Storm Solidifies Frontcourt in Drafts

“Now people can’t say there’s not sun in Seattle,” Seattle Storm general manager Billy McKinney joked this afternoon during his joint press conference with Storm Coach Anne Donovan to discuss the 2003 WNBA Draft. McKinney wasn’t referring to an unseasonably nice day in the city of Seattle, but instead one of the Storm’s three newest players, Korean forward Jung Sun-Min. The selections of Jung, Australian center Suzy Batkovic and Clemson guard Chrissy Floyd in the amateur draft capped off a whirlwind 24 hours of action to kick off the 2003 WNBA season.

The selection of Jung with the eighth pick came as a surprise to experts, most of whom had the Storm selecting a backup guard to replace retired Michelle Marciniak. North Carolina’s Coretta Brown, who ended up going to San Antonio with pick 11, was the popular pick for the Storm. Instead, they decided to go for the “best player available”, in Donovan’s words, and selected Jung.

Jung Sun-Min.
Photo courtesy of WKBL
While the final decision on whom to select was made during the Storm’s five-minute time ‘on the clock’, the roots of the selection were laid long before the draft. Donovan is very familiar with Jung thanks to her international experience, including coaching Team USA during this summer’s World Championships of Basketball. Jung was the star of the South Korean national team that advanced to the semi-finals of the 2000 Olympics. “This summer at the world championships, we were looking forward to our competition with South Korea,” Donovan said. “It was not a game we ever took lightly, and the key player for them was Sun.” Donovan later added, “I think the thing that sealed it for us was watching her play for her club team this past winter. In the game, I think (Washington Mystics All-Star) Chamique Holdsclaw, who was playing in the league at the time, had 40 (points) and Sun had 38.”

As the Storm began contemplating Jung as a draft pick, the coaching staff and front office began to work feverishly to determine her ability to make the transition to the WNBA. “We’ve been watching a lot of tapes to determine that,” Donovan said of Jung’s transition. In particular, Jung will have to adjust to the more physical American style of play. Jung will also be learning a new position. At 6-1, she was tall enough to play center in Korea, but will be asked to play forward for the Storm. Donovan sees Jung as both a small forward and a power forward.

There will be an off-court transition as well, something the Storm is very familiar with after selecting foreign players – frontcourt starters Kamila Vodichkova and Lauren Jackson – with the team’s first two first-round picks in 2000 and 2001. Jung does not speak fluent English, but Donovan still feels she can help ease the transition because of her own experience overseas. “I was an American player who went to Japan out of college, so I know how tremendous the adjustment was.” Jung will be able to get the transition started right away. The only holdup to her arrival in Seattle is her visa situation, and Donovan expects Jung within the next week, in time for the start of training camp.

After the Storm was confident Jung could play in the WNBA, the team began attempting to convince her to come to the WNBA in general and the Storm in particular. “We were courting her and her agent very hard,” Donovan said, adding later, “Sun picked Seattle as a team she wanted to play for. She wanted to play with Sue (Bird) and with Lauren.”

Suzy Batkovic
The final question for the Storm braintrust was where to take Jung. Ideally, they would have been able to get her with their second-round pick, number 22, but that was no sure thing. “We felt there was a possibility Sun could drop to the second round . . . but we didn’t want to take that gamble,” Donovan explains the thinking. Van Chancellor, who praised Jung during the World Championships, was a strong candidate to select her for his Houston Rockets with the 12th pick.

In round two, the Storm was pleased to pick up Batkovic with the 22nd pick. At 22, Batkovic may not come over to play in the WNBA this season. A teammate of Jackson’s on the Australian National Team that won bronze in the Worlds, Batkovic currently plays professionally in both France and Australia. “The first thing that impressed me with Suzy was her size and physical play in the post,” Donovan said in a press release.

Chrissy Floyd
With the 37th pick of the third round, the Storm got lucky when Floyd dropped to their pick. “I was very surprised she was still there in the third round,” Donovan said of Floyd afterwards. The 5-9 guard had a stellar career at Clemson, getting named to the All-ACC team twice and also making the ACC 50th Anniversary Team. Floyd averaged 17.2 points, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals during her senior season. She shot 44.5% from the field and 33.9% from three-point range.

The Storm’s amateur draft selections completed a two-day period in which the team added four players. Yesterday, the Storm selected former Portland Fire forward/center Alisa Burras in the WNBA’s Dispersal Draft. Starting 24 of 32 games for the Fire last season, Burras averaged 8.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She led the league with a 62.9% field-goal percentage, and was also amongst the league’s leaders in rebounds per minute.

Burras drives the lane last season.
“Our philosophy really was initially to pick a strong, perimeter veteran, mature player. Yesterday in the Dispersal Draft, we didn’t feel like that was on the board, as strong as Alisa Burras,” Donovan said. “That was our other goal, was a strong post player. A down low, back-to-the-basket block player. We didn’t feel like we had that on the roster. So with Alisa Burras still being there, it was a quick decision.”

Storm forward Kate Starbird, at The Furtado Center as part of her off-season training regiment, endorsed the selection of Burras. “Great attitude, really intense – strong,” Starbird said of Burras.

The Storm had an advantage during the Dispersal Draft because of assistant coaches Jessie Kenlaw and Jenny Boucek, who spent last year with the Portland Fire and Miami Sol, respectively. Kenlaw and Boucek had first-hand knowledge of all of the players in the draft. “I can’t speak enough to how valuable Jessie Kenlaw and Jenny Boucek have been,” Donovan said. “Their experience with those players helped us determine that Alisa Burras was the best fit for us.” Kenlaw and Boucek will also help the Storm sign free agents who were not selected yesterday.