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Originally published Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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Polish center Ewelina Kobryn playing bigger role for Storm

Ewelina Kobryn thinks of her friend Margo Dydek, every day. Dydek, who died of a heart attack last year at age 37, was a mentor to Kobryn.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Friday

San Antonio Silver Stars @ Storm, 7 p.m.

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There's not a day Ewelina Kobryn doesn't think about her best friend.

Margo Dydek taught Kobryn nearly everything she knows before the star center died in May 2011 of a heart attack at age 37. They played basketball together in their native Poland.

Kobryn, 30, said Dydek encouraged her as her game developed.

"She's still in my heart, and I miss her," Kobryn said Thursday.

Kobryn, a 6-foot-3 Storm center, has long been projected as the next Dydek in women's basketball. Now, a year after Dydek's death, Kobryn believes she's finally filling that role. And her impact isn't lost on the Storm.

Seattle (3-7) hosts San Antonio (4-4) at KeyArena on Friday.

"She's playing well," Storm guard Tanisha Wright said of Kobryn. "Our patience with her is helping, and her willingness to want to learn and to want to understand is making a big difference. She's just going out there and free-flowing, just playing. That has allowed her to make things easy."

The biggest obstacle is the language barrier. In a calendar year, Kobryn played for coaches who've spoken English, Spanish and Polish. Kobryn, who learned English in school, said she frequently asks the coaching staff to repeat plays.

"Sometimes they're (teammates) laughing because when I make a mistake or have some situation, I say, 'I have pressure,' " Kobryn said. "And they say, 'Why do you have pressure?' because they don't understand me. My English is very elementary."

Kobryn is in her second WNBA season. After being signed last June, she played a minor role as the Storm advanced to the playoffs.

With Storm center Lauren Jackson absent until after the Olympics, Kobryn has been needed more this year. She's shooting 58 percent, averaging 11.3 minutes per game off the bench.

Coach Brian Agler is experimenting with playing her side by side with 6-4 Ann Wauters. He's only tested the lineup once in a game, against Los Angeles.

Sunday's 65-62 win against defending champion Minnesota hinted that the Storm's patience and persistence are starting to pay off.

"I don't know if you'd call it a breakthrough," Wright said of the Storm's second consecutive win. "We knew from the beginning when we were losing games (that) we're getting better."

Against the Lynx, she said, "we set a standard for ourselves that this is where we need to be — minimum."

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

On Twitter @JaydaEvans

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