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Originally published Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Janell Burse standing tall in return to Storm

Aside from driving the wrong way down Fifth Avenue for nearly a block this weekend, Storm veteran Janell Burse has made a comfortable return...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Aside from driving the wrong way down Fifth Avenue for nearly a block this weekend, Storm veteran Janell Burse has made a comfortable return to Seattle.

The 6-foot-5 center re-signed with the team in February following a one-year WNBA hiatus to rest nagging injuries in her foot and shoulder and heal a surgically repaired wrist. After taking last summer off, Burse played in Russia and wasn't bothered by her shoulder or foot.

While the first extended rest in about eight years of year-round play fared well for her body, Burse had qualms about missing the WNBA season.

"Around July, I regretted my decision about not playing because I was working out and feeling great," said Burse, who spent the 2008 season in Houston and Slidell, La. "I was like, 'Aw, this sucks that I can't go back and get on the court in Seattle.' "

The Storm suspended Burse's contract to free salary-cap space. That prevented Burse from returning to the league.

Back in a Storm jersey Monday for the second day of training camp, Burse noticed a lot of changes to the franchise she has been with since 2004. She was surrounded by unfamiliar faces, new ownership and a different system under coach Brian Agler.

"There's more freedom," said Burse, who averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 29 games in 2007. "You don't want to just stand in one place and be easy to guard, so I like the new system."

And Burse has picked up some new skills to help her excel within the offense. Burse showed off better passing ability in practice Monday, and Storm teammate Sue Bird noticed Burse's improved shooting range while playing against her Dynamo Moscow team in Russia.

It was Burse's first stint playing in Russia; she chose to play there because of the noted physical play in the country, wanting to test her shoulder against opponents that she'd face in the WNBA.

"Her range is much further back now," said Bird of Burse, who was named to the EuroCup's second team. "She's consistently hitting jump shots, whether it's pick-and-pops or facing people up. As a post player, that's a huge advantage."

Because Suzy Batkovic (wedding) isn't expected to join the Storm until at least June 7, missing the first two games of the regular season, Agler said "Janell probably has a starting spot to lose."

After playing behind Kamila Vodichkova during Seattle's 2004 championship run, Burse in 2005 became the starter inside under former coach Anne Donovan.

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"She's penciled in right there, and I hope it plays out that way because I like what she can give to the team," Agler said of Burse. "I know when she's playing well, good things can happen."

Regardless, Burse is just happy to be playing for the Storm.

"You don't really realize how much you miss something until you're away from it," she said. "Then [when] you go back to it, you realize it was awesome."

Notes

• Forward Swin Cash, who had back surgery in March, reported on her Twitter account that she received clearance Monday from her surgeon to participate in the Storm's season. She is expected in Seattle today.

• Guard Tanisha Wright completed play in France on Sunday and is expected to join the Storm later this week.

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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