Storm Happy to Add Thomas, Two Others
Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | April 11, 2011
When the Seattle Storm's coaching staff began preparing for Monday's WNBA Draft, Duke guard Jasmine Thomas wasn't in their plans. There was a good reason for that: Head Coach Brian Agler and his assistants did not anticipate Thomas would still be on the board when the Storm's 12th overall pick, the last of the first round, came on the clock.
"Over the last few days, we heard a couple of different scenarios that she might be there. We started talking and obviously had her really high," said Agler after the draft. "We're excited about her being here. She's a very energetic player, plays both the point guard spot spot and the two-guard and has really been the leader of that team at Duke University for the last few years."
What Agler likes about Thomas is her well-rounded game. She was a high scorer at Duke, averaging a team-best 15.0 points per game as a senior, but also shined on defense and showed ability as a distributor.
"Her reputation is being a very good athlete and an exceptional defender," explained Agler, "but she shoots the ball from the three-point line very well, runs the team and has great leadership abilities. She's going to fit in here very well."
For her part, Thomas is willing to do whatever the Storm needs. She made that clear during an interview from Bristol, Conn., where she was one of 15 prospects invited to attend the draft at the ESPN studios. Like Agler, Thomas highlighted her energy as a strength of hers.
"I am a hard worker," she said, describing her own game. "That's something I pride myself on the most is how hard I work. No matter if it's on offense or defense, I just try my best and I'm always going to give you 110 percent. With that comes a lot of energy. I think I'm a high-energy player."
The opportunity to join the defending WNBA champions, who aspire to enjoy the same kind of success again this season, is something that Thomas looks forward to but a challenge for her at the same time.
"It's exciting and it's also intimidating," she said. "You always have to keep it in perspective with them being a championship team. Finding a spot or a role you can fit into becomes more difficult. I'm just ready to find out what that is and do it the best I can."
Thomas wasn't the only Duke product the Storm added Monday. With the final pick of the draft, the 36th selection in the third round, the Storm took Blue Devil teammate Krystal Thomas (no relation). The 6-4 center led the ACC in rebounding this season and is known for her defensive aptitude. In between, the Storm added Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe in the second round at No. 24 overall. Ibekwe, a two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, was the first player in program history to total 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds and averaged a double-double for the Wildcats.
"We talked about Ify being a possibility even at No. 12, so it was nice to get somebody we considered at that spot later on in the draft," Agler said. "Krystal gives us some size in training camp. It will be interesting to see her come in and compete for a spot."
The Storm will go into next month's training camp with a handful of spots up for grabs. Six returning players will make the roster and veterans Erin Phillips, Ashley Robinson and Belinda Snell have the inside track on making the roster, but that leaves at least two places on the 11-player roster for draft picks and players invited to training camp. In addition to the two players the Storm has already signed (forward Bridgette Mitchell and post Aneika Henry), Agler said the Storm would likely sign one or two additional undrafted free agents to come to camp.
The roster is even in terms of positions, which the Storm maintained by drafting a guard, a forward and a center on Monday, but also must work from a salary-cap perspective. Having at least one draft pick make the team is important in that regard.
"The experience factor plays in," said Agler, describing the balance between veterans and young players. "Belinda and Erin have played in this league and have been starters on teams in this league, so they'll be a little bit ahead of these college seniors. That being said, we still have to take into consideration salaries and cap room. Even though they may have experience, that doesn’t mean that will always play out because we have to keep balance within our roster for cap space."
- The Storm will not have Hungarian forward Tijana Krivacevic in training camp. Krivacevic, drafted by the Storm in the third round of last year's draft, is nursing minor injuries and will try to help her country qualify for EuroBasket starting in June. The Storm maintains the rights to the 21-year-old Krivacevic, who averaged 12.3 points and 4.1 rebounds for MKB Euroleasing Sopron in Euroleague play this season.