LAS VEGAS — Sky guard Allie Quigley took the road less traveled to the WNBA.
If you would’ve told Quigley 11 years ago that she would be a WNBA starter — let alone a three-time All-Star — at 33, she would’ve thought you were nuts.
In fact, Quigley distinctly remembers former Mercury general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale telling her in an exit meeting early in her career that she thought Quigley would be in the WNBA for the next 10 years.
‘‘I was like: ‘What? What are you talking about?’ ’’ Quigley said. ‘‘I didn’t play more than five minutes the entire season.’’
Quigley’s evolution from a borderline WNBA player to one of the best shooters in the league for the last decade is a product of her hard work and determination. She always has been a natural shooter, but her confidence wavered. Her family and DePaul coach Doug Bruno pushed her to not give up.
So Quigley stayed persistent in honing her craft, shooting day-in and day-out just to earn another opportunity with a team.
Quigley’s first career setback came early. After being selected 22nd overall by the Storm in the 2008 draft, she was waived before the season started.
‘‘I was devastated; I thought it was over,’’ Quigley recalled. ‘‘I just felt like I wasn’t good enough.’’
That’s the harsh reality of the WNBA, which has only 144 roster spots. Three days later, however, another opportunity arose with the Mercury, which gave Quigley hope.
Quigley bounced around in her first four seasons. She was waived several times and played a combined 34 games on four teams. That’s a stark contrast to the last three seasons, in which she has started 82 games and counting.
While her playing time in the WNBA was spotty, Quigley received ample opportunities overseas, which helped her develop her skills and grow more confident. After a while, she started to raise some eyebrows as she became a consistent scoring threat.
Before the 2013 season, Quigley — who didn’t play in the WNBA in 2012 because she played in Europe after receiving a Hungarian passport — was in Slovakia when got a call from her agent. Then-Sky coach Pokey Chatman had seen Quigley play and wanted to invite her to training camp.
At that point, Quigley didn’t know what to think. The Sky would be her fifth team in six years.
‘‘I was like: ‘OK, at least it’s close to my house, so I can see my family. I’ll give it a shot,’ ’’ said Quigley, who is from Joliet. ‘‘I wasn’t thinking: ‘OK, this is going to really work out.’ But I was feeling confident in my game and everything because it had been my fifth year overseas and we had done really, really well in the European competition, playing against a lot of other really good WNBA players, and I was starting to feel like I fit in more.’’
Chatman gave Quigley an opportunity to be a role player off the bench, and she ran with it. In 2014 and 2015, she was named the WNBA’s Sixth Woman of the Year.
After Chatman was fired in 2016, new coach Amber Stocks told Quigley she was going to be a starter.
‘‘I wasn’t expecting that,’’ Quigley recalled. ‘‘I was still ready to be that bench player who brought the energy and everything.’’
Quigley earned her first All-Star nod in 2017, when she was 31. She averaged a career-high 16.4 points and shot 43 percent from the three-point arc. And she has remained just as consistent since.
‘‘It’s kind of surreal,’’ Quigley said of her breakout season. ‘‘It’s just a lesson in hard work and that it’s not always going to come right at once. For some players, it does. But for most, it really doesn’t, and you have to take those steps to get to where you want.
‘‘I just focused on the next little step. I was never thinking, like, five years ago: ‘Oh, I want to be an All-Star one day.’ I never thought about that. Or even being a starter. It was just, like, first I want to make a team, then I want to get minutes, then I want to contribute a little more. So it was step by step.’’
Quigley now considers it her duty to help mentor other young players who might be in a similar position. During practices and before games, she often can be found talking with Sky rookies Chloe Jackson and Katie Lou Samuelson, who haven’t earned much playing time yet.
‘‘It’s a shock at first,’’ Quigley said. ‘‘You’re so good in college, and you think it’s just going to, like, continue. But you just have to figure out how to be good against better players, a new system, new coach and the competition on a whole other level. So I just keep them positive and talk to them about it.’’