Evina Westbrook turned a family identify in faculty basketball when she stepped foot on Tennessee’s campus as a high recruit in 2017. After two stellar seasons because the Volunteers’ start line guard, she put her identify within the switch portal with just one college in thoughts: the College of Connecticut. She’d spend the 2019-2020 season redshirting and rehabbing a surgically repaired knee earlier than turning into a serious piece to a Huskies squad that reached the Remaining 4. Upon graduating from UConn, she’d take her abilities to the W the place she was drafted twenty first total by the Seattle Storm, making historical past because the first-ever Mexican-American to play within the League. She’s at the moment with the Los Angeles Sparks and relentlessly working towards a breakout season.
Whereas on her technique to a exercise, Evina spoke with me about her upbringing, recruitment, trusting the method, making historical past, being a hip-hop producer in her previous life, interning with the Portland Path Blazers, and extra.
CURTIS: How are you doing? How’s the low season been treating you?
EVINA: The low season has been actually good. I undoubtedly miss taking part in, however I’ve simply been getting my exercises in loopy. I both work out in Portland or Eugene. And I reside in Salem, so I’m an hour from each. It’s similar to, I’ve obtained to get it in regardless. And I really feel actually totally different this low season, I really feel actually totally different.
CURTIS: You grew up in a basketball household; are you able to speak about your loved ones’s introduction to the sport?
EVINA: Basketball was the one sport my household ever performed; my mother was the one particular person in my household who didn’t. My dad performed at OSU and abroad. All my brothers performed. My youthful brother performs. So it’s like basketball is simply what it’s.
CURTIS: So what was the second once you knew you had been particular and knew you had been totally different out of your friends who you had been competing towards?
EVINA: I grew up taking part in with boys. Once I was getting actually good with my boys staff, we’d have mother and father from the opposite groups complaining like they didn’t desire a woman on the staff. It’s such as you’re getting mad that I’m a lady, however I’m beating your son’s ass. When it obtained to that time it was like, ‘okay, I feel we obtained one thing particular.’ My coach rising up at all times informed me that I used to be gonna get a scholarship from wherever I wished to, that I used to be gonna go to UConn, that I used to be gonna win a nationwide championship. He actually spoke it into existence. It was simply all coming true due to all of the work I put in.
CURTIS: Piggybacking off of that, popping out of highschool you had been a high two prospect within the nation. Are you able to converse to the preparation that’s vital to achieve that time? What did your day-to-day appear like rising up as you had been turning into essentially the most wanted recruit?
EVINA: Pondering again on it now, it was type of loopy–like the kind of day-to-day I used to be having, particularly at a younger age. And training youngsters now, I really feel like they don’t do what I used to be doing and simply type of eat, reside and breathe basketball. I simply beloved the sport. I beloved the sport to a degree the place I felt myself getting higher and I didn’t wish to cease. I might get up and my coach–his identify is Worth–would choose me up from my home. Me and my brothers would go to the gymnasium and get it in at like 6 a.m. Then he would take us to the donut store, we’d all go to highschool, and after college I might discover some technique to the gymnasium. If my mother and father had been at work and couldn’t take me, I might stroll like an hour to the gymnasium. And I might be there till like 10 o’clock and I wouldn’t go away. I missed out on quite a lot of issues, however again then it was like I didn’t wish to be wherever else. The gymnasium was my protected place, so I used to be simply there on a regular basis and I used to be good there.
CURTIS: How did your recruitment out of highschool unfold, what made Tennessee the fitting selection initially?
EVINA: Basketball-wise Notre Dame was the place I wished to go. However the college half, I used to be like nah this isn’t gonna work. I keep in mind happening an unofficial go to to Stanford as a freshman and as quickly as we had been strolling away from the coach, my mother and I checked out one another and I used to be like, ‘this ain’t it.’ There was nothing unsuitable with it, it simply wasn’t for me. Then after I obtained all the way down to my high 5, there have been undoubtedly a few colleges I didn’t wish to inform no. I felt like on the time, Tennessee had the whole lot that I wished. They’d a Black cultural middle. I’m like, ‘that is the place I’m speculated to be, my persons are right here, I really feel at residence.’
