Camille Little has filled gap in the middle for Storm
Storm center Camille Little has been a big contributor since coming to Seattle in a 2008 trade with Atlanta.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Atlanta @ Storm, noon, Ch. 4
The door was cracked just enough to hear Camille Little's voice reverberate down the hall of the Storm's training facility at Royal Brougham gym.
She screamed for hustle, congratulated effort and made sure the free agents knew what Storm basketball was about on those damp May mornings. It was a championship tone Little established while the other starters completed seasons elsewhere.
Now she is taking on a quieter role, with the Storm's All-Stars shining, but her early work is paying off. And Little is doing what's needed to help top-seeded Seattle advance to its first WNBA Finals since winning the championship in 2004. Game 1 of the best-of-five series against Eastern Conference winner Atlanta is Sunday at KeyArena.
"Camille, by far, was the best player in training camp," Storm center Ashley Robinson said. "She was a vet in training camp, but she was one of the ones that knew she was going to be here, so she started working as soon as she got to Seattle to be in the position she is in."
That was actually in June 2008 — ironically, from Atlanta.
Playing its inaugural season two years ago, the Dream was in the midst of a 13-game losing streak in what became a 4-30 season. Little, an overlooked second-round draft pick in 2007, was caught in a logjam of post players and averaged just 17 minutes as a reserve on a roster full of role players.
"It was difficult. I never lost that many games — ever," said Little, who advanced to the Final Four twice with North Carolina. "But everything was difficult because it was a new team and they hadn't done any of this before."
But Storm coach Brian Agler knew Little was a gem. He helped developed her game while an assistant at San Antonio her rookie season.
"She sort of got lost in the shuffle, basically," said Agler, who traded Seattle's 2009 second-round draft pick to Atlanta for Little. "It wasn't the right fit for her at that time."
Dream coach Marynell Meadors agreed.
"I knew Camille was going to be a big part of somebody's team. She's just that kind of player — a complementary player to what Brian is trying to do," said Meadors. "I knew he would see that she got playing time, and she worked herself into a great situation in Seattle."
Agler and Little met for dinner upon her arrival, speaking of a key role as a reserve and competition for a starting position, possibly playing alongside Jackson, a three-time MVP, at center. But twice, Jackson's seasons were lost to injury and post player Janell Burse opted not to return this year, cementing Little into the starting rotation as the youngest (25) and least experienced.
No matter. In 2008, as Jackson rehabilitated from ankle surgery, Little averaged 12.2 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 5.6 rebounds in 12 games as a replacement. Last season, Little nailed the winning shot in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against Los Angeles, but the Storm still lost the series.
This season, including the playoffs, Little is the championship piece Seattle wanted to help a healthy Jackson. Using her deceptive quickness, Little averaged 2.6 steals to boost the Storm's 6-1 start.
During the playoffs, she's averaging 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, and was a key in the 15-0 run Seattle used in the final three minutes to win Game 2 against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals. Little had two steals, two defensive rebounds and scored four points during that surge.
"Right from the word go, when Camille was brought here, she made a huge impact," said Jackson, who has been double-teamed even without the ball during the postseason. "When we lost Kamila (Vodichkova in 2005), we've sort of had a hole in that center position. Even with JB in there, we just didn't have that toughness that Camille brings."
Vodichkova was the unsung hero on the 2004 title team, a role Little would fill happily this year.
"I just want a ring," she said. "I don't care what I have to do."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
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