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Originally published Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 8:07 PM

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Storm core together at training camp, ready for title defense

After the complete Storm core practiced together Tuesday, Seattle looks like an even more versatile team in 2011.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Meet the Storm

Ify Ibekwe

Position: Wing. Height: 6-2.

Age: 21, born Oct. 5, 1989 in Los Angeles.

College: Arizona.

Acquired: Drafted in the second round (24th overall) by the Storm in April.

Hometown: Carson, Calif.

Three-points:

• Has two brothers and one sister who played college hoops, brother Ekene suiting up for the Toronto Raptors (2009) and Portland Trailblazers (2010) summer league teams.

• Averaged a career-double for Arizona and is a two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

• Name, Ifunanya, means "God's love."

Art of rebounding: "In college, they put me wherever because I'm not a post and I'm not a guard, yet. Just being taller than most guards, it was easy to get a lot of rebounds. Being more athletic than most posts, it was easier. It's the timing of the ball. That's one of my strengths. But it's something that I can get better at."

Body art: Ibekwe wears white tape on her left wrist with "AO1" marked in ink. She also has a small tattoo of a star on the hand and a cross behind her right ear. "It stands for Audience of One. My only audience that I play for is God. ... I was in high school and just got (the star). I love stars and bows."

Jayda Evans

quotes Man, this is going to be a great team again! Read more
quotes Get it done ladies. Read more
quotes Nice! This sounds great! Go Storm! Read more

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If Swin Cash could get a moment, there's a flick she'd like to see: "Bridesmaids."

A whirlwind, so-called "offseason" included her being her mother's maid-of-honor. After an approximate year of planning for the May 1 ceremony, surely the movie will provide some needed laughs.

"She was a beautiful bride," said Cash, whose mother raised her as a single-parent. "We brought in a wedding coordinator, but my mother is so detailed I was still (making arrangements) and was like, 'What did we hire this lady for?' It was stressful. If it was anyone else besides my mom; I'd rather not be maid-of-honor ever again in my life. But it was my mother, so I had a really great time."

The wedding was after playing a season in China, representing the WNBA at the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, helping Team USA win gold at the FIBA World Championships in Czech Republic and before a three-day training camp in Las Vegas with the national team. So, when Storm coach Brian Agler said he was going to give Cash and Sue Bird a two-day breather before they had to join WNBA training-camp, Cash was thankful.

"I needed my time down and I took it for the mental and my body," she said.

Both All-Stars practiced Tuesday, completing the reunion of Agler's six core players that have been on the roster since he was hired in 2008. The continuity allowed the staff to play a lot of five-on-five against the male practice squad, challenging the players to pick up schemes during live action.

"Sue's in a class of her own," said Agler, who had returnee Tanisha Wright and trade acquisition Katie Smith run the point in Bird's absence. "She's an exceptional point guard. When you add her to the team, you see your execution improve, and when you add Swin to the team, you see your intensity improve."

In addition to intensity, Cash said she displayed some new skills learned while playing overseas.

The three-point line in China is about a foot further back than in America, a change after Cash shot a career-high 50 percent from the range during the WNBA playoffs. Cash also worked on a midrange game, averaging 13.8 points and 6.0 rebounds last year for Seattle.

"I understood what I did last year, but people are going to study us," said Cash, a three-time WNBA champion. "That's what I was telling 'T' (Tanisha Wright), that it's important that we compete hard here and strive for perfection here so that we're prepared for it — those little breakdowns, when they make a run, or T and I making threes last year and them taking it away from us. What's our next thing? That's how teams are successful and get back to winning multiple championships."

Bird and Cash were impressed with the newcomers, Cash noting jokes from outsiders that it doesn't matter who Agler retains on the eventual 11-player roster because they won't play. Rookie Alison Lacey, a star at Iowa State, and Australian Abby Bishop had that trouble last season.

But the current players said a post was needed and the possible final slot could go to either an inside or outside player. Agler, who's also director of player personnel, plans to make more roster decisions this weekend. He'd like to get close to his final roster when Seattle travels for its first exhibition game in Los Angeles on May 25.

One thing is certain, however. After the complete core practiced together Tuesday, Seattle is even more versatile. Agler had center Camille Little work on her three-point shooting while playing in Israel and at camp, she's played Cash's small forward position along with post Le'Coe Willingham.

"We're a very versatile team, you know Brian loves that," Bird said.

"I think you're going to see a lot of different combinations this year from both guards and post players. Not me. You know where I'll be."

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

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