As young teenagers most of us have no clue as to what our destiny in life is going to be. However at the age of 13, and at a height of 6-feet, Tammy Sutton-Brown’s destiny stood right in front of her. Just by taking one look at the lanky Markham, Ontario native, you knew she was going to be a ball player – and an imposing one at that.
Surprisingly, with all of her height, basketball was never at the top of Tammy’s list until she joined the Markham Basketball League in the 8th grade. It was there that the coach of Markham District high school saw her play and asked her if she would be interested in competing for his program.
“Being a part of the Markham program exposed me to a lot of different things related to the game, such as tournaments and club ball. It was this exposure that really got my career off the ground.”
It really didn’t hit Sutton-Brown that she had the potential to continue playing at the post-secondary level until her junior year. Letters started pouring in, and U.S. coaches began making trips across the border to watch her play. It was no surprise that Tammy attracted all of this attention. During her entire four years in Markham, she led the high school to the regional championships each year as well as leading her club team to back-to-back provincial silver medals in 1992 and 1993.
In 1997, it was time for Tammy to decide which college she would attend. This was not an easy task as she had to sort through all of her recruiting letters from schools such as Michigan, Iowa, Vermont and SMU (Dallas). However, it was Coach Vivian Stringer, from Rutgers University (Big East Conference) that really caught Tammy’s attention.
“During Coach Stringer’s home visit, she really got her vision across to not only me but to my parents. They loved Coach and her vision of the program ‘being the jewel of the east’. It was the whole family atmosphere that made me take that visit to Rutgers. I got along with the girls and liked the university…everything just seemed to fit.”
For the next four years, Tammy played for the Scarlet Knights and in the process racked up many accolades. For three consecutive years, she was named Rutgers Most Improved Player. During her junior year, she was named to the Big East All-Tournament team; she led the team in blocks, field goal percentage and was ranked third in scoring and rebounding.
In her senior year, Sutton-Brown became a finalist for the National Player of the year award, while helping her team make it past the first round of the NCAA tournament after posting a 23-8 record. With her imposing height and strong all-around game, it was no wonder that the WNBA came knocking on Tammy’s door.
In 2001, Tammy Sutton-Brown became the second Canadian to be drafted into the WNBA. With the 18th overall pick, the Charlotte Sting selected the 6-4 center to their squad. During her rookie season, Tammy and the Sting made it all the way to the WNBA Finals against the Los Angeles Sparks. Although the Sting fell to the Sparks in the best of 3 series, Sutton-Brown showed that she was able to compete at the next level by causing match-up problems for league MVP Lisa Leslie.
After having a great rookie season with the Sting, Tammy became a force to be reckoned with. She improved her rookie numbers in the 2002 season as she posted 12.6 points per contest and snatched down 6.9 rebounds in the process. Sutton-Brown also finished fourth in the WNBA in field goal percentage (.530) and was selected as a WNBA All-Star.
Entering her fifth season with the Sting, Tammy has shown her durability by playing in all 129 career games which has allowed her to become the all-time leader in blocked shots (196) in franchise history. She hopes to improve on her 2004 season stats where she averaged 9.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 swats. Tammy also hopes that the team will improve on last year’s performance by making the playoffs after a sub-par season which landed the Sting the number one overall pick in the recent WNBA draft.
“Unfortunately we did not make playoffs, and the first 3 years I had been there we did, so last year was kind of a set back. The first thing we want to do is get back there, win the eastern conference and then hopefully the championship.”
Many might question how a Markham native was able to compete at such a high-calibre level, but for Sutton-Brown the answer is clear. Four years of playing with the Rutgers squad has taken her to unprecedented levels in her professional career with the WNBA. Tammy humbly gives all credit to her Rutgers mentor, Coach Stringer, for giving her the confidence and the ability to compete at the next level.
“She completely prepared me for my professional, career,” Sutton-Brown said in regards to the impact that Coach Stringer has had. “The great thing about Coach Stringer is that not only is she a basketball coach; she tries to blend in life lessons as well. Now 4 years out of Rutgers I look back at the things she did and I understand how she was trying to instill discipline and competitiveness in myself and my teammates.”
It is this type of discipline that has given Tammy the confidence to play her game in the WNBA and continue the style of play that brought her success at Rutgers.
While the WNBA has been the focal point of Tammy Sutton-Brown’s pro basketball career, she has also gained valuable experience by playing in professional leagues outside of North America. During the past four off-seasons, Tammy has played professional basketball in Russia as well as Korea. Since the WNBA season is only 3-months long, Tammy has kept in shape and improved her skills by continuing to compete overseas.
“Playing overseas was a big adjustment, the culture was very different, but the basketball pretty much remained the same. The style of play and the talent overseas really helped me prepare for this upcoming WNBA season.”
In addition to playing internationally, Tammy had the opportunity to represent her country on a national scale. In 2000, Sutton-Brown got to experience an event like no other – along with her teammates, Tammy represented Canada in the 2000 Sidney Olympics.
“Up to today, that was probably the best experience that I’ve ever had. Just being able to say that I played in the Olympic Games is just surreal. You grow up watching the Olympics and seeing all of the competitors, and being there makes you know just how much hard work it takes to get there. It was incredible!”
Although Tammy averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds at the games, Canada finished 10th overall in the standings. Tammy had hoped to improve on her performance at the next Olympics; however Canada failed to qualify for the 2004 games in Athens. With so much talent in Canada, Sutton-Brown hopes that the team will do well at the world qualifiers being held later this year, and eventually play at the 2008 games in Beijing.
As the WNBA gets ready to kick off their 9th season on May 21, Tammy Sutton-Brown is looking forward to the challenge as well as having the endless opportunity to encourage other young women so they too may reach this stage.
As one of the greatest Canadian representatives to play the game, Sutton-Brown has become a role model for all female players looking to get to the next level. Tammy knows that the WNBA has been a major factor in inspiring young women to play the game, and hopes that the league will continue to grow and develop as each season goes by.
“I think the positive part about the WNBA is that they have added a new team to the league for the 2006 season, and I know that this is an indication of growth for the league and more importantly for women’s basketball.”