Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
PALMETTO, FL- JULY 26: Isabelle Harrison #20 of the Dallas Wings shoots the ball against the Atlanta Dream on July 26, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.
Our Pepper Persley is back with her latest podcast, a deep dive with Isabelle Harrison of the Dallas Wings. The two discuss Harrison’s abbreviated season, her recovery, what life was like in the #wubble and much more!
PEPPER PERSLEY: Hello and welcome to this episode of "She Got Next" with me, Pepper Persley. On this episode, there is an amazing and inspiring conversation with Isabelle Harrison of the Dallas Wings. Hope you enjoy.
ISABELLE HARRISON: Hi, Pepper!
PERSLEY: Hi, Izzy! How are you doing?
HARRISON: I'm good, how are you?
PERSLEY: I'm doing well. Well, I just have to tell you that I am super excited to be chatting with you today. I mean, I'm really bummed to not see you out on the floor. But I am so excited — I'll say it again — so excited to chat with you today. I have 15 questions, and if you have any questions for me... If not, we can get right into the interview.
HARRISON: All right, let's do it. My dog's gonna be here. Do you mind?
PERSLEY: No, I don't mind at all. Awesome. Okay. First of all, we totally miss seeing you out there. How are you doing?
HARRISON: I'm doing well. I've been doing rehab every day, since maybe almost a week now. So I'm back into the rehab cycle, but it's feeling okay. I got off my crutches today, so I'm happy about that. And, you know, mentally, I've just kind of been staying positive for the girls, watching the games so I stay as connected as I can be, but it's pretty good.
PERSLEY: And speaking of your connection, how are you staying and continuing that connection with your teammates?
HARRISON: Just texting them, talking to them whenever they're free. I know how the schedule is, so sometimes it takes a while for, you know, them to get back. But overall, just checking in with them. And if they have a good game, or whatever is going on, I shoot them a text and just encourage them.
PERSLEY: Awesome. I think you have the best Instagram handle, @omg_itsizzyb. What is the story behind your handle?
HARRISON: Oh, that's a great question. And again, thank you. Well, I was a freshman at University of Tennessee and I did not have a Twitter. And that's when it was just like, oh, everybody needs to get a Twitter. Like, I don't think I'm gonna actually want to use it. Funny looking back and saying that now. So my teammate, Ariel Massengale, my point guard at Tennessee that — we played together for four years — she's like, "We just gotta get you a good name." I was like, okay, just make one, let me know. So she came up with @omg_itsizzyb. So I give all the credit to her, 'cause that's why a lot of people remember my handle because it's just so catchy.
PERSLEY: Yeah, and the rhymes especially makes it catch on so fast. I really do think it's awesome. [HARRISON: Thank you.] But to get into a couple basketball questions, basketball is a challenging sport. So what do you do to stay motivated and keep getting better?
HARRISON: Um, can you still hear me, Pepper?
PERSLEY: Yes, I can.
HARRISON: Okay. So for me to still stay motivated with basketball, I always make a goal for myself. I make sure that I'm keeping my fundamentals as sharp as they can. And that's what I was doing before I got into the season. And then just extending my game. I know I want to extend my range and, you know, shoot a couple threes this year. I haven't done that in my past couple seasons, while being in league, so I worked on that a lot. And just again, it just builds confidence. So I just think it's important to always just change your game up every season that you go into.
PERSLEY: Yep, keep getting better and keep adding to that game. You are a leader on a pretty young Wings team. What advice have you been giving to the rookies and younger players on this team?
PERSLEY: The game is a lot faster and quicker, and that's the same thing I remember when I came into the league my rookie season. So I just told them not to get frustrated and the game's gonna come with you. And a lot of people don't realize this, and I've taken this with me because Diana Taurasi told me this my rookie year. She was like, your WNBA year, it's really well but when you go into the overseas season, that's when a lot of things will click for you. Because basketball is just a whole different animal over there, and then those teams are going to depend on you as a scorer, for almost everything. And it just built up my confidence so when I got back into the league the next year, it was like, I was a totally different player. So I take that with me and I pass it on to the rookies, too.
PERSLEY: Wow, advice from the GOAT. Always helpful. What have you seen from the Wings' play this season that has you super-excited?
HARRISON: You know, I can't point out one thing, but I do know a common thing that's been coming out of our games, especially when we play really well. When we're just doing everything that we need to be doing, clicking on all cylinders, we look really good. And we are the youngest team in the league, right underneath New York, I believe. And it's just cool to see that, and you go against these really top teams like LA, Las Vegas or even Phoenix, like these are just really — Seattle, or you know, when we're on that night. It's just good to see that because it lets me know what we have for the future. And you know, everything, it doesn't start overnight. But I'm happy about the pieces that we have. I'm happy about what I've seen so far in the bubble. And I'm excited what next year is gonna be like.
