Seattle has the Nos. 1 and 3 overall picks in the WNBA draft, which will air at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. The leading candidates to map the Storm’s future are University of Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B., Connecticut forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd.
It’s fitting that Alisha Valavanis, a native of basketball-crazy Indiana, immersed herself in Seattle’s signature liquids — drip coffee and jogging in the rain — in search of how to lead the Storm back to filling arenas and winning championships.
The first-time general manager and team president spent the winter months formulating a philosophy that’ll have its first visual Thursday.
Seattle has the first and third overall picks in the WNBA draft, which will air at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. The leading candidates to map the Storm’s future are University of Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B., Connecticut forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd.
“This has been an exciting white-board exercise in ‘Where are we? Where are we going? What is the process?’ ” said Valavanis, who replaced Karen Bryant as team president in July. “As aggressively as we’re moving, we’re also trying to be patient, holistic and methodical about our approach. It’s going to take some time to put a championship roster together. But as we go into the draft, it’s feeling like we’re moving in a direction that’s consistent with what we set into motion during the offseason.”
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Valavanis, a former WNBA scout, assumed the general manager’s role in January after coach Brian Agler announced he was taking a similar position with Los Angeles. The Storm ownership group, Force 10 Hoops, split his duties, hiring longtime assistant Jenny Boucek to coach.
Co-owner Lisa Brummel took Valavanis on a Queen Anne coffee-shop tour, talking hoops over different roasts. They agreed that to make the Storm relevant again it needed youth, height and playmakers.
Last year Seattle was 12-22 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2003. The Storm hasn’t won a first-round playoff series since its 2010 championship season. And KeyArena attendance has dipped to lows the franchise hasn’t seen since it was established in 2000.
Valavanis’ first big move was trading forwards Camille Little (a member of the 2010 title team) and Shekinna Stricklen (the team’s No. 2 overall pick in 2012) to Connecticut. Seattle received All-Star guard Renee Montgomery and the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.
The Storm got younger by cutting 10-year veteran Temeka Johnson. Tanisha Wright, the team’s top defender the past 10 years, and nine-year vet Noelle Quinn left via free agency. Valavanis signed three young posts who are at least 6 feet 5.
With the draft, Seattle can add a playmaker. No one knew in January by making the trade with the Sun, however, that the Storm could add two players who fit the on-court philosophy.
Zahui B., a redshirt sophomore, and Loyd, a junior, were eligible to declare early because both turn 22 this calendar year. By doing so last week, one of them or Mosqueda-Lewis will be available with the No. 3 pick.
“That was just luck,” said Valavanis, who also has not ruled out a draft-day trade. “But we’ve still got to maximize our picks, because we’re in a critical building stage for this franchise.”
The successful Storm teams were built on the same fortune. It drafted Australian center Lauren Jackson with the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, then won the inaugural WNBA draft lottery in 2002 to nab point guard Sue Bird at No. 1.
The duo pick-and-rolled their way to two WNBA championships. Boucek wants to run her version of the pick-and-roll, Bird returning but Jackson doubtful after undergoing another right-knee surgery in February.
“It is so difficult to win a championship in the WNBA; you have to have a lot of things go your way,” Boucek said. “It starts with having a certain amount of talent and staying out of their way. … This draft will definitely help us start to reach our overall goal.”