Two and a half weeks after the winning the WNBA championship, in October, Mystics guard Natasha Cloud flew to China to begin her season with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA). The 27-year-old averaged 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game.
Cloud cut her overseas season short and returned back the U.S. in January for “some opportunities at home”. It wasn’t her first stint overseas. In 2016, she played in Turkey and the next year she played in Australia’s WNBL for the Townsville Fire.
Bullets Forever caught up with Cloud about her time in China on and off of the court. She also talked about being a champion and her goals going into her next WNBA season with the Mystics.
Bullets Forever: First and foremost, what has it been like the last few months soaking in the reality that you are a WNBA champion?
Natasha Cloud: It really has blown. The reality is majority of our team hasn’t had time to soak it in or enjoy it because many of us headed head right overseas to play.
Only a few of us got to celebrate in D.C. for maybe 4-5 days. It’s something that each and every one of us has dreamed about since the time we started playing and to do it with this team and this organization that believed in me is everything! I just wish we could have really embraced it with each other, our family, and our fans.
BF: When did you commit to playing for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls? What was the process like?
NC: I committed to playing for them in the middle of last WNBA season. It was a really cool process because I am one of three American guards in the league. The WCBA usually wants post players from America.
Luckily, they had some agents and scouts come to a few WNBA games, and from there it was my amazing agent Stephanie Stanley of Merit Sports who solidified my contract.
BF: Was it a difficult decision to make?
NC: If you know really know me, I am a HOMEBODY. My family is the most important thing to me so being away (especially for the holidays) is hard. It’s always a difficult decision, but when you’re talking about being financially stable for myself and my family, it’s a decision that needs to be made. Reality is we are paid more overseas than in the best league in the entire world.
BF: Did you have any hesitation to go overseas because the last time you went in 2016 you sustained an injury?
NC: This is always a big hesitation for me. I tore my hip labrum my first season in Turkey and that has always left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to playing overseas. Having to play year-round in countries where important areas of strength and conditioning, medical care, treatment, recovery, and more are not even close to the standards in the U.S. is a scary thing.
For the most part, I’m on my own with taking care of my body. This is why the advancement and progression of the WNBA is so important. Longevity is key, and the blueprint for how to make money as a WNBA player does not coincide with that key.
BF: Besides pay, what were some reasons you decided to go overseas?
NC: Pay. Ha! Pay is the only reason I go overseas. But I’m not ignorant. I thoroughly enjoy experiencing other cultures and seeing the world. God has blessed me with many opportunities to do so.
BF: What’s been the biggest adjustment basketball-wise while in China?
NC: The schedule. We practice two times a day, while playing games every two to three days. There’s no time to recover.
BF: Which WNBA colleagues have you played against?
NC: I’ve played against Stefanie Dolson, Natasha Howard, Theresa Plaisance, Cheyenne Parker, and Aerial Powers.
BF: Off the court, what has surprised you the most about the country?
NC: The difference in culture has been a really hard adjustment for me because our values are just different. Also, I did not adjust to the food at all; I really stuck to the American food chains that I was familiar with.
BF: Is this your first time in China? If so, what were your emotions like before getting on the plane?
This is my first time in China, and I didn’t have too many emotions, I never really do. Main emotion I feel is sadness for having to leave my family and friends.
BF: Has your diet changed at all while in China? If so, how?
NC: Yes. I eat a ton of McDonald’s and I don’t ever touch it in the states. I stayed in a hotel without a kitchen, so I was unable to cook for myself. Going out to eat was always difficult because of having to translate the menu and then order with the language barrier.
BF: Have you had time to explore any interesting place(s)?
Unfortunately, because I play every two to three days, my schedule does not leave a lot of time for exploration. I really wanted to see the Great Wall of China, but it just didn’t work out.
BF: What have the fans been like there? Any particular fan moment stands out to you?
NC: They are amazing! So sweet and genuine. They treat us American players like we are goddesses over here. It’s just really amazing to see what a universal language basketball is.
BF: Have you started to think about your next WNBA season? Can you describe one personal goal?
NC: Always thinking. My goal is just continuing to grow every day in this game. I need to continue to work on my consistency from the three-point line; both stationary and on the move. I also want to make the All-WNBA Defensive First Team after making the second team last season. I take pride guarding the best guards night in and out, and I do a damn good job of it too.