Milton-Jones Comes Away With Mixed Feelings

By Paul Nilsen

Delisha Milton-Jones had asked for more recognition ahead of EuroLeague Women Final Four last weekend and with two typically influential contributions, she did everything in her power to make everyone sit up and take notice. In the end, Ros Casares just came up short in the Final and she was unable to thrust some silverware into the air to truly make her point.

While ultimately in vain, her performances across both games has left the veteran star reflecting on a mixed few days now the EuroLeague Women express has rolled back out of town.

"This weekend was sweet and sour for me in many ways. The sweetness came from how awesome and spectacular the Final Four was. The fans for all the teams showed great enthusiasm for their respective teams and the event as a whole."

"The city of Valencia was given a birds eye view of some the greatest players in Womens basketball. This will forever change people's view of womens basketball for the better."

"People travelled from all over the world to be a part of this event and the players involved didn't disappoint them. There were moments where you could feel as well as see the passion that the players and coaches have for this wonderful game. I get chills whenever I think about everything."

"I'm very proud of my team for the way we showed tremendous fight."

"However to be totally honest, the sour moment is knowing that we were so close to doing something spectacular but fell short. At the end of the day, someone must lose and someone must win."

"Now I can't wait to see what next year will bring."

After almost a decade at the highest level in Europe, Milton-Jones is better placed than most to comment on how EuroLeague Women has evolved as a competition and as far as she is concerned it's all good.

"The maturation process of the Euroleague has taken place mainly because of the players playing in it. This league has seen some of basketballs greats."

"There were maybe fewer in the past but now with younger talented stars also coming overseas along with a huge fan base, Euroleague Women is getting tremendous recognition worldwide and I'm just so glad to still be a part of it all."

She is equally as positive when asked if the arrival and contribution of her Los Angeles Sparks teammate Candace Parker to Europe can make a lasting impact on the tournament.

"Definitely. Candace has star power."

"She's an awesome player who just happens to be strikingly gorgeous. This is a great package to have. She is the face of Womens basketball now and people want to see her play for many different reasons. It would have been awesome to see her play the full season this year."

Milton-Jones herself has had an impressive WNBA career and still relishes the challenge it poses each summer although she is honest enough to admit that the eight months she spends on the other side of the Pond these days is where she feels her game is best suited.

"I love the competitive nature of the WNBA but the European style of play is more for me."

"I love systematic play where the ball moves and every player is a threat on the floor. In the WNBA many times the play is maybe centered around 2 or 3 players of individual talent. Many teams are successful with this method but in my opinion it takes away from the overall quality of the game."

"However, don't get me wrong, I would still love to win another WNBA championship and leave my mark as one of the greats before I leave the game completely."

On the topic of leaving, It seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring up the delicate matter of an International career with the USA which to all intent and purposes looks to now be over.

Having bagged Olympic medals in the past, the forward has been a regular fixture for her country but the writing was on the wall after she failed to be invited to the prestigious Ekaterinburg tournament last autumn - something which six months later still rankles.

"I get goose bumps thinking about USA nobody will ever know how it truly feels to run out the tunnel with that uniform on your body. I was hurt to a degree about the USA Basketball situation when you give yourself to someone for more than 14 years of your life and they are going around saying they want new blood which to me was a bit of a slap in the face."

"They tend to label us as either old group or new group and I was stuck in the middle so its easier to put me in the old group."

"So it hurts of course but its life I guess."

Despite her disappointment, she still harbours dreams of a return and especially with a World Championships on the horizon. Should nothing materialise then there will still be a strong sense of satisfaction and pride when it comes to reviewing her time an National Team level.

"Overall I have had a great time with the USA and it's always been an honour to wear USA across my chest. If they ever need me in the near future for emergency purposes, I would gladly go."

"I feel I could still help this team out to a degree they need a veteran post player and I could feel that role. I am more than grateful for tours of duty serving my country. For me getting that jersey with USA across my chest is no better feeling in this world."

"I am a two time Olympian and nobody can ever take that away from me and plus my medals are Gold."

"Some people never get one gold medal but I have two. I am truly blessed that's for sure. I will miss all my teammates we are all special in our on way it was a honour to play with them all."

As a self-confessed fitness fanatic, it isn't realistic to expect Milton-Jones to be quitting the playing side anytime soon. Inevitably however it is a day that will one dar arrive and the forward comes across as someone who will make the transition into coaching.

It is something the player herself thinks about a lot and is passionate about making sure she does remain involved in the game when she stops treading the board. Typically, Milton-Jones is already thinking about how she will balance one of her future teams. Having been like a sponge in soaking up the technical knowledge during her career, it is handling players and the chemistry side of things that intrigues her.

"I would love to coach. I feel that it would be the best way I could pay homage to the game that has given me so very much. I guess I've pretty much seen it all!"

"Having star power on your team always helps but history has proven time and time again that a team of no stars with great chemistry can be just as successful as a team filled with stars and no chemistry."

For those who aren't aware, should Milton-Jones take the plunge into coaching at a later date, she won't go down as a rookie play-caller. In 2005, she took the coaching reins at ABA franchise Los Angeles Stars.

As if becoming only the second female to coach a pro-Men's team in the States wasn't enough of a challenge, she also had to coach her husband and it doesn't get much stranger than that.

"Experience is life's greatest teacher! Learning from mistakes I've made and the mistakes I've seen others make in difficult situations will be the foundation of my coaching philosophy."

"The brief coaching stint I had with my husband was great. If you ask him, you will definitely get a different answer. I coached how I played, Hard, tough, relentless and in your face."

"Not too many guys can take that but he was a great sport about it all. We laugh about it even now."

"He's a great guy!"

This is no understatement. When it comes to husband Roland, a basketball player himself, Milton-Jones is full of praise for her other half and it is a match made in basketball heaven as far as she is concerned.

"What we have is a never-ending story where each day experienced together is another chapter forever written in the book of love."

She laughs and admits "It sounds corny huh?" but isn't fazed and you sense she is somehow both joking and serious at the same time.

"Seriously, we compliment each other very well. We give each other the necessary space needed for us to be the individuals that we are and we respect each other."

"We are best friends and we've been an inspiration to each other's lives. I feel totally honoured to have him as my earthly soul mate. He's such a great guy!"

The powerful relationship she has with her husband underlines her attitude to life and the traditional values she holds dear. When Ros Casares team-mate Anna Montanana recently described the lack of technology in the life of Milton-Jones, the player laughed it off but also used the situation to mention her frustration at the blogging and twittering generation.

"I guess Anna is right but I have to say this in my defence, people just don't talk properly to each other anymore. I refuse to change with the times. I'm not a blog or Twitter fan. I haven't owned a computer for 10 years and I'm proud of it."

"I hate getting on the team bus only to see everyone talking with their thumbs. I love conversation and getting to know people and it would drive me crazy not having anyone to chat with."

"I like reading, talking and definitely laughing."

Despite the veteran star's stubbornness in failing to embrace new technology, the way she has embraced life in Valencia speaks volumes. In fact, during the last four years it has become a home from home and you get the impression Milton-Jones is the type of person who loves this type of fit.

"Spain is awesome. I'm very settled here and what the future holds for me is still to be determined. My agent is trying to work that out as we speak so we will see. However he has never disappointed me in the eleven years we've worked together so I am hopeful."

Although perhaps not quite as hopeful as the fans who also want her to stay and also some of us who can now finally lay to rest the guilt of having previously overlooked her achievements in return for making amends and hailing a EuroLeague Women basketball great.

Follow Us On Twitter

Like Us On Facebook