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After Russian Snub, Abrosimova Returns to Storm

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | June 29, 2012

Svetlana Abrosimova considers it one of the worst phone calls of her career. In May, Abrosimova received word from her agent, Boris Lelchitski, that she had been left off of Russia's preliminary roster for the Olympics. After 15 years as part of the Russian National Team, including two appearances in the Olympics and a bronze medal in 2008, and less than a year after captaining the squad that earned a spot in the Olympics by winning last summer's EuroBasket competition, Abrosimova learned she would not be going to London after all.

"I know my country and I've seen how it's been done to other people sometimes," she said, "but you feel like it's never going to be done to you because I was really loyal to the team."

The call from Lelchitski did offer some good news. Since the Russian Basketball Federation never contacted either of them directly, Abrosimova's agent was alerted to her situation by Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler, who was calling to ask whether Abrosimova might consider playing in the WNBA now that her summer was free.

Svetlana Abrosimova during the 2010 WNBA championship season.
Aaron Last/Storm Photos

Abrosimova played a key reserve role for the Storm during 2010.

It took time for Abrosimova to get past the pain of not even getting a chance to compete for a spot in training camp. She still can't read news about her national team without thinking of what she's missing. Yet the opportunity to come back to the Storm has helped Abrosimova believe that playing for Russia this summer was never meant to be.

"You realize God has other plans for you," she said. "You can plan things, you can think this is what's going to happen, but it's actually no. It's always something else and you have to be prepared for everything."

Agler was prepared. Getting Abrosimova back to Seattle had been a priority for him the last two seasons. She wanted to take a break last summer after playing in EuroBasket, but was open to the idea of potentially joining the Storm following the Olympics. When that changed, Abrosimova appreciated Agler's continued interest.

"I love that Brian called me right away and said if it's possible, they would love to have me back on the team," she said. "It helped me knowing that the league which is the best league in the world was still interested in me. It's good to know that other people have confidence in you. Even though you know inside that you're not that bad that they cut you from the team, it really helped that he told me he would love to have back me on the team."

Since Abrosimova wanted to play in Seattle, there wasn't really much of a negotiation between the two sides. But there was a catch. Because of the Storm's precarious position up against the WNBA's hard salary cap, Abrosimova could not join the team until now. So she finished a scheduled vacation in the U.S. and returned home to prepare for a midseason return. Abrosimova paid her way to Seattle last week, allowing her to conduct individual workouts and observe practice to smooth her transition back in the roster.

The process is admittedly awkward, but it helps that the core of the team is the same as the 2010 championship team on which Abrosimova played a key role as top perimeter reserve. Abrosimova also has experience playing with newcomers Katie Smith (in Minnesota) and Ann Wauters (in Russia). As a result, Agler expects Abrosimova's integration to the roster to go smoothly.

"She's played a lot of basketball," he said. "It's going to take some time, but we're going to give her opportunities from the very beginning just to see how she does. Over time, especially during the Olympic Break, she'll be able to get back up to speed. Her play will dictate her opportunities."

Looking ahead, Agler sees Abrosimova joining the team's rotation and improving some of the Storm's early season weaknesses with her aggressive, risk-taking style of play.

"There are some areas that we need to improve in," said Agler, "and one is getting transition baskets. Two is getting to the free throw line. Three is getting second opportunities. I think Svetlana can help us in all those areas."

While it was difficult for her to see the Storm start the season slowly from afar, Abrosimova is confident in the talent and mentality of the group that has won its last five games. She believes the Storm can compete for another title.

"I never realized how much I was going to love Seattle. It's a warm feeling. It's so far away, but at the same time it's really special."
- Abrosimova

"Otherwise, I would not come," she explained. You still have a group of players here, the same coaching staff, and because we've won this team already has been there. They know how to get back. They have the heart of a champion. I know it sounds cliched but it's true. You have to be at that level to know what you have to do to get there again. It's a big part. I want to get another championship."

Abrosimova has won at every level, including a national championship at UConn, a EuroLeague title and multiple Russian SuperLeague crowns. So when she won her first WNBA championship with the Storm in 2010, she considered the possibility of letting that cap off her American career.

"After winning," said Abrosimova, "I was like, 'That's nice. That might be a nice time to stop here.' Now, because I'm not doing my national team and obviously I'm not going to come back there for next year, I have all the summer off - four or five months. Why not? I still feel good. I still feel in shape. We'll see how this season goes, if I do play and everything is going to work out. I'm not ready to finish my career here."

When Abrosimova does finish up, it will likely be in Seattle. She appreciated the support of Storm fans, who went through their own recruiting process on Twitter to convince Abrosimova to come back, and grew to love the city during her season in Seattle.

"I never realized how much I was going to love Seattle," she said. "Just the whole scenery - the ocean, the boats, the nice food. I kept looking at my pictures and thinking, 'Wow, these are really cool pictures.' Winning obviously helped a lot. We had that home streak going on. That was exciting. The fans were amazing - especially after we won, how they met us at the airport. People gave me presents - postcards, posters. I still have those back at home at my parents' house. It's a warm feeling. It's so far away, but at the same time it's really special."

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