Greco Gives It Her Best Shot

Seattle Storm rookie guard Michelle Greco could have picked a better time for the hip contusion that kept her out of practice earlier this week. On Monday, Storm Coach Anne Donovan tabbed Greco as one of the most impressive players in camp.

"She had a couple of really good practices Friday and Saturday," Donovan said. "She played herself into camp a little while longer, if not onto the team."

Greco spent last season's training camp with the Cleveland Rockers.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty
The next day, however, Greco was sidelined when she fell during the Storm's exhibition against the Chinese National Team, aggravating a hip contusion she had suffered during the first week of training camp. Greco sat out most of that exhibition and the following day's practice, and was still limited when she returned to action on Thursday.

Before getting treatment late in Thursday's practice, Greco had looked unaffected on the court, getting in the passing lanes, fearlessly crashing the paint, and hustling upcourt to help start fast breaks. On more careful observation, however, Greco was clearly still bothered.

"If you watch her closely, she's limping and she's grimacing and all that," Donovan noted.

When asked after the practice about her condition, Greco sang a more decidedly upbeat tune.

"It's feeling a lot better - a lot better," she said. "It's looser, it's not as stiff as it was yesterday especially."

What Greco was not as positive about was the timing of the injury.

"It was kind of frustrating, because I felt like I was making improvements in practice and I was getting more confident out here with the girls," she said. "I was looking forward to playing against the Chinese National Team to see what I can do offensively and defensively."

But Greco has dealt with much worse.

During a stellar career at UCLA that saw her twice lead the Pac-10 in scoring, as well as free-throw percentage and steals once apiece, Greco was plagued by concussions. Even she is not sure exactly how many she suffered, but the number has been estimated between five and ten.

"I don't know exactly the number, but it was quite a few," Greco explains. "To be honest, there were only maybe a few where I didn't quite know where it was, where the other ones it was a bump here, a bump there, and the doctors were so cautious with me that they wanted me to sit out because that's a serious injury."

Five games into what was supposed to be Greco's senior season, with her averaging 23.6 points per game, the doctors shut her down. She would not play the rest of the season, participating only in non-contact drills during Bruins practices, and her basketball career was in jeopardy. The following September, however, Greco was cleared to return to the court, and she received a medical redshirt for a fifth year of eligibility. Making good on the opportunity, Greco returned to her All-Pac-10 form as a senior, averaging 18.9 points per game on 45.9% shooting. She suffered no more concussions, and hasn't had a problem with them since sitting out.

Still, Greco went unselected in the WNBA Draft, with teams questioning her size and durability. Greco went to training camp with the Cleveland Rockers, a poor fit. The Rockers veteran backcourt hurt her chances of making the team, and she was cut on May 16.

"I think my opportunity here is a little better," said Greco, comparing her two WNBA training camps. "I think going into Cleveland there were quite a few more guards at my position, and coming out of college, I was a little more wide-eyed and inexperienced, maybe. Now I feel more comfortable, more confident, and I have some playing under my belt professionally, overseas."

After failing to make the Cleveland roster, Greco played in a pair of foreign leagues this summer. She started in Israel, where she was the league's leading scorer, averaging nearly 25 points per game during a month's worth of action. Greco then moved on to Greece, where she averaged 18 a game and was an All-Star. Not only did the experience help Greco's game, she believes it helped her off the court as well.

Greco is one of the leading scorers in UCLA history.
Stephen Dunn/Allsport
"It was great," she says of playing overseas. "You hear a lot of horror stories overseas, players not getting paid, going over there and apartments being a mess, but I think it's all what you make of it. I went over there, I went to Israel for a month, and I enjoyed myself. It was a great opportunity to experience new cultures and just to be more independent, somewhat.

"I think for me, I grew up in L.A. and I went to school in L.A. and I never had to experience any adversity or anything out of my comfort zone. Being in Israel, being in Greece for four months, I think it really helped me."

Playing overseas didn't help Greco during the first couple of days of training camp, as she went almost directly from Greece to Seattle, stopping only briefly in Los Angeles to find out where she was headed. Combined with adjusting to the time change, that left Greco fatigued during the first few days of camp as she also looked to find her place on a new team.

"My first few days here in camp I was trying to get adjusted to just being here," she said. "I came from Greece, and the whole time adjustment, the time difference, feeling fatigued, and I didn't want to come in here, knowing that, and shoot myself out of camp. I just wanted to slowly work myself into the offense, and even if I make the team, I know I'm not going to be shooting a hundred times a game, it's going to be sparing. I was just trying to know my role on the team, not come in being a gunner, even though that's what I'm known for on my other teams. You have to adjust to the game and your personnel."

A conversation with Donovan helped convince Greco that, while she didn't have to be a ballhog, she should look for her own shot and create for others. The results spoke for themselves, as Greco survived the Storm's first round of cuts to get down to 14 players. According to Donovan, Greco's injury has not affected her chances of making the team.

"It's going to get better, it's just a matter of time," Donovan concluded. "Fortunately, we've got time."

It appears that Greco is battling with veteran Rita Williams for a spot on the Storm's roster. Both players have the ability to play point guard and have been used there at times during training camp - leaving open the possibility that Donovan might keep both players and no pure point guard other than Sue Bird - but their natural position is shooting guard.

Greco's advantage in that battle may be her inexperience. She is at the rookie minimum salary, while Williams, by virtue of her experience, is at least at the veteran minimum. With Donovan forced to make some difficult choices because of the WNBA's hard salary cap, the salary difference could end up making all the difference.

Whether she makes it or not, despite the injury, Greco can rest assured she's given the Storm her best shot.