The seven rookies in Seattle Storm training camp have gotten a good look during the first week of camp. The time is soon coming for Brian Agler and the coaching staff to trim the roster based on what they’ve seen. Agler reiterated after Friday’s practice that the team’s first cuts will likely be made this weekend.
“I think any time now we can probably start making some decisions,” said Agler. “A lot of it has to do not necessarily with what people are doing or not doing on the floor. It’s just a matter that we don’t want to get huge players in camp. As we get players coming in, we’ve got to try to free up some spots so we don’t get 16, 17 players in at one time.”
Guard Doneeka Lewis is due into camp on Sunday, while forward Swin Cash will join the team in Chicago before Wednesday’s exhibition opener against the Sky. Guard Roneeka Hodges and center Kelly Santos will be with the team not long thereafter.
Further evaluation could come during Saturday’s practice.
“We’ll do a lot of scrimmaging tomorrow,” Agler said. “We’ll use Saturday to do that, both against the guys and against ourselves.”
The most hotly-contested position in camp thus far has been point guard, where the Storm is looking for a backup behind Sue Bird. With Bird and incumbent backup Tanisha Wright still playing overseas, younger players have gotten extended opportunities, but Agler and company remain uncertain about their direction with the position.
“We’re still searching for that person that can play the backup point guard,” he said, “whether it’s somebody that’s here or we’ll keep an eye out. Somebody we have that’s not here yet? We don’t know yet. We’ll keep experimenting, keep evaluating and see if we can come up with the right person.”
On Thursday, the experiment yielded another candidate at the point: University of Washington product Kristen O’Neill, who had previously played strictly on the wings. At 6-1, O’Neill could create matchup problems at the point with her size but is also vulnerable to pressure from smaller, quicker players.
“We threw her in there today a little bit just to see what she can do and she didn’t do bad,” said Agler. “She hung right in there. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The good thing is she got an opportunity and she didn’t do badly. The bad thing is we haven’t come up with a solution yet.”
One young point guard who has helped herself lately is third-round pick Kimberly Beck, who ran the first unit during the second half of Wednesday’s practice and much of Thursday’s session. The slight George Washington product showed her toughness by playing on after reopening a cut on her chin that she originally suffered during the NCAA Tournament. Beck had the chin bandaged during practice and will get stitches again to close the cut.
READY FOR A DAY OFF
The Storm will take Sunday off after six days of practice (and a walkthrough the previous Sunday) to start camp. Already, the team is looking forward to the day off – even the coaching staff.
“I think I’m tired,” said Agler. “I know they’re tired. I’m tired this week. We’ve got to get a day off on Sunday.”
Meanwhile, veteran Sheryl Swoopes pumped her fist when asked about Agler’s strategy of making sure she and Yolanda Griffith get a day off every three or four days.
“I’m already looking forward to Sunday,” she joked.
Griffith and Swoopes had Wednesday’s practice off, doing cardio work and watching their teammates from the sidelines. Swoopes said she felt good after the day off. She likes Agler’s philosophy for keeping his vets fresh.
“That was one thing that really drew me to wanting to come here in talking to Brian and me telling him what my concerns were and him telling me the same thing,” she said. “What he wanted me to understand was, ‘I’m looking at the big picture.’ I’m not interested in you coming out every single day of practice and practicing three, four hours a day and busting your butt out here in practice. Obviously I’m going to do that when I’m practicing, but he said, the bigger picture is we’ve got to save you and you’ve got to be ready for when the time really counts.”
Swoopes also got a lift Friday from the arrival in Seattle of her son Jordan and partner Alisa Scott, who watched practice at The Furtado Center.
“This was actually not supposed to happen this weekend,” Swoopes explained. “I was in the apartment fixing things up and unpacking and I was in Jordan’s room, so I took a picture of myself in his room and I sent it to him. He called me and I said, ‘Did you like the picture?’ He said, ‘Mom, I did, I love the picture but I’m sad because I want to be there.’”
Thanks to frequent-flyer players, Swoopes brought her family up for the weekend. They’ll be back next weekend and again for Opening Night before moving to Seattle for the summer after Jordan finishes school for the year.