Alysha Clark knows a lot about winning.
During her eight-year professional woman’s basketball career, the 31-year-old Denver, Colo., native who grew up in Mount Juliet, Tenn., has collected six championships in four different countries.
Her most recent triumph, a French League Championship two weeks ago, preceded a return to Seattle where she was an integral member of the Storm’s WNBA championship run last year.
“I haven’t had much time to process all of it because in France I literally had to leave right after we won it,” Clark said. “After the game we went out to a restaurant dinner, drinks and celebrating, and I had to leave from there to go to the airport and fly here.
“It’s been crazy. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s actually really cool. I’m thankful and I’m blessed for this journey that I’m on. … My success is very much tied into my faith and the growth that I’ve had in my walk with God.”
After missing training camp and two exhibitions, Clark needed to ease into the WNBA season and sat out three of the first four games.
The 5-foot-11 forward returned to the starting lineup Tuesday and helped the Storm to an 84-77 win over Minnesota with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field, two three-pointers, five rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes.
“The thing with AC is her game is becoming so consistent and she does so much when she’s out there,” said Storm backup guard Sami Whitcomb who lost 3-2 in the best-of-five series to Clark’s team in the French League Championships. “She leads our defense. She rebounds (and get) steals, plus all the blue-collar stuff.
“She’s a timely player. She’ll hit timely shots when we need her to. She steadies the ship. She can post up and she’s got her pullup game. She can knock down open threes, but it comes back to defense. … She’s one of the best in the league.”
For the first time in her WNBA career, Clark set a goal to earn all-league defensive honors and was disappointed when she wasn’t selected to the first or second team.
“I have no control over votes,” she said. “But I think I’ve garnered the respect from players in the league and coaches in the league who know I’m one of the better defenders in this league whether or not I was voted on the (all-defensive team) or not.
“I was proud to be that leader for this team. I took pride in it. I focused on it and made it a goal.”
The Storm (3-2), which makes a second trip to Chicago for Sunday’s 3 p.m. game, didn’t have Clark during its 83-79 defeat against the Sky last week.
This time interim coach Gary Kloppenburg plans to assign Seattle’s defensive stopper the task of slowing down the Sky’s top two scorers Diamond DeShields and Allie Quigley, who had 25 and 21 points respectively in their last outing against the Storm.
“I thought last year AC should have been in the running for best defensive player,” Kloppenbur said. “She’s fundamentally sound and she’s always prepared. She does a lot of extra homework on everybody that she knows that she’s going to guard.
“She really knows their tendencies and knows their strength, so she’s always locked in on whoever we put her on. In this Chicago game, she’ll probably be guarding 2-3 people. She can probably guard everybody on the court 1-5 if we needed her to because she’s one of the best defenders in this league.”
It hadn’t always been that way.
The former Middle Tennessee State star led the NCAA in scoring as junior and senior while averaging 27.5 points in 2008-09 and 28.3 in 2009-10.
Clark was the No. 17 overall pick taken in the second round by the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2010, but it took her two years before she found a home in the WNBA.
The Storm invited her to training camp in 2012, and she won a spot on the roster as a backup behind Tanisha Wright. After two years as a reserve, Clark moved into the starting lineup where she has resided since 2014.
“I learned from some of the best players little nuances on what to do and how to be the dictator on defense,” sad Clark, who referred to former Storm teammates Wright, Tina Thompson and Katie Smith as mentors. “They were some of the best in the league to ever do it, and I had five years of just learning from them
“Once they were gone, then I was put in the position to take everything I got from them and use it when I’m out there.”
Without injured stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, the Storm will need more scoring than ever from Clark, who averaged a career best 9.0 points in 2016.
“I want to continue to be the best player that I can be,” Clark said. “I say it every year, but every year want to come back and be better than I was last year. I want to have something else developed that wasn’t there last year. I never want to get complacent.”
Clark, who started a toy drive four years ago and was awarded the WNBA Cares Community Assist award last July for her work with kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has also become a mainstay in the Seattle community with her charitable acts.
“I want to continue to grow in my activities in the community and what I’m doing with hospitals so that when I do walk away from the game I still have that to where I can make an impact on lives,” Clark said. “That for me is most important. At the end of the day, it’s about impacting lives while I’m on this stage.”