MANILA, Philippines – WNBA legend Ticha Penicheiro believes that she is living proof that anyone can make it to the biggest basketball leagues in the world – as long as the player is ready to put in "a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment, and sacrifice."
Penicheiro, 44, is recognized as one of the 20 best players in the history of the WNBA and was the league's assist leader when she retired in 2012.
A four-time All-Star, she won a championship with the now-defunct Sacramento Monarchs in 2005.
"I mean if it happened to me, it can happen to anybody. Nobody touched me with a magic wand when I was growing up, when I was born," said Penicheiro of her journey to the WNBA in an interview on Thursday.
"A lot of hard work, dedication, commitment, sacrifice -- all of those things are important to succeed," she added.
Penicheiro noted that she took a big risk when she left her family and her home country of Portugal in order to try her luck in the United States, where she played collegiate basketball before joining the WNBA in 1998.
She found tremendous success in the WNBA before moving on to become a sports agent upon her retirement.
Penicheiro, who became an American citizen in 2013, believes that her formula for success can be used by Filipino players who are looking to make it to the biggest leagues in the world as well.
"I think the secret for success is to love what you do, but also work hard. I think those are the two things that I know that I did, and it worked out for me," she said. "I completely loved the game, and I worked hard every day to get better."
"I think kids these days, they have to really put in the work. Hopefully one day, we have a Filipino young lady in the WNBA, and maybe the NBA as well," she also said.
Penicheiro will get a chance to see some of the Philippines' young players when she and Cleveland rookie Collin Sexton serve as coaches in the Jr. NBA National Training Camp this weekend. They will help choose the top five best boys and girls for the All-Star team, and coach the Alumni All-Star Game as well.
Having a program such as the Jr. NBA is massive for young players, said Penicheiro.
"They don't even know how lucky they are. I wish when I was their age, I had the opportunity to play in a league like the Jr. NBA," she said. "I'm very proud to be an ambassador, and to be here in the Philippines to continue to see the game grow."
Known for her flashy style of play during her time in the WNBA, Penicheiro said she will stress the importance of fundamentals to the players in the Jr. NBA camp.
"Let's try first, make sure that you know how to dribble, pass, and shoot the right way. I mean, I'm all for it, kids having fun, and if you know what you're doing, go for it," she said.
"But to me, it was also important to win. It was very important to win. So sometimes, you just gotta see time and score, and to know when it's appropriate to do it," she added.
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