Interview with Yvonne Turner: “Quick but Steady Wins the Race”
BY EMILY SOLOMON | EDITORIAL INTERN
The 2018 WNBA postseason was one for the record books, with neither of the leagues typical top performing Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks even making it to the semi-final round.
Although in 2018 the Seattle Storm took home their first championship trophy since 2011, the Phoenix Mercury gave them a run for their money every step of the way in the semifinal best-of-five series. A huge part of Phoenix’s success can be attributed to Yvonne Turner, a 31-year-old guard who took over as a starter in a crucial win-or-go-home WNBA Semifinals Game 3. Turner helped the team avoid elimination and force the series to go back to Seattle for Game 5 with two huge Mercury wins in Phoenix.
Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello treasures the value Yvonne brings off the court even more than what she contributes on it.
“She is a pleasure to coach and loved by her teammates,” Brondello shared. “She is just a high-quality person and an unselfish basketball player. She always gives her best effort and does it with a smile on her face.”
In addition to Brondello, I got the opportunity to chat with Yvonne herself about her experience with basketball, which has taken her all across the world. She has played professionally in ten countries, graduating from the University of Nebraska in 2010 and not making her WNBA debut until 2017 with the Phoenix Mercury. I also asked her about her perseverance during tough times, as well as what it’s like to play with greats like Brittney Griner and the G.O.A.T. Diana Taurasi.
Emily: Your basketball career has taken you all across the world, to ten countries across many continents. Could you expand a bit on your experience going from playing basketball abroad to playing in the US?
Yvonne: I’ve been very fortunate enough, God-willing to play abroad for so many years. Playing abroad is totally different than playing in the US on many different occasions. You have different climates, certain rules per league and country, language barriers, different food, etc. Although I love playing overseas, I sometimes miss home, but this is my sacrifice that I make each year when I sign my contracts to play abroad.
E: What country did you most enjoy exploring while playing basketball?
Y: The country I enjoyed the most was Germany and still is Germany. This was my second country that I visited playing basketball and I loved everything about it! I loved the food, my living situation, my teammates, and life outside of basketball. I went to church every Sunday that was spoken in English. I took German lessons so I could communicate and enjoyed time on my own if I wanted to explore. Lastly, I loved their culture, how clean they keep their streets, it’s family oriented and the good vibes it brought to me.
E: What has kept you motivated to keep working these past years as your basketball setting constantly changed?
Y: I stayed motivated by continuing my career at getting better in every country I played in. I made sure I was elevating my game no matter what country, what team, or the circumstances I was put in. It never dawned on me that because I was not in the WNBA that I was going to stop playing basketball because of it. I was healthy and I loved traveling, so I said why not continue doing what I love with the God-given talented that I’ve been blessed with every day.
E: What do you like to do in the few hours a day you aren’t in the gym?
Y: I love going to coffee shops and eating. Although I may not look like it, I eat a lot and I also practice a lot so it all works out in my favor. Most days when I don’t have to wake up so early I sleep in when I can. Sometimes until 2pm or later if my body allows it.
E: What has been the most challenging experience in your professional basketball career?
Y: The most challenging experience in my basketball career, I would say, was playing with a torn calf muscle.
E: To expand on that, what is your mindset like during tough times?
Y: I always think to myself “play every game like it’s your last game.” I have in the back of my head that there are players who wish they were in my shoes or playing in general so I always try to not take for granted the opportunities God has given me day in and day out. No excuses!
E: What is it like playing for the Phoenix Mercury and getting the chance to show off your game at the WNBA level?
Y: You know, coming to Phoenix has been a dream come true on and off the court. I am very thankful that Coach (Sandy Brondello) and the organization took the chance to invite me into their program and trusted my talents after being cut so many times. As an athlete, it’s always your goal to play at the highest level, but it doesn’t just stop there. You have to be different, you know. Separate yourself from what the existing players already bring to the table. God put me with this team for a reason and I make it a habit every day to be a good teammate first and foremost, listen when my teammates, coaches, and staff members are talking, and to work hard no matter if I see one minute on the court or forty minutes on the court.
E: What is it like playing with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner?
Y: I’ve been playing against Dee and BG for quite some time and to actually be in their presence every single day, I learn how they come to work hard every day and I watch how they operate. It’s a privilege to be working alongside them every day and to see them continue to be great athletes and role models to myself and younger peers.
E: If you could give advice to young women with aspiring basketball dreams, what would you tell them?
Y: I would tell them to never give up on themselves and their dreams. Sometimes the mountains you have to hike to get to your dream prepares you to conquer your dream once you get there. Trust the process and God’s way.
Brondello had nothing but positive things to say about Yvonne and her impact on the team’s success.
“Vonnie has been a great spark for our team these past couple of years with her dynamic play on both ends of the floor,” Brondello commented. “Even when her role changes, she never complained, but instead stayed ready for her next opportunity.”
Yvonne Turner has been a role model for me from the minute she came to Phoenix and joined the championship caliber Mercury in 2017. She provides the quickness, the skill, and the wonderful personality off the court and has brought so much to the Mercury to help maintain their position as a post-season threat. I am grateful that she took the time to answer a few of my questions and to remind us all that we shouldn’t just “never give up” on our dreams, but conquer them.
Each month, one of our interns will interview a former athlete and current leader. Our mission is to connect our girl athletes to experienced ones, to tell the stories of our women’s sports community, and to inspire her own voice. Interested in joining our Editorial Internship Program in the spring? Send a brief letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.