Storm coach Brian Agler cut three players from his training-camp roster on Saturday. Returnee Joslyn Tinkle joined rookies Taylor Hall (UT-Chattanooga) and Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) as the first wave in whittling the roster down to a maximum 12-player roster by May 15.
Agler and his staff used a closed scrimmage against the Australian national team as the final determination for the early roster decison. Season-ticket holders were allowed to view the game at KeyArena, which featured WNBA officials.
The Storm started returnees Alysha Clark, Shekinna Stricklen, and Noelle Quinn with trade acquisitions Jenna O’Hea and Crystal Langhorne handling play inside. Seattle won 71-57 against an Aussie team sans its WNBA stars due to new CBA rules. Players like PG Leilani Mitchell (Kennewick HS/New York) and C Liz Cambage (Tulsa) could not play despite touring with the team because they’re under WNBA contract. PG Erin Phillips opted to play for Phoenix this summer and All-Stars Penny Taylor (Phoenix) and Lauren Jackson (Seattle) are recovering from knee injuries.
“It’s a little disappointing because originally we were set to play Team USA and it was going to be on national TV,” first-year Opals coach Brendan Joyce said of the tour’s design before the collective-bargaining agreement was ratified in March. The Aussies are playing the games as part of its preparation for the FIBA World Championship in Turkey this fall. The Opals travel to Minnesota for an exhibition game Monday.
“We decided to still follow through with the tour because I have a lot of young players,” Joyce continued. “To expose them to this level, the best athletes in the world, it’s a great experience for them to see the level they’ve got to be at not only for the WNBA but to win medals. I can already see that I’ve got a couple girls who can match it athletically.”
One is F Rebecca Allen, who also caught the eye of Agler. He had a brief talk with her about the possibility of trying out for the Storm team. O’Hea, an Aussie Olympian who honored her WNBA contract, also noticed the improvement in Allen from playing against her in the WNBL last winter.
But the focus was on the active Storm players.
Langhorne led Seattle with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field. Quinn was the primary PG, finishing with six assists, while Clark (nine) and Stricklen (seven) handled the rebounding. F Laura Hodges led the Opals with 18 points while Allen had six rebounds off the bench.
“It made a significant factor” in PG Valencia McFarland making the first cut, Agler said of the scrimmage and roster juggling. “Noelle, we’re asking her to do a lot of things that she can do, but it’s not her main position in running the point. She did a really good job. I like Alysha and Shekinna’s aggressiveness on the (offensive) boards. That was a highlight. We didn’t have a lot of that last year. And Crystal…Lauren is good in-and-out, but I don’t know if we’ve had a player like Crystal who can really operate 15-17-feet out. That’s good for us. That’s what stood out for me.”
Agler planned an off-day for the team on Sunday and will start practice late on Monday to give veterans Sue Bird, Tanisha Wright, Camille Little and free-agent C Angel Robinson time to finish physicals to be cleared to join training camp. Agler didn’t have a clear timetable on when PG Temeka Johnson would arrive.
Seattle plays another closed scrimmage on Thursday, this time against the Chinese national team. Seattle’s sole exhibition game is Saturday against Los Angeles at KeyArena. The Storm plays the Sparks again on May 16 in its season-opener at KeyArena.
“We want to execute better offensively,” Agler said of goals before Saturday’s exhibition. “We’re going to do things different when we have Sue and Temeka at the point guard. They’re good pick-and-roll players. That will come out a little more. We’re OK defensively, but we’re behind on our offensive execution.”
Despite the offensive struggles, Quinn had some good reads against the Aussies, which didn’t pressure the ball like typical WNBA teams. She starred at PG at UCLA, yet rarely catches herself running the offense as a pro. She played in the post in Korea last season due to the league’s small lineup.
“It’s a tough position,” Quinn said of playing the point in the WNBA. “As a guard, I should probably know every position anyway.
“I really like the rookies intensity (Saturday). The vets, AC, Strick, they’ve done a good job of setting the tone. I’m excited to get the other vets back so we can get in the flow. But we’ve had a good camp. We’ve focused on our defense and incorporated that into our scrimmages, so it’s been good.”