Ros Casares superstar DeLisha Milton-Jones has been a special player in Europe for several years but her recent achievements in the EuroLeague Women have put her in elite company.
Milton, 32, a European champion last season with Gambrinus Sika Brno, last week became only the third person to finish the group stages of the EuroLeague Women at the top of the rebounding and scoring charts.
|“||... the old saying `it's not how you start, it's how you finish that counts', and I definitely believe that applies to us.||„|
Raziya Mujanovic was the only other hoopster to do it, way back in 1992.
Milton, who has also had spells with Lavezzini Basket (2002) and UMMC Ekaterinburg (2003), averaged 20.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in Europe so far this season and she will be hoping to continue that hot streak when the Valencians host Polish outfit Wisla Can-Pack Krakow in the eight-place playoffs.
She spoke to PA Sport's Nick Howes on behalf of FIBA Europe.
FIBA Europe: Delisha, congratulations on a great season for you so far.
Milton: "Thank you, things have been going pretty well for me recently so I'm happy."
FIBA Europe: Expectations were so high with your arrival in Spain, and it appears you've obviously delivered the points and rebounds, but the team has still struggled in some games. Why is this?
Milton: "I think it's been down to a number of things. We're a new team, so we're still finding our feet a little bit. There has been a lot of pressure on us, too. The fans here are desperate to have a successful team. They haven't had one in the city for about 15 years so they really want to see us do well."
FIBA Europe: Nevertheless, you have won the Copa de la Reina, you lead the Liga Femenina and you have advanced to the eight-finals of the EuroLeague Women, so the season can still have a very happy ending for Ros Casares?
Milton: "Of course, that's right. There's the old saying `it's not how you start, it's how you finish that counts', and I definitely believe that applies to us. We have had a few growing pains so far but as the season goes on, we can try to put that right."
FIBA Europe: DeLisha, you've had an amazing career. There is Team USA and all of those gold medals at the Olympics and FIBA World Championships, and last year you won the EuroLeague Women with Gambrinus Sika Brno. Can you believe how well things have gone for you on the basketball court?
Milton: "Definitely not, it's been unbelievable. When I was growing up, my first love was track and field, I used to watch the Olympics on TV and I was in awe, to see those well oiled and athletic bodies. I thought I wanted to do that. I used to play ball with the guys in the back yard and they convinced me to give it a go. From then on, things just kept happening for me. "
FIBA Europe: What is the highlight of your career so far?
Milton: "It's got to be winning the Olympic gold medal in 2000. Even now, whe
|Milton helped Gambrinus win the 2006 EuroLeague Women title.|
FIBA Europe: Do have your medal over there with you in Spain?
Milton: "No, it's safely locked away at my mom's house. I dedicated it to her. If I'm lucky enough ever to win another one, I'm going to dedicate that one to my husband."
FIBA Europe: What does it take to be a great scorer and rebounder?
Milton: "Well, I think it's all thanks to the great coaches I've had all the way through my career. They point out things and they are the people that have made me a better player. My husband has also been a pillar of strength. He's spent hundreds of hours out on the court with me, giving me tips and advice. And I can't forget my team-mates. They are the ones who create the opportunities for me, so I want to show them some love."
FIBA Europe: Yolanda Griffith was the last player in the EuroLeague Women to come out top in both the scoring and rebound categories 10 years ago. Were you aware of that? How does it feel to be up there with someone like that?
Milton: "No, actually I wasn't aware of that but it just makes the achievement even better. Yolanda is a player that people all over the world know and so to be up there with her is just unbelievable. I feel so honoured."
FIBA Europe: Does basketball just seem like a job or do you still really enjoy playing the game?
Milton: "Oh of course, yes, I know it's a business but I just feel so lucky I can still make a living by playing this game."
FIBA Europe: How much longer do you think you will play?
Milton: "Well, if I can stay in shape and keep fit then I think I can go on for a long time yet, 40 plus. Who knows? My teammate Elena (Tornikidou) is 41 years old but and she's looking and playing amazing so if I can carry on like she has, that would be great. Hopefully I'll still be in the frame for the 2008 Olympics. I've still got a lot of basketbal left to play."
FIBA Europe: What about after your playing career?
Milton: "(Laughs) After my playing career I'm going to spend three years in my house with my husband eating and watching TV, maybe start a family and enjoy watching my children grow up. We both like the idea of setting up an academy so we can give something back."
FIBA Europe: You've done a lot of travelling with basketball, so that's a bonus. What about in your spare time, DeLisha. As you live in Valencia now, do you like to go sailing or watch soccer games?
Milton: "Well stuff over here's pretty hectic. We don't get much free time. I haven't been sailing or to the soccer but I did get the chance to see the Formula One. That was so loud, I couldn't believe how fast the cars were going. We just love checking out the city - it's such a lovely place to live."
FIBA EUROPE: So you are enjoying life in Valencia?
Milton: "Yes definitely, it's so old and even though it is a city, there is still a community feel about the place. In Russia it got really cold but here it's nice and warm pretty much all the year round."
FIBA EUROPE: Going back to basketball, how do you rate your chances against Wisla in the play-offs?
Milton: "Anyone can beat anyone in this league. We know Wisla are going to make it really tough for us and we're going to need a near perfect game to get past them. It should be a good series of games."