PERSLEY: Yes, I'm excited to see next year as well, to see you back on the floor, hopefully. But what have you learned about yourself as a player and as a leader through your wubble experience?
HARRISON: Taking care of your body, that's the most important thing. And I told that to a lot of people before I left, too, just making sure you're taking care of your body. As you get older, your body isn't always just gonna bounce back when you need it to. You have to give it recovery, you have to give it rest and you have to know when you need a break. And that was the biggest thing. Obviously, coming into WNBA seasons, a lot of players come from overseas, and then we go straight from WNBA to overseas again. So just knowing what is too much, and knowing what you need to do to get stronger, that's the biggest thing that I just learned this year out of this wubble experience.
PERSLEY: Yeah, especially with the condensed season, like, the recovery so important. [HARRISON: Mm-hmm.] I know you are, unfortunately, injured. But can you take us through a day in the life in the wubble and what your experience has been like?
HARRISON: A day in the life of the wubble. So we would wake up, and it depends. So we may have — no, we would have testing in the morning for sure. So you wake up, eat breakfast, go to testing, you come back, maybe relax for a little bit. We have weight room slots that each team will get. So if you were lucky enough, it would follow right before or after practice. So people would use those slots. If not, people will go to the training room and get any recovery stuff that they needed before practice. We would have a practice, and hopefully you can grab lunch at this time to — like, it goes by really fast. So you go to lunch, practice, come back home, grab dinner and, you know, maybe time to socialize. But most people are probably sleeping because, again, those games are every other day. So it was just important to just get as much rest and downtime as possible.
PERSLEY: Yeah, getting the rest also circles back to your last answer about recovering, making sure everybody's healthy.
PERSLEY: Switching things up to some questions about your #IAM campaign and social justice. I know we've talked about this before, but I believe it's important for listeners to hear this, too. So can you tell us about your #IAM project, what made you want to create it and where people can get a shirt?
HARRISON: So yes, I wanted to create a shirt that was very interactive. And I've said this before, but I've never seen an interactive hashtag before on a shirt or just any push of any sort. So I did the hashtag, #IAM, with the open space so people can fill it in with whatever word they felt like they were and how it connects to today's social justice issues. So my word, for example, was #IAM powerful. And I chose that word because I want to use my platform to, again, just spread awareness about everything that's going on in the world right now. It's a pretty scary time. But I just want to be hopeful for the people that watch us in the league — not only are we playing basketball, but we're also trying to bring change in this world. And it's a lot every day to think not only your gains, but, you know, how can I make a difference in the world today? So that's kind of what I wanted to do. And for the Dallas Wings, again, for us being a young team, just to have something as an organization that we can do together, it made me happy to see how many people came together and, you know, wore the shirt. You can get those shirts at www.skylerindallas.com. I also have the links in my Instagram and on Twitter. So whoever wants a shirt, go get yours, and all the profits go to Black Lives Matter.
PERSLEY: And speaking of that shirt, do they have them in kids' sizes yet? I know I asked you before but I'm still wondering.
HARRISON: Oh, I didn't even know you asked, Pepper. You should have told me, girl. Um, I don't. I don't think we offer kids' sizes right now. But let me talk to Skyler to see if we can get you a shirt.
PERSLEY: Awesome. I can't wait. I'll be reppin' that all the time. So your #IAM campaign has inspired me and I know it will and has inspired many more people. How do you hope it will continue to affect young people like me?
HARRISON: You know, I think it's important to — whatever positivity that you feel like you can show or bring to anybody, just show it. You know, don't be afraid what people are going to think, because ultimately you're dimming your light. So if you have an idea that not only brings people together, but again, can make change, absolutely do it. It doesn't matter if you have one person behind you, or 1,000 people behind you, it's gonna bring some type of change, and that's better than nothing. So I hope anybody that, you know, has a shirt or wants to start their own campaign of any sort, just do it from the heart and make it genuine. And either way, you're going to be happy about it.
PERSLEY: It only takes one person to pass on a message to another person, and then you could have thousands of people, right? So you think it's one, it could be so many more. The league has played for women like Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland. What is it like to be a part of a league that is so committed to this type of important activism?
HARRISON: It's important because nowadays, a lot of names that are forgotten are African American women. And when it comes to police brutality, you know, a lot of the names that get shared are male names. And I know that's the commitment we made going into the season, that we were going to use our platform — again, Say Her Name — to keep those names in the media, because we don't want those girls to be forgotten. And we had chances for Sandra Bland's sister and Breonna Taylor's mom to speak to us this year while we were in the bubble. And it just gives a really personal touch. Like, these are real people going through horrible, real-life things. And if we can do anything to keep their names, you know, in the media, that's what we're going to do. And again, we're a majority African American league. And it just, again, it just shows you the amount of power that the WNBA has. Because we are pretty close, 144 players, we came all on the same page and we dedicated an entire WNBA season to a movement like this. And I just think that's huge that we did something like that together.
