The WNBA starts its 22nd season in 2018, which means the Seattle Storm heads into its 19th season.
Seattle has won two WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010 and going into this training camp the focus is on bringing the team together and making a solid run for a third.
The Storm started camp with 16 on the roster including number one picks guards Sue Bird (2002) and Jewell Loyd (2015) and forward Breanna Stewart (2016).
Seattle’s newcomers include head coach Dan Hughes, the sixth coach in Storm history, who has been a head coach in the WNBA for a total of 17 years and was voted the WNBA Coach of the Year twice, in 2001 with the Cleveland Rockers and in 2007 with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Hughes brings in wealth of knowledge and experience to a team full of talent seeking to go beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Also at Storm camp for the first time are WNBA veterans Courtney Paris a center out of Oklahoma and forward Natasha Howard from Florida State. Paris was signed as a free agent and Howard came to Seattle via trade with the Minnesota Lynx.
The draft brings in rookies Jordin Canada, a guard out of UCLA, and forward Teana Muldrow of West Virginia. Canada was the fifth pick of the draft while Muldrow was taken by Seattle at number 29.
Other rookies in camp are centers Khaalia Hillsman (Texas A&M), Emily Potter (Utah), guard Brittany McPhee (Stanford), and forward Aleksandra Crvendakic of the Serbian National team.
Canada is expected to learn from and be Bird’s back-up and maybe, if the “Benjamin Button” of the WNBA ever retires, her replacement. Bird noticed one thing immediately about the young guard.
“She’s fast, she’s really fast,” said Bird. “For any rookie, but especially a point guard, it’s not easy, the learning curve is crazy, you have to really figure things out and pick things up quick. But the fact that she has this athleticism about her and her skill set, I think that will help her along really quickly.”
Rounding out the roster are familiar names to Storm Crazies with forwards Sami Whitcomb, Crystal Langhorne, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Alysha Clark, and guard Noelle Quinn. Clark just completed her overseas season winning the Polish League Championship with her team Polkowice and is expected to be in camp soon.
Coming together for their first practice last Sunday, April 29th Seattle players were excited and ready to get the rust off and the chemistry boiling.
“I think the first practice was great,” said Stewart. “I told this to the team, it’s a new situation for all of us because Dan is new to us too. We know some of the skills and the terms he uses but this practice setting is my first time too. You always know on day one there’s jitters and nerves but once we actually slowed down and really played, today was a good day on.”
The Storm have had great offensive games over the years and both Loyd and Stewart received Rookie of the Year honors after great first years. Whitcomb continues to be a great outside threat and of course with Bird’s leadership Seattle continues to be on the cusp of making a move to the championship.
Defensively the Storm has been inconsistent and have stuttered a little. Part of that could be the need for more height as rebounding seemed to be one of the areas Seattle continued to lag in. Seattle has addressed the need for more height bringing into training camp Potter at 6’6” and Hillsman at 6’5” to go along with Stewart and Paris at 6’4”.
Stewart acknowledges a lot of changes to the roster and with a new coaching staff having a solid veteran core along with the new players and staff is important and so is the added height.
“We’re just bigger,” said Stewart. “You know we’re longer, bigger, we’re still going to be able to run, but now we’re going to be able to get the ball a little bit easier and do some things defensively.”
It’s a great observation for fans to hear as they prepare to cheer on the Storm another season. Seattle gets their first game experience together as they face off with the Phoenix Mercury in two preseason matchups.
The first is a noon game on Tuesday, May 8 at KeyArena and the second has the Storm heading to Phoenix for a 7 p.m. game at the Mercury’s home court Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The WNBA regular season starts with an all-day everyone plays campaign called #WNBAALLDAY as every team is in action on Sunday, May 20.
Seattle will begin its season against the Mercury that day at 5 p.m. at the KeyArena and will celebrate Bird’s accomplishment of becoming the WNBA All-Time assist leader last year with a Bird bobblehead giveaway on opening night.