Notebook: Gortman Gets Shot at the Point

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Kevin Pelton, | April 28, 2006
Even before Toccara Williams arrived at the Seattle Storm's training camp Friday, Storm Coach Anne Donovan was already feeling better about her search for a backup to starting point guard Sue Bird.

" Shaun (Gortman) and T ( Tanisha Wright) have been filling in there with Erin (Grant) and the three of them have been doing a great job," said Donovan after Friday's practice, "so I think we've already gotten a little better there."

"Shaun is a very smart player with tremendous basketball instincts."
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Donovan's decision to waive guard Leah Metcalf on Wednesday has given plenty of opportunities for Gortman and Wright, neither of them natural point guards, along with third-round pick Grant. And Donovan has been pleased by what she has seen, particularly from Gortman.

"Shaun is a very smart player with tremendous basketball instincts," Donovan said. "She is probably not your natural vocal point guard, but she understands the game as well as anybody. That's what you have to have with your point guard - somebody who can really see the big picture and pick it apart. She's got that ability. Throw in the defense - that's the contrasting style we're talking about; really be able to get after it, hawk the ball. Her advantage, obviously, is she can play multiple positions."

Potentially, Gortman and Wright could team together as a backup backcourt, with both players capable of handling the ball and running the Storm's offense. At the other end of the court, the length of the 5-10 Gortman, along with Wright's tenacity on defense, would present serious issues for opposing teams. At the same time, Williams presents a slightly different mix. She also brings strong defense at the point and is a natural point guard who averaged 7.1 assists per game as a senior at Texas A&M.

"Your worst-case scenario is, if Sue gets hurt, who's your point guard?" explained Donovan. "We've seen that here before, unfortunately. Until recently, I didn't know Shaun could do that. She's showing me she can. Toccara will add somebody who's a natural point guard."

Grant is considered to be somewhat behind Gortman, but Donovan has still been encouraged by Grant's development during her first WNBA training camp.

"Erin is getting better every day," Donovan said, "so I'm not trying to write her out just yet."

Gortman, who was not asked to play point guard by either of her first two WNBA teams (Minnesota and Washington), is enjoying the opportunity and feeling more comfortable running the team all the time.

"It's been a challenge, but it's not something that I don't think I can do," she said. "I think I can do it and do a good job at it as long as I work hard and continue to do the things I've been doing in practice."

From Gortman's perspective, her size - she says she's 5-11 1/2 , though she's listed at 5-10, and has a wingspan of around 6-5 - is a blessing but also something that causes her some difficulty.

"From what I hear? It's great," she said. "For me? Bending down that far on defense is a challenge. It's something that I use to my advantage, and I think I'm a pretty good defender. I can cover a lot of ground with my long legs and my long arms. It's a lot easier for me as compared to somebody who's shorter."

Storm Getting Nearer Full Strength

In addition to Williams reporting to camp, the Storm was expecting to have another new face - but a very familiar one - at Friday's evening practice. Center Simone Edwards, who had been overseas playing in Spain, was due into Seattle in the early afternoon and scheduled to practice after completing a physical.

Starting center Janell Burse is also moving closer to being able to practice with her teammates after going through an extended workout with assistant coach Jessie Kenlaw before Friday's morning session.

"Based on how she responds to that, we'll figure out what she can do and how soon," Donovan said.

  • Donovan confirmed that the WNBA will adopt the NBA's practice, new for this season, of having an Inactive List instead of an Injured List this season, with two players designated Inactive for each game. Donovan said the change will not have an impact on her decision to go with 11 or 12 players on the Storm's final roster, but added, "It's a good thing, though. I like that."

    The WNBA will also adopt a new dress code to mirror the one enacted in the NBA. It won't have a tremendous impact on the Storm, because Donovan's dress code was already relatively conservative.

  • The WNBA's All-Decade Team has been a hot topic of discussion amongst the media that covers the Storm since the list of 30 nominees for the 10-player team was released yesterday. Donovan reluctantly got into the conversation after practice, discussing Bird's chances.

    "I think 10 players is extremely difficult (to pick)," she said. "There's not one player that's just written in.

    "Alright, maybe.

    "My criteria initially when it was being pared down was have they won a championship? Have they won an MVP? Have they been Rookie of the Year? Have they been First-Team WNBA? I really tried to keep it just on WNBA and not factor in Olympic experience or international experience. By those criteria, Sue has been First Team every year, she's won a championship, so she would really be heavily considered."