Alaina Coates discusses mental health, therapy, Turkey

INDIANAPOLIS — Alaina Coates has experienced peaks most people only dream of, but to find herself again, the Indiana Fever center had to take a hard look in the mirror and analyze the valleys.

She couldn’t outrun what she was feeling, not after everything she’d been through. So, in order to save her career, Coates temporarily let it go.

“Not playing last year, I just took that personal, but not in a bad way. I just needed to work on myself,” Coates said. ” … I feel very accomplished. I worked very hard to get back here.”

As Coates stood on the baseline of the Fever’s practice court Thursday — about two years removed from her last WNBA game with the Washington Mystics in 2020 — she peeled back the curtain on her hiatus from the league in 2021. During that time off, she got a therapist and made her mental health a priority. It was the first time Coates had truly examined the highs and lows of her life.

Washington Mystics center Alaina Coates (81) steals the ball from Seattle Storm center Ezi Magbegor (13) during the second half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

In a two-year span, she went from winning a national championship at South Carolina and being drafted second overall by the Chicago Sky in 2017, to missing her entire rookie season due to a right ankle injury and having her 55-year-old father, Gary, die from cardiac arrest on March 13, 2018 — just over two months before she made her WNBA debut.

Admittedly, Coates said she wasn’t in the right head space when her pro career began, and while she tried to push through it, she eventually realized that keeping her foot on the gas pedal wasn’t the answer.

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