunity to suit up for one of the 12 teams in the league.

Liberty University’s all-time leading rebounder and 2011 Big South Defensive Player of the Year Avery Warley, is one of those players who made the transition from college to the WNBA. Warley credited her years playing at Liberty as the main reason she has been able to pursue her dream.

Sky’s the limit — Avery Warley will suit up for the Chicago Sky during the 2014 WNBA season. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Sky’s the limit — Avery Warley will suit up for the Chicago Sky during the 2014 WNBA season. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“Liberty is one of the reasons I’m able to make it mentally and physically as a professional athlete,” Warley said. “… Playing at Liberty, the three major things, (among others), it taught me (were) a tremendous amount of patience, discipline and hard work.”

After graduating from Liberty in the spring of 2012, Warley went undrafted but signed with the Phoenix Mercury in 2012, describing the experience as
surreal.

“I don’t even believe there is a word that can best describe the way I was feeling that day,” Warley said. “I am very blessed. It was nothing but God, and I knew that. Here I am as an undrafted player from Liberty University, taking the spots of drafted players. The feeling was breathtaking.”

According to Warley her two-year stint in the WNBA has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride so far, as she was bounced between four different teams before eventually landing with the Chicago Sky, the team she will be with when the season restarts in May.

“I learned that when it’s all said and done, God is in control,” Warley said. “God has the final say. It reassured me (as I moved between different teams). … And although life can be unfair at times, through all of those teams, God has still blessed me. I finally found the (team) where I belong.”

During the offseason, Warley brought her game overseas to Israel and Turkey, where she says many WNBA players decide to go in the offseason due to better pay and the WNBA’s short regular season.

Warley admits that adjusting to life outside the United States has not always been simple, but she has embraced playing in Israel and Turkey.

“Playing in these countries has taught me a lot, but most importantly, (it’s taught me to) be grateful for the little things — the things you sometimes can get caught taking for granted, such as always having hot water (and) seeing and talking to your family and friends,” Warley said.

Despite being overseas, Warley explained how instrumental her friends and former teammates from Liberty have been in her life.

“When you play for Liberty, the girls become a sisterhood, not just teammates,” Warley said. “I have amazing people that I still visit and who mean so much to me that are still at Liberty.”

Along with the support from friends and teammates, Warley reminisced on how Liberty Head Coach Carey Green has influenced her career as both a basketball player and as a well-rounded
person.

“(Green) has helped groom me as a player and as a person,” Warley said. “One of the reasons I came to Liberty was because he cared more about me as a person. … He was my biggest encourager and my biggest critic. He did what he thought was best for me every time. I might not have (always) liked it, but I respect him and will forever be thankful for that.”

Wherever she ends up, whether on the court or off, Warley said she is going to continue letting God be in control of her life.

“God has the wheel, (and I’m) just sitting back and enjoying the ride,” Warley said. “… My journey called life is different from every one else. God has a plan for me no matter what it looks like.”

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