2009 in Review: Ashley Walker
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | February 25, 2010
During the 2009 WNBA Draft, the Seattle Storm was pleased to see California forward Ashley Walker still on the board when the team made its 12th pick. Walker was coming off a senior season that saw her lead the Pac-10 in scoring and earn Third Team All-American honors from The Associated Press.
Walker came to training camp facing an uphill battle to secure playing time, given the Storm had loaded up in the frontcourt due to uncertainty about Lauren Jackson re-signing in Seattle. Though Walker acquitted herself nicely during two preseason matchups, totaling 22 points and 17 rebounds in 46 minutes, her playing time was spotty at the start of the season. Walker scored her first career points during the Storm's win over Minnesota on June 12.
Shortly thereafter, Walker began working on her perimeter game in practice as she made the move to small forward. Somewhat shorter than her listed 6-1, Walker is undersized for a post player and has the shooting range to spend some time playing the three, though she was in need of work on her ballhandling skills and defending on the perimeter because she exclusively played in the paint in college.
It was during practice that Walker suffered a toe injury that would interrupt her rookie campaign. Walker was diagnosed with a stress reaction in the sesamoid bone, located on the first metatarsal in her right foot. The rare injury kept Walker off the floor for a month and a half and put her behind in her development.
Not long after Walker was able to return in late August, the Storm needed her to step into spot minutes because of a series of injuries in the frontcourt. Walker responded with a bucket and a pair of rebounds in five minutes at Washington Sept. 3.
Her most extensive playing time came with the Storm severely short-handed in its last two games of the season. Walker had six points and six boards in 15 minutes of action against Phoenix on Sept. 10, then finished the regular season by scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds on Sept. 12 at San Antonio. With the Storm closer to full health, Walker would see just one minute of action in the playoff series with Los Angeles, making her playoff debut late in Game 3.
At the end of the season, Walker said her late-season experience helped her feel "a lot more comfortable" playing on the perimeter. "I'm chasing (Belinda) Snell around screens and some really good shooters - people I'm going to have to be able to guard all the time. Just getting that little feel of what I need to work on, what I can do better, that I can do better, that kind of stuff - those last two games definitely helped."
Walker planned to continue that development this offseason while playing in Israel for Maccabi Ashdod. She spent the first half of the season playing with fellow Northern California native Courtney Paris of the Chicago Sky, helping complement Paris' power game with her own finesse. Since the start of January, Walker has been teamed in the frontcourt with WNBA veteran Christi Thomas. During the regular season, Walker averaged 20.0 points per game (seventh in the Israeli DI league), 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. She also shot 35.3 percent from beyond the arc, making 12 threes in 18 games. Ashdod swept its quarterfinal series and is one of the favorites in the Israeli playoffs.
- Made her WNBA debut on June 6 at Sacramento.
- Scored first career WNBA points on June 12 at Minnesota.
- Grabbed a career-high six rebounds in each of the Storm's last two games.
- Scored a career-high 11 points in Storm's season finale at San Antonio on Sept. 12.