Reporters had an opportunity to talk to each of the players in training camp. Seattle hosts Phoenix in an exhibition opener Tuesday.
There were a lot of introductions on Saturday as the Storm held its annual media day. The team features six rookies and only two players — Sue Bird and Alysha Clark — who’ve been with the organization more than three seasons. The shared newness made the day’s schedule colorful as the newbies gushed at their new uniforms and made the rounds for photos and filming for in-arena skits.
Here are some stories shared from the player interviews:
STOP CRYING: Apparently Clark took the offseason trades the hardest. She was playing in Israel, leading Maccabi Ashdod to its second straight Israeli league title.
The first transaction back in Seattle was coach Brian Agler leaving, he gave Clark a shot as a training-camp invitee in 2012 and was patient with her development to now being a roster staple. Next came the trades of Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen to Connecticut — Little was a teammate of Clark’s in Israel. Then Tanisha Wright, Temeka Johnson, and Noelle Quinn left via free agency and Lauren Jackson notified teammates she wouldn’t return due to injury. Clark played one season with Jackson.
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“I bawled after every one that I heard,” Clark said. “When I found out about Milli and Strick, I cried. I was out to eat with Camille when I heard about Tanisha and I went into the bathroom and cried. Then when Meek told me, I was like, ‘I can’t handle this!'”
Clark added that she knows the WNBA is a business and the transactions were a possibility, “but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
“You build a family,” she continued. “They were like, ‘Please don’t cry, you’re going to make me cry.’ But when I say uncontrollably crying, it was bawling. I was so sad on Skype with them, I said I’d just call them later.”
The moves immediately put Clark, a 5-foot-10 forward, in a different position to open camp. At 27-years-old, she’s one of the older players, not the youngest. And Clark’s being looked at as a leader with Bird, possibly becoming a full-time starter. Clark averaged 16.5 minutes per game last season.
“It’s weird,” said Clark, who averaged 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, making 22 starts. “Not a bad weird, it’s just something different that I never expected. I don’t think it’s hit me.”
SEEING GREEN: The trade of Stricklen and Little to the Connecticut Sun brought to Seattle guard Renee Montgomery and forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (the No. 3 draft pick included in the deal before anyone knew early draft entries Jewell Loyd and Amanda Zahui B. would slide the golden three-point shooter’s stock down.) Both University of Connecticut alums were happy about the deal, Montgomery looking for a fresh start.
“I’ve been in Connecticut for nine of the last 10 years of my life,” Montgomery said. “To go all the way to the West, it’s exciting. Not just for me, too, this whole team is starting fresh so it’s kind of like we’re all doing it together.”
With the change, Montgomery said the Storm’s green and gold road jersey is the first time she’s worn green, even when it comes to street clothes. The Sun’s colors are a mix of reddish-orange, yellow and blue. UConn’s are blue, white and red.
“This might be my only green thing, so I’m gonna have to get more green, first of all,” said Montgomery, a six-year vet. “But does anybody have any thoughts about how I look in the green?”
She was told it highlights her eyes. “Aw, thank-you,” Montgomery said, posing and flexing as she left the media area.
THAT TIME WHEN I BEAT YOU: Mosqueda-Lewis and Loyd are good friends, rooming together through USA Basketball prior to starting college careers at UConn and Notre Dame, respectively. They faced each other in the NCAA championship game on April 7 and were made Storm teammates on April 16, Loyd selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft.
The quick turnaround from rivals to teammates brought the question of whether there were any awkward moments.
“I felt great,” said Mosqueda-Lewis with a laugh. UConn won the championship, 63-53, behind her team-high-tying 15 points. She helped limit Loyd to 4-for-18 shooting from the field for 12 points. Loyd averaged 19.8 points per game overall as a senior.
“There really wasn’t anything between us that was bad when we got here,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “We were excited to finally be able to play with each other instead of having to play against each other. I got sick and tired of guarding her. But Jewell was happy before the (NCAA) game, she was happy after the game. She was fine.”
MUSICAL BACKUP: Training-camp invitee Kristen Mann, 31, may be in the twilight of her basketball career, but she’s already established a second career in music. She’s the guitarist/singer/songwriter for Sapphica with her good friend Gabriel Mann (no relation), a filmmaker.
“Music is definitely something that I’m passionate about,” Kristen said. “I really want to focus on basketball while I still can, my clock is ticking here. I’m trying to play as much as possible. I can do music forever, it’s timeless.”
A recent project was an elaborate music video for the track “Ready,” shot like a short film. It’s graphic and gory with a disturbing ending.
“I had a blast shooting it,” said Kristen, who’s spent the past five years only playing overseas to give herself a break from year-round play. “It took almost all summer to do because, obviously, we were on a low budget. A lot of it came out of our own pockets but we got really creative with what we had to work with.
“The real graphic stuff was Halloween makeup. We hired a makeup artist for some scenes. Other stuff, we’re like it’s a music video, it doesn’t need to be super high-tech and fancy. So, we just went to Halloween store, picked out some gory stuff and splattered that fake red blood every where and it worked out.”
NUMBER CHANGE: Forward Ramu Tokashiki ran into a snag when selecting a jersey number to begin her WNBA career. She was No. 10 in her native Japanese pro league and No. 15 prior to that. In Seattle, those numbers are synonymous with Bird and Jackson. Tokashiki, nicknamed “Tock,” went with No. 7 because it’s synonymous with good luck.
Guard Jazmine Davis wore No. 32 as she helped lead Washington to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007. That’s Clark’s number on the Storm roster. Davis went with No. 30.
“It was the number I was in high school, coming into college Kassia Fortier had it, so now I’m back to 30,” said Davis, who’s settled into camp after a jittery first practice last week. “I just feel like I’m growing every day, learning something new about being a guard every day.”
GAME PLAN: Storm coach Jenny Boucek and her staff haven’t reached the stage where they’ve figured out starters and rotations for Tuesday’s exhibition against Phoenix at KeyArena. The team has embraced the rebuild, Loyd being the centerpiece for the future.
“Usually (the game) is a combination of trying to get your rotation ready for the season, combined with trying to evaluate,” Boucek said. “The truth usually reveals itself. Things emerge and people separate, but you can’t force it. It happens in time, it always does, and when they do, we’ll make decisions.”
QUICK HITS: Loyd is a new member of Nike, which explains her tweet featuring a graphic of her nickname, “Gold Mamba,” with the Kobe Bryant logo and the words “Volume 1.” The company announced a plan to launch this fall new basketball apparel designed by women for women…Storm forward Abby Bishop returned to practice after suffering a right calf injury. She said it’s a first and the team wants to be cautious. “She’s a big part of our plan here,” Boucek said…Be sure to read Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone’s piece about second-round draft pick Vicky McIntyre.