On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Guest Host: Sasha-Ann Simons
Kojo For Kids welcomes Washington Mystic Myisha Hines-Allen to the show on Monday, Aug. 10 at 12:30 p.m. Listen live by streaming the show on this page or by tuning in to 88.5 FM in the Washington, D.C. region. Kids can call in with questions at 800-433-8850.
Myisha Hines-Allen was part of the team that won the WNBA championship last year, but it’s only this summer that she got the opportunity to show fans just how dominant she can be on the court. Hines-Allen scored a whopping 27 points in the season opener and was recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
We hear from this rising Mystics star on how she worked toward this moment, life in the WNBA “Wubble” and her advice for kids who want to up their game.
This show is part of the “Kojo For Kids” series, a Kojo Nnamdi Show segment featuring guests of special interest to young listeners. Though Kojo has been on WAMU 88.5 for 20 years, this is the first time he has had the opportunity to reach out to an audience of kids, most of whom until recently had been in school during our live broadcast. We’re excited to hear from our youngest listeners! Join us!
Produced by Lauren Markoe
- Myisha Hines-Allen Forward, Washington Mystics; @WashMystics
SASHA ANN SIMONSI'm Sasha Ann Simons, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Washington Mystics fans, you know this theme song.
SASHA ANN SIMONSSwag Surfing, it's the soundtrack to their exhilarating and sometimes strange past two years. Last year, the Mystics won the WNBA Championship, but because of the pandemic, it didn't get their parade through Washington. Several Mystic stars aren't playing because of injuries or because they can't risk exposure to the coronavirus. The virus has forced WNBA players to train and compete in an isolated facility in Bradenton, Florida, in what's now known as the Wubble. Get it? It's a bubble, but it's the WNBA. Yeah.
SASHA ANN SIMONSJoining us from the Wubble is Mystic Myisha Hines-Allen. She's having a breakout season, scoring 27 points in the opener. We're going to find out about life in the Wubble and the road to this pivotal moment in her career. Now, a reminder for adults, you are welcome to listen, but on Kojo For Kids, it's kid callers, only. Myisha Hines-Allen, welcome to the program.
MYISHA HINES-ALLENHello. I'm super-excited to be here.
SIMONSMe, too. I'm so happy to talk to you. With you, Myisha, I want to start from the beginning though. Can you tell us about your childhood? What was that like, and where did you grow up with your siblings?
HINES-ALLENOkay. So, I was actually born in Virginia, and then we moved up to Jersey -- New Jersey. I have three older sisters and two younger brothers. Family-oriented. Fun fact, two of my older sisters played college basketball.
SIMONSCool. Where did they play?
HINES-ALLENThey played basketball, sorry. And my younger brother, he plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He plays football for them, so just a family of athletes, really. And, you know, Montclair is a small town. Everyone knows everyone. I'm super-proud of where I came from.
SIMONSAwesome. And then you mentioned your brother in football. You also tried football as a kid, but...
SIMONS...didn't quite work out for you? And what I'm hearing, though, is that, you know, your brother obviously dominates that sport. He plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but you root for him, but you actually don't like football. Is that right?
HINES-ALLENNo, I do not like football at all. (laugh) So...
SIMONSSo what was your experience like as a kid trying to actually play that sport?
HINES-ALLENYes. So, when I started it was Pop Warner, like, little kids, and it was our first game. And I played with my two younger brothers so we were on the same team. It's was first game and I got tackled, I got hit hard. (laugh) And I was like, all right, I'm done with football. Do not like it. And, like, ever since then I just haven't been a big fan of football.
SIMONSSo, what do you -- I'm so curious. What do you tell people when they ask you if you're a Jaguar's fan?
HINES-ALLENSo, I'll say I'm a Josh Allen fan. (laugh)
HINES-ALLENBecause I really do not watch football much. I just -- you know, with my brother's playing, I'll watch that, but, like -- and then I'm tuned in only on the defensive side when he's in. So, yeah, not a big fan of football.
