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Chicago guard Allie Quigley's All-Star Game debut was worth the wait

SEATTLE -- Allie Quigley's All-Star Saturday was worth the wait. Making her All-Star debut at age 31, the Chicago guard scored 14 points off the bench for the Eastern Conference and walked away the winner of the WNBA 3-point contest.

"It's been really cool," Quigley said. "My first one ever. To be able to experience it here, where I was drafted, is kind of cool to come back here. Pretty awesome to have that memory."

If you were marveling at Quigley's path from a deep reserve who ended up out of the league altogether in 2012 to an All-Star in Saturday's 130-121 West win over the East, so too were West All-Stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, both of whom played with Quigley early in her career and discussed her career on the bench during the game.

"You could tell early on she had something special about the way she can score the basketball," said Taurasi, a teammate during Quigley's first two seasons with the Phoenix Mercury.

Added Bird: "She's always been able to do that. It was not easy guarding her in practice."

That talent didn't translate right away for Quigley, a DePaul grad whom Seattle selected with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Through her first four years in the WNBA, Quigley scored only 63 total points over 34 games between four teams. Bird pointed out that the Seattle Storm -- who brought Quigley back three years after drafting her -- tried to turn her into a backup point guard. That role wasn't ideal for Quigley's skills. So the Storm waived her at the end of 2012 training camp, leaving Quigley without a WNBA home.

A year later, the native of Joliet, Illinois, hooked on with her hometown Chicago Sky and found a place in the league. Quigley's unlikely second act has produced a pair of Sixth Woman Awards in 2014 and 2015, a trip to the WNBA Finals in 2014 and now an All-Star selection nine years after she entered the league.

Courtney Vandersloot has been there every step of the process. The Sky's starting point guard, an All-Star herself in 2011, was back home visiting her family in the Seattle area during All-Star weekend. Had Quigley not been selected, Vandersloot planned to skip the game, but she came to KeyArena as a fan wearing Quigley's Chicago jersey. The two took photos together on the court after the game.

"I've never been around someone who works as hard as she does, how committed she is to this," Vandersloot said. "It's really cool for her to get recognized. All this hard work is paying off.

"This is what it's all about. Just to see her compete with all these Olympians and the best players in the world, it's really cool for her. I'm happy for her. But it definitely didn't come easy."

For Quigley, there were a few moments of looking around to take in the experience. But she has earned her spot among the league's top players, averaging a career-high 16.9 points in her first season as a starter and ranking in the league's top five in both 3-pointers made (44, fourth) and 3-point percentage (44.4 percent, third).

Those shooting skills were showcased in the 3-point contest, held during halftime for the first time in conjunction with the All-Star Game since 2009. (The league also held a 3-point contest in 2010 as part of "The Stars at the Sun," a game that pitted some of the WNBA's top players against the USA team for that fall's FIBA World Championships.)

With a score of 20, Quigley advanced from a five-player field to face Sugar Rodgers of the New York Liberty in the finals. Quigley hoped that Rodgers had already had her best round after posting the high score in the first round. That proved the case, but Quigley was going to be hard to beat no matter what with a 27-point final round that included nine consecutive makes at one point.

"I just tried to stay confident and not get nervous," Quigley said, "because it's nerve-wracking when they call your name and 'ready, set, go.' Just tried to get in a rhythm and stay confident. I think after that first round, I kind of got the nerves out and I felt better in the second one."

Bird, one of the competitors eliminated in the opening round, wasn't surprised Quigley emerged victorious.

"That was my pick, to be honest," she said. "I thought she was going to win."

"Me too," echoed Taurasi.

In partnership with the Women's National Basketball Players Association, the WNBA donated $10,000 to a charity of the 3-point winner's choice. Quigley went with a personal cause: the Patrick Quigley Memorial Scholarship, which her family has endowed at Joliet Catholic Academy in honor of her late father. Both Quigley and her dad went to Joliet Catholic, and the scholarship gives financial assistance to other kids to do the same.

''It's awesome that it's so close to home,'' Quigley said of the cause. ''I know he was there with me and I was trying to shoot for him.''

Much of Quigley's family was able to attend the All-Star Game, coming up from San Francisco where they were visiting her brother. They got to see a day Quigley never could have imagined five years ago.

"Not at all, to be honest," she said. "I was just focusing on mini-goals every day, trying to get better. Trying to make a team, then trying to get minutes. I never saw this."

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