The Storm selected Jasmine Thomas, a guard from Duke, with the 12th pick of the WNBA draft on Monday. There are rumors the Storm is working on a trade that would bring veteran guard Katie Smith to the team.
For the second consecutive year, the Storm selected a guard with its first pick in the WNBA draft. But she might not be the one fans will be buzzing about when training camp opens May 15.
Coach Brian Agler, also the team’s director of player personnel, tabbed Duke leader Jasmine Thomas with the 12th overall pick. But during the Monday afternoon draft, news broke that 12-year WNBA veteran Katie Smith could be traded to Seattle from Washington.
Smith won two championships with Storm All-Star Swin Cash for the defunct Detroit Shock and another title in the disbanded ABL with Agler. Smith, a 5-foot-11 combo guard who will be 37 in June, also played for Storm assistant coach Nancy Darsch at Ohio State, winning the Big Ten championship in 1993.
The Storm would have to swap a significant piece of its roster in order for the deal to be completed under the $852,000 salary cap. Agler signed Cash and Camille Little to long-term contracts this offseason expected to be worth at least $101,000, while stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson are playing for the max ($103,500). Reserve Le’coe Willingham was signed to a hefty multiyear deal in 2010.
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Although a source confirmed a sign-and-trade deal was being negotiated to secure Smith, Agler would only say the defending WNBA champions are committed to “getting better.”
“Katie could make any team in this league better, she’s that kind of player,” Agler said of Smith, who helped Washington win the regular-season Eastern Conference title in 2010 but was upset by Atlanta in the opening round of the playoffs. “She’s played for me in the past and she’s one of the best.”
The Storm has sought a quality backup for Bird since Tully Bevilaqua left for Indiana as a free agent following Seattle’s 2004 WNBA title.
Thomas, at 5 feet 9, will be another to attempt to fulfill the role. She averaged 15 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists for Duke this season.
“There’s always a need for a certain type of point guard or for a point guard to do certain things and I adjust to certain situations and whatever is needed from me, I can work on and be good at,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird kill it forever and I had a chance to play with Swin (through USA Basketball). What a team to be drafted to and learn from.”
Last year, Agler selected Iowa State point guard Alison Lacey with the 10th overall pick, but the native Australian opted to skip the 2011 season in order to try out for her national team.
Lacey was disgruntled after averaging less than 7 minutes in 21 regular-season games, and playing just one minute during the undefeated playoff run.
“(Jasmine’s) reputation is being a very good athlete and exceptional defender, but she shoots the ball from the three-point line very well,” said Agler, who hasn’t retained a draft pick beyond their rookie season since arriving in Seattle in 2008. “We’re definitely looking for somebody that can stick on the roster and keep developing.”
Thomas isn’t the only Duke player on the Storm’s training-camp roster. Agler signed former Duke player Bridgette Mitchell, a free agent playing in France, and drafted Krystal Thomas, a 6-5 center, with the 36th overall (third round) pick on Monday.
Arizona standout Ify Ibekwe, a 6-2 forward, was the team’s second-round selection. Ibekwe is a raw, athletic player who was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year last season.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com