There may be no player in the WNBA who understands more about what UConn transfer Natalie Butler will be going thru next season than Connecticut Sun forward Kelsey Bone.
Bone, 22, a former big-time UConn recruit from Houston, Texas, transferred after her freshman season at South Carolina to Texas A&M in 2010. And because of NCAA rules she was forced to sit out the following season.
Butler, the freshman of the year in the Big East last season at Georgetown, will transfer to UConn in the fall but will not be able to play during the 2014-15 season. She would join the team as a sophomore the following year.
What Butler will miss could mirror what Bone missed while she sat: The Aggies won the NCAA championship in 2010-11 during Bone’s year in limbo.
“I was there and in practice every day,” Bone said. “But that was the year that changed basketball for me. It was the first time since I was 11 years old that I had not played basketball competitively. When you practicing all year against a player like Danielle Adams [the former A&M All-American now playing for San Antonio] every single day, it was invaluable for me.
“It taught me things. Those practices were my games and I know my teammates [at A&M] noticed how I was fist-pumping, how excited I was to be there. That was all I had. And it helped me mature and understand that practice matters. I would psych myself up for it and it changed the game for me.”
Bone said she used the year to build her strength and her skills.
“Your transfer year is all about what you make it,” Bone said. “I took it as a chance to focus on every weakness that I had. I lifted weights four times a week. From the time I stepped foot on A&M’s campus to the time I left [three years later] I had lost like 40 pounds.
“I fell in love with lifting weights. When I got to A&M, I was barely squatting [lifting] the bar, which was only 45 pounds. By the time I walked across the stage [graduation], I was squatting 315 pounds.
“You are there to help your teammates be ready. You are always going to be in the scout team. You are going to be playing with the guys [practice players]. But it’s a year to focus on everything about yourself. If you can’t make free throws, that’s when you work on it. If you’re not a great rebounder, that’s when you improve. If its conditioning or post moves that are your problems, well, that is your year to fix it. When that year is up, the program is looking at you to produce.
“The Big East freshman of the year is going to be expected to step in and be ready to play. And if you lollygag that year [when you must sit] it’s not going to be pretty at all.”
And after playing two years for coach Gary Blair she opted to forego a fifth year of college eligibility with the Aggies and entered the WNBA draft last season.
It was a good decision. Bone was the fifth overall pick by New York and appeared in 34 games averaging 6.9 points and just joined the Sun this week after playing in Turkey this winter.