Storm Starts Preseason Wednesday

Kevin Pelton, | May 24, 2011

After eight days of training camp, the Seattle Storm will hit the court for a preseason game tomorrow. The Storm traveled to Los Angeles following Tuesday's workout and will play the Los Angeles Sparks at 12 noon Wednesday at the Torodome on the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus.

The Storm will play without guards Sue Bird and Katie Smith, who will sit out to rest minor aches and pains.

 Storm rookie Krystal Thomas at Duke University.
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images

With Bird resting, Wright gets the start at the point for the Storm in Wednesday's preseason opener.

"We just want to get them 100 percent," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "That's our reasoning."

In their absence, the Storm will start five returning veterans. Tanisha Wright will slide to point guard with Swin Cash alongside her in the backcourt. Lauren Jackson will be in the middle, with Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham at forward. Little and Willingham, both naturally power forwards, have been playing together at times in scrimmages. Either player could end up in the post or on the perimeter on a given possession because of their versatility.

Agler anticipates using a fairly regular rotation before halftime to test starters' conditioning with extended stints on the floor.

"I don't know how much we'll play them in terms of number of minutes," he said, "but I think we'll play them for a long stretch - the majority of the first half, something like that. Maybe into the third quarter.

"I could see us finishing the game with some of the new ones on the floor. In a perfect scenario, we'd try to integrate them with some of the people who are back."

One player who will see extended action is point guard Sharnee Zoll, who was signed after practice on Monday. Zoll took a crash course in the Storm's playbook with the coaching staff and was able to run the offense on Tuesday. While Belinda Snell has handled the basketball at times during training camp, Zoll is the lone point guard available off the bench. The need for her to play in the absence of Bird and Smith was part of the reason the Storm added Zoll as a free agent.

While the Storm's young players are still working to impress the coaching staff, the goals are different for the team's established veterans.

"We want to go and we want to compete," said Wright. "It's a good measurement game to see where we're at, see what else we need to work on before that first game comes around. I think it's a chance for him to take a look at different combinations, what's going to work best on the court. That's it. It's an exhibition game. You just want to go down and compete."

"I think the most important thing is to establish ourselves on defense first and foremost," added Willingham. "A lot of the time, defense creates our offense, so if we can come out strong on defense, get rebounds and execute, that would be very good. Then on offense, slow down, play with poise and execute. I think that's what we're looking for."

Homecoming for Ibekwe

The location of Wednesday's game holds special significance for rookie forward Ify Ibekwe. Coincidentally, the Carson, Calif. native grew up nearby the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus.

"It's like two minutes away from my house," she said. "It's down the street. I played a lot of AAU games there. I know the location, the school, the area. It's not a new gym for me to play in."

As a result, Ibekwe expects to have her family, her high-school coach and a handful of close friends on hand to witness what could be her first professional game. She's looking forward to the experience.

"It's kind of exciting to go there and see my family and see them in a Storm jersey," said Ibekwe. "I can't wait. I don't feel like there's a need to be nervous because I came all this way, so why be nervous. If he puts me in, I'm just going to play hard. That's all I've been doing here at this camp."

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