There was a time when Shaquala Williams’ knowledge of the WNBA wasn’t a positive.
Nicknamed “Shaq,” the former Oregon star was a third-round draft pick who scrapped to make Los Angeles’ roster in 2003. But after appearing in 25 games, the 5-foot-6 guard could only land training-camp invites to Seattle.
Knowing the depth chart at her position made the tryouts even more challenging.
“I would count numbers,” Williams said Friday of trying to project roster openings during her time in Storm training camps in 2004 and 2005. The Storm always had All-Star guard Sue Bird.
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“I’d say, ‘Well, I know she’s not getting cut. And she might…’ It’s the worst thing you can do in camp,” Williams said. “You have to just stay focused on what you can control. That’s the best thing I can tell (players).”
Williams, 34, has that chance since she’s back at camp, this time as a rookie WNBA assistant. Storm coach Brian Agler hired her in March to fill a vacancy left by Nancy Darsch. Agler said he liked Williams for the position because of the work she did last summer for the team in helping break down video for scouting.
Williams spent the past two seasons at Seattle U helping develop its players under coach Joan Bonvicini and provide detailed scouting reports. A self-described tech-nerd, Williams prefers to be in her “lab,” which is basically on her iPad with a stack of random stats, working her way through online footage to break down plays and players.
“She has a great eye for what is the best clip to use and in evaluating talent — whether helping a particular player or preparing the team for a particular game,” Bonvicini said. “The way she explains it to the team or the individual player, it really helps them prepare.”
There are six rookies in Storm training camp and likely only four open spots on a maximum 12-player roster. Veterans Camille Little, Tanisha Wright, Bird and free-agent center Angel Robinson should be at camp Sunday.
Agler expects to make cuts after a closed scrimmage with the Australian national team
Saturday. It’s a situation Williams knows well and said she’s tried to help remind the rookies to focus on getting better and “not worry about what’s going to happen in two weeks.”
Williams admits that was her problem as a player. She was a three-time All-Pac-10 player who led the Ducks to two conference championships. Her playing career ended in 2006 in Turkey after suffering a torn ACL.
“Knowing what I would have to go through just to get another opportunity down the road, I didn’t have that in me,” Williams said. “That’s when I transitioned into coaching and just moved on.”