Alysha Clark one of the previously unknowns who could have an impact with the Seattle Storm
Team holds media day with its big stars out for the season with injuries
Seattle Times staff reporter
Many already have Alysha Clark as a lock to make the final Storm roster for 2013.
Clark, a 5-foot-10 forward, crinkles her face at the idea.
Sure, she was part of the 2012 roster. She even played a key role when injuries and the WNBA's break for the Olympics pulled teammates out of the lineup.
However, it didn't land her a guaranteed contract. The former Middle Tennessee State star is a training-camp invitee, just like three other players still in camp. And she gets the same jitters when there's an off day, the typical time when Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler makes roster cuts.
"I came in with the same mindset as a rookie that just got drafted," Clark said at the team's media day Tuesday at KeyArena. "I know I have to work to be able to earn a spot, and that's what I'm doing. I feel a little more at ease just knowing what to expect. When you're new, you're trying to learn and your mind is everywhere that you forget to just play."
It was just an exhibition game, but Clark showed improvement in the Storm's 67-66 victory Sunday against Los Angeles at the Pyramid in Long Beach. She scored the game-winning bucket, drawing praise from Storm forward Tina Thompson.
A 17-year veteran, Thompson drilled Clark last season for having a "herky-jerky" shot with a release that had a hitch. Clark played in Israel during the offseason and worked on making her release a smooth motion.
"That was definitely a key point," said Clark, who averaged 11.8 points on 52.3 percent shooting for Ramat Hasharon. "Every time I was shooting, I would have my Tina Thompson voice in my head saying, 'One motion. Don't be herky-jerky.' It helped, it's just repetition. (And) the shot that I hit in L.A., she was like, 'OK, I see you one-motion.' I was like, 'I tried.' "
Agler has two roster spots available, if you include Clark in the final mix. The coach, to continue evaluations, said he's leaning toward keeping the current 13-player rotation through the exhibition game Friday at KeyArena against Tulsa.
Not that it made newcomers Chelsea Poppens, Cierra Bravard and Samantha MacKay feel any more comfortable. The trio roamed KeyArena during media day in crisp Storm uniforms, making promo videos and handling media interviews with the thought it could all be for nothing.
Poppens, the team's second-round draft choice, and Bravard are physical forwards who could have an edge given their size and Agler's need for posts in a competitive Western Conference that now features 6-8 center Brittney Griner. MacKay, a 5-9 guard, wasn't drafted and is the first player from Dayton to be included on a WNBA roster.
"In the long run, all you can do is play the way you know how to play," said Poppens, a 6-2 forward. "They brought (me) in for a reason. They liked your qualities. The only thing you can do is work hard in practice. The rest is in their hands."
All the new faces, including free-agent signees Temeka Johnson, Nakia Sanford and Noelle Quinn, made this media day different from the past when All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson were the main attractions with this team.
They'll both miss the 2013 season due to injuries.
"It's different because there's not much media here," Agler said of the attention Bird and Jackson drew in the past. "That's sort of what I think the general public sees us being — a nonfactor. I beg to differ. I'm excited about this season."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans