OREM, Utah — Erin Thorn knows her life isn't for everyone.
The former BYU star admits being a professional basketball player brings unique challenges to a person's life.
Drafted in the second round by the New York Liberty, Thorn is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints playing in the
Women's National Basketball Association.
She sees it as a chance to be
an ambassador, albeit in tennis shoes and boasting a deadly outside
"It's a different opportunity," she said. "It's not necessarily a
mission, but kind of like that. I may be someone's only contact with the church. ... For me, it's almost easier to be a good example out
there because I know I'm THE example."
One issue that arose immediately was that of working on Sunday.
Like most athletes who make the transition from collegiate to professional
sports, she struggled with the decision.
"If you won't practice or play on Sunday, you just don't play
professional sports," she said. Thorn considered both the decisions of
those who chose to give up a career in athletics and those who went on
to play professionally.
"I do what I can with the situation I'm given," Thorn said. "And I
really wanted to play professionally. I wanted to see how far I could
go. ... I didn't want to have any regrets."
Thorn said she gets to a Mormon service whenever she can and understands that others might choose a different path.
"It's not right for everybody," Thorn said. "But for me, I kind
of feel like it's my chance to be an example of the church — whether
or not I go to church."
Her teammates and coaches apologize for swearing and understand when she declines an offer to go to an R-rated movie.
"They know what kind of person I am," she said. "They see how I live."
She went to church a few times when she was first drafted to New
York and met a family who assumed she was a nanny. When they invited
her over for dinner, they found out she was a professional basketball
player for the Liberty and began following the team faithfully. "They became fans, and for the last six years I've had a little
family out there," she said.She has also made appearances at ward
activities in the area, including speaking to Young Women groups. "I just did a little question-and-answer thing for them," she said.The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 4.6 points in her six season in New York. The best was 2007, with 9.7 points while starting all 29 games.
Like most athletes in the WNBA, Thorn has to work another job in
the lengthy off-season. The past two years she's taken her skills to
Greece. Interestingly, one of her Panathinaikos teammates is married
and LDS — Kristen Rasmussen, who has played in the WNBA since 2000. So each Sunday, Thorn and the young couple get together and
have their own Sunday services, complete with lessons and songs.
"That's been really nice," Thorn said.
Some players who go overseas to work have trouble getting paid.
But she said the team she plays for is one of the more reliable about
playing its players and it has a great fan following.
"They love their teams there," she said. "It doesn't matter what sport. They have a very loyal following."
She keeps in touch with her college coach, Jeff Judkins, who encouraged her to follow her dreams into the WNBA.
"He did it himself," said Thorn, who worked for two years as an
assistant after graduating from BYU. "He said go play. ... We'll be here
when you get done."
She said she hopes to someday return to coaching when her playing career is done.
"I would love to come back and be a part of the program again,"
she said. "I think I would go insane in a regular job. If I can't be
playing, coaching is the next best thing."
Thorn won't be taking on those coaching duties any time soon,
however. Earlier this month, the WNBA announced Thorn signed a two-year contract
with the Chicago Sky.
"Having Erin on the team will bring six years of WNBA veteran
leadership, especially postseason experience that the team needs,"
said Steven Key, head coach and general manager, in a press release from
the Sky. "Her ability to spread the floor and get the ball inside will
help tremendously in the coming season."
Thorn isn't worried about the solvency of the league, although it recently sent a memo saying there wouldn't be some player bonuses
The 27-year-old Orem native knows no life is perfect, but she feels
especially blessed to be able to earn a living playing basketball.
"Especially when I'm struggling with something, I think: 'They pay
me to workout! They pay me to stay in shape. They pay me to play a game
"It's my job," she said drawing out the word "job" and smiling. "To be able to call basketball your job is pretty great."
E-MAIL: [email protected]