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Robinsonís Return Right Fit

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Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | February 10, 2009
The Seattle Storm took another important step toward solidifying depth in the post position Tuesday, re-signing restricted free agent center Ashley Robinson. The Storm's backup center each of the last two seasons, Robinson saw action in 33 games each year and started Game 1 of last year's playoff series against Los Angeles after starting in the middle throughout the Storm's 2007 playoff run.

In contrast to a year ago, when Robinson considered her options before deciding to re-sign with the Storm on the first day of training camp, there was never much question this offseason that Robinson would return to the team. Her relationship with Storm Head Coach Brian Agler is key to Robinson's high comfort level with the Storm.


"If I'm going to have success in the WNBA like I know I can, Seattle is going to be the place I do that."
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images
"If I'm going to have success in the WNBA like I know I can, Seattle is going to be the place I do that," Robinson explained. "I think the end of last season just showed a little bit of how working with Brian bettered my game and my confidence. I feel like another season with him and our coaching staff, I think the WNBA's going to see the type of player I can be."

Robinson's role was limited early in the season, but she took on more playing time after the Storm lost Lauren Jackson to ankle surgery and needed Robinson to contribute. She responded with her best basketball in the month of September, averaging 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game before posting 2.3 points and 4.0 rebounds a night against the Sparks in the postseason.

"I like the fact that she really came on for us last year," said Agler. "I thought she played well in the playoffs and played well for us down the stretch. To me, Ashley proved a lot to us last year. I really like her versatility defensively. I still think her best days are ahead of her."

"I feel like at the end of the season, I looked at basketball like I look at life - a very positive view," Robinson said. "Whatever it takes to succeed. I've definitely bought into Brian's system, but I think I changed the way I see things mentally and it made a big difference in my game confidence-wise. And coach stayed on me. He encouraged me the whole season and kept believing in me, so I believed in myself."

After spending the fall as an intern with the Dallas Mavericks Broadcasting Department (as chronicled in her Online Diary for storm.wnba.com), Robinson has stayed in the area where she grew up and is serving as an assistant coach for a local private high school.

The new role has given her a different perspective on the game, and helped her see how despite her impressive defensive statistics - Robinson was sixth in the WNBA with 2.4 blocks per 40 minutes in 2008 and became the 47th player in WNBA history to reach 100 career blocks - she can contribute even more at that end of the floor, as her coaches have encouraged her to do.

"As a player, you feel like coaches are on you so much, but it's because they see the potential in you you can't see at the time," said Robinson. "It brought to light whenever all my coaches have said, 'You have so much potential.' Or, 'You could do so much more.' I get where they're coming from, because they can't do it for you. They have to tell you you can do it because they can see you can do it."

Using the defense taught by Robinson and borrowed from Agler's defensive philosophy, the team she helps coach recently recorded an upset win over the second-ranked team in the district. "I was so proud of them," Robinson said.

AUDIO
By phone from Dallas, Ashley Robinson spoke to storm.wnba.com's Kevin Pelton about re-signing with the Storm and her offseason.
Robinson isn't the only WNBA center spending her offseason in the Dallas area. Los Angeles star Lisa Leslie, who recently announced that 2009 will be her last season, lives in Dallas with her husband. It so happens that Robinson has begun working out at the same gym, and now that Leslie has returned after being out of town, Robinson will get a chance to play against the WNBA legend in pickup games to hone her skills.

"I just saw her up here today and got a chance to talk to her," Robinson said. "She was up there playing pickup. What an opportunity for me to get to learn from one of the game's best at my position - and she has my body frame, even though she's skinnier than me right now."

With her new contract complete, Robinson can focus on working out in preparation for the 2009 season. She's pleased she'll be spending it with the Storm.

"I'm really excited about coming back to Seattle," she said. "Seattle seems like home for me. I think I've made it very clear in the past that I love playing for the Storm, I love my teammates, I love the fans, I love the organization, I love the coaching staff. It's just a good fit for me, so I'm happy."