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Hawkins Out to Play Her Own Game and Make Her Own Name

May 15, 2013

Both are highly-regarded rookies; one of them the third overall choice in the draft, the other taken at No. 6. Both will be in town Friday night.

Those are the similarities. Here’s a big difference:

Chances are that Seattle Storm fans will have heard a lot more about the top rookie from the other team than they will have heard about the one on their team.

But Tianna Hawkins plans to do something about that.

Hawkins and the Storm will tip off against Skylar Diggins and the Tulsa Shock Friday at 7 p.m. in KeyArena. The game will be Seattle’s final exhibition test before the WNBA regular season begins May 26 in Los Angeles against the Sparks.

Diggins, the All-American from Notre Dame, was one of the highly-touted “Big 3” in last month’s draft. She wound up going to Tulsa with the No. 3 selection behind the Phoenix Mercury’s pick of Brittney Griner at No. 1 and the Chicago Sky’s selection of Elena Delle Donne at No. 2.

Tianna Hawkins
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

Tianna Hawkins is ready to make a name for herself.

Hawkins, who Storm coach Brian Agler was delighted to have available at No. 6, earned All-American credentials of her own at Maryland this past season. The 6-3 forward led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring and was No. 2 in rebounding.

That Diggins, Griner and Delle Donne are far better known than she is doesn’t seem to bother Hawkins at all.

“They’re great players. I’m excited along with everyone else to see how they’re going to produce in the WNBA,” Hawkins said during the Storm’s media day on Tuesday. “It’ll be my second time playing against (Diggins) because I played against her one time when I was with Maryland.” Hawkins had 10 points and Diggins had a triple double in Notre Dame’s NCAA Elite Eight victory in 2012.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience.”

So far, Hawkins would say the same about her first several days with the Storm. Last Sunday, she played nearly 23 minutes in Seattle’s 67-66 preseason victory against the Sparks in Long Beach, Calif. She tied for the team scoring lead with eight points, grabbed five rebounds and came up with three steals.

“I think going into it, I wasn’t really nervous. My nervousness didn’t come until the ref threw the ball up,” Hawkins said. “The whole time before Coach put me in the game I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t mess up, I can’t mess up.’ But once I got into the game, my nerves went away and I just played.”

Agler noticed.

“Tianna was a bright spot, no question,” he said. “Just how she matched up athletically with some of (L.A.’s) key people who start for them and play quality minutes. Her offensive instincts are at a very high level and (she’s) very versatile.”

“NEW” IS HER NORMAL - FOR NOW

The introduction to the pro level was no different for Hawkins than it is for any other rookie, highly touted or otherwise. Diggins, in her debut on May 9, also played almost 23 minutes with nine points, three assists and two steals in a 72-58 loss to Atlanta.

“The game is a lot faster and a lot more physical,” Hawkins said. “The pace is a lot faster.”

So many other things are new to Hawkins as well; her teammates, the city, even this region of the country. Prior to joining the Storm, the native of Washington, D.C., has never been farther west than Phoenix.

She’s dealing with all of that change by creating a routine and by keeping her mind focused on the task at hand.

“I come in early, stretch and get extra treatment and stuff like that to take care of my body,” Hawkins said. “I feel like I have a great opportunity. But it doesn’t take away from what I have to do to get here and be successful. I have to come here every day hungry and willing to get better and do better.”

One things Hawkins already has learned she’ll have to do better is navigate Seattle’s traffic.

“I got lost on my way here (to the Key for media day),” she said. “The one-way streets and construction was just crazy.”

Hawkins is eager to find her way back – one-way streets and all – in time for Friday’s home debut and a chance to start making her name as well known as those of a few fellow rookies.

“There’s always hype outside off the court,” she said. “You just have to go into the game and play your game and not worry about the talk or anything like that.”

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