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Originally published April 26, 2014 at 6:43 PM | Page modified April 26, 2014 at 7:17 PM

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Storm’s Clark ready to play after coaching

The Storm opens training camp Sunday with Clark and forward Shekinna Stricklen, who was drafted in 2012, as the longest tenured players on the active roster. Core players Wright, forward Camille Little, and guard Sue Bird will be late arrivals due to play overseas.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Five questions

Who’s in the middle?

With All-Star Lauren Jackson injured (knee) and future Hall of Famer Tina Thompson retired, who’ll play alongside mainstay Camille Little in the paint is the first priority. Crystal Langhorne, acquired via trade, is the leading candidate.

Still a headliner?

Storm All-Star Sue Bird is returning for her 12th WNBA season after missing last year due to knee surgery.

Which style?

Seattle will always be a defensive-minded team. But with Bird back, coach Brian Agler could run a small three-guard lineup with returning starters Tanisha Wright and Temeka Johnson and Bird. Or he could go bigger with wing Noelle Quinn remaining a starter with Johnson coming off the bench.

Lost chemistry?

The Storm had its full roster from Day 1 of training camp last year. The core arrives late this season. Lack of playing time together could get mean a slow start.

Veterans better?

Agler isn’t expected to keep any of the rookies that are on his training-camp roster. Featuring one of the older rosters in the league, it could be time to try a different strategy.

Key dates

Sunday: Training-camp opens

May 11: Exhibition game vs. Los Angeles at KeyArena

May 16: Storm season opener vs. Los Angeles at KeyArena

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Alysha Clark is keeping her underdog edge. But Clark isn’t like the fellow Storm training-camp invitees this season.

She’s landed successive one-year contracts in Seattle and gained the confidence of coach Brian Agler, who’s also the team’s general manager. Newcomers are tugging at Clark for advice on how the 5-foot-10 forward got her WNBA break.

“I said just do something to where they can’t forget you,” said Clark, who was drafted by San Antonio in 2010 but didn’t play in the WNBA until she signed with Seattle in 2012. “For me, that’s kind of what got me here.”

It was Clark who had the ball in the final minutes of the Storm’s first-round playoff loss to Minnesota last season. Although she didn’t convert on late three-point shots, Clark left an impression.

She had career-high marks (12 points, nine rebounds) in a Game 1 loss and finished as a positive presence in the locker room.

“The one thing that you know you’re always going to get out of Alysha is that she’s going to work,” Storm guard Tanisha Wright said at the end of the 2013 season. “And in most cases, she’s going to outwork you. She got better throughout the year because she got more confident. She did an amazing job for us.”

The Storm opens training camp Sunday with Clark and forward Shekinna Stricklen, who was drafted in 2012, as the longest tenured players on the active roster. Core players Wright, forward Camille Little and guard Sue Bird will be late arrivals due to play overseas.

So, Sunday’s opening of training camp at the team’s facility on Seattle Pacific’s campus will feature six rookies on the 12-player active roster. Seven-year veteran Noelle Quinn is returning for her second Storm season along with forward Joslyn Tinkle, a late addition as a rookie last year who landed a training-camp invite.

Two-time All-Star forward Crystal Langhorne and Australian Jenna O’Hea round out the on-time arrivals. Last season, Agler had his full roster from Day 1.

“There’s already a chemistry built between them (the Storm starters) and us,” Clark said of the four returnees from the 2013 playoff team. “So it’ll be good with the new faces that are here, we can get a feel for each other. When the others come back, we can give feedback because we already know what they like to do.”

Clark’s offseason experience will help with the newfound role. She was a first-time assistant coach for Middle Tennessee State, her alma mater.

The Blue Raiders advanced to the NCAA tournament, losing in the opening round to Oregon State at Alaska Airlines Arena. Clark was forced to resign after the season, however, due to the inability to make a full commitment this summer because of her pro career.

“I was looking forward to seeing how I would balance coaching and playing because I love a challenge,” Clark said of the sudden decision. “But I’ve been working so hard to make a team and stick, so it could be a blessing in disguise.”

While coaching, Clark spent down time working out with her skills trainer and playing pickup games on coed teams. In the past, Clark has played overseas.

“I’m more prepared and know what to expect,” she said. “I knew how to train in the offseason and what the coaches are looking for. I feel more confident in that sense. But I still feel like I have something to prove, and that’s how I’m always going to play coming into camp.”

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067

or jevans@seattletimes.com



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