Camille Little became a cornerstone this season. She was the only player to start all 34 games.
Camille Little’s maturation in the WNBA is as visual as her change in footwear, from sneakers to Gucci Boots.
“She’s definitely coming into her own,” veteran post Tina Thompson, 37, said of Little, 27. “She is a young lady now. She’s in a business setting and we have a focus.”
In a Storm season that swung from a 1-7 start to seemingly endless injuries to an opening-round playoff series against Minnesota that was ultimately decided by one point, Little became a cornerstone. She was the only player to start all 34 games.
A former North Carolina standout, Little was a raw second-round pick hardly used in early stops in San Antonio and Atlanta. But she earned attention in Game 3 of Seattle’s first-round exit.
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Little, an undersized 6 feet 2 forward, had 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting in the deciding 73-72 loss at the Target Center.
“I thought Camille had a great year and a lot was asked of her,” Storm point guard Sue Bird said. “She stays within herself and teams know it. They know her spin move and she still gets them on it. Her and Tanisha (Wright), when they play well, our team’s going to do well regardless of anything.”
Normally Bird will harp about needing another piece to the roster in order to improve going forward. At Thursday’s player exit interviews she liked the roster, not the injuries. And many of the Storm players will have to undergo offseason surgeries or rehabilitation in preparation for a possible return.
Center Lauren Jackson is returning to her native Australia to have her lower back and other aliments evaluated.
Wright plans to skip overseas play to rehabilitate her left knee and Thompson is doing the same after spraining hers in July.
Bird is scheduled to have left hip labrum surgery Friday in Colorado. She had the right repaired in September 2011.
“This is literally like déjà vu because it’s the same exact thing, same exact place and almost the same time,” Bird said. “The best part about it is I know it’s going to be successful. I’m very excited to put the hip stuff in the past because I’ve been dealing with it for a long time.”
Yet Little, as in her entire career, is completely healthy. She’ll play an approximate four-month season in China and is under contract to be with the Storm in 2013.
Moving forward, she appears to have solidified her step into the Storm’s core. Little learned how to be a consistent player, carrying the offensive load overseas. Little already improved her three-point shot from play in Shanghai last year, shooting a career-best 33.3 percent this season.
Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler wants to add another post player to the rotation, however. Thompson is questionable to return despite being under contract because she’s uncertain if her knee will heal enough to be effective next year.
Jackson is certain her play and rehab at home will mean she returns to her 2010 MVP form.
Agler has the sixth pick in the upcoming WNBA draft. He also has an extensive player-reserve list he has to whittle to four by December under league rules. The possible keeps are 2012 third-round draft pick Keisha Hampton (DePaul) or Aussie Olympian Abby Bishop, a member of the Storm’s 2010 title team.
But he can count on Little.
“Sometimes it’s hard when the coach is trying to save players (to) let them heal injuries,” forward Svetlana Abrosimova said. “They’re on the team, but they’re not practicing. So it’s tough to work at practice and then go one court and you have new players come in. But Camille was always there, so you were comfortable all the time.”
For Little, it’s always been about maturing as a player to help her team.
“We struggled all year from so many different standpoints,” said Little, the team’s second-leading scorer (11.3) and rebounder (5.3), excluding Jackson, who missed 25 games.
“If my job was to be the constant, then that’s what I wanted to be,” Little said. “I took the responsibility to lead the way without saying anything. I wanted to make sure I was a presence inside and that it was felt on a regular basis.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.