Sunday, May 4, 2008

Live From Fan Fest

Welcome to KeyArena, where the Storm is practicing for the first time as part of today's Fan Fest festivities. Right now, fans are enjoying kid-themed activities on the East plaza. They'll be allowed in to watch practice in a couple of minutes.

Sheryl Swoopes is on the sidelines after straining her neck in Friday's game at Sacramento. She's running the sidelines to get some conditioning work in while the team scrimmages against the practice squad.

When we first got in here, the lineup was Kristen O'Neill and Roneeka Hodges at guards, Swin Cash and Natalie Doma as the forwards and Yolanda Griffith in the middle. Now we've got what might be considered a first unit minus Swoopes - Kimberly Beck, Katie Gearlds, Cash, Shyra Ely and Griffith.

We're getting our first look at Hodges and Kelly Santos, recently in to camp. Santos got some playing time against the Monarchs. She looks a little more svelte than I expected looking at photos from her time with the Brazilian National Team, but is still a physical presence in the post.

Newly into camp herself, Cash is already showing some leadership. After a couple of turnovers, she called a huddle to talk it over with her teammates without the coaching staff needing to say anything.

- A little different for the players as fans have filtered in to sit on the East side of the arena. It's definitely different to have people cheering you at practice. For that matter, the Storm hasn't had fans cheering primarily for them all year, having played two road preseason games. Kristen O'Neill got a very nice hand after taking the ball to the rim for a layup.

While most fans know O'Neill from her time at UW, I hope today's limited chance allows them to get a look at the characteristics that have already endeared some of the other rookies in camp to those of us who have been watching - Daphanie Kennedy's fearlessness, Natalie Doma's competitiveness, Allie Quigley's shooting ability and unpredictability in the open floor, Kimberly Beck's steady leadership at the point. Everybody left in camp by this point has shown the ability to help the Storm this season.

- Storm Head Coach Brian Agler will be miked for the rest of practice so fans can hear everything that's going on in huddles.

- Forgot to mention that Swoopes' family is back in town. Son Jordan is watching from a perch atop the scorer's table.

- Ely is playing a nice brand of basketball today, finishing in the paint and making a really nice pass out of the post for an assist that caught my eye a moment ago. She had a very good game Friday in Sacramento, showing scoring punch she rarely displayed a year ago - in part because of her limited playing time.

- The guys are off the court and referees have come on for some full-court 5-on-5 scrimmaging. Beck, Quigley, Gearlds, Ely and Santos started out in black going against Doneeka Lewis, Kennedy, O'Neill, Doma and Ashley Robinson in white. After some rotation and a few minutes of play, the black squad is now going against the practice squad (as always in green).

For a while, we had hte first all-twin backcourt in WNBA history. Thank goodness Hodges and Lewis have different hairstyles so we can tell them apart.

Ely drew a big hand for a spinning layup off glass plus the foul - not only from the crowd in attendance but also from her teammates and coaches on the sidelines. Santos looked a little lost in the early going as she picks up the Storm schemes six years after her last WNBA experience, but she has gotten in rhythm and has displayed some terrific touch in the post.

- Agler's microphone caught Griffith yelling something to her teammates - not sure if she intended that to be so loud or not. Hodges has been providing some scoring punch during this scrimmage, taking the ball to the basket. Her mentality is to attack, and that served her very well overseas this off-season. She was the leading scorer in the Spanish Lega Feminina.

- Kennedy hits in the paint and I think that will wrap us up for practice. Fans got to see nearly a full hour, which was more than we were expecting. Now we'll move into Basketball 101 and ultimately autographs.

Here's some amateur video of Kennedy's shot:

- Director of Player Resources Rick DuPree introduced the Storm roster and coaching staff. Some players simply waved to the crowd; others took the opportunity to dance a little bit. Cash wanted to introduce herself to the Seattle crowd and took a lap around the court, high-fiving fans in the front row. Not to be outdone, Griffith and Swoopes did the same when they were introduced.

Take a look at Griffith's lap:

- As part of "Basketball 101," WNBA referee Penny Davis (who resides in Seattle) is helping give fans some tips on what she's looking for on the floor and common misconceptions about officiating.

- Out on the concourse, fans enjoyed a chance to interact with players and a variety of fun activities. The biggest lines, naturally, were for the player autograph stations. Check out Swoopes and Lewis signing for fans:


Sheila said...

Thanks for the update on the open practice. I attended and learned a few things, so I think the BB 101was a good idea. One thing I would have liked to ask the ref was why players are allowed to touch a ref during the course of the game. You see players putting their arms around the ref's shoulders all the time and I personally feel this should not be allowed and the player should be assessed a technical for any physical contact with a ref. Any insight on why players are allowed to get away with this behavior?

sheredith said...

love the"SEATTLE STORM"i hope this will be an great season 4 them.get well"SHERYL SWOOPES".