Jenna O’Hea learning some new roles with Seattle Storm
Six-foot-1 shooter acquired from Los Angeles learning defense and inside presence
Seattle Times staff reporter
Jenna O’Hea was warned — you’re going to play defense in Seattle.
“Some of the trainings, yeah, it’s a grind,” said O’Hea, a four-year WNBA veteran. “But I was warned by everybody.”
O’Hea is part of the continued Australian pipeline on the Storm roster. When Los Angeles traded O’Hea to Seattle for a 2015 second-round draft choice, fellow Aussie Olympians Lauren Jackson and Abby Bishop called to share info on what it’s like to play for Brian Agler in Seattle.
Jackson, a three-time league MVP, is out this season with a knee injury. Seattle still holds the rights to Bishop but hasn’t negotiated a contract for her to return.
O’Hea was a solid defender in Los Angeles. But the Sparks utilized her lanky 6-foot-1 stature to gain an advantage outside. She’s a career 47 percent shooter from three-point range in the WNBA, often brought off the bench to pop the shot and get the Sparks’ offense moving.
That’s changed in Seattle.
“We’re putting her on the move more,” Agler said. “She’s been asked to defend more than she ever has. And it hasn’t been easy for her. We’re asking her to do things in a week that she’s never done before, and I like how she’s picked things up and has been receptive in doing that.”
O’Hea had a good test Saturday against a familiar opponent — the Australian national team. Dubbed the Opals, the Australian team is touring the U.S. to play WNBA teams in preparation for the FIBA World Championship this fall.
While O’Hea’s signature shot didn’t drop in the 71-57 Storm exhibition victory at KeyArena, she did play well defensively. She’s also adjusting to playing power forward this season due to Seattle’s small lineup without Jackson, a 6-6 center.
“It’s going to be a challenge all around,” O’Hea said of her new roles. “Brian is pushing me, and that’s a good thing.”
Agler isn’t having O’Hea ditching her offensive game just because he’s a stickler for defense, however. She was seven points shy of being named MVP in the Australian WNBL after her most consistent showing offensively.
O’Hea played for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging a league-best 20.7 points. She shot 41.1 percent from three-point range and said she worked on creating her shot more while building muscle strength to grab more playing minutes in the WNBA.
“I tell the girls, ‘Don’t get carried away with your performance in the WNBL. That’s two levels below this,’ ” first-year Opals coach Brendan Joyce said in comparing the pro leagues.
“At this level (WNBA), they’re athletic and quick,” Joyce said. “That’s an area that I’ve always got to work with Jenna, to try to develop her game off the dribble. But she’ll bring strong outside shooting.”
O’Hea, who was surprised by the trade after signing a two-year extension with Los Angeles, arrived in Seattle early to shake the jet lag. She’s already found some favored shopping spots and is looking to immerse herself in the Seattle coffee scene once the Storm settles into a normal practice schedule.
For now, it’s learning the new defense and adjusting to new teammates.
“Jenna’s realizing that she’ll play more if she can play the wing and the post, and she’s starting to figure out how she can get her shots,” Agler said. “I’ve been happy with her.”
• Jackson underwent another knee surgery in April, according to Joyce. He said the arthroscopy was needed because Jackson had swelling in the right knee, which was originally operated on in February to repair a torn meniscus. “She’s had a few setbacks, but we’re anticipating late July to take her on the tour to Japan and play — provided everything goes well.” Jackson missed the 2013 WNBA season due to a hamstring injury. Her goal is to play her 13th WNBA season in 2015.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067