Storm Adds Fluker to Post Depth
Seattle Storm Coach and Director of Player Personnel Anne Donovan spent the first half of the 2006 season looking for a young post player to develop, eventually finding the right player by acquiring Ashley Robinson in a trade with Chicago. Now, Donovan has doubled her post prospects. On Monday, the Storm selected center Tye'sha Fluker with their pick in the Dispersal Draft for former Charlotte Sting players.
"We're really excited for the pick, honestly," Donovan said by phone afterwards. "We weren't sure exactly how the draft was going to go with salary cap being taken into consideration for some teams ahead of us. Tye'sha is one of the players that we definitely targeted that we wanted and we're thrilled that she fell to us."
"Tye'sha is somebody that can get into the paint and really knock some heads," explained Donovan. We need that. We really don't have a banger in our post rotation. I guess we all thought that Tiffani Johnson was going to be the banger last season. We came to find out that wasn't Tiffani's strength. So it's nice to have a big body that's got some experience now that can really be the physical post player we need on this team."
As a rookie in Charlotte, Fluker backed up one-time All-Star Tammy Sutton-Brown. Her only start came late in the season in Seattle. Fluker averaged 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game and showed promise as a shot blocker, rejecting 1.7 shots per 40 minutes.
Fluker has also added overseas experience this winter, playing for Arras in France. Recently joined by Chicago forward Liz Shimek, Fluker has been the team's second-leading scorer at 12.6 points per game after former WNBA player Zuzi Klimesova and leading rebounder at 6.9 boards per game.
"The best thing about it is when you look at salary-cap situation, she's in her second year in the league, so we have a couple of years to develop her and feel really good about that," said Donovan. "She's played at the highest level in college; this is a kid that understands how physical it is. The SEC is probably the best preparation to come to the WNBA; it's probably the most physical conference in the college game. Then to be playing very well in France at the moment, I'm really thrilled that she's going to come to us with even more experience than she would have a year ago."
The Storm entered the Dispersal Draft looking to improve post depth. Because of injuries, five different Storm players started at either power forward or center. Robinson did not start any games, but played regular minutes as a reserve. While the Storm hopes to get veteran Wendy Palmer back after a torn Achilles ended her 2006 season, starting center Janell Burse and reserve Johnson are both unrestricted free agents.
The addition of Fluker means the Storm will likely be thinking about adding a reserve guard during April's amateur draft.
"We've identified so many very good guards in the college draft," Donovan said, "we are sure we can get a very good, capable guard to shore up our perimeter position, which is why we went with a post in the Dispersal Draft. We feel very good about where our post depth stands right now."
Around the league, Donovan did not see a lot of surprises. The Storm staff wondered whether Chicago, which held the top pick in the Dispersal Draft, would go for Tangela Smith's proven play or the potential of last year's number three overall pick, Monique Currie. Ultimately, the Sky added another young talent in Currie, leaving Smith available for the Minnesota Lynx.
"That helps Minnesota tremendously that they could get Tangela Smith to complement Nicole Ohlde in the post," said Donovan. "They lost so much veteran leadership with Katie Smith leaving that Tan will probably help them in that regard."
After New York selected young post Janel McCarville, a pair of West contenders added bench depth. San Antonio Coach Dan Hughes was reunited with Helen Darling, his point guard in Cleveland, while the Phoenix Mercury added yet another shooter for Coach Paul Westhead's high-octane attack in Kelly Mazzante. Picking just ahead of the Storm, Washington opted to take a chance on backup post Teana Miller, who has missed nearly two full seasons since 2004, giving birth twice in that span.
Former Storm forward Sheri Sam was the last big-name player selected, going to Indiana with the ninth pick. Two of the final three teams, Eastern finalists Detroit and Connecticut, closed out the Dispersal Draft by opting to pass rather than selecting a player.