Courtesy University of California/Mollie McClure Photo
Last week, we began our season-long Where Are They Now? series with former Storm guard Charmin Smith, now an assistant coach at Cal. That gave Smith unique insight into the Storm's first-round pick, Cal forward Ashley Walker, which she shared with the coaching staff before the draft. When I interviewed Smith, I made a point of asking her to offer some observations on Walker.
stormbasketball.com: What can you tell us about Ashley Walker?
Smith: Ashley is really a phenomenal player. She basically carried this program the past year; she did so much for us. She's, I guess you'd say, a versatile four player. I just describe her as a beast. She thinks every rebound is hers; she's extended her game to shoot threes now. She just battles every single possession and kind of wills herself to be successful. It was definitely a pleasure to have the opportunity to be able to coach her here at Cal, and I'm expecting big things for her at the next level.
How much did you see Walker develop over the course of her career?
If you look at her statistics, she just got better and better every year. She came in with a very talented recruiting class, that freshman class, but she was the one that no one really had very high expectations for. People weren't talking about Ashley Walker when she walked through the door, and very quickly in her freshman year she established herself as a significant presence on the team. I know that having had to scout against her when I was at Stanford her freshman and sophomore years. She really decided to assert herself and really took over. She spent a couple of years being kind of the Robin to Devanei Hampton and Alexis Gray-Lawson, who was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Devanei Hampton was the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2006-07, their sophomore year. Then the last couple of years, Ashley has pretty much asserted herself as the 'Batman' of the team and has really taken over. In terms of specifics of her game, she's always had a rebounding desire and gets after the board. She's had good moves in the paint, but since her freshman and sophomore year, she's extended it to be able to hit the high post shot her junior year and her senior year stepping out and knocking down threes. She was one of the best three-point shooters on the team. You saw her hit some of those in the UConn game. She shoots it with confidence. Being able to do a lot more defensively as well - guard a little bit more on the perimeter, things like that. She's had to guard people like Noelle Quinn when she was at UCLA. She's pretty versatile.
What did you tell Walker about what to expect after she was drafted by the Storm?
I told her that it's a great city. There's a lot to do in Seattle, but I told her she won't have time to do any of it as a rookie because she'll be working so hard. I just told her how much I love it there, that they're great fans. I've had people e-mailing me and saying, 'We're getting one of your players. Let her know if she needs anything, we're here.' That's been really special. The first thing I did when I saw Ashley was coming to Seattle was I got online and hit up Sue (Bird) on AOL Messenger and let her know she was getting a Cal Bear. Just things like that. I want it to be her experience. I'm obviously really happy that she's going somewhere I'm familiar with and a place I really like, but this is all about Ashley Walker. I just want her to do the best that she can and go out and earn a roster spot and enjoy Seattle. I know the fans will really, really enjoy how hard she plays and her passion for the game.