Gearlds Ready to Move Forward

StormTracker: Practice Squad Debuts
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Kevin Pelton, | April 23, 2008
Three days after completing her season in Greece, second-year Seattle Storm forward Katie Gearlds joined the team Wednesday for her first practice under new Storm Head Coach Brian Agler.

"I finally got here yesterday at like one in the afternoon," Gearlds said afterwards. "I got my physical and here I am today."

"If you watched today, it sort of looked like she's been here for the last couple of days."
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
Not that it was apparent from her play that Gearlds was a few practices behind her teammates.

"She picked things up offensively right off the bat," said Agler. "We spent some time before practice trying to get her caught up. If you watched today, it sort of looked like she's been here for the last couple of days, which is good."

Gearlds had split her off-season between two teams in Europe, starting the winter in Slovakia. After her team finished Euroleague play, she sought a higher level of play and found it with Athinaikos in the Greek A1 league.

"The competition (in Slovakia) wasn't great, so I went to Athens, started playing 40 minutes again, got my rhythm back," explained Gearlds. "I played with Barb Farris there and she was awesome; she was fun to play with."

In Greece, Gearlds averaged 16.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, helping Athinaikos to third place in the league. She made 24 three-pointers in 11 games, but Gearlds also tried to grow her game by creating her own shot more frequently.

"I worked a lot on shooting off the move, trying to attack the basket a little more," she said. "Then just worked on staying in shape, being stronger, getting quicker, certain things like that."

Agler spoke Wednesday to the importance of having a strong bench and especially having reserves with some offensive punch. Last year in San Antonio, he coached one of the league's most potent bench players in Shanna Crossley, who averaged 9.2 points per game and was third in the league in threes.

"I think if you can bring people off the bench who can score for you and keep pressure on the defense, I think it's extremely valuable," said Agler. "I'm hoping we can develop that this year. Who those people are, now I don't know, but I just think it's huge. You've got to have that depth that can score."

Gearlds has the talent to fill that role. As a rookie, she had some big games, scoring 17 points and hitting four three-pointers in June in Chicago and hitting 5-of-6 shots to score 13 points in an August win over Phoenix at KeyArena. Gearlds finished tied for third amongst WNBA rookies with 22 three-pointers, but averaged only 4.0 points per game.

After Wednesday's practice, Head Coach Brian Agler as well as Gearlds spoke to the media.
"Last year was a roller coaster for me and for the team as well," she said. "There were some good moments, but a lot of bad moments too. You've got to take those and learn from them. I've got that year of experience - hopefully just build on that and have a decent camp and try to make the roster."

As a rookie, Gearlds saw action at both wing spots, but for now Agler would like her to focus primarily on playing small forward. Having Gearlds show improvement on the defensive end of the floor is one of Agler's goals, and her quickness was occasionally an issue against smaller players at guard. Agler even envisions using her at power forward at times.

"When you can put a post player on the floor that can extend the defense out, shoot the basketball, it really gives you another weapon," Agler said. "If you think about at the four players in our league, a lot of them are 6-1 versatile-type players like she is."

For her part, Gearlds is eager to continue learning from the new coaching staff as well as the Storm's new veterans.

"It's good to have Coach Agler here and learn some things from him," she said. "The thing is, when you have more people in charge of you and play with more people as a young player, you have a chance to learn more, and that's what I'm looking forward to."