Ohlde, Mercury Looking for WNBA Title

Ed. note: This story first appeared in the Kansas State Official Sports Report on Sept. 21, 2009. To receive the daily Kansas State Official Sports Report in your e-mail, visit www.officialsportsreport.com.

by Mark Janssen, Senior Writer, Kansas State Official Sports Report  

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Nicole Ohlde understands the feeling of winning a Big 12 Championship, but now the former Kansas State Wildcat has her sights set on becoming a Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) title holder.

But for that to happen, Ohlde and her Phoenix Mercury franchise must defeat the Los Angeles Sparks in the Western Conference finals, which begin tonight in Los Angeles at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. The Mercury, which led the WNBA in regular season wins with 23, reached the conference finals by defeating the San Antonio Silver Stars in three games.

In the game two victory, Ohlde came off the bench to net all four of her shots for eight points, snare seven rebounds, plus dish out three assists and card three steals.

"It's nice to be on a winning team," said Ohlde, who spent her first five seasons in Minnesota, where she only made the playoffs once, which was in her rookie season in 2004.

After opening the year with injuries, Ohlde is finishing strong with a 5.2 scoring average and has a field goal percentage of .535. She also averaged 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots.

Ohlde suffered a broken foot in her final game in Hungary during the off-season, which forced her to miss the first 10 games of the season. Once back on the court, Ohlde tripped and fell during a game in Sacramento, suffering a broken wrist, which sidelined her for an additional three weeks.

"I'm finally healthy," said the Clay Center native. "I'm still taped up, but I'm feeling pretty good unless someone smacks it pretty hard."

Ohlde's role is coming off the Phoenix  bench "... and bring energy to the floor. Maybe score a basket or two, get a block and get some rebounds. I'm not someone who is asked to score 20 points. I just hope to contribute six or eight points and five or six rebounds. We have other superstars (20-point scorers Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter) to do the scoring."

While saying she misses the "close bond" with players and coaches she enjoyed at K-State, she added, "I understand the business aspect of the game. You do bond with your teammates at this level, but you're just not around them as much."

Ohlde, who said her KSU highs were going to the Sweet 16 as a sophomore and winning the Big 12 as a senior, says her six years as a professional have flown by, in part because she's kept busy playing two different seasons.

"I've played in Hungary the last five off-seasons, and plan to go back again about 10 days after the playoffs end," Ohlde said. "It's a way to stay in shape, and the pay can be twice as much as it is here. Sometimes the pay is three and four times more because there are only two Americans on a team, and they pay them more through sponsorships."

Ohlde said she hopes to play professionally as long as her body holds up, and after that may explore a future in coaching.