Taylorís Big Opportunity

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Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | April 26, 2006
At 6-8, Seattle Storm Coach Anne Donovan Coach Anne Donovan hasn't had an opportunity to look eye-to-eye with her players since joining the Seattle Storm. That changed earlier this month when the Storm signed 6-8 UC Santa Barbara product Lindsay Taylor to a training-camp contract. After Taylor reported to camp yesterday, Donovan found that listed height to be accurate.

"She is legit," Donovan said.

"What I saw there was some potential."
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty
Now the questions focus on the floor. Taylor had a standout career as a Gaucho, earning Big West Tournament MVP each of her final three seasons, winning Big West Player of the Year as a junior and finishing as Santa Barbara's all-time leader in points (1,755), blocks (242) and field-goal percentage (.558). Taylor has yet to translate that success to the WNBA, however. She played 26 minutes over five games with the Phoenix Mercury as a rookie before being waived last spring.

Arguably, Taylor had her best game as a pro in the 2004 preseason - against the Storm. While that game, an 83-44 Phoenix victory, was one Donovan wanted to quickly forget, she didn't erase Taylor's performance - she scored seven points, hitting a 3-pointer, and blocked four shots in 17 minutes - from her mind. That clicked when Taylor was available this off-season as a free agent.

"What I saw there was some potential," said Donovan at Media Day. "I don't know what she's done with her game since then. She's been playing in Turkey; her numbers have been pretty good."

Donovan got her first brief look at Taylor during yesterday's morning session. After flying into Seattle from Turkey on Monday night and completing her physical, Taylor impressed Donovan during the last hour of practice.

"What I love about her is she's developed her body," Donovan said. "She was a smaller-framed post two years ago, which is what I was hoping to see. She couldn't stay small and make the WNBA. She's got to get stronger and be able to withstand some contact. She looks like her body has filled out and matured and worked on it."

In Seattle, Taylor may have found the perfect spot to develop her game. She's excited to work with Donovan and Storm star Lauren Jackson.

"All around, as a post player, I think it's a great opportunity," Taylor said. "I think that's the number one reason why I was excited when I found out I'd be coming here, Coach Donovan and Lauren Jackson. She'd be a great teammate to play against, learn things from."

In particular, Donovan can relate to Taylor in a different way than most WNBA coaches, a majority of whom spent their playing career on the perimeter. That's doubly true because both Donovan and Taylor have rare size for the women's game.

"I heard this once from a coach, and it has really stuck with me," said Donovan. "I think when people evaluate big girls - 6-5, 6-6, 6-8 and maybe in the men's game with the biggest players, Yao Ming and those - they always identify right away what the weaknesses are - not physical enough, can't do this, can't do that - instead of looking at what their strengths might be and then how to utilize them. So I think if anyone's sensitive to the plight of a big girl, it's me."

"I hope she would really understand where I'm coming from and I can learn a lot from her," added Taylor.

Donovan has a tremendous track record of success as a post coach. In Charlotte, she turned second-round pick Tammy Sutton-Brown into an All-Star in her second WNBA season. Jackson blossomed into an MVP under Donovan's tutelage in Seattle, while starting center Janell Burse enjoyed her best season as a pro last year.

The most analogous player to Taylor Donovan has worked with is probably 6-7 UConn product Kara Wolters, whom Donovan coached in 2000 with the Expansion Indiana Fever. After a solid rookie season in the ABL, Wolters played sparingly in 1999 as a WNBA rookie with Houston. Taken by the Fever in the Expansion Draft, Wolters averaged 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds and ranked sixth in the league with 1.6 blocks per game while playing for Donovan. Her 56.1% shooting percentage that season put her second in the WNBA. After the season, with Donovan headed to Charlotte, Wolters was traded to Sacramento, where her numbers dropped off by more than half. Outside of the 56.1% she shot in 2000, Wolters shot just 42.9% the remainder of her WNBA career.

For Taylor to get the full benefit of Donovan's coaching, she'll still have to earn a spot on the Storm's final roster. In all likelihood, she's competing with fellow youngsters Jordan Adams and Dalila Eshe for one spot. Taylor's chances may be hindered slightly by an ongoing battle with tendinitis in her right Achilles. Soreness forced Taylor out of this morning's practice midway through.

"She needs to be on the floor a little bit more than she was today," said Donovan. "She has an issue with her Achilles, so we've got to manage that, figure out what that's going to do, if it's going to limit her or not."

Taylor has been dealing with the injury for some time, helping her know what she needs to do - ultimately, play through it.

"I've been going hard every day through practices for the past eight months and running a lot, so it's really worn out and tired," she said. "As a basketball player and an athlete, you just learn how to play through your injuries and your pains. Everyone has them, so you've just got to keep moving."