WNBA Talk: Storm center Ann Wauters talks about international play
Ann Wauters, who joined the Storm this season, played for a team in Spain that won the EuroLeague title this year. Then the team folded, still owing Wauters and other players money.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Editor's note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with Storm center Ann Wauters, who won a EuroLeague title with Spain's Ros Casares in April. The team folded May 30. It's a hit to global women's basketball as countries elsewhere limit numbers of international players and are unable to pay the lucrative salaries used to compensate for low WNBA base pay.
Q: Ros Casares, based in Valencia, Spain, paid big bucks to Maya Moore, Lauren Jackson, Sancho Lyttle and you to win its only EuroLeague title. How did you react to it suddenly folding?
Ann Wauters: You could kind of feel it coming. They have a GM and she knows what she's doing. Everybody was saying, 'Oh, they have so many big players,' and it's true. But she stayed in the budget. She didn't go crazy and I feel sad about this whole situation. I had a good year there, it was fun and it was great winning. Now it stops.
Q: And the players are still waiting to be paid?
AW: The bonuses still haven't been paid and the last month (salary). It's (not a lot) but we've got to have it. It's a bad situation. But in Spain, the economy is really, really bad, so in some way it doesn't surprise me that all of a sudden the owner says, "Listen, I don't have enough money to keep this team alive."
Q: You're playing in Turkey and Jackson is playing in Australia next fall. Was your decision because you felt this could happen?
AW: I made the decision a little bit before. I had a nice offer from Turkey and it was kind of like we won here (Spain) and I knew some players were leaving already. It was going to be hard, anyway, to repeat the same thing, and I felt they wouldn't have the same budget, so I took a new opportunity.
Q: You've played internationally for more than a decade. Do teams fold often?
AW: It does happen that a great team all of a sudden has less of a budget. But goes away completely? That doesn't happen that often. I was on a team in Russia and it happened there, a big team going away. It was surprising, but also a big time of (economic) crisis as well.
Q: Now teams in Turkey are paying the eye-popping salaries. Are you surprised at the money, given attendance and exposure in Europe is far less than the WNBA?
AW: When I was in Russia with some girls (2007-10), we said we were sure then we're at the top (in salary) and it was never going to be like that, again. Then it keeps on going year after year. They still have players like (Diana) Taurasi and (Candace) Parker who have a crazy amount of contracts. Ten years ago, nobody would dare to dream that.
Q: Should there be a global salary cap, pooling the money so teams aren't dependent on one sponsor or person to survive?
AW: A lot of teams work like that — we are dependent on one big sponsor. So, it's hard for women's sports. Maybe in the future, do it like how you guys do it here, with a secure business. But let's wait until I'm done and then I'll say, "Yeah, salary cap!" I'm joking. I don't know if that's a solution. If you have a budget and it's only one person, it's always going to be hard.