Beck In the Mix at Point Guard
During the regular season, the Seattle Storm's likely starting lineup will be a who's who of WNBA history. But the late arrivals in training camp of Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, still in action overseas, have opened up opportunities for other players. So it was that in the team's preseason opener, the Storm started former WNBA MVPs Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes - and also rookie Kimberly Beck, a little more than a month removed from finishing her career at George Washington.
"It's been exciting," said Beck. "We have great veterans and great players, Yo and Sheryl. It's really exciting. I'm honored to be here and I'm just trying to work hard and get a spot like everyone else."
"I still have to get everybody in the right spot," Beck said, "and, even though they're veterans, I still have to do my job as a point guard and get everyone where they need to be."
If there was any doubt about that in Beck's mind, Swoopes sought to erase it by reminding the rookie that she is in charge.
"There might be times where she's a little intimidated," Swoopes said. "As a rookie, I can understand that. I said to her, 'Kim, you are the point guard at this time. When you're running the team, you control the team. If people aren't where they need to be or doing what they need to do, you've got to make sure that you're holding those players accountable.'"
Beck is no stranger to leading more experienced players. At George Washington, she stepped in as a starter from the moment she arrived on campus, starting 31 of the 32 games she played as a freshman and 128 out of 129 in her career for the Colonials. The Atlantic 10 Conference's Rookie of the Year, Beck led the conference in assists as a freshman and went on to do so all four years of her career, becoming the 11th player in NCAA Division I history to accomplish that feat. She capped her career by winning A-10 Player of the Year as a senior.
That impressive college resume made Beck attractive to the Storm in the third round of last month's WNBA Draft.
"She's an extremely smart player," said Agler. "Obviously a true point guard - it's her natural position. She's got good quickness. She competes defensively."
Early in camp, Beck established herself atop the group of young point guards in camp, putting her with the first unit during many of the team's early practices. And while that role is inevitably temporary, given Bird's impending return to Seattle, Agler has thrown the backup spot behind Bird open to competition. Since arriving in camp, veteran Doneeka Lewis has also worked with the first unit at the point, while incumbent backup Tanisha Wright is due into camp later this week. But Beck remains very much in the mix and was mentioned prominently by Agler when he was asked about the position on Sunday.
"We've got (Beck) playing with that first group right now," he said. "Is that how it's going to play out in the end? I don't know, because we've got other people to consider. We're still trying to find what we feel like is the right fit in the end, but right now she is that person that has been playing with that first group."
Working in Beck's favor is that she is a natural point guard who has played the position throughout her career, while the Storm's other options behind Bird converted to the position at the WNBA level. Beck knows her role will be to distribute the ball and set up her teammates, and she's comfortable with that.
"Especially with the team we have here - Lauren Jackson, Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash, Yolanda Griffith, that's not going to be my role, to score," Beck said. "My role is just to get them the ball where they need to get it. That's really easy because they're great players and they're going to do great things with it."
What Beck will have to overcome is her inexperience at the WNBA level. Agler would still like to see her improve her composure. It's inevitable for rookies to rush and lose their focus as they adjust to everything new going on around them. The Storm's veterans are doing what they can to help Beck get comfortable.
Part of the learning process is also getting down Agler's motion-based offense and his defensive schemes. Beck is trying to master the system, but it is complicated enough to pose a challenge.
"He has a lot of different offenses and defenses and calls," she explained. "He throws a lot out there, so you kind of have to think, but I like that kind of game. I'm more of a mental player anyway, so it plays into my strengths. I think I'm doing well."
One observer seems to agree.
"With a little more practice time and we have another preseason game and a little more understanding the game," said Swoopes, "I think there's definitely some potential there with Kim."