CURTIS: So after having two impactful seasons, you determined to switch; what went into that call and why UConn?
EVINA: There was simply quite a lot of stuff happening at Tennessee. I nonetheless don’t have any regrets. I’m nonetheless tremendous grateful that I went there and spent my time there. I met some unbelievable individuals who I nonetheless speak to. And it’s not like I wasn’t getting taking part in time. I used to be the start line guard each years, main the staff in scoring and assists. I informed myself I by no means wished to be the child to switch and go to a different college. After my first 12 months, there was a lot happening exterior of basketball that was affecting us on the courtroom. However I wished to stay it out and do no matter was doable to make issues higher. However then it obtained worse. I didn’t really feel like we had a real tradition. The 12 months I transferred was the primary 12 months of the switch portal. I put my identify within the portal and my AAU coach was involved with UConn. I had quite a lot of colleges attain out however I used to be turning folks down left and proper. I just about knew the place I wished to go. I didn’t need this elaborate course of. I knew if I had a very good official go to that I used to be gonna commit on the spot.
CURTIS: After two nice years at UConn, it was time to resolve what your subsequent steps had been. Did you think about using the additional 12 months of eligibility that was granted on account of COVID?
EVINA: Hell no, I used to be able to go [laughing]. 5 years was already an excessive amount of. I had a extremely good redshirt junior 12 months, I actually nearly left after that. I performed tremendous properly within the match they usually had me projected within the high ten, however we didn’t win. We misplaced within the Remaining 4. Me being stingy, I used to be like we obtained unfinished enterprise and ended up coming again the following 12 months, which I don’t remorse both.
CURTIS: How did your time at UConn put together you for the W?
EVINA: Actually, the transition from UConn to the professionals was fairly straightforward, and I feel it’s as a result of we have now a pro-like system already embedded in UConn. Each on the courtroom and off the courtroom, at UConn, we have now to decorate and current ourselves a sure method. It was annoying at occasions, however then you definitely get to the league and it’s like, ‘oh shit, this is smart.’ So transitioning, I don’t assume was arduous in any respect. However it was undoubtedly totally different in understanding there’s solely 12 groups and barely 12 roster spots. There’s solely about possibly three folks on every time with assured contracts. You’re coming in pondering they’re gonna maintain you, however they don’t care the place you come from. Generally it’s not even about whether or not you performed good or unhealthy. For instance, after I obtained drafted to Seattle, it was the right staff, excellent scenario, unsuitable time. However it’s such as you simply gotta maintain it pushing. And it’s arduous for a younger participant to leap round. I’ve been on 5 totally different groups in two years.
CURTIS: Are you able to converse to trusting the method and what that appears like for you?
EVINA: It’s undoubtedly been a journey and it’s tremendous robust not letting your thoughts get to a degree of pondering you’re not ok. However in all places I’ve been, each place I’ve been to, I’ve continued to place the work in, whether or not I used to be taking part in or not. You simply gotta maintain your thoughts into it. All of the work I put in helps me by no means waver from understanding I’m ok and belong within the league. I’m getting higher. I’m gonna get my time on the proper time. And I feel once you simply proceed to place the work in–like particularly this low season, I simply really feel totally different.
CURTIS: What do you love to do once you’re not hooping?
EVINA: I really like music. I’m listening to music on a regular basis. All of the totally different phrases, the totally different beats. Possibly I used to be a producer in my previous life. Both that or a mob spouse, I feel [laughing]. However yeah, I really like listening to music and simply vibing for actual. I like going to concert events. I simply be chillin’, watching motion pictures. I don’t actually be on nothing loopy.
CURTIS: Who’re your favourite hip-hop artists?