SIMONSWell, I'm glad he's still got your support regardless. So, Myisha, in the second round of the WNBA draft, you were the very respectable 19th pick, overall. And we've actually seen the video of you when you found out that you were chosen by the Mystics, and everybody around you seems to be going nuts, and you just appear to be speechless. Tell me what was going through your mind at that time.
HINES-ALLENA lot of different emotions. So, actually, at the time where, like, they announced my name in, like, that video, you can see me just, like, look down at my phone for a quick second. And I'm like, wait, what just happened? Because someone texted me before, like, a friend of mine texted me and it's like, oh, you just got picked up by Washington. And I'm like, what are you talking about? (laugh) Because it didn't announce yet. And then I'm like, oh.
HINES-ALLENSo, it was just a whirlwind of emotions, different emotions going through my mind. Because it's like a long -- it's your lifetime dream, you know, to play in the WNBA when you've been working so hard for it. So, just to hear my name, see my name come across that board, I was just like, wow. This is amazing.
SIMONSThat's a huge moment, for sure. You were in Louisville when the draft happened and you were watching it, you know, on the big screen with friends and other people around you. But I heard your draft watch party was also a fundraiser. What were you raising money for?
HINES-ALLENYes. I was raising money for this wheelchair basketball team in Louisville that I work closely with. My four years at Louisville, Miss BJ, who is in charge of that recreation center, Berrytown, you know, I texted her and I called her, and I was, like, I think this would be, you know, a good idea, you know, to have all our fans come, you know, have the team there and just raise money for the team. And we were able to raise over $1,000, so they were able to get jerseys -- everyone in the wheelchair team was able to get jerseys. We were able to pay for coaching certificates and their fee to play in the tournament, too.
SIMONSOh, that's wonderful. We have our first caller on the line, Monet. She's 12, in Rockville. Hi, Monet. You're on the line.
SIMONSHi, Monet. What's your questions for Myisha?
MONETMy question for Myisha is, during with all this sad time, you know, during COVID-19, how do you stay motivated playing basketball?
SIMONSGreat question, Monet. Myisha.
HINES-ALLENYes, that was a great question. Yeah, I guess it goes back to, you know, being a child and just knowing, like, this is what you work so hard for and, you know, why you fell in love with the game of basketball. So, I just kind of take it day by day, because there are days where, you know, it kind of is overwhelming, just because of what's going on in the world today. But, you know, just taking it back to, you know, this is why I play. This is why I love the game of basketball. You know, just to be out there with my teammates competing, it's amazing.
SIMONSIf you're just tuning in, we're talking with Myisha Hines-Allen. She's a forward with the WNBA's Washington Mystics. Now, Myisha, the Mystics is stacked. You know, it's got some of the most dominant players in the league. So, until recently, you haven't really had a lot of court time, but that changed this summer because the team lost many of their starters. And so we're actually getting the chance to see the versatility of your game, I would say. The season opener, of course, you scored 27 points, as I mentioned before, against the Indiana Fever. But tell us how you prepare yourself to take full advantage of this opportunity that you've been given?
HINES-ALLENSo, like you mentioned, my first two years, I didn't play a lot, but I was able to have great role models and great mentors in front of me, playing, you know, that always were helping me, you know, learn the game more. Because going into the WNBA, it's a completely different game in front of you, you know, when you're growing up from college -- and from college.
HINES-ALLENSo, I've had great role models and great mentors in front of me playing. So, I kind of just use them to the best of my ability, you know, on and off the court, seeing the things that they do, how they carry themselves, how they're able to play. So, I think, for me, it was taking everything that I learned my first two years and applying it. So, yeah, I think that's one of the...
SIMONSAnd it's working. You know, you were, soon after that season opener I mentioned, named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Congratulations. That's awesome.
SIMONSSo, as a mom, I can't not ask you this, because I have two daughters. They're 12 and 13, and they've been playing basketball on and off for the past few years. But my biggest challenge, as their mom, is just trying to teach them about being patient with the game and their skill level. I think everybody wants to be, you know, the star right off the bat. And sometimes they feel like if they're not the team's top athlete, it's time to give up. So, I'm wondering from you, how do you keep your ego in check on the court?
