Agler Has a Vision for Stricklen

Kevin Pelton, | April 16, 2012

As Seattle Storm Head Coach and General Manager Brian Agler watched the Tennessee Lady Vols play this season, a vision began to take shape in his head. Agler saw Tennessee wing Shekinna Stricklen wearing a Storm uniform.

"When I watched her play, I could sort of see her playing with us and for us," said Agler. "I could see her out there with Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright, Lauren Jackson. She just knows how to play. She makes good basketball plays."

On Monday, Agler made those visions reality, selecting Stricklen with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 WNBA Draft presented by Boost Mobile, acquired from Chicago in a January trade.

Shekinna Stricklen at the WNBA Draft.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

Shekinna Stricklen is the Storm's highest draft selection since Sue Bird in 2002.

After the Los Angeles Sparks made Stanford forward Nneka Ogwumike the top overall pick, Agler and the Storm had their choice of the rest of the draft board. The coaching staff spent the past three months honing in on a handful of top prospects and evaluating both their overall ability and how they might fit the Storm's needs. After weeks of observation and conversation, Stricklen emerged as the right choice.

"We're excited about Shekinna," Agler explained. "Versatile player. Great skills. Her offensive abilities are WNBA-ready. We like her size as a perimeter player. Coming from a great program. She's excited about being here, so I think she'll be a good fit."

Stricklen's enthusiasm for coming to Seattle was evident through the phone as she spoke to reporters from the draft, which was conducted at ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn.

"When I first heard my name, I was really excited," she said. "I couldn't quit smiling. Especially going to the Seattle Storm - a good team that has a lot of veteran players that I know I can go in there and learn from. It will help me raise my game to a new level and I think I can also help Seattle."

The most important thing Stricklen brings the Storm is versatility. She started at four different positions over the course of her Tennessee career. Stricklen's natural position is small forward, where at 6-2 she has ideal size to create mismatches at both ends of the floor. However, she also feels comfortable at shooting guard and power forward and could play point guard in a pinch.

That kind of flexibility is an asset for Agler, who must manage a 10-player roster during the first half of the season with Jackson sitting out to prepare for the Olympics.

"I think the nice thing for Shekinna this year is we don't have to force the issue because of who else we have on the team for her to immediately start," said Agler. "But we would like for her to come in and be a contributor and somebody who's going to be a starter for us down the road at some point."

Eventually, Stricklen could emerge as the Storm's starting small forward. Her shooting and ballhandling ability make her potentially ideal as a complement to the starting backcourt of Bird and Wright.

Agler was open with Stricklen about both her strongpoints and the areas of her game she'll need to improve to get to that point.

"He told me my strengths and my weaknesses," she related. "He said my weaknesses are to get a lot better on defense. He said I can get quicker and leaner. He said the positive things are I can shoot the ball outside, I can play multiple positions, I can help on defense where they switch and do other things with my size."

For Stricklen, being a role player will be a change. Since day one in college, she was counted on to create offense for the Lady Vols. She responded by winning USWBA Freshman of the Year honors and was chosen SEC Player of the Year by coaches as a junior. During her final season in college, however, Stricklen found it difficult to live up to expectations on a consistent basis.

Now, instead of being a leader and go-to player, Stricklen will have the opportunity to play with stars she's grown up watching. She expressed her admiration for Bird's game and called Tina Thompson "a great role model." Stricklen can use her own college experience to help support the Storm's veterans.

"I've learned to play through the pressure," she said. "I think over my four years at Tennessee, I've been through a lot there, a lot of adversity. Going to Seattle with a lot of veterans does help, but I still have to come in and work hard to help the team. It's a big challenge, but I'm ready to step up to the challenge and I think I can be a big help."

Agler can already envision it.

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