“Normally you just say ‘lane,’ but here it’s ‘tunnel,’” said Hawkins of a basketball term Storm coach Brian Agler calls differently than her former Maryland coach Brenda Frese.
A 6-foot-3 forward, Hawkins was selected with the sixth overall pick in April’s WNBA draft. She uses the time before practice and her own game of memorization to quickly adapt to her new team. After a whirlwind two months, Hawkins is finally settling into professional life across the country, averaging 10 minutes per game off the bench for Seattle.
“Her versatility is one thing that (will) allow her to have longevity in this league,” said Storm forward Tina Thompson, who’s joining Camille Little in mentoring Hawkins. “One thing I noticed very early is Tianna’s very coachable. Sometimes that’s a word that’s used very loosely, but it’s rare when you have a player where you can tell them something one time and they get it and the next time they go out, they execute it. In that respect, her basketball IQ is very high. As a teammate, when you know it’s going to happen, it makes everything so much easier. In the past I’ve had rookies where you have to remind them 10 times or an entire season.”
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The Storm (1-2) is down one roster position because point guard Sue Bird is rehabilitating from offseason knee surgery. Couple that with All-Star center Lauren Jackson missing the season to rehabilitate from hamstring surgery, and Hawkins is depended upon sooner than expected.
She played 23 minutes in her debut, a 102-69 loss at Los Angeles. Her four quick points in the first half against Tulsa last week helped give Seattle a lead, but the team lost 67-58.
But in between each of Seattle’s three games to open the season, the team had an extensive break. The Storm, which opens a two-game trip against Atlanta (4-1) on Friday, is headed into a stretch of five games in nine days, four on the road.
“I’m a visual learner, so being thrown out there, sometimes it takes me a minute to grasp things,” Hawkins said. “But Camille and Tina, since we play pretty much the same position, they keep me sane. They’re always there to tell me what I can do differently to be more successful. Every veteran on this team has been there to push me.”
Since drafting forward Shekinna Stricklen with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Agler has taken a dual approach to forming a roster to win immediately and also develop players. After two months, he still envisions Hawkins being a lasting piece.
“There’s a lot of new things for her, like terminology. Every program speaks a different language,” Agler said. “But she’s getting a lot better defensively. Her ability to go out and guard people on the perimeter has really improved, and she has great instincts for the ball.
“We’re still going to experiment with playing time. With Tianna, we do have three veteran post players that can play ahead of her at this time because she’s learning. As time goes on, she’ll catch up.”
• Bird will rejoin the team during its stop to play at Connecticut on June 16. Bird had a surgical procedure on her knee in May and will continue rehabilitation through the team in Seattle.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans