Shekinna Stricklen averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in the Storm's post-Olympic seven-game homestand.
“Don’t be invisible,” Storm forward Camille Little told Shekinna Stricklen after practice Wednesday.
It was a rough stretch of practices for the No. 2 overall draft pick. There were the glares from point guard Sue Bird. The stern talks from guard Tanisha Wright. Then the remark by Little.
“They still pick on me at times because I really don’t talk much,” Stricklen said. “They’re trying to get me to talk a lot more, especially on the court. I’m getting there.”
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Stricklen’s game has hardly been quiet since the WNBA resumed play after the Olympic Games. A 6-foot-2 wing, Stricklen averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in the Storm’s post-Olympic seven-game homestand.
Seattle (12-14) begins a four-game trip Saturday against Tulsa (6-21). The Storm’s magic number to advance to a WNBA-record ninth consecutive playoff appearance is two.
“Strick has gotten better, and it’s very obvious,” Wright said. “She’s gotten more comfortable with the system and what (coach) Brian (Agler) wants. She’s been shooting the ball, handling the ball well and doing some nice things defensively. That’s something we’re going to need her to do if we’re going to be successful. But you can tell from the first half of the season to now, she’s way more comfortable.”
Thursday’s home game against Tulsa was a highlight. Stricklen entered the game early due to Katie Smith drawing two quick fouls. The rookie made a three-pointer late in the quarter, her first of a season-high four in the 101-74 victory.
Stricklen finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three steals to lead the Storm’s strongest bench play of the summer. Reserves Tina Thompson had 11 points while Svetlana Abrosimova finished with six rebounds.
Getting acclimated to the WNBA obviously was an obstacle for Stricklen. An Arkansas native, the only things she knew about Seattle were that it rains and Bird plays here.
Then there was the stargazing. The WNBA’s elite fill the Storm’s roster, many whom Stricklen dreamed of playing with as she starred at Tennessee. Reality hit hard, however, when the veterans began to hone her into playing on their level.
“It’s so she stays on top of her game,” Wright said. “I’m not pounding her. It’s just a nice kick in the butt when she needs it. But it’s also encouragement and praise when she does the right thing. From a veteran, that’s the one thing that can really elevate your game.”
Los Angeles rookie Nnemkadi Ogwumike is the front-runner for the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year award. She averages 13.3 points and 7.4 boards this season. But since the Olympic break, former Tennessee teammate Glory Johnson leads all rookies with 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. And Stricklen is in step with both.
“It’s been the best rookie year,” she said. “To have a lot of veterans to teach me and be patient with me — it’s the best thing.”
• Seattle’s game at Indiana on Wednesday will not be televised by ESPN2. Instead Connecticut at Phoenix will air on the network, and the Storm’s game was moved to NBA-TV.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans