Tina Thompson remembers what it was like being a training camp newbie.
Even if being a newbie was 17 seasons ago with the first-year Houston Comets in what then was the first year of the WNBA.
I was the only player (on the Comets) who was drafted from college, Thompson recalled. Everyone on my team was veterans.
My rookie year, Cynthia Cooper had played more years professionally than I had played in my whole life.
Sunday afternoon, that role was reversed somewhat for Thompson as the Seattle Storm opened 2013 training camp in Seattle Pacific Universitys Royal Brougham Pavilion. On the court for the Storm were several newbies, some of whom would have been no more than 4 or 5 years old when Thompson first suited up for the Comets in the summer of 1997.
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Tina Thompson is entering her 17th season in the league.
But all of that youth brought the kind of spirit and enthusiasm that won her praise as the opening day of practice concluded.
Were a little rusty, but thats expected because there are so many different faces, said the 6-2 forward, now 38 and starting her second year with Seattle. The great thing about it is the intensity was high. Everyone came in working hard, making hustle plays and stuff like that.
Thats something you shouldnt have to teach. So its good for morale that everyone is coming in excited.
Everyone including Thompson.
Theres a lot unfamiliar this year, she said. But Im excited to come in and see what were working with and see our beginning and how our start is and where were going to go from here.
Thompson knows where she is going from here. Her approach to practice and preparation has helped her get through 16 WNBA summers. She enters her 17th as the league record holder for points (7,009) and minutes played (15,113). The eight-time All-Star, who helped Houston win the first four championships, has 462 games on her resume, the second-most all-time.
She is the only player to have gone through all 16 league seasons.
Nothing changes me, she said when asked if her role might be different during this training camp. I approach the game and season every year the same way. Of course, theres a lot more talking and instruction in practice with so many new people. But I approach it the same way.
Time, as always in the WNBA, is short. The first of two preseason games is just a week away, next Sunday against the Los Angeles Sparks in Long Beach, Calif. The regular-season opener, also against the Sparks, is in L.A. on Sunday, May 26.
That means the Storm have to get all of this newness into sync very quickly.
We definitely need to start well defensively, Thompson said. The offense will come. Everyone has played basketball for a very long time so its a lot easier to find offense that it is defense, chemistry-wise. Our personality is as a defensive team. We definitely want to have that down and have it together simply because if were not scoring but stopping them from scoring, we have a chance.
While nothing is won or lost on Day 1 of camp, those first few hours can go a long way toward setting a tone. As Thompson saw things, Sunday was no different.
The intensity and working hard, thats the personality of the Storm, she said. Work ethic is something thats never an issue.
Its probably going to be hard on Brian (Agler) and our coaches to make a decision, because the effort from everyone is there.
Agler, beginning his sixth season at the Storms helm, was in an instructional mode on Sunday, and said that probably will continue throughout this first week.
We tried to incorporate our teaching with some live action and some live play, he said. They need to get their conditioning and play, and then, you can also work on your basketball things.