Storm's Swin Cash overcomes gruesome back injury
A herniated disk in her lower back forced Seattle Storm All-Star Swin Cash to a career-defining time. "I didn't want to have something defeat me," she says.
Seattle Times staff reporter
West @ East, Uncasville, Conn., Saturday, 12:30 p.m.,
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The journey to an All-Star jersey has been so overwhelming, Storm forward Swin Cash had to put the words on paper. The working title to her memoirs is unfathomable in itself: "Walk On."
For nearly 2 ½ years, Cash couldn't walk without being oiled as if playing the part of Tin Woman in her own Broadway show. She was hampered by a herniated disk in her lower back, which she suffered when her former team, the Detroit Shock, won a second WNBA championship in 2006.
As the disk shifted and inflamed, her game deteriorated.
But Cash didn't utter a word publicly.
A deeply religious person, she leaned on her faith and walked on.
Until winter 2008. Cash returned from play in Czech Republic and was told by doctors that she'd have to take a substantial break from basketball in the hopes of healing her back. Or she could have surgery — which also offered no guarantees.
"I didn't want to have something defeat me," said Cash of why she hesitated. "But I was having problems and I knew if I was better I could help the team so much more. I didn't want to stop playing and hope it got better. I didn't want to go into that same cycle again."
It would be enough if the story stopped there:
• Cash, a 6-foot-1 wing, undergoing successful surgery;
• Cash traveling to Kansas to have her former college strength and conditioning coach train her back to her former self;
• Cash, five months removed from outpatient surgery, being voted an All-Star starter by fans while helping to lead Seattle (11-6) to second place in the West;
• Cash, smiling while she floats through a crowd of courtside season-ticket holders at the Space Needle on Tuesday because she's healthy.
"She's playing like she did when we drafted her," said former Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer, who selected Cash third overall in 2002.
But with Cash, 29, there's always another layer.
Renee Brown, WNBA vice president of player personnel, called Cash immediately when Brown injured her back while exercising on an elliptical trainer.
"I can't imagine playing in the pain I had, and mine was not even at her level," Brown said. "I stopped everything. This shows her commitment to the game."
And try adding family turmoil to the physical grief. As Cash rehabilitated her back in various spots across the country, she also dealt with her brother, Kevin Menifee, was allegedly beaten by police.
Bedridden because of the surgery, Cash used the social networking site Twitter to release her frustration, stating the McKeesport (Pa.) police caused a broken nose and swollen face. Menifee's case will be heard in August.
Cash was dealt another blow during Storm training camp in May when a cousin was murdered. She contemplated whether she should attend the funeral. Close to getting her back fully rehabilitated, her family encouraged her to focus on basketball.
"I come from a place where it's reality," said Cash of her hometown. "Being raised as a survivor is part of my DNA. I don't look for sympathy, because it's never been that way."
By the time Seattle traveled to Minnesota to play the Lynx, Cash was ready to start again. She scored 15 points and had five rebounds in the Storm's 88-71 win. Cash is averaging 12.2 points and 5.9 rebounds, her best numbers since 2004.
There's no question, however, that Cash is aided by being on the same team with point guard Sue Bird, who was her college roommate at Connecticut. Bird, a six-time All-Star, knows Cash's tendencies.
The duo and Storm forward Lauren Jackson, a seven-time All-Star, will represent Seattle as the organization's first trio to play in the midseason showcase. Cash and Bird also are part of five former UConn Huskies named 2009 All-Stars.
"It can really weigh on you — especially when it's not allowing you to play the way you want," Bird said of Cash's back injury. "With that come the critics. You almost want to scream at them, 'I'm injured! I'm doing my best!' "
Only screaming isn't Cash's style — unless it's after a sweet baseline drive or to get her team hyped. She'd rather walk on and leave a trail of accomplishments behind her that are just beginning again with her second All-Star nod.
"I look at this as a step in the right direction," said Cash, who the WNBA plans to have tweet during the game Saturday (look for @SwinCash). "So many things have happened for so long to me, it's like if I stay faithful, eventually going through all these storms? It's going to pass and that rainbow is going to come. You're going to see that light."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 7:10 PM
Storm re-signs Swin Cash to multiyear deal
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