Lassiter Looking Forward to Full Season in Seattle

Last season resulted in a memorable run thanks to two major transactions. There was the late-season acquisition of forward Kate Starbird from Utah that spurred the Storm to a 7-3 finish culminating in the teamís first playoff berth. The genesis of the teamís surge can also be traced back to mid-June when the Storm sent veteran guard Sonja Henning to Houston in exchange for second-year forward Amanda Lassiter. The Storm were in need of an athletic small forward and Lassiter was a coveted asset at that position having played a prominent role as a rookie in 2001 when All-Star Sheryl Swoopes was sidelined with a knee injury.

Originally drafted by the Comets in the first round (15th pick overall) of the 2001 WNBA Draft, Lassiter averaged 5.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 24 games (22 of which she started) with the Storm last season. After Seattleís season ended, Lassiter returned to the University of Missouri and finished her bachelorís degree in agriculture. STORM.WNBA.COM caught up with Lassiter in between her offseason workouts and community appearances with the ďStorminí the SoundĒ community relations program. She gave her thoughts on her first season in Seattle and her take on where the team is headed this year.

STORM.WNBA.COM: What was your favorite memory from your rookie season?
Amanda Lassiter: I would have to say my favorite memory was when we beat the L.A. Sparks at home last July.

STORM.WNBA.COM: Did it surprise you when you were traded from Houston to Seattle last season?
Lassiter: The trade was the best thing that cold have happened to my career. Sheryl Swoopes was getting healthier every day and my minutes were decreasing. Coming out to Seattle turned out to be a better situation for me because I had more players around me that were the same age. So Iím very happy that everything turned out for me.

STORM.WNBA.COM: Is there any particular part of your game you wanted to work on during the offseason?
Lassiter: I wanted to work on my quickness so I can guard players like Sheryl Swoopes and Mwadi Mabika better. The coaching staff wanted me to work on my ballhandling and a more consistent shot. Since I play the small forward position, it will help me the most if I work on these things.

STORM.WNBA.COM: Were you able to work out at your alma mater while finishing your degree?
Lassiter: It was kind of crazy trying to work out on campus because I went to the football facility where the players were doing their offseason workouts. So it was kind of hard to get my lifts in sometimes. Having to go to class and work out made it feel like I was in college again. I had to push myself to work out to the max every day. I see an improvement in my strength now.

STORM.WNBA.COM: Did you play with your former teammates?
Lassiter: I didnít. I had to get away from that because weíre on two different levels. They were working on something that they needed to work on and I was working on the things I needed to improve. I did work with the strength coach for my daily workouts.

STORM.WNBA.COM: How has it helped you to be back in Seattle a few months early to participate in offseason conditioning with some of your teammates?
Lassiter: It has helped me a lot. Itís the hardest thing in the world to motivate yourself to get up every morning to work out. If you want it bad enough, you will do it. But even when get up and do it, itís hard to push yourself to that point where you just canít go anymore. By coming back early, I had somebody behind me to push me that extra step. Our strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro has pushed us every day. I had a chance to get treatment on my injuries and make my knees better in preparation for this season so Iíd be close to 100 percent. Itís also been helpful to find out what Coach Donovan needed and wanted from me. With the coaches here now getting ready for training camp, itís just helped a lot.

STORM.WNBA.COM: What have you learned from being involved in the teamís ďStorminí the SoundĒ community program?
Lassiter: Itís been different for me. Iím not one who likes to talk in front of large crowds, but itís made me a better person all along. I knew I had it in me to talk to groups of people, but making these appearances has helped me get it out faster. It has showed me that a lot of people out here know about the Storm but just donít necessarily know how to approach the team. Getting information out about the team has really helped. We want them to know that we are an exciting team and itís worth it to come and watch us play at KeyArena. A lot of people realize that now. Since Iíve been out here, Iíve talked to a lot more people whoíve said they are going to come to the Storm games. Itís been a valuable experience for me to see what goes on away from the basketball court. In order to promote the team, you have to get out there and show people who you are and what you do. I think a lot of the kids are getting used to seeing the Storm players around town. By the middle of the season, I want to have my own little fan section with people holding up signs. I think that will be real cool to help bring more fans to the game. We want more fans because weíve been out there talking with the kids and their parents.

STORM.WNBA.COM: How do you view your role with the team this year?
Lassiter: I definitely want to contribute a lot more on the offensive level than I did last season. I think that I contributed a lot on the defensive end as far as creating things on defense, but I want to do a little bit more on the offensive end. If I can help take that pressure off Sue and Lauren, it will make it easier for them to play and rest so they wonít be so tired during the game. Itís not just about scoring more buckets, but doing the little things like setting screens and handling the ball so Sue can run off some screens to take some of the ball pressure off her. If I can put a few more points on the board, that will take some of the pressure off Sue and Lauren having to put 10 more points up.

STORM.WNBA.COM: Talk about the atmosphere that you experienced in those final home games at KeyArena last season.
Lassiter: Those final games last season were great. Having that lower bowl at the Key packed and all those people in the upper level was amazing. The crowd helped give us more energy and more fire on the court. When we get going, the crowd gets into it, so itís a two-way street where we feed off it. It felt good seeing the fans come back for the next game, even if it was a loss. If we put the passion on the court and they get into the game, then hopefully theyíll be coming back for more. The atmosphere was just fantastic with all the screaming. I think that energy won those last couple of games for us because they were behind us. The fans felt like they were on the court with us, so that was just great. Thatís the difference between a WNBA crowd and an NBA crowd. With an NBA crowd, the fans are there yelling, but the WNBA fans feel like theyíre on the court moving with us. They just feel like theyíre in the game!

STORM.WNBA.COM: What are you looking forward to the most in your first full season with the Storm?
Lassiter: Iím looking forward to taking this team as a whole to the next level and providing my individual talent to help bring everybody together. I want us to get to the point where weíre not just making the playoffs, weíre winning playoff games. I want us to beat Houston during the regular season rather than lose by a few points. I donít want us to have to worry about another team losing in order for us to make it to the playoffs. Itís important for us to be consistent throughout the season.

STORM.WNBA.COM: How ready are you to see all of your teammates in training camp?
Lassiter: Itís going to be cool. I started to get used to everybody towards the end of last season. Then when it was over, I was like, ĎMan I just started getting to know all of these people.í Itíll be great to see everybody again. I know weíre all excited about coming back and talking about what we can do this year. We are excited about the whole atmosphere of being in training camp and working hard everyday. We want to get back to the playoffs. We want to eventually win a WNBA Championship.