HINES-ALLENSo, I think also another big thing with this is making sure you don't have outside noise and just playing within yourself. Because, like you said, growing up, you want to be the best player. And once you just start going along and pushing along, you might not be the best player all the time. So, what else can you contribute to your team, whether that be rebounding, you know, running the floor every single time. You don't have to score, you know, 20 points, 15 points every single game to be the best player. Some things just don't show up on the stat sheet. So, I think just staying motivated within yourself, not listening to outside noise is a big part of that, too.
SIMONSMm-hmm. Great advice. We have an email here from Erin. She's 14, from D.C. Two questions for you, Myisha. The first one is, what's your advice for people who want to start playing basketball and don't know where to start?
HINES-ALLENOh, yes, great question. So, for me, personally, I started playing basketball with this organization that's called Learn and Play. So, basically, we learned the basics. It wasn't -- we didn't pick up a ball right away. So, I think jumping into basketball, learn the game first and I think -- yeah, learn the game first, because that's where I started. And then it starts to pickup -- starts to become easier so -- yeah.
SIMONSIf you know -- once you know the rules, right? It's not just dribbling the ball and shooting it.
HINES-ALLENIt's a lot easier if you know the rules.
SIMONSEveryone wants to just pick up the ball and just shoot it, right, and they think that...
SIMONS...that's it. I think that's what happened with one of my two. That's why she ended up quitting after a year. Anyway, Erin's second question was, also if you weren't playing basketball, Myisha, what would you be doing?
SIMONSI know, right?
HINES-ALLENTo be honest, yeah, that is hard.
SIMONSYou've been an athlete for so long. That's a tough one, probably.
HINES-ALLENI really do not know. Yes. I've played basketball since 2nd grade, so...
HINES-ALLEN...I really do not know what I'd be doing.
SIMONSMaybe a coach. (laugh)
HINES-ALLENI'm sorry, Erin. (laugh)
SIMONSNo worries. Myisha, WNBA players, you know, we talk a lot right now about this moment, COVID-19. That question we had earlier from Monet touched on COVID-19 but there's also this racial reckoning, if you will, that's happening right now, you know. And WNBA players have been on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement, for instance. Your team actually wears Breonna Taylor's name on your uniforms. Can you tell me why it's important to you to take a strong stand against racism on the court?
HINES-ALLENYes. Because this is my profession. This is my platform. And I feel like this is the best way, you know, other than the social media and, you know, whether it's just talking to people. This is a big way where I can express my feelings and show that I am in support of, you know, Black Lives Matter. I am a black lady, so to be able to use my platform and just show light on what's going on in the world, it's really big to me.
SIMONSHave you participated in any protests?
HINES-ALLENYeah. So, the Mystics, alongside the Wizards, we marched from the Capitol One Center to MLK Monument in D.C. a while back just to, you know, spread light. And we had our fans come out and march with us, too, which was really big. Because we didn't know what was going to be the turnout, but at the end of the day, we were there to, you know, be together and show our support.
SIMONSLet's take another call. We've got Sean on the line. He's 12 years old and calling us from Tacoma Park, Maryland. Hi, Sean.
SEANHi. Do you have any childhood friends playing in the WNBA?
SIMONSOh, good question, Sean. Thanks for calling. Myisha?
HINES-ALLENYes. I -- good question, Sean. I do not have childhood friends playing in the WNBA, but I do have players -- I mean, yeah, players that I played against in high school playing in the WNBA. Wait, no, no, no, no, no, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Sean. I take that back. Sorry, Jocelyn Willoughby. I've played with Jocelyn Willoughby. She plays for the Liberty today, New York Liberty. She just got drafted, first round. I played with Jocelyn Willoughby.
