There's a reason Vivica A. Fox looks natural as a pro basketball player in Juwanna Mann. The Indianapolis, Ind. native was a starting guard on her championship-winning high school team. While she now holds season tickets to watch the L.A. Lakers and WNBA Sparks, the actress admits donning her sneakers again — 20 years later — was rougher than expected.

First up, the Mann cast spent a month in b-ball training with the University of Southern California's athletic director. Next, they headed to the film's Charlotte, N.C. shooting location to train with off-season WNBA players. "That gym was called 'The Oven' because it didn't have any air conditioning," Fox tells TV Guide Online. "I sweated in places I didn't know I could sweat."

She and co-star Miguel A. Nuñez, Jr. — who bonded years ago as fellow Lakers fans — soon learned to keep up with WNBA's Cynthia Cooper, Teresa Weatherspoon and Rita Williams. But they paid a price. "Miguel and I both threw out our backs," Fox laughs. "We had a chiropractor and a masseuse. I went home every day with big bags of ice on my knees. It was torturous. Imagine being on hardwood floors 16 hours a day for three weeks!"

Now, Fox is on to her next physical challenge — she just returned from martial-arts training in China for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. She still keeps in touch with her Mann teammates, though. "We've been waiting for the movie to come out for two years," she explains, "so their e-mails were always asking, 'When's it coming out?' But now with the WNBA season kicking off and growing by leaps and bounds, I think the timing is perfect for them."