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Full House for Storm's First Practice

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Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | May 15, 2011


There was something different about the Seattle Storm's first practice of 2011 training camp on Sunday at Royal Brougham Pavilion on the Seattle Pacific University campus. In addition to the usual complement of rookies and free agents, most of the Storm's veterans were on the floor. Besides Sue Bird and Swin Cash, who are getting a quick break after participating in a USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas last week, all other 15 players on the roster practiced Sunday - including Lauren Jackson. The last time Jackson was around for the start of training camp was 2006.

"It's different," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler of having nearly a full roster of players available on day one. "We're working with a lot of people who have been here, which is nice. It's easier for the new people to learn when they can see how things are done correctly. We can move practice along more smoothly."

Lauren Jackson practices.
It's been five years since Jackson was last around for the start of training camp.
Aaron Last/Storm Photos

The change can be traced to the WNBA's move to push the start of the season back to early June instead of its usual mid-May timeline. That means training camps do not overlap with overseas leagues, which wrapped up late last month. The league also had a late start in 2009, but that season Jackson and teammate Suzy Batkovic were still in Australia and missed the beginning of camp. Last year, when practices began earlier, just three players from the Storm's ultimate roster were on hand for the first day.

One of those players, starter Camille Little, was glad to have more familiar faces around.

"It definitely helps," she said. "That's why we can't wait until Tuesday, so we can have everybody in here and we can get a feel for each other. Overseas, most of the time, we're the player wanting the ball on every team. So now you have to step back into your role and what your job is here. It's good to get a feel for it before we start playing games.

"It's good to see everybody. I missed them over the offseason. It's been a reunion but we've got to get back to work now."

Center Ashley Robinson was the other rotation player in camp from day one last season, and she found this year's opening practice more productive because of the group of players on hand.

"I feel like it's practice now," said Robinson. "We can start working on what we're going to do in our first game today. So that was kind of cool, to have everybody here, faces that I'm not used to seeing in training camp. To see them go hard and work as hard as the next person in training camp was pretty impressive."

For Jackson, Sunday wasn't just her first time practicing at the start of training camp in years. It was also her most extensive action since undergoing surgery to repair a tendon near her Achilles, an important step in the rehab process. Jackson has been participating in individual workouts and playing against members of the Storm's male practice squad since arriving in town late last month, ramping up to live action.

"Today was the first 5-on-5 I've done," she said. "It was fun being out there. I was a little bit tentative at times, but I think Brian is pretty smart as far as working my way back into it. It felt good, though. It felt great. It's been good being back here these last couple of weeks, working my way into it with the coaches."

If there's a downside to having so many veterans on hand, it's that it means less reps for the players battling for spots on the roster, who split time on the court with the veterans and finished the day by scrimmaging against the practice squad. The veterans were unanimously impressed with the depth of the young talent on hand, but with Bird and Cash due to return to practice on Tuesday, the Storm will have to make a pair of cuts after tomorrow's practice to clear room on the roster.

"It's going to be a tough decision to make," said Agler, "but we're going to make some decisions tomorrow, then get Sue and Swin back into practice and go from there."

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