Greco and Williams Reunited With Storm
Williams drives on the Storm's Sue Bird with the Sparks last season.
Instead, Greco and Williams have used their trials and tribulations to become close. After Thursday's practice ended, the two had an impromptu Pac-10 reunion with former Stanford center Cori Enghusen. After that was broken up at the request of the media, both players professed how excited they are to see each other again.
"We were actually in camp last year in Cleveland together, and we went through that experience, pretty miserable, but we're both a lot happier being in Seattle than Cleveland," said Williams. "It's fun to have a friend."
"It was great to see her," added Greco, echoing her teammate. "We were in Cleveland together in training camp, Pac-10, Oregon-UCLA, so I've known her for a while. It's good to have a friend around."
Greco and Williams can draw on much common ground when they chat. Beyond the Pac-10 and Rockers background, both players can play both guard positions (although Williams is naturally a point guard, Greco more of a two guard), both are high-scorers who led the Pac-10 in scoring average at least once and both favor the #20 (Williams got it in Cleveland because she was a Rockers draft pick, while Greco gets the number this year because she was in camp first).
Unfortunately, all those similarities mean the two players are also battling each other. Last season, there was no room in the Cleveland backcourt for either player, but the Storm will likely keep at least one of Greco and Williams, and probably not both.
Still, both players are rooting for each other.
"We're both going to play hard and push each other," explained Williams. "Whoever gets the spot, either one of us will be happy for that person."
"It's obviously going to be competitive on the floor, and you go at each other, but off the court we're friends, we want to see each other do well," said Greco. "That's basically it."
Oddly, while Greco and Williams were at UCLA and Oregon for the same five seasons, they never really faced each other at their best in college.
During Williams’ first two years, when she made All-Pac-10 each season and was the Pac-10’s Freshman of the Year and then its Player of the Year, Greco was coming off the bench for a veteran Bruins squad. Williams would miss the next season due to an ACL injury, while Greco blossomed into an All-Pac-10 performer herself. With Williams back in action for a 2001-02 season that saw her return to her All-Pac-10 form, it was Greco who was sidelined by repeated concussions. Finally, with both players returning for their fifth seasons, Williams was kicked off the Oregon roster after four games.
Greco and Williams both enjoyed outstanding careers in the Pac-10.
Through all the time, the two players have gotten to know each other's games very well.
"She's very quick, athletic, shoots the ball well, penetrates really well and creates," commented Greco. "She's a very good player."
"I've seen Michelle play since high school, and she's always been a really aggressive person, plays hard," said Williams. "Every time I see her she's injured or has some new injury, but she always plays through them. She's just really tough, and off the court is a great person."
This meeting was no exception in the injury regard, as Greco is currently nursing a broken nose - the third of her playing career - suffered the day before Williams arrived in Seattle. Greco has sported a plastic face mask, like a prop out of The Phantom of the Opera, during her last two practices, and hasn't gotten used to it.
"I'll never learn how to play with the mask, because it's so uncomfortable," Greco explained. "You just have to roll with the punches. The nose is a fragile part on your face and it's very painful, so the mask is preventative and helpful."
As for Williams, she was a surprise early cut by the Los Angeles Sparks after being on the fringe of the Sparks rotation last season. A bigger role would have seemed to have been in the offing during Williams' sophomore campaign, but instead she found herself out in the cold.
"I don't know what it was," said Williams. "They told me certain things and they did other things, so when it comes down to it, I never really asked them what the true reason for it was, because they weren't honest with me the whole time I was there. I don't know what it was, but I think I'm in a happier situation for me here."
After things did not work out in L.A., Williams instinctively thought about Seattle, near where she grew up and played college ball in Oregon.
"In all honesty, if I couldn't get here, I probably wasn't going to play this summer," she explained. "I really didn’t want to go anywhere else. I wanted to stay on the West coast, and there weren't very many teams with opportunities, so this was probably my last hope, honestly."
Already, Williams has impressed the Storm with her performance during practices, turning up the heat in the competition for what will likely be two backup guard spots on the Storm's final roster (veteran Tully Bevilaqua is the other candidate). A week away from the Storm's season opener, time is running out for both players to make an impression on the coaching staff.
On each other, however, both players have already made quite an impression.