HINES-ALLENSo, I don't know how many championships with her, actually. We started off in Learn and Play, and we played PAL together, which stands for Police Athletic League. And we won so many championships together. I am so sorry, girl. But, yes, I do have a childhood...
SIMONSNo worries, she forgives you. So, I'm curious. So, you're down there in Bradenton. You're training and you're playing in this Wubble. What is that like to live and play there?
HINES-ALLENOh, it's different.
HINES-ALLENI learned one thing. The biggest thing I learned, I do not think I will move to Florida. (laugh)
SIMONSSo, this just killed the whole Florida vibe for you?
HINES-ALLENThat is it. Yes, I will not move to Florida.
SIMONSWell, technically you're inside. You're inside, though. You've not really getting the...
HINES-ALLENWe have to go outside to (laugh) -- that's what I thought. That's what I thought, I was inside. I wasn't going to get a tan, I wasn't going to get ate up by these bugs. But nope, still doing it. You know, these bugs are killers. This heat is a killer. So...
SIMONSWhat about the lizards? I hear there's some lizards hanging around? What's the deal there?
HINES-ALLENYes. Oh, there's so many lizards (laugh) in Florida. And where we stay, my teammate -- so I live in a villa here with Emma Meesseman and Ariel Atkins. And Emma loves, like, wildlife, and she loves playing with the lizards. And she'll bring them inside and, like, put it in a vase...
SIMONSOh, my gosh.
HINES-ALLEN...and chase us around with it. And so, Emma loves wildlife.
SIMONSWow. Well, that sounds like fun.
HINES-ALLENOh, my gosh. (laugh)
HINES-ALLENNot really for me. (laugh)
SIMONSNo. I would be -- I would absolutely be terrified, so I totally feel you on that one. But tell me what -- thinking broadly, what safety measures is the league taking down there to make sure that you guys and the staff avoid getting the virus, which is the reason you're in this Wubble in the first place?
HINES-ALLENYes. So, they're doing a great job, actually, with protocols. When we first got here they gave us thermometers, so everyone has their own thermometer. When we wake up, we have to take our temperatures and put it in this app that, you know, gets sent to the doctors. And then we have testing every single day, which, again, they'll take our temperature. And we have nasal swab and throat swab. So, they're doing two tests to check for COVID. And then we have our temperature checked again when we go to the gym.
HINES-ALLENSo temperatures three times a day and then we get two COVID tests a day. So, they're doing a great job with making sure no one's catching COVID or symptoms, you know, staying away. Yeah.
SIMONSAnd you weren't -- they doing such a good job there, actually, you know, blocking out who can come in. And so you weren't allowed to bring someone very important to you. Actually not a someone. Who's Ace, and who's taking care of him right now?
HINES-ALLENAce, I'll first say he's my son, but he's a dog. (laugh) He's a dachshund-terrier mix. I love him so much. Right now, he's with my sister in Maryland. I miss him so much. I just called him yesterday.
SIMONSOh. You called him? That's so cute. (laugh)
SIMONSLet's get another call in for you, Myisha. This is Isabelle. Hi, Isabelle.
ISABELLEHi. I was wondering how you and other players stay involved in activism and then social justice while you're playing in the Wubble.
SIMONSThanks for your question, Isabelle. So, you're in the Wubble now, and so you mentioned earlier, Myisha, some of the efforts that your team made. I know now you've got Breonna Taylor's name on your jersey. Anything else?
HINES-ALLENYes. So, before every game, we are honoring black women or a lady who has been killed by the hands of police. So, that's another way we are, you know, showing our support with that. So, we do that, as well as we wear different T-shirts to our games just to, you know, pictures we'll post on Instagram or social media platforms just to get it out there, you know, about young ladies or women who have died by the hands of police brutality.
SIMONSIf you're just tuning in, we're talking with Myisha Hines-Allen. She's a forward with the WNBA's Washington Mystics living out there in Bradenton, Florida right now for this season, playing in the Wubble. But, Myisha, you know, the Mystics started off, you know, with three decisive wins, then four losses. What's going on with this rollercoaster beginning, and how are you handling it all?
