Storm's Ashley Robinson returns with some swagger
A year after being the last Storm player to make the roster, 6-foot-4 Ashley Robinson has a new contract and new confidence.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Meet the StormLauren Prochaska
Position: guard/forward. Height: 5-11.
Age: 22, born May 28, 1988, in Plain City, Ohio.
College: Bowling Green State.
Acquired: Signed as a free agent April 22.
Three-points: Two-time MAC Player of Year and tournament MVP ... Made an NCAA Division I record 70 consecutive free throws her senior season, graduating as the school's all-time leading scorer (2,290) ... Dream car is a Range Rover.
Free throws: "Everyone kept reminding me what number I was at and I didn't want all that pressure. It's a cool thing, but when I did miss, it was a sigh of relief because I could feel the pressure of everyone watching. On the road, all the fans behind the basket were extra crazy, trying to mess me up. It was funny."
Freeway: "You hear a lot of jokes growing up in Plain City, but there really is nothing to do. We got a McDonald's when I was in high school and we just got a (second) traffic light. You had to go other places if you wanted to do things. So I'm used to driving on freeways to go to Columbus."
A high pass zips into the post and just as quickly whips outside to a waiting Belinda Snell for a three-pointer.
Heads turn, and there are cheers and high-fives all around for the conduit of it all. Another day, another play for Ashley Robinson.
Quick ball movement isn't a surprise from the Storm center and eight-year WNBA veteran. But there's something different in training camp this season. Passes are crisper. Shots are falling more frequently. And this year Robinson isn't antsy to secure a roster spot after signing a multiyear deal in March.
Although she knows nothing is guaranteed, the contract provided confidence, the swagger of being wooed by multiple teams. That's a first since she was drafted in the second round by Phoenix in 2004.
"It's kind of nice to know that if I had to, I could go play somewhere else and other coaches do see value in my game," said the 6-foot-4 Robinson, who was traded to Seattle from Chicago in 2006.
Robinson acknowledged she took free agency seriously, trying to leverage the best possible contract. At first, she said Seattle's offer didn't measure up.
"I don't think they thought about my going somewhere else," she said.
Coach and player-personnel director Brian Agler eventually negotiated a contract with Robinson's agent in the offseason .
"It never happens like that," she said. Not for Robinson. She was the 11th and final player retained on the Storm roster last season. She earned the job after a battle with her friend, Ashley Walker, Seattle's top 2009 draft pick.
Some questioned that decision, given that Robinson averaged only 1.4 points and 2.3 rebounds as a deep reserve in Seattle.
But Agler put a premium on the chemistry she had built with teammates. And by season's end, Robinson was chanting "Operation Cheerleader!" on the championship podium as the Storm celebrated winning the 2010 WNBA title.
When Robinson was on the bench, she was the Storm's loudest fan.
Walker, trying to work her way back into the WNBA in San Antonio, acknowledged that being cut by Seattle was difficult.
"But we're two very different players," she said of Robinson. "She's a true five (center). ... It came down to what he needed at the time."
Agler made sure Robinson knew she was needed, making her one of the Storm's core players. And he still gives her plenty of attention, taking time after Thursday's practice to develop her shooting.
"Was I surprised other people wanted Ashley? No," Agler said. "She's playing with a lot more confidence. She really understands the game well and has great instincts."
Robinson, 28, arrived about a week before camp opened for individual workouts. She mixed in community-service appearances with the U.S. Army and a modeling gig for designer Anna D during Seattle Fashion Week. But make no mistake, Robinson was ready to play.
"She took the offseason a lot more seriously," said the Storm's Camille Little, who played against Robinson in Israel. "She had a decision that she made within herself that she was going to become a better player. Overseas, she worked on her game and got more comfortable. It shows. She's poised and plays at her speed, not anybody else's."
• Storm guard Tanisha Wright was excused from practice Thursday to tend to a family matter in Pittsburgh. Agler expected her to return to camp this weekend.
• Storm forward Swin Cash is one of four women receiving an honorary doctoral degree from Washington & Jefferson College. Cash, a native of McKeesport, Pa., plans to attend the ceremony Saturday, returning for Sunday's evening practice.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
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