After success in Australia, she has decided to take a second shot at making the WNBA and is in Seattle’s training camp.
After six years of setbacks and success, Sami Whitcomb knows it’s impossible to predict how this homecoming and her second try to make the WNBA will play out.
For now, it’s enough that she has been invited to the Storm training camp as a free agent — a move that returns her to Seattle, where she was a standout for the Washington Huskies.
“I’ve really enjoyed my path in getting back here,” Whitcomb said in advance of the Storm’s exhibition opener at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday against the Phoenix Mercury at KeyArena.
“This isn’t how I planned for my career, but I wouldn’t do anything different. It’s been really special.”
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Whitcomb is a 28-year-old rookie with a deadly jump shot, five years of international basketball experience and a fair amount of confidence that this time she’ll buck the odds and win a WNBA roster spot.
“It was very much come to training camp and show us what you have and we’ll go from there,” Whitcomb said. “That was as much as I could ask for, and I’m thrilled just for that chance.”
Whitcomb doesn’t need to be here. Not really.
In her words, she’s “built a beautiful life” in Australia where she is a star with the Perth Lynx in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).
The Ventura, Calif., native is building a house in Perth with her partner. Later this year, Whitcomb plans to test for citizenship and will try out for the Australian national team Opals.
“Australia is my home now,” she said with a hint of an Aussie accent. “I feel like a bit of a foreigner (in Seattle). But it’s really exciting. I love that I get to be here. So much has changed since I left.”
She has enjoyed watching from afar the Huskies’ rise to national prominence.
“Gosh, it’s been amazing to see it,” said Whitcomb, who played in one NCAA tournament as a freshman in 2007. “I spent about a month or two with (Kevin) McGuff and coach (Mike) Neighbors when they first came in. I knew straight away that they were going to turn things around.”
Whitcomb, a 5-foot-10 guard who wore No. 32 at Washington, starred her final three seasons. Those were lean years under coach Tia Jackson in which the team had a 34-58 record from 2007 to 2010.
As a senior, Whitcomb led the Huskies in points (13.0), rebounds (5.6) and assists (2.5), but went undrafted in 2010.
She gave up on a professional career after being cut by the Chicago Sky in training camp. Whitcomb returned to UW and took a job as a video coordinator on Jackson’s staff.
When Jackson was fired in 2011, Whitcomb resumed her playing career.
She played two seasons (2011-13) for the ChemCats Chemnitz in Germany and spent the 2013-14 season in Slovakia, where she averaged 15.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.9 steals.
But Whitcomb became a star in Australia.
Last season, she set a WNBL record with 652 points in 27 games. She averaged 24.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, while breaking her league record with 105 three-pointers.
“Playing for the WNBL in Australia, that was really a huge opportunity for me,” Whitcomb said. “Some amazing players in that league. There were WNBA players in there as well.
“For me to be able to get to there and have a little bit of success, it helped me with confidence. It forced me to grow and made me mature into a professional on and off the court.”
Whitcomb, who dropped 30 pounds and is down to 145, credits a commitment to fitness and dieting for her development.
But her three-point prowess put the sharpshooter on the Storm’s radar.
“She’s someone who can shoot the three, and we’re a team that shoots the three,” said coach Jenny Boucek, noting the Storm averaged 20.2 three-point attempts last season to rank second in the WNBA. “On paper, you can see the fit. Now we just have to see how it all plays out.”
Seattle returns nine players from a squad that finished seventh at 16-18 last season. Other training-camp free agents include point guard Jennifer O’Neill and center Nikki Greene.
In addition, the Storm traded for center Carolyn Swords and drafted guard Alexis Peterson and center Lanay Montgomery.
Considering Seattle’s 12-player roster will be finalized after Sunday’s exhibition in Phoenix, Whitcomb knows she’ll have just a few chances to make an impression.
“I have to stand out,” she said. “I have to bring something for them. Obviously, they have a lot of fantastic pieces. They have their stars. I think they need those blue-collar players that come off the bench and might only get two minutes, but contributes and does something even if it’s just the intangibles.”
• Guard Sue Bird, who underwent a left-knee scope in April, will not play in Wednesday’s exhibition against Phoenix. The Storm is also missing third-year forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who is playing in France.