May 5, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Chelsea Regins lived a dream on Saturday morning when she was part of Georgia Tech's graduation ceremony.
She's hoping her professional life could be a Dream -- the Atlanta Dream.
Regins, part of the 2011-12 senior class that re-wrote the Georgia Tech Women's Basketball program's record books was one of three players signed to a training-camp contract by the WNBA's Atlanta franchise on April 26th. Since then, she's been showing just how nightmarish she might make life for opposing players.
"Georgia Tech is one of the best defensive teams in the country. Chelsea's carried that over to this floor," said Dream Head Coach Marynell Meadors, who has directed the Dream to back-to-back Eastern Conference crowns. "She has looked great. She's physically strong, she's in great condition and when she's on the court and she loves what she's doing. You can just tell that.
"She never runs out of energy and she comes ready to play," Meadors continued. "She's here early, she leaves late. She wants to be a good player and hopefully we'll have a spot for her. I've got some difficult [personnel] decisions getting ready to happen."
Unlike former Jackets teammates Alex Montgomery, who was selected with the 10th overall pick by the New York Liberty in last year's Draft, and Sasha Goodlett, who was chosen 11th overall by the Indianapolis Fever this year, Regins has taken a less-direct, more labor-intensive road to playing professionally in the U.S.
"I was invited to a WNBA combine camp and I guess I played well," said the soft-spoken Regins. "I received a call after the Draft and [the Dream] asked me to come out and participate in their training camp. So I did."
Regins spoke with Montgomery, who gave her a good idea of what to expect from WNBA play.
"Basically it's a challenge but it's not too much different from college," she said. "In order to stay longer you've just got to want it more."
It's just that simple and plays to her strength, as nobody will ever out-desire Regins. This is a player who in pulled down 394 rebounds with the Jackets, 190 of them (slightly more than 48 percent of her total) coming off the offensive glass.
When it comes to basketball, just tell her where and when to show up then brace yourself for an all-out, effort from the start of practice until the end. Such was the case last week on the Atlanta Hawks' practice court inside Philips Arena, as she was one of the players Dream personnel were chasing off the floor.
As in her career at Georgia Tech, what you see is with Regins is what you get and what the Dream has seen has impressed.
"She's a hard-working player, she crashes the boards hard, she's willing to get first in every day," said Dream fifth-year guard/forward Armintie Price. "She's just coming in and giving that extra effort, getting that extra rebound, getting that extra possession, diving on the floor for loose balls.
"She's here to take somebody's job and she's doing a great job of just bringing a lot of energy," Price added. "She's bringing it every day."
That sounds familiar to Tech fans and looks familiar to Meadors.
"I've watched her play for several years now with Georgia Tech," said the Dream Head Coach. "I go to most of their home games and certainly have enjoyed watching her play. She was one of five seniors this year that did an incredible job."
Making the roster is going to be a challenge, however, as the Dream is loaded and is for a few players to come back from playing in their professional leagues in Europe. But Meadors sees the camp as an opportunity for someone like Regins.
"The players coming in late from over in Europe, gives us an opportunity to look at young players and just see what they can do. There's no pressure on them," Meadors said. "I try to tell them not to do certain things that they couldn't do or things they wish they could do. Do what you do because that's the reason you're here in camp. Chelsea's definitely brought that into camp for us."
She looked at home running the floor and pounding the boards in five-on-five, full-court drills, where she worked with WNBA veteran Coco Miller and guards Brittany Johnson (Ohio State) and Romina Ciappina (Belgian Senior National Team), who like Regins, were signed to training camp contracts. Rookie guard Tiffany Hayes (Connecticut), the Dream's second-round pick (they didn't have a first-rounder), rounded out the quintet.
On Saturday, she played 13:00 in the team's lone preseason game, a 91-89 victory over the Tulsa Shock at Philips Arena. Regins scored four points on 2-for-4 shooting. Uncharacteristically, she did not grab a rebound and committed four personal fouls, but she was in the game over the final 4:48 of the fourth quarter as the Dream held off the Shock.
It was a nice first step.
"It's a little different from college but I feel like Coach Jo prepared me well and I think I've been ready since I've been here," she said. "I'm just excited to be here and still be in Atlanta. I guess just take a step further in basketball just to see where it takes me."
Ironically, Regins might find herself teaming with Georgia Tech's 2009 NCAA Tournament nemesis Courtney Paris of Oklahoma and Miller, the former UGA star, while mixing it up against Goodlett and Montgomery.
"That's a college thing," she said, with a laugh. "I'm proud of [Montgomery and Goodlett] and I can't wait to see them."
She wouldn't have to wait long.
Should Regins make the team, she'd reunite with Goodlett on Opening Night, May 19th, when the Dream visits Indiana. She'd get to renew acquaintances with Montgomery the following Friday, when Atlanta hosts New York in its home opener.