The Seattle Storm waived wing Kristen O’Neill Thursday morning, but there was O’Neill on the floor at KeyArena during the Storm’s practice later in the day. It was the start of what could be a new role for O’Neill as a practice player this summer, continuing her relationship with the organization. Despite having to make the difficult decision to cut O’Neill, Head Coach Brian Agler would love to have her around.
“We just want her to stay involved in case there’s an opportunity that could come about sometime during the course of the year and she’s ready to go,” Agler explained after practice. “That’s why we’re going to encourage her to stay here and be a practice player for us. I know that our organization is looking for her to possibly have some other responsibilities, which would be great.
“It’s nice to have somebody that’s real familiar with what you’re doing that can be there in a moment.”
Agler noted that O’Neill does have to make a living, which could force her to give up the role of practice player. After practice, however, O’Neill sounded like she was planning to stick around.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity that the coaches and the organization presented to me to continue training and working with the team,” she said. “I was obviously delighted to take that opportunity. I’m going to be here and continue to keep working to get better and make this team better.”
According to Agler, it was a numbers situation that forced the Storm’s decision with O’Neill. During her time in camp, she had impressed the coaching staff with her play and especially off the floor.
“The quality of person that she is, those types of people are few and far between coming into your life,” said Agler. “She’s one of those.”
Having received the news from Agler Wednesday, O’Neill remained upbeat. Her former college coach at UW, current Washington State Head Coach June Daugherty, was at Thursday’s practice and chatted with O’Neill afterwards. For her part, O’Neill enjoyed with her experience with the Storm during training camp.
“The experience has been incredible,” she said. I truly have enjoyed every day. I’m just so thankful for the opportunity from the coaching staff, my teammates and the organization. It’s been an incredible opportunity.
“I feel like I’ve grown so much as a player throughout this experience. Having a strong work ethic and trying to push myself to work as hard as I can every day but also having the element of playing with the best makes the situation that much more competitive. Just playing with such a high level, that’s what makes you better. Through being around these incredible women, I’ve learned so much about professional basketball, the way they carry themselves on and off the court. It’s been a great learning experience.”
- After cutting O’Neill and guard Roneeka Hodges, the Storm’s roster now sits at 13 players less than 24 hours away from the WNBA’s Noon Pacific deadline for setting final rosters for the season. The Storm still must make one more cut, and because of the early time on the West Coast, must do so before practicing tomorrow.
“I think there’s two or three ways we could go,” Agler said. “If we go a couple ways, though, it might handicap us in terms of depth at certain positions. That’s what we’re going to sort of talk about as a staff here after practice today, what way we’re going to go. We’ve got to make it basically before practice tomorrow because the deadline is 3:00 Eastern time and that sits right in the middle of our practice. For whatever reason, they don’t want to work with us. We’ll probably have a decision sometime tonight or tomorrow morning.”
Without having studied the updated transaction wire during practice, Agler said he does not anticipate the Storm bringing in anyone from outside, but instead for the roster to, “probably be a combination of this group we have right now.”
The early deadline means the Storm will have to make a decision on newcomer Florina Pascalau after just two practices in Seattle. Agler felt the staff got a good look at Pascalau during today’s session.
“She’s a good player,” he said. “She’s got a lot of potential. We’ll see. We haven’t come to a conclusion yet on that.”