HINES-ALLENYeah. So, the game of basketball, ups and downs. So, right now, it's downhill right now, but, again, we just have to pick it up. We know what we have to do. And it's different, you know, playing in the Wubble, (laugh) so I think just keeping our spirits up, taking care of our bodies and just being prepared for this next game.
HINES-ALLENWe we can't change what's happened in, you know, our previous games. So, we just have to, you know, move on and try to grow as a team. I think everyone's spirits are up right now, too, so it's nothing we should be, you know, too panicked about right now. Because, like I said before, the game is ups and downs. So, we're just moving forward, waiting for our next game.
SIMONSYou've got to be adaptable. After the Mystics won the championship last year, you know, you guys were supposed to get a massive parade through D.C. Tell us, you know, why that didn't happen and, of course, if there are plans to reschedule it.
HINES-ALLENYeah, so super-bummed about that. I was ready for the parade. You see the other teams, you know, professional teams who have won the championship have their parade. And it looks so cool so I was like, oh, so happy...
SIMONS(overlapping) Right. Champagne everywhere. (laugh)
HINES-ALLENYeah. So, I was so happy for that, but COVID hit, so we were unable to do it. But I'm pretty sure that we will get it done and have a parade. I do not know when it's going to happen, but I definitely know we'll probably have a parade, or something along those lines.
SIMONSImportant question for you, Myisha. You know, thinking of, you know, equity here, you know, WNBA players only make a fraction of what NBA players make, right. And they don't get treated as much like celebrities. So, what do you think that it's going to take for things to be more equitable for women in pro basketball?
HINES-ALLENGood question. More exposure. Once we are able to show ourselves, show who we are on the court and off the court. Because, on the court, we are playing basketball. We are playing good basketball, you know. And, again, you have your people who, oh, well, they can't dunk, they can't do what the men do. We're all still playing basketball. We are still putting the ball in the hoop. So, just because we can't dunk it or everyone on the team cannot dunk the ball, does not mean we still cannot get the ball in the hoop.
HINES-ALLENSo, I think more exposure, once people see -- you know, just watch a game. I think my biggest thing with this is just watch a game, because a lot of people who say, oh, they can't do this, they can't do that, haven't even watched a full game of basketball yet. So, you can't downplay a sport if you never even watched it, never even gave it a chance. So, I think just more exposure.
SIMONSYeah, that's a fair point. And I can agree with that. I've had conversations, you know, among my circle, as well, and it's like, have you actually turned on a game? Okay, right. But, you know, you -- Myisha, you're 25 years old. You've got so much ahead of you. A super-long career in pro basketball I'm sure. Have you ever thought about what's next? What're you going to do after your pro days are over?
HINES-ALLENI have not. (laugh) I have not. I still have some time with basketball, so I think, in the next coming years, I will have to, like, realize, like, all right, the ball is not going to bounce forever. So, you might want to start thinking about what you want to do. But, right now, I'm dialed into basketball and looking for how long I can play for.
SIMONSDialed in and in the Wubble, and in your downtime, listening to any good music?
HINES-ALLENI do. I think it's good music to me. (laugh) I love throwback R & B. I love Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson. So, that's kind of like the vibe I go with most of the time. But until, like, I get to the gym. Once I get to the gym, then it's like, all right, upbeat music, hip-hop. But if I'm just hanging out, then I'm listening to the throwback music.
SIMONSNice. Well, we wish you the best of luck for the rest of this season. Myisha Hines-Allen is a forward with the WNBA's Washington Mystics. Myisha, thank you.
SIMONSKojo for Kids with the Mystics Myisha Hines-Allen was produced by Lauren Markoe. And our conversation about Virginia's election plans in light of the pandemic was produced by Richard Cunningham. Coming up tomorrow on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, because of the pandemic, the deadline for the 2020 census was moved from the end of July to the end of October. But now the Census Bureau has said collection efforts will stop on September 30th, one month early. So what will this mean? We'll talk about that tomorrow, on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. See you then.
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