After winning Olympic gold and WNBA title, Stefanie Dolson hopes for more with NY Liberty

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While reflecting on all her success in 2021, Stefanie Dolson had a thought.

“Hopefully," she said, "it’s just the beginning."

Indeed, for Dolson, a native of Port Jervis, it's been quite a year. She won the first Olympic gold medal in 3-on-3 basketball while representing Team USA in Tokyo, then played a key role in helping the Chicago Sky win a WNBA championship.

“It’s been a lot,” said Dolson, a 6-foot-5 center who graduated from Minisink Valley High School in 2010. “I think I’ve had a chance to appreciate it, but I think it’s more so reflecting on it. I don’t think I’ve reflected that much on it and actually did something really special. That’s how it is with us, it’s kind of like ‘non-stop go,’ so you just kind of move on to the next thing and achieve the next goal. I’m really proud of myself for the year that I had and the success that I was able to have. Hopefully, it’s only the beginning.”

United States' Stefanie Dolson celebrates during the 2020 Summer Olympics on July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Dolson, a Port Jervis native and Minisink Valley High School graduate, signed a deal with her hometown team, the New York Liberty, the team announced.
United States' Stefanie Dolson celebrates during the 2020 Summer Olympics on July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Dolson, a Port Jervis native and Minisink Valley High School graduate, signed a deal with her hometown team, the New York Liberty, the team announced.

And now she’ll start a new beginning. After spending the past five seasons with the Chicago Sky, the 30-year-old signed with the New York Liberty last week and made her signing official on Thursday.

The two-time WNBA All-Star believes choosing to sign with the New York Liberty was a goal, but also the best decision for her career.

Basketball: Minisink Valley graduate Stefanie Dolson makes it official with hometown New York Liberty

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Gleason: Dolson, one of our own, is NCAA champion

Chicago Sky center/forward Astou Ndour-Fall (45) and center Stefanie Dolson (31) during the first half of Game 3 of the 2021 WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury on Oct. 15.
Chicago Sky center/forward Astou Ndour-Fall (45) and center Stefanie Dolson (31) during the first half of Game 3 of the 2021 WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury on Oct. 15.

“A little bit of both,” she said. “I think it was the best choice for my career. But also, after visiting and talking to everyone who is in the franchise for the New York Liberty, it just was an easy choice, honestly. They’re so passionate about the team and making sure that the product that we put out on the floor is the best that we can. It was an easy choice and I’m happy to be back home. It was the best of both worlds, so I’m not sure it could have worked out any better.”

The Liberty held a virtual press conference introducing Dolson on Thursday. She averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season with the Sky, capping it with an eight-point effort off the bench in the decisive Finals game against the Phoenix Mercury. On Feb. 7, Dolson was one of 12 players named to the roster to represent the USA in the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

In addition to her success as a pro, Dolson was a two-time national champion at UConn.

“Stef is incredible,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said. “Stef is somebody, you can see it in her game, she’s just a winning player, she makes winning plays. She’s very selfless and makes these plays for her teammates. She’s somebody that will sacrifice for the greater good. She’s special. She really is. We don’t bring just anybody in here, but she was a priority from the start because of who she is. I think she’s going to fit in just wonderfully with the group that we are building with that intention in mind.”

Chicago Sky's Stefanie Dolson, center, and musician Chance the Rapper celebrate the team's 2021 WNBA Championship during a rally at Millennium Park on Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Chicago Sky's Stefanie Dolson, center, and musician Chance the Rapper celebrate the team's 2021 WNBA Championship during a rally at Millennium Park on Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

And Dolson remembers how her journey got started. She said she still returns to the high school that retired her jersey and that she holds fond memories of her years at Minisink Valley.

“Minisink was a long time ago and at that point I was just a kid,” she said. “I enjoyed it. I have a lot of great memories with my high school team and my coach. I still talk to a lot of my teammates still today, and my coach (Judy Mottola) and I talk all the time. I only have good memories of that time in my life, so it’s exciting to be back home.”

With most of her life still at her house in Port Jervis, she returns home often.

“I go to my high school sometimes and watch the games and I’m able to see people like my high school teammates and my coaches,” she said. “Which I know means more to them, to be able to go back and see them all the time, I know how much it means to them. So I’m just excited to be able to have that chance to do it more often, and get a chance to have them come to more games as well.”

With a busy life on the road, Dolson enjoys whatever time she can find to stay at home and relax.

“It’s just my home,” she said of Port Jervis. “When I go home, I like to go home and just sit on the couch because our lives are on the road so often, that we don’t get to just sit down a lot. For me, when I go back to Port Jervis, I just go to my home and just sit down on the couch and usually don’t move. If people want to hang out I usually say, ‘Listen, guys, you have to come over to the house, because I’m not leaving.’ So, for me, that’s the best part.”

And she has learned a valuable mindset over the last year.

“Just being able to stay level-headed and confident and trying to stay in the moment with what’s going on,” she said. “Because it was so much, with the pandemic and quarantining. I gained weight, I lost weight, I won a gold, I lost seven games in a row in the WNBA, but then we won a championship. Life is honestly full of obstacles and rollercoasters, so it was just learning to stay above it all and stay level-headed.”

MKramer1@th-record.com

Twitter: @MKramerTHR

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Stefanie Dolson of Minisink Valley signs with NY Liberty