The Storm was the last team to close the opening day of WNBA training camp Sunday. Media was only allowed to watch the final 45-minutes of an approximate 31/2-hour session, but there was plenty of activity.
The active roster of 15 players were split into white and black jerseys, competing against the male squad in blue. Free agent signee Belinda Snell and trade acquisition Katie Smith joined the Storm returnees in black while the rookies and second-year post Jacinta Monroe (Washington) were in white.
Storm coach Brian Agler immediately started implementing offenses and wrapped up practice with the rookies playing five-on-five against the men. He gathered everyone for a huddle, stating clearly, “We threw a lot at ya today.”
Agler, who’s also director of player personnel, plans to make two cuts after Monday’s practice to make room for the arrival of Sue Bird and Swin Cash. He said he’s looking for athleticism and smarts to fill his final roster spots, but that’s not why he threw a lot of offense at the new group.
“It’s basically because we only have less than three weeks before we play our first game, we don’t have a lot of time,” said Agler of the WNBA pushing training camp back to accommodate players’ year-round schedules but starting the season June 3. “And we need to get our numbers down so we can prepare.”
It was brief, but here’s a few of my thoughts from the first practice. I kept my eye on the newcomers, but will say Smith was playing (and shooting) like it was a must-win Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.
PUMP IT UP: The potential new bigs are huge. Monroe is lithe, like I remember from her days playing at Florida State. But I need a height check on C Krystal Thomas and Aneika Henry, who are listed at 6-foot-4 and 6-3, respectively. They look bigger and stronger than Lauren Jackson (6-5), which would be nice on Seattle’s bench. F Bridgette Mitchell (6-1) also had muscular frame. Their skill level varies and the Storm didn’t work on defense, so I don’t know their potential in Agler’s system.
HOT SHOOTER: Breanna Salley got the Storm vets to cheer her name often, making numerous three-pointers during drills and the scrimmage. I wrote about her road to camp for Monday’s paper.
LOOKING GOOD: As expected, Storm PF Lauren Jackson looked good and is fully recovered from offseason Achilles surgery. The vets didn’t run full-court before media, but she didn’t have any hesitation in the half-court sets.
CELEBRITY WATCHERS: Along with the Force 10 ownership group, local coaches, and Bird, former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan watched the session. She retired in March but was still draped in Cavaliers clothing. Ryan visited with her former star PG, Storm assistant Jenny Boucek, after practice.
SWEET PLAY: Again, we only saw 45-minutes, but PG Courtney Ward’s bounce pass on a fastbreak to F Iffy Ibekwe during the final scrimmage was nice.
NEW DECOR: The Storm’s green 2010 championship banner was hung next to the 2004 version, immediately visible as you walk into the gym. The crisp look seemed to officially cover the five-year streak of first-round postseason exits. For an ugly stat, though, Seattle is 0-1 in games where it receives a championship ring.