Storm rookie can thank father for WNBA shot
Ify Ibekwe's face lights up with the thought. The Storm rookie will be able to honor her dad on Father's Day by playing the game he pushed her to pursue.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Storm @ L.A. Sparks, 5:30 p.m., KONG
LOS ANGELES — Ify Ibekwe's face lights up with the thought.
The Storm rookie will be able to honor her dad on Father's Day by playing the game he pushed her to pursue. Well, maybe she won't actually play.
Ibekwe, a second-round draft pick, has only appeared in two of Seattle's three games for a combined three minutes. Still, she has her father to thank for even the mere chance to warm up on the Staples Center court with veterans Ibekwe admires as Seattle (2-1) prepares to face Los Angeles (2-1) on Sunday.
"He was the one that pushed me to play basketball," said Ibekwe, a native Californian, of her father, Austine, who was skilled in soccer. "I wanted to act, I wanted to dance, I wanted to run track. I wanted to do a lot of stuff, but he was like, 'No, really, your talent is basketball. You've got to stick with it.' He was always at my games and my cheerleader."
Ibekwe's early aversion to the game is a little odd since all three of her siblings played college hoops and encouraged her in the game. Her brother Ekene even played for NBA summer leagues and is currently a pro in Germany.
But it took some tugging for Ibekwe to realize her potential. Her father placed her in Narbonne High, a noted school, to develop his youngest daughter's game. And she signed to play at Arizona under then-coach Joan Bonvicini, who helped develop solid post players in Adia Barnes and Shawntinice Polk.
Bonvicini was fired in 2008 and Niya Butts continued the work, molding Ibekwe into a hard worker who was a two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the only Wildcat to finish her career averaging a double-double in points (14) and rebounds (10).
Still, the WNBA has been the biggest eye-opener. A svelte 6-foot-2 guard/forward, Ibekwe is experiencing what more it will take for her shared dreams with her father to become a reality.
"I practice with a bunch of great girls," said Ibekwe of the Storm roster where she and fellow rookie Krystal Thomas are the only ones who haven't won a WNBA title. "Their passion and the intensity they give every day, the commitment and competitiveness — that's where I want to be. Not being able to play like I did my senior year, it's like dang, I need to do this in practice to make (coach Brian Agler) see. It's more fuel to my fire."
It's not all work, however. Unlike past Storm rookies who either played professionally overseas or had more experience being on their own — like Thomas, who helped raise her siblings as her mother battled cancer — Ibekwe is effervescent.
Teammates say she has "Ify-isms" where endless questions make them do a double-take.
"We're like old women, and this young child is here," Storm forward Swin Cash said. "Krystal is a little more mature from the standpoint that she's a little more reserved, takes things in and processes it before she speaks. Ify, it just shoots right out. They're like sponges."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Trending on seattletimes.com
Most viewed photo galleries
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Career Center Blog