Life in the WNBA bubble through the eyes of a Central Wisconsin native

Published: Oct. 4, 2020 at 11:38 PM CDT
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PHOENIX (WSAW) -‘Bubble’, it’s become arguably the most popular word in sports since the pandemic hit. The NHL finished their season in one, and both the NBA and WNBA are in the middle of the Finals right now, all without any interruptions due to COVID-19.

A central Wisconsin native spent time in one of those bubbles

“It was definitely a tough transition; it was approximately three months total.”

Mere weeks after accepting a job as the head strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, Wittenberg native Derrick Nillissen found out he was leaving everything behind for a bit.

“You know essentially we were just kind of slid the decision, and we were like ok, we’ve got a handful of days to get ready and pack,” says Nillissen. “And essentially bring everything that we would need in a regular season on the road with us to Bradenton (Florida).”

Nillissen is rich in basketball experience, he was a four-year varsity player at Bowler High School, where he led the state in scoring his senior year. He then played college ball at Madison Tech and Iowa Wesleyan, but nothing compared to this.

“Obviously I was leaving my wife here in Phoenix which was tough,” Nillissen said.

“Going into it I knew I was going to miss our first anniversary.”

From a new city, with a new team, to a controlled environment across the country, with a group of players that by and large, Nillissen hadn’t even met in person yet.

“Kind of the cornerstone of my role is to build relationships with players, and develop that trust,” Nillissen says. “So that was really difficult from the get-go, because you didn’t have the face to face interactions.”

The Mercury went 13-9 in the regular season before being eliminated in the second round, but being a part of history, is something the Central Wisconsin native will never forget.

“Very rewarding experience, and I’m extremely thankful and proud to be part of such a wonderful league,” says Nillissen. “It was a success.”

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