By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
Former Clovis High School standout Cisti Greenwalt is trying to get tough.
Greenwalt is in the Sacramento Monarchs’ training camp for the second straight year, and she hopes to make the final roster this time around by getting mean in the post.
“She needs to be more aggressive,” Monarchs coach John Whisenant said. “She goes up for a rebound once, and if she doesn’t get it, she stands. She needs to bang until she gets it or it goes the other way.”
The 6-foot-5 former Texas Tech star was cut by the Monarchs last year and spent the hoops season playing with the San Jose Spiders of the NWBL.
To make the team this year, Greenwalt is taking on an apprentice role under Sacramento’s four-time WNBA all-star center Yolanda Griffith.
“She lets me know some stuff to help me out,” Greenwalt said. “Mostly defense and back-to-the-basket moves.”
Whisenant said battling in the post daily with a nominee for the WNBA’s all-decade team can be tough to get used to.
“Cisti was a little bit intimidated by Yolanda at first,” he said. “Yolanda is encouraging Cisti to be aggressive, she told her not to worry about being too rough.”
On one occasion, Greenwalt used Griffith’s advice, and knocked the former MVP to the floor.
“She had been telling me to be more physical,” Greenwalt said. “(After I knocked her down) she said, ‘Don’t be sorry.’”
Whisenant said he and Griffith took that display as a sign of improvement.
“Yolanda was proud of her,” Whisenant said.
Greenwalt, who held the Lady Wildcats’ all-time scoring record until she was passed by Brittany Blackmon last season, had three points, a rebound and a block during the Monarchs’ last preseason game, a 55-52 loss to the New York Liberty.
Sacramento plays its next preseason game against Connecticut on Tuesday at The Pit in Albuquerque, where Greenwalt led the Lady Cats to state titles in 1999 and 2000.
With the Red Raiders, Greenwalt set an NCAA record by blocking 300 shots in her career.
Although blocking was her forte in college, Whisenant said she cannot rely on that skill in the pros.
“She has good blocking instincts,” the Monarchs coach said. “But I don’t encourage blocking shots. I’d rather see her move her feet and take a charge.”
Greenwalt said she is trying to unlearn her college habits and learn to play defense the way her coach teaches it.
“Blocking shots is much different with professional players than it is in high school or college,” Greenwalt said. “Players know how to get around blocks. Here, it’s more about getting your feet set than trying to block shots.”
Greenwalt survived the first cut, but the roster will be trimmed from 17 players to 12 before the start of the season later this month.
With Griffith and two-year player Rebekah Brunson virtual locks to make the team at post, Greenwalt will have to prove her value as a role player if she is going to be on the final roster.
“It will come down to who I feel are the 12 best players for the Sacramento Monarchs,” Whisenant said. “I need a 3- or 4-minute player who comes into the game and plays like the house is on fire.”
Whisenant has been in Greenwalt’s corner since Sacramento drafted the Clovis alum in the third round of the 2005 draft, but the coach said he has to make choices based solely on basketball, not personal preferences.
“She’s been trying her tail off so far,” Whisenant said. “I’ve told her, ‘If it came down to who I like, you know I like ya.’”