EVINA: In all probability Kendrick proper on high of Cole. However then typically I’ll throw in Younger Dolph or BigXThaPlug, just like the Tennessee will come out, you’re feeling me? It actually will depend on what my temper is. Generally Dame D.O.L.L.A might be within the combine. Dame can actually rap.
CURTIS: Apple Music or Spotify?
EVINA: I’m an Apple Music woman.
CURTIS: What’s your Apple Music replay trying like, who’s on the high?
EVINA: It’s fairly versatile. I do know Larry June obtained it. I’ve been listening to him like loopy. His album that got here out this 12 months might be my favourite from high to backside. I take heed to quite a lot of Mexican music attempting to work on my Spanish just a little bit.
CURTIS: Oh wow, that’s an ideal segue as a result of I wished to ask you about that. You’re the first, and solely, Mexican-American to be drafted in WNBA historical past and be taking part in within the League. Are you able to speak about your roots and what it was like once you first came upon that you simply’d made historical past?
EVINA: I feel it was my mother who informed me as a result of somebody had stated it on Twitter. She was like, ‘I didn’t know you had been the primary Mexican-American to be drafted.’ Man, after I obtained my Mexican passport, I cried, like actually tears popping out my eyes. Simply because it means a lot to me. I’m half Black, half Mexican and all my life, as a result of I’ll not seem as a Mexican, folks didn’t consider me. So after I obtained my passport, I’m like you may’t inform me shit, that is legit. I’m actually Mexican, my mother is full Mexican. So simply having the ability to have that passport, how a lot it means to my household, it actually does imply so much to me. Hopefully, in the future I’ll have the ability to put a Mexico jersey on.
CURTIS: How has your id formed you as an individual?
EVINA: Simply feeling the love from my household–I feel that’s what it’s about, proper? They arrive as much as me and inform me I make them proud. They inform me to maintain going and that I give them hope and only a totally different perspective. I’m like ‘rattling, actually? I’m simply placing the ball within the hoop.’ Once I hear them speak to me like that, it’s similar to I don’t ever wish to cease–understanding the impression I’ve on my household and for the individuals who at all times believed in me. I performed down there this previous 12 months and that was tremendous cool. And I feel that’s the primary purpose why I’m attempting to study Spanish now. That’s undoubtedly my objective. I informed all my Mexican teammates to solely converse to me in Spanish. That’s the one method I’m going to study.
CURTIS: I learn that you simply interned with the Portland Path Blazers. What was that have like: what’d you do, what’d you study? There’s a wave of W gamers actually rising within the NBA/media house. Are you able to speak about why you selected to intern with the staff, and what a few of your off-court aspirations are?
EVINA: I used to be an intern for basketball operations. I used to be studying the whole lot–salaries, wage cap, contracts, scouting. There are such a lot of layers to it. I realized tips on how to reduce up movie. I used to be serving to with warmups and a bunch of different stuff. It was an enormous studying course of, simply to type of see the opposite facet of issues. I’ve been the participant, so not being on the participant’s facet of issues was totally different. The cash the NBA is taking part in with is completely totally different. I’d somewhat do a 10-day within the NBA than a full season within the W [laughing]. However yeah, I wanna hoop so long as I can, however I wanna produce other stuff going whereas I’m hooping.
CURTIS: Final query: What’s one factor folks can be shocked to find out about you? May very well be something.
EVINA: Possibly that I’ve an enormous and fairly humorous persona, simply not taking life too severe[ly]. Folks round me are like, ‘I didn’t assume you had been gonna be like this, I believed you had been only a cute face.’ I hate folks like that. You recognize, he or she seems good or seems cool, however their persona is trash. I by no means wished to be that kind of particular person.
Images by way of Getty Pictures.
As at all times, right here’s the official Hoops, Rap and All the pieces Black playlist. It’ll be up to date weekly with every column. Add the playlist to your library to remain within the know, and make sure you comply with SLAM on Spotify.