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Making Cut is Tough – But Not Impossible – For Second-Round Picks

May 17, 2013

On WNBA Draft night in April, Brian Agler was thrilled Chelsea Poppens was still on the board when it was time for the Seattle Storm to make a second-round selection.

The former Iowa State star can only hope Agler feels the same way when he announces his final roster next week.

Poppens and a handful of other Storm hopefuls will get one final game to make their respective cases when the Tulsa Shock visits KeyArena on Friday for the exhibition finale. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. Tickets.

The regular season opens on May 26 in Los Angeles against the Sparks. A few days prior, Agler will decide which 10 players will be donning a green Seattle uniform. Teams can carry 11, but Sue Bird, out for the season following successful knee surgery on May 9, will count as the 11th because she’ll be rehabbing with the team’s athletic staff.

For all of the enthusiastic conversation she had with Agler after being drafted, Poppens knows the odds aren’t stacked in favor of a second-rounder making the final cut. Since joining the league in 2000, the Storm has tabbed 11 players in the second round. Of those, just six made it to the regular season and have played in a combined 137 games – most of them by Semeka Randall (53 in two seasons) and Suzy Batkovic (49 in two seasons).

Chelsea Poppens
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

Chelsea Popplens is looking to make the cut.

But neither are they stacked entirely against Poppens, especially this year when the roster will have a decidedly different look.

Either way, she isn’t dwelling on it, figuring there’s no time for that. And no point in it either.

“You just take it day by day,” said Poppens, a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American (2012, 2013) and just the second player in Iowa State history to finish her career with more than 1,000 points (1,400) and 1,000 rebounds (1,091). “The only thing you can do is play the way you know how to play and just go into every practice and work as hard as you can.”

Ironically, Poppens isn’t the only second-round pick vying for one of those roster spots. Keisha Hampton, a 6-2 forward, was Seattle’s 2012 second-rounder out of DePaul. But Hampton had suffered a knee injury midway through her senior season, so did not attend last year’s camp. After recovering, she played in Latvia this past winter, averaging 17.4 points per game.

“I’m just trying to stay positive and do whatever I can to make the team,” Hampton said. “I know it sucks to get cut, but I try not to worry about it too much. I just control what I can control.”

MAKING THE MOST OF IT

Both players saw some considerable playing time off the bench in last Sunday’s 67-66 victory against Los Angeles in Long Beach, Calif. Hampton was in for nearly 17 minutes, contributing four points, two assists and one rebound. Poppens was in for 12-plus minutes, recording four points, three boards and a steal.

“It was exciting to be part of that, just playing some of the greats,” Poppens said. “It was exciting and fun at the same time just to get that experience and enjoy it.”

Hampton saw it as a chance to prove against WNBA competition that she still has game after her knee injury.

“It was a great experience. It felt good just to be back on the court and playing with a team again,” she said. “I feel great. I’m almost back to myself when I was in college and playing my best basketball. I just want to keep working hard and keep rehabbing so I’m good throughout the whole season.”

Ultimately, that’s all Hampton and Poppens want: a whole season. How they perform on Friday against Tulsa will go far toward determining whether they get one.

“It’s nerves, but I can’t think about it right now,” Hampton said. “I just have to keep working hard and hope I get an opportunity to be a Seattle Storm player.”

Poppens hasn’t forgotten that welcome-to-Seattle call she got from Agler on April 15. Although now, that seems like ancient history.

“I was just excited to be a part of that. And to be drafted, I’m just honored and I’m just enjoying it right now,” Poppens said.

“Hopefully, I’ll make the team,” she added. “It’ll all work out if it’s meant to be.”

Not Easy Being Second

A history of Seattle’s second-round draft choices through the years:

Year Player Storm Career
2000 Charisse Sampson 1 season, 21 games
2001 Semeka Randall 2 seasons, 53 games
2002 Lucienne Berthieu Did not make the team
2003 Suzy Batkovic 2 seasons (2005, 2009), 49 games
2004 Trina Frierson 1 season, 5 games
2005 Ashley Battle 1 season, 2 games
2006 Dalila Eshe Did not make the team
2007 No second-round pick  
2008 Allie Quigley 1 season (2011), 7 games #
2009 No second-round pick  
2010 Tanisha Smith Did not make the team
2011 Ify Ibekwe Did not make the team
2012 Keisha Hampton Did not attend camp (injured)*
2013 Chelsea Poppens Currently in camp
# Quigley signed a series of 7-day contracts with the team in 2011 and played 7 games
* Hampton is currently in camp.

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