Playing a WNBA exhibition game on a college campus is nothing new. Not collecting any of the proceeds is a first. The Storm plays its exhibition...
Playing a WNBA exhibition game on a college campus is nothing new.
Not collecting any of the proceeds is a first.
The Storm plays its exhibition opener against Los Angeles on Sunday at Long Beach State’s Pyramid. All of the money from ticket sales will be donated to the 49ers women’s basketball program.
“We want to help them to continue to raise money for scholarships and anything they need in the future,” said Sparks general manager Penny Toler, who led Long Beach State to two NCAA Final Four appearances in the 1980s. “Aren’t you a little sick of the men’s team always getting everything? If we (women) don’t help ourselves, who’s going to do it?”
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The game will feel like everything but charity. The teams are evaluating talent for the upcoming season. Rosters must be trimmed to 11 by May 23.
Los Angeles has the benefit of returning the majority of its roster, including Rookie of the Year Nneka Ogwumike, Most Improved Player Kristi Toliver and 2012 Coach of the Year Carol Ross.
Seattle? Well, Doppler is still the mascot. Otherwise the lineup is revamped with just two starters returning because of injuries to Sue Bird (knee) and Lauren Jackson (hamstring) and veteran Katie Smith signing a free-agent contract to play in New York.
Sunday will be Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler’s first chance to see free-agent signee Temeka Johnson play with Tanisha Wright as the new backcourt duo. Johnson, a 5-foot-3 point guard, won a WNBA championship with Phoenix in 2009.
“She’s got a lot of toughness to her,” Agler said of the nine-year veteran. “She’s grown up in the game being somewhat undersized, so she’s learned how to really be a great player in that kind of stature. She brings a lot of tenacity to our team, shoots the ball well and doesn’t get taken advantage of defensively.”
Agler stopped at comparing how the system would look with Johnson versus Bird.
“I don’t think that’s fair to either one of them,” he said. “Temeka is our point guard right now.”
In addition to the rosters, both teams will experience the new WNBA rules in a game setting. The league implemented a defensive three-second rule where, similar to the offense, opponents can’t be in the paint to defend longer than three seconds.
The league also moved the three-point line back to be in sync with international competition. And players will be awarded a warning then a technical for flopping to draw fouls.
The three-second rule is the trickiest for WNBA players to grasp.
“I’m always helping weakside, so it’s hard,” seventh-year forward Camille Little said. “Second nature is to stand in the lane. Hopefully sooner than later, I’ll get it. (Now defending) depends on a lot of things — who has the ball, who’s defending the ball, do you want to help that person, who you’re guarding. We just have to go through it … not just us, but every team in the league.”
Regardless of changes, Little doesn’t want it to alter the Storm’s standard of competing.
“I just want to see what we’ve been doing every day to show,” Little said of the first week in training camp. “I don’t want to get there and everything be a big mess. I want us to take advantage of the game and really use what we’ve learned.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org