Frierson Working on WNBA Transition

While her Seattle Storm teammates were opening their training camp this April, rookie Trina Frierson was busy being operated on.

Despite imminent surgery, Frierson was all smiles at media day.
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The Storm drafted Frierson with the 19th pick of this year's WNBA Amateur Draft knowing she would need surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in her left knee that had bothered Frierson throughout her senior season at Louisiana Tech. Frierson, for her part, knew she needed the arthroscopic procedure performed, even with no guarantees about her Storm future.

"You've got to understand that, in the condition that I was, I probably wouldn't have lasted to the second day of training camp," Frierson explains.

More than two months later, having made the Storm's roster (on the injured list) Frierson is on the road to recovery. About a week ago, she estimated that she was at 75% health with regards to her knee, and Frierson has regularly been participating in the Storm's practices when the team has been at home. Still, barring injury, Frierson's chance may not come this season. Owners of the WNBA's second-best record at 11-7, the Storm has a deep roster up front, and veterans Simone Edwards and Alicia Thompson have already found playing time tough to come by.

While Frierson's knee is sound, she still is working on making the transition to the WNBA. With the notable exceptions this year of Diana Taurasi and Lindsay Whalen, that's a difficult jump to make for almost any player, and, as a 6-2 power forward, Frierson is having to learn to play against bigger opponents and use her superior quickness to her advantage.

"It's frustrating," Frierson says. "You turn around and there's a 6-5 person standing in your face. It's different. There aren't many 6-5 (players) in college, and if they are, we never played against them at Louisiana Tech. My thing now, I have to learn to maneuver and make sure I make good decisions. First of all, undersized on defense, I've got to try to out-quick them or get around them. I can't play behind. That's like scoring on a child. It's me having to adjust to that. I have to block out even harder than anybody else. Everything I do, I have to do harder than everybody else because I'm an undersized post."

During the Storm's practices, said 6-5 player is often reigning WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, which means Frierson is being tested during workouts, but which should also help her when she gets on the court, as there's no more difficult opponent in the league than Jackson.

Frierson has also had to integrate herself into a Storm roster that has been practicing together for a couple of months in some cases, while learning the team's offensive and defensive sets on the fly. Only so much of that learning process can be done on the sideline, and only time will allow Frierson to be completely comfortable.

"You've got to know this position, you need to know what happens at this time," Frierson explains. "Learning and observing everybody else, you know what's expected, but to actually get out there and perform, it's a different story."

Frierson does have an advantage in her WNBA transition in her experience at Louisiana Tech. Including Storm teammate Betty Lennox, 2003 Rookie of the Year Cheryl Ford and WNBA legends Teresa Weatherspoon and Vickie Johnson, Tech has a long history of producing WNBA players, and Frierson doesn't believe that's a coincidence.

"The work ethic down there at Louisiana Tech with Leon Barmore he was awesome," Frierson says. "He set the standards. Him being a veteran coach, that really helped us. It's preparing, because we had two-a-day practices. Everybody talks about the travel, in the WAC conference, we traveled all over the place, went to Hawaii, so it doesn't affect me any. I think at Louisiana Tech, you come in there with a professional attitude, even at the college level."

Thompson has helped Frierson adjust to the WNBA. It's a good fit, as while the 6-1 Thompson is considered a small forward in Seattle, she's played some power forward in her WNBA career despite her height. With four years in the league under her belt, Thompson can share her experiences and wisdom with Frierson.

"That's my buddy," Thompson says of Frierson. "We're car partners, so she keeps me positive. She's 28, so she's a veteran, so she keeps me going. I know she works hard and her work ethic rubs off on me. We're both in here together. She really helps me a lot."

Besides for the injury, Frierson has enjoyed her first season in the WNBA. By virtue of being on the injured list, she's gotten the chance to see plenty of the city of Seattle, which she says she loves. She feels that same love back from the Storm's fans.

"The fan support here is awesome," Frierson says. "At Louisiana Tech, we had a good fanbase, but here in Seattle the women and a lot of men come out to support the Storm's basketball. It's just awesome to see."

Having completed most of her difficult rehabilitation process, Frierson's goal is now to prove that she belongs in the WNBA.

"My thing now is to earn a spot," she explains. "She (Coach Anne Donovan) left it open - I'm on injured reserve - open so I can now try to earn a spot here. She gave me the opportunity to do that, so I'm very thankful for that."