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Stories From Storm Media Day

As the Storm opened its 2003 season with the annual media day at The Furtado Center, there were a number of big stories. Here are some of the biggest.

ROLL CALL

11 players were present at media day, with several more expected. Eight players from last year’s Storm roster were in attendance. Michelle Marciniak has retired to take a coaching position at the University of South Carolina, Lauren Jackson and Kamila Vodichkova are still overseas (Jackson is expected by the start of next week, Vodichkova the middle of May), Kate Paye is finishing up classes and Jamie Redd had a schedule conflict.

Dispersal Draft pick Alisa Burras was ready to start her first training camp with the Storm, as were a pair of free agents signed earlier in the day, guard Sandy Brondello and forward Stacey Thomas. A third free agent pickup, Tully Bevilaqua, is still playing in Hungary. None of the Storm’s Amateur Draft selections were present. Eighth pick Jung Sun-Min’s visa situation has not yet been cleared up, though she is expected by the middle of next week at the latest. If 22nd pick Suzy Batkovic joins the Storm this season, according to Coach Anne Donovan, “It won’t be a significant number of games. It will be her coming over middle or late in the season, just to get her feet wet.”

HAPPY NEWCOMERS


Brondello made her first appearance in Seattle at media day.
Denis Bancroft/WNBAE/Getty
Usually, it’s a cruel disappointment not to get drafted. For Storm newcomers Brondello and Thomas, however, it was a blessing. They were amongst the WNBA’s first unrestricted free agents, able to sign wherever they chose – in the end, Seattle. “I wanted not to be taken in the first round (of the Dispersal Draft),” Brondello said. “I think I got a better situation than a lot of the other players.” Thomas echoed her comments. “I looked at it as a positive,” she said. “I had the right to choose where I wanted to play.”

Out of the entire WNBA, why did they choose Seattle? In both cases, a good ‘fit’ for their talents seemed to be important. “They were looking for a veteran with experience, an outside shooter, and those are all things I bring to the table,” Brondello said. “I’m a very good defensive player,” Thomas said. “If I could bring that to the team, that could even help them more.”

Burras didn’t have the choice that Brondello and Thomas did, but was equally pleased to be selected by the Storm. “I was excited,” Burras related of her reaction to finding out the Storm had selected her. “I was getting situated in Portland, and I’m still close.” In addition to geography, Burras was pleased to be going to a team of the Storm’s caliber. “I look for this team to be a force to be reckoned with,” she said.

Storm General Manager Billy McKinney was happy to have the three as well. He said about Burras, “We didn’t think she would be there when we selected. There was even some discussion on our part about the possibility of moving up.”

REVEALING JERSEY CHANGE

The Storm’s new jerseys, which look slightly different – the green piping has been removed from the shoulder hole, and there is no longer a yellow patch atop the shoulder – and also do not tuck in were a hot topic of discussion. “I’m used to tucking it in,” Brondello said. “I’m from Australia, I’m pretty conservative, I suppose.” Brondello also joked about having to do more ab exercises to wear the jerseys. “I think they would be a midriff on me,” Donovan joked about the jerseys, noting she thought the look was better than the unitards worn by a short-lived league in the early 1990s.

SHORTENED CAMP


Donovan will have to install her system in a shortened camp.
Craig Jones/WNBAE/Getty
The Storm will hold its first full practice of the season on Friday – nine days prior to the May 11 exhibition opener at the Tacoma Dome and less than three weeks before the team opens the regular season at Houston on May 22. WNBA camps are always difficult because international players usually arrive late, but the Storm’s will be especially challenging with two starters overseas, a new coach, an altered roster in the first year of free agency and a condensed period for camp.

“We can’t possibly hit our stride until sometime in June,” Donovan said. “We’ll still be adjusting and teaching incoming players the system that’s been put in. That’s okay with me. As long as we’re peaking by the middle of the season and we can head right into the playoffs with that kind of push, that’s fine.”

Despite the challenges, Donovan is planning an ambitious camp. “We’re really trying to accomplish more than we are evaluating talent,” she said. “We’re going to put in our defensive scheme right away. We’re going to put in transition offense right away. We’re still going towards a goal, but we’ll move much quicker.”

There is a benefit to having less than the maximum 18 players in camp, Donovan noted. Players won’t need to wait as long while their teammates finish drills, allowing them to get their conditioning without running any specific drills for them. The Storm will have to cut down to 15 players by May 11, something Donovan doesn’t believe will be a major issue. Despite adding several post players in recent days, she still sees the wing positions as the most competitive on the team.

TOUGH CONFERENCE

Both McKinney and Donovan commented on how difficult the WNBA’s Western Conference is. The Houston Comets, already the second seed in last year’s playoffs, have gotten guard Cynthia Cooper back from retirement, while the Sacramento Monarchs are expected to contend for a playoff spot again. The Monarchs suffered a host of injuries last season, but have added a pair of top-five draft picks – Vanderbilt center Chantelle Anderson and Tennessee guard Kara Lawson.

“You look at L.A., you look at Sacramento, Phoenix has gotten better, Houston gets Cynthia Cooper back,” McKinney said, “so the West is just as tough over here as it is in the NBA. Donovan’s opinion has changed with her shift in Conferences from the East to the West. “When I was in the Eastern Conference, I kept telling everybody that there was not that much difference between the two Conferences,” Donovan said. “When I got the schedule from the league and saw 24 games against the West, I got a pit in my stomach, big time.”