Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, June 26, 2015

UConn GA Lister enjoying the best of both worlds

Jasmine Lister is by nature a positive "glass is half full" type of person but even she is a little stunned at her good fortune over the last nine months.

The undrafted rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt was a last-day cut by the Seattle Storm a year ago and she made such an impression that UConn legend Sue Bird recommended to UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey that she consider Lister for a vacant graduate assistant job.

Lister was there every step of the way as the Huskies won their third national title in a row. While Lister hadn't completely given up on playing professionally, she wasn't figuring to get too many opportunities to return to the court until her two-year run as a GA at UConn was over.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

A couple weeks ago Brian Agler, who left his job as the head coach at Seattle to take over in Los Angeles, reached out to Lister to see if she might be interested in joining the injury-riddled Sparks team. That began a series of events resulting in Lister making her WNBA regular-season debut in Tuesday's loss to Washington.

"He called me last Sunday night, can you be in D.C. early tomorrow morning," Lister said before Friday's game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I found the first flight out, I was in my apartment near campus and had one of our lovely managers take me to the airport at 5 a.m. in the morning and practiced the next day.

"He had kind of asked me a few weeks before what my availability was, if I would be able to come away from UConn stuff so I had to communicate with the coaches over at UConn and they let me go. I got the second call, I was kind of like 'OK, I can go do this now.' Everybody was really happy for me and very understanding and it was a matter of them telling me I could leave tomorrow morning.

"I was in awe, I couldn't believe it at first. I just kind of took it and transitioned as quickly as possible. I was thinking about it and said I have been playing basketball my entire life so do what you know what to do  and listen to instruction, be coachable which is what I do."

There might have been people surprised that Lister stepped right in, played eight minutes and finished with four points, four rebounds and one assist after not playing in a competitive game since the 2014 preseason but Agler was not among them.
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"We had her in Seattle last year and we knew we weren't going to keep another point guard because we have Sue (Bird), Temeka (Johnson) and Tanisha Wright and we knew we only had 11 players so having another point guard didn't make any sense. She came in, wasn't drafted and because when she was there, we practiced so well and she helped us practice that we kept her to the last day.

"We were thinking of finding a player two weeks ago so I talked to her and nothing really panned out. We are sitting there in a coaches meeting leading up to the Connecticut game and she called me. I said 'Jasmine it is so ironic that you called because there is a chance that we are going to be looking for a point guard pretty soon.'

"She is sharp. She came in and picked things up within an hour. When she played the other night I wasn't surprised about the energy, the effort or the focus that she had. She is on top of things, she is very vocal in practice, has great leadership skills. I think she has only helped herself with how she has played the other night."

With the injuries to Erin Phillips and Alana Beard and Kristi Toliver not yet back  with team after playing in the European championships Lister is seeing plenty of action. When Johnson went down early in Friday night's game against the Sun and clearly hobbled, Lister played 30:41 in the 80-76 overtime loss. She finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists.

Agler wasn't aware about Lister transitioning to a coaching role until he headed to the UConn/Stanford game in November.

"I sitting on the sideline she walked out and I said 'what are you doing here?'" Agler said. "She keeps coming back into my life."

While Lister didn't have a team to play on since getting cut by the Storm, she did have a support system in place to remain in game shape.

"I had been training, (UConn assistant coach) Shea Ralph had been working me out during the offseason with Sue Bird and Kalana Greene so I was staying ready and I was playing pickup (games)," Lister said. "I just love basketball so in the event that I didn't get a training camp, it was still like 'OK, I am still going to play ball.'"

Lister is thrilled to be able to work alongside Geno Auriemma and his staff while also continue her basketball career.

"It is a huge opportunity on both levels," Lister said. "It is a huge blessing and I couldn't be anymore grateful so I am not taking it for granted at all.

"It (UConn's national-championship run) was so surreal. That is like a once in a lifetime opportunity and to be a part of that was absolutely amazing and I am so grateful to Coach (Geno Auriemma) and all the other coaches on the team to be able to have me."

The  question when she was signed was whether she was a stop gap player while the Sparks wait for their veterans to get healthy or whether she was there for the duration. She is certainly making a strong case to remain with the team for the rest of the season even when Toliver and Phillips return.

"I am going with it and I have a goal to potentially make the team, if not fine, but I want to make the team. I am going back to LA, practicing and playing in the next game."

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