Walker Working Back
Even for most players who put in the extra work, staying late after practice is a necessary evil, a chore that must be undertaken in the name of improving their game. For rookie Ashley Walker, being able to work out one-on-one against members of the Seattle Storm's male practice squad following Thursday's practice at The Furtado Center was an exciting opportunity after she has been sidelined for more than a month by an injury to the sesamoid bone near her right big toe.
"Much better," said Walker at the conclusion of her workout. "I've been waiting to do it. It's hard when you sit for what I sat and have to watch and watch and watch. It sucks, but you've got to take your hits and hopefully get it back in the end."
"I've just got to get out and be able to run," Walker said. "It's hard to have a foot or ankle injury, something like that, where you can't run. When you're in a boot with your foot, you can pedal (on a bike). When you're in a boot with your foot, you can still feel it, so it's hard to pedal and do that kind of stuff. I've got to stay after and do a lot of extra stuff, as much as I can - every day this week I've got to do it, come in early and stay late. As much as I can to get the physical aspect back."
Walker's participation is no longer limited by practice, so besides working on her conditioning it is a matter of her ability to deal with lingering discomfort caused by her toe.
"I feel it a little bit, certain things," she said. "I'm having trouble pushing off with my right foot to the left. Defensive sliding a little bit and definitely hard jumping, I can feel it then. But I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so I'm playing with how much I can do."
Getting Walker back in the mix comes at the right time for the Storm, which had been down to nine active players with wing Katie Gearlds sidelined for an extended period by a torn posterior cruciate ligament. Gearlds' injury has left the Storm with only veteran guard Shannon Johnson as a perimeter reserve, and Walker - who was working before her injury to make the transition to small forward after playing in the post during college - would add to the team's depth.
For now, Head Coach Brian Agler is taking a wait and see attitude before determining whether Walker could see rotation minutes.
"We're going to spend a lot of time with Ashley Walker in practice," he said. "How that plays out in games, I don't know. I'm not going to say yes, I'm not going to say no. It's just going to be what she shows us in practice."
"I want to help," said Walker. "It's not really my choice how much playing time I get, but when I get in I want to be able to get a couple of rebounds, do something, bring a little bit of energy to the team. That's my goal right now. I've just got to get back into the flow of things."
For now, that process starts with putting in the work after practice. Playing against members of the practice squad should also help Walker as part of her adjustment to playing on the perimeter.
"Guys are so much faster," she explained. "I have quick feet now, but being injured, they're slow. When you get back, you want to get your feet back and my balance is off - everything's just off. Working with them definitely helps me transition to be able to defend guards in our league."