Entering her eighth season in the WNBA, Karima Christmas-Kelly is the most experienced player on the Dallas Wings roster. She is entering her second year as team captain, but she has been equipped for a leadership role for some time.
A second-round pick in the 2011 draft, Christmas-Kelly has earned her place in the WNBA. She signed with the Tulsa Shock in 2015 as a restricted free agent and has started all 100 games since she has been with the team. Her experience is a perfect fit for one of the youngest teams in the WNBA, and she wants to show the young core what it takes to play in the league.
“I try to lead by example,” said Christmas-Kelly. “As long as you show that you are willing to put in the work, you can achieve great things. You have to come into training camp and go hard with everything you are working on. I try to be the person that sets the tone and hopefully everybody will follow suit.”
The Wings drafted three talented rookies who will come in and compete during training camp in hopes of securing a roster spot. Christmas-Kelly knows a thing or two about being a rookie in the league and has some advice for them heading into training camp.
“I think one of the key things that was tough for me when I was going through training camp was trying to be the first to everything,” said Christmas-Kelly. “Being the first to workouts and if you are not on the court, you are in the gym first. You have to show some initiative. You have to show the coaches that you are ready to go and that you are ready to work. It is important to try to be first to everything and show that you are excited for this opportunity.”
In addition to the three rookies, the Wings added 6-foot-8-inch Center, Liz Cambage. She will help spread the floor in a way that hasn’t been possible before. Cambage provides a presence that allows the team to play both inside and outside, where in the past the Wings have had to rely on guard play to be successful.
Christmas-Kelly knows Cambage will help her and the other guards flourish in their roles, and she is excited about the opportunity to play with such a talented player.
The Wings return plenty of talent as well. Skylar Diggins-Smith was First-Team All-WNBA in 2017, and Allisha Gray won the 2017 Rookie of the Year award. The roster is overflowing with talent, and Christmas-Kelly has big goals for the Wings in 2018.
“I think we should strive for the playoffs and try to go even further this year. We want to have a winning record at home this year because we have a great fanbase that comes out and supports us. We want to win for them. I think being able to have that home court advantage is huge, but you can’t forget about road games either. I want to be better on the road and better prepared for those games than we were a year ago.”
The Wings look to improve on a 16-18 record last season, which earned them the No. 7 seed in the WNBA Playoffs. They lost the opening round game against the Washington Mystics, but the playoff appearance is something the team can build on heading into 2018.
Christmas-Kelly believes that competition among the team sets the tone for the regular season. That competition begins later this week when she leads the Wings into training camp on April 29, with the season tipping off in Phoenix on May 18.