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Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Storm signs Ann Wauters to fill void in middle
By Jayda Evans
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Storm's 2012 outlook is beginning to get more clear after coach Brian Agler's trip to Europe.
Traveling with Karen Bryant, the team's president and CEO, Agler reached deals to fill holes on the team's front line and backcourt. One was announced Monday, with the Storm signing Belgium center Ann Wauters to a multiyear contract worth the WNBA maximum of $103,000 this summer.
The 6-foot-4 Wauters is now playing in Spain with Storm posts Lauren Jackson and Jana Vesela. Jackson plans to miss the opening half of the WNBA season to prepare and participate in the London Olympics with the Australian national team.
Signing another All-Star-caliber post fills Jackson's void and adds depth for when Jackson, a 6-6 center, returns to Seattle after the Games.
"She fits our style," Agler said of Wauters being able to run the floor and play multiple positions. "There were several teams that wanted her to sign with them. There's a lot of factors that played into it, but obviously she learned a lot about Seattle from Lauren and Jana and she runs into Sue Bird. ... I know she's going to play quality minutes for us."
Wauters, 31, last played in the WNBA in 2009. Her best season was 2008, when she averaged 14.7 points and 7.5 rebounds in leading San Antonio to the WNBA Finals. The Silver Stars lost to Detroit. After reaching the postseason again in 2009, Wauters opted to start a family with her partner, giving birth to a son in 2011.
Wauters, a 2005 WNBA All-Star, said she would only return to the league to play for a championship-caliber team. Seattle won the title in 2010 and 2004.
Agler was able to complete the deal because he traded veterans Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham to Chicago in January along with a second-round draft choice. The move cleared about $200,000 in salary-cap space for this season and gave the Storm the No. 2 overall selection in the draft this April.
Although NCAA-leading scorer Elena Delle Donne told ESPN last week that she will not enter the draft, several talented players will be available. Stanford senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike is expected to be the No. 1 overall selection by Los Angeles.
"The workings of our roster will be ongoing into the season," said Agler, who's paying Jackson her full contract so she will be eligible to return in August. "We're thinking about long-term plans. Where we draft, we want somebody who can come in and contribute right away. But it's more important how this player comes in and develops into being a high-quality WNBA player."
Agler said he expects Tanisha Wright and Bird, the point guard who is playing in Russia, to sign soon, possibly this week. He's also in discussions with unrestricted free agent Katie Smith's representatives. The 37-year-old guard, hampered last summer by an Achilles injury, has said she'd like to return to Seattle.
Guard Allie Quigley signed a qualifying offer with Seattle last week.
The biggest unrestricted free agent, outside of Bird, is Washington guard Alana Beard, who recently signed to play in Israel with Wright. Beard will return after being sidelined two years by ankle injuries.
"We're still working," said Agler, who wants to sign one more international player and be in Turkey for the EuroLeague playoffs on Feb. 21.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.
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