PERSLEY: Yes, the unity of the WNBA is, in my opinion, the most amazing, the most important thing. What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?
HARRISON: Black Lives Matter means to me... I just think we want equality. We see too many times in the media, tragedies that happen to African Americans. And we're not saying we're better than anybody by saying Black Lives Matter. And we're not saying our lives are more important than anybody else's, it just — we just want to matter, period. We just want to be treated as humanly possible that we've seen time and time before can be done. So again, I just, it means to me equality. It means, you know, love for our African American brothers and sisters. And it's an important logo, I actually wore my Black Lives Matter T-shirt to the rehab today. And I think for me, it just opens the conversation, if anybody ever wants to talk about it, you know my stance and, you know, I'm here to educate and not talk down to anybody. But I want people to know that it's a real problem in America, and it has to get fixed.
PERSLEY: It's a problem. And I know so many people are saying that we're dealing with two pandemics right now, racism and of course COVID-19. To get back to some basketball questions, WNBA players inspire so many young people, especially me. Who inspires you?
HARRISON: Who inspires me? You know, I thought about this year, and I thought about my favorite basketball players. And now that I'm out I can say this, but when I was competing, I did not want to say this. But I'll give you my top three. And my number one is Candace Parker. Obviously, she went to Tennessee, and for her to still be — one, she's having a great season, and for her to not only be a mother but having the type of season that she is in her career this long, she's amazing. I would say number two would be Nneka Ogwumike. I don't think people give her enough credit about how much work went into this season. On top of playing, on top of bringing justice for the Say Her Name campaign, like, I thought I had a workload, but she's been on another level. So I just commend her and just the boss that she is. And number three would be Sylvia Fowles. I love her basketball game so much, and off the court, the sweetest person you would ever meet. And she's just so encouraging. And those are my top three.
PERSLEY: Well, those are a really great top three, I have to say. Players often talk about the moment when they realize that it was no longer college. What was your "welcome to the WNBA" moments?
HARRISON: My "welcome to the league" moment — what was it, what was it — you're making me think back a little bit ago. You know what, I think it was actually against Minnesota, my rookie year, and I think I got an offensive rebound. And it might have been — no wait, let me change that back. I was actually guarding Maya Moore. It was a screen and we were switching on her, I believe. I had some pretty good defense, I'm not gonna lie, the defense was locked down. And she simply just shot the ball over me and was nothing but net. And I was like, you know what? It was a great shot, and I just kept it moving. But you get those type of players who just make plays like that, because this is the WNBA. So I just — yeah, that was my moment. Maya Moore, she definitely welcomed me to the league.
PERSLEY: A welcome from Maya Moore. Wow. And one last question: What is the best piece of advice you would give to a young girl who wants to play in the WNBA?
HARRISON: Just know it comes with a lot of honor. Obviously, I'm not playing right now. But the amount of change we were doing inside of that bubble on a shortened season and just playing back to back, it's a lot. It's a privilege. And I hope that anybody that wants to do this, just know how much work that goes into it. But once you finally get here, it's just like, it's your time to shine. It's such an amazing league, and you get to find some lifelong friends in this league. So it means a lot.
PERSLEY: Wow. I mean, I don't think I've heard an answer as amazing as that one. [both laugh] Just that it's a privilege. Like, you think of it as, you get there and you still have to keep working hard, but you also have the privilege of being there, which honestly for me is some great advice. Thanks. So thank you so much for that. And thank you so much for doing the work that you're doing, and even simply coming up with #IAM campaign, you make a difference. It affects me, it affects so many other young girls. So just thank you so much for being here, and thank you so much for doing the work you're doing.
HARRISON: Thank you Pepper, so much, and I have to say, girl, you are doing your thing. I see you everywhere. And I know a lot of players talk about how well-spoken you are, just how knowledgeable you are with everything. I remember how impressed I was when I had an interview when we first got into the bubble. And, you know, since the interview, girl, I just been keeping track. So keep doing your thing, we appreciate you and I can't wait to see what's next.
PERSLEY: Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Wow, this was an amazing conversation.
HARRISON: You're welcome girl.
HARRISON: Bye, Pepper.
PERSLEY: Big thank you to Isabelle Harrison and the Dallas Wings for making that amazing discussion happen. I really enjoyed getting Izzy's perspective. I hope you tune in to my next episode, and as always, you can find me on Instagram at @dishwithpepper. Thank you all so much for listening.