Storm Excited to Land Frierson

To say that the Seattle Storm's coaching staff and front office was waiting in the draft room with baited breath, hoping that their player would fall to them, would be incorrect. The Storm never believed that the player they wanted all along, Louisiana Tech forward Catrina Frierson, would be available when they made their only selection in the 2004 WNBA Draft, number 19 overall.

"I know coaches say it after every draft, 'We didn't expect to get her. It was a surprise that she was still there.' This is true," Storm Coach Anne Donovan told the media after the Draft concluded. "We considered trading up to try to get her with a little earlier pick.

"Because she's 6-2, she's got good range, she can face up, good passer, strong body, WNBA kind of body, tremendous rebounder. She's everything we were looking for to complement our post game."

Frierson shared Donovan's happiness.

"I'm excited, I'm glad Seattle picked me up because I love their team," she said over the phone.

Frierson's career at Louisiana Tech saw her play many different roles. She entered college as a highly-touted prospect, and averaged double-figures as a freshman while teaming with her new Storm teammate, guard Betty Lennox under the guidance of Storm assistant Jessie Kenlaw. After the year, however, Frierson tore her ACL. The resulting rehabilitation forced her to redshirt the 2000-01 season.

It was a tough road back for Frierson. During her second sophomore year, she averaged 7.7 points and saw her shooting percentage plummet to 45.9%. However, Frierson bounced back strong as a junior, averaging 15.0 points and 7.3 rebounds and earning First Team All-WAC honors. After the graduation of teammate Cheryl Ford, the WAC Player of the Year, it was expected that Frierson would have a breakout senior year. While she improved on her scoring average, to 16.2 points per game, and was again a First Team All-WAC performer, Frierson fell a bit short of expectations.

Turns out there are a couple of very good reasons for that.

One is teammate Amisha Carter, a reserve during the 2002-03 season who followed Ford as WAC Player of the Year last year. With Carter entrenched down low, Frierson had to spend more time on the perimeter during her senior season, a big reason her shooting percentage fell from 52.9% to 50.8%. Donovan points out that the transition will be a major help to Frierson as she makes the jump to the WNBA, where she will play both forward positions.

"She was in a different role," Donovan explained. "I think the emergence of Amisha Carter, who was their post player who also got drafted Carter was a player who came out of nowhere. They lost Cheryl Ford. Carter came into the low post and Frierson was playing more away from the basket. As she struggled to make that adjustment, it actually really helped her now coming to the WNBA, because again, at 6-2, back to the basket would have been tough for her. But she's developed her range."

The other reason Frierson struggled at times as a senior was related to injuries. The same knee she tore years earlier bothered her last season. After undergoing surgery in October, Frierson experienced some soreness, and examination revealed what is believed to be a torn lateral meniscus. Despite the injury, Frierson toughed her way through her senior year, missing just one game.

"It's frustrating, because you know what you want to do but you're not able to do it at the time," Frierson said. "I struggled this year from having this injury and it was frustrating, but I pushed through it for my team, because I wanted to be successful (in terms of) how far we went in the Tournament, and I just pushed through it."

Naturally, the Storm did its homework about Frierson's health.

"We've done a lot of research in the last couple of days on that, and what we're understanding is it's a lateral meniscus tear that just has to be scoped," Donovan said. "They don't know, until they get in there, exactly what that means - clipping it or stitching it. We're not sure what that means (in terms of rehabilitation). It could be anywhere from three to 12 weeks."

That surgery will take place quickly in an effort to get Frierson back out on the court. She will probably miss some or all of training camp, but Donovan indicated that likely would not hurt Frierson's chances of making the team, saying, "I would be very surprised if she did not stick."

What is exciting for the Storm is how much better Frierson could be when she's healthy. As it was, Frierson impressed the coaches and front office personnel in attendance at the pre-draft camp held in Tarrytown, NY earlier this month.

"She played really well in New York," Donovan said. "You knew that there was a problem with her knee because she wasn't running at full stride and at full strength, but she was one of the best players in New York."

The Storm can also be excited about former Tech Coach Leon Barmore's outstanding track record when it comes to developing WNBA players. Frierson and Carter, who was taken two picks earlier, are following a long line of Lady Techsters standouts, including the Storm's Lennox and Alisa Burras. 11 Louisiana Tech players have now been drafted in the history of the WNBA Draft. Only Stanford, Tennessee, UConn and Florida have had more players picked.