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Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - Page updated at 08:30 p.m.

Storm selects Shekinna Stricklen with No. 2 pick in WNBA draft

By Jayda Evans
Seattle Times staff reporter

There was a lot of talk before Monday's WNBA draft.

Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen didn't have the best senior season, despite leading her team to the NCAA Elite Eight. Some questioned her competitiveness. Others called the Vols confusing.

So Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler had to be certain. Stricklen possessed the talent to mold into a future All-Star, but would she work to reach that level? Apparently the Storm believed it was possible after talking with the 6-foot-2 forward before the draft.

Seattle selected Stricklen with the No. 2 overall pick Monday, after Los Angeles took Stanford star Nnemkadi Ogwumike with the first choice.

After making the pick, Agler waved from the upper offices at the team's headquarters in Interbay to a cheering crowd, which approved of the selection. The private draft-day event was the first in a decade for the Storm, which hasn't had a lottery pick since point guard Sue Bird was drafted in 2002.

Stricklen is pegged as an eventual replacement for Swin Cash, who was traded along with reserve Le'coe Willingham and a second-round pick to Chicago in January. Agler needed to make the move in order to clear salary-cap space, get younger and prepare for missing three-time MVP Lauren Jackson until after the London Olympics.

"I learned through playing through pressure and adversity, and I think it's going to help me on the next level," Stricklen said via phone from Bristol, Conn., where the draft was held. "At Tennessee, we've been through a lot there. Going to Seattle with a lot of veterans does help out a lot, but I still have to come in and work hard and be a help to the team.

"If they're looking at me to replace Swin Cash, that's a big spot to fill. ... I'm kind of compared to her in a way — her size and being able to play many positions. It's a big challenge, but I'm ready to step up to it."

Agler, also the team's coach, said he wanted a competitive training camp, meaning Stricklen could vie for a starting role. She averaged 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds her senior season. But Agler typically doesn't play rookies, and he has added veteran forwards Tina Thompson and Victoria Dunlap to the roster to help fill the small forward position.

Storm veteran Camille Little can also play on the wing, and the team will evaluate training camp invitees Ashley Clark and Rachel Allison for the slot.

"The nice thing for Shekinna this year is we don't have to force the issue, because of who else we have on the team, to immediately start," Agler said. "But we would like for her to come in and be a contributor."

With the Storm's second-round pick, Agler selected DePaul forward Keisha Hampton. She suffered a right knee injury in January, however, and she won't be able to play with the Storm until training camp 2013. The team will retain her rights as she rehabilitates.

Agler compared Hampton to Notre Dame standout Deveraux Peters, who was taken by Minnesota with the third overall pick. Hampton, a 6-2 wing, averaged 16.6 points in 12 games before the injury.

"She'll probably go overseas and play (this fall) before she comes here," Agler said.

Stricklen plans to arrive in Seattle next week. WNBA training camp opens April 29, and the Storm will open its exhibition season May 11 with a game at Tulsa. The season opener is May 18 against Los Angeles at KeyArena.

Agler expects the majority of the roster to be available by mid-May. Stars like Sue Bird (Russia) and Tanisha Wright (Israel) are still competing overseas.

"I love Sue Bird's game and I'm getting to play with her now," said Stricklen, who frequently watched the Storm play on television. "I also watched Tina Thompson. She's a very good role model. ... Getting to play with them now and getting an opportunity, I'm really excited."

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

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