The Seattle Storm held its annual ‘Winter Warmup’ event prior to the women’s basketball game at the University of Washington on Saturday morning. More than 300 fans had the opportunity to ask Storm co-owner Dawn Trudeau, President & GM Alisha Valavanis and Head Coach Jenny Boucek questions ahead of the 2016 season.
The WNBA recently announced that Lisa Borders would be the fourth President of the WNBA, that the 2016 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm would be on April 14, and a complete overhaul of the league’s playoff system ahead of its historic 20th season.
The team handed out yard signs, kicking off a campaign leading up to the WNBA Draft on April 14. Holding the number one overall selection for the second-straight year, fans are invited to pick up yard signs at the team’s front office to participate in the campaign. Send in your election photos of the signs in your yard, using the hashtag #StormVote16.
Below is a recap of the event.
Dick Fain (DF): Alisha, talking about big picture, what are you looking forward to as we get going?
Alisha Valavanis (AV): We are really excited to get going. We are fired up to have the roster coming back and to be adding a few additional pieces. On the business side, we have some exciting things coming up. Very soon, you’re going to hear about a marquee partnership. We can’t get into specifics today, but stay tuned very soon.
DF: Dawn, as a member of Force 10 Hoops, what are you looking forward to?
Dawn Trudeau (DT): The talent on the court is key, but the talent off the court is just as important. We have a tremendous organization working behind the scenes, and we are excited to see the partnership between the two working together.
DF: Alisha, it’s really good to know that Sue is locked up. She’s signed a multi-year deal – talk to us about how this got done.
DF: Sue making a commitment to the Storm was because of the fans. So thank you! As we started that conversation, she was consistent in saying that she really wants to play for this city and play for Jenny. We are really excited for her continued mentorship with our players in the years to come.
DF: Ok, so we have the #1 pick in the draft. What can we say now about what the team will do?
AV: In terms of legally, there are rules. Until the players declare, we can’t say anything officially.
Jenny Boucek (JB): We’ve always had the most humble superstars here, and they are the best teammates. We have the opportunity over the past few years, to select a player who displays those same traits.
DF: – Jenny, you were in Connecticut last week at USA Basketball’s training camp. How did that go?
JB: We’ve watched Sue and Lauren grow up before our very eyes. I can think back to when Lauren had brown hair and led the league in technical fouls. Same with Sue. She talked about UCONN non-stop, was wide-eyed and bouncy. It’s been wonderful to watch them grow up. Like Alisha said, it’s a blessing to have Sue committed. Sue is totally outside of herself. She has become another coach, she’s very vocal. She stayed a kid for a long time, who just wanted to play, and now she’s transitioned into a vocal leader, encouraging the younger players. Now, at USA camp, you’re on the world’s stage. You see Jewell there, starting to go through the same journey that Lauren and Sue did all those years ago.
DF: With the draft on April 14, what scouting have you done this offseason?
AV: Last year, there was not a clear-cut number one pick. This year, we are doing our due diligence, canvasing the country with our basketball operations staff so we are prepared in free agency and leading up to the draft.
DF: – Dawn, we now have a WNBA President. What can you tell us about Lisa Borders?
DT: She is an avid WNBA fan. She was a critical player in bringing the Dream to Atlanta. She’s shown her commitment to the league from an early stage. She is working to continue to build our marketing base and a viewership base.
AV: Lisa Borders really has expertise in marketing and revenue generation, which as you know in our league is critical. We are thrilled about her addition to the team and we’re excited to bring her to market and introduce her to you.
DF: Ahead of the 20th season, we’ve also got a new schedule format.
AV: We got together as Presidents and GM’s across the league, and one thing that came up across the board was balancing the schedule. We had two objectives. One, bring in the superstars league-wide more frequently. We also wanted to balance the schedule to aid in the playoff re-formatting, and thankfully, we were able to get that done over the last few months.
DF: – What other picks do we have in the Draft?
JB: We don’t have a second round pick but we do pick again at the beginning of the third round. We have a pretty established roster so training camp will be extremely competitive.
Fan Question: The team recently last year’s third round pick Nneka Enemkpali. What do we know about her game?
JB: Nneka is an undersized post that is extremely hungry to get the ball. She reminds me a lot of a young Rebekah Brunson, but she’s coming off a major knee injury. We will have to see how she does in camp.
Fan Question: What’s the status update with Lauren Jackson?
JB: She will definitely be back at some point. Whether she comes back to play, we don’t know. She’s one of the most spontaneous people I know. Her heart is here, I can tell you that. She’s emotionally engaged in what this team is doing, she misses the fans. She’s constantly talking, asking how people are doing. She’s got her eye on this team, but time will tell.
AV: I’d add we have an open invitation to Lauren to come back to Seattle. We’d love to have her back.
Fan Question: Taku recently signed a multi-year deal. How did that come together?
AV: We were really excited when Taku came in. She was a surprise. We knew she was talented, but once we saw the connection with the community, it was incredible. Entering free agency, we were unsure if she’d be available with it being an Olympic year. They came to the table and wanted her to be in Seattle for 2016, and we were in the same place.
JB: She has incredible basketball instinct as you saw. So if she was a half-step slow because of the language barrier, she was able to make up for the hesitation with her athleticism.
Fan Question: What has Kaleena been doing this offseason?
JB: She’s been playing in France, extremely well. She’s had a couple minor injuries. She’s out right now, but only for a few more weeks. The thing I’ve heard from her that may be the most exciting is she said to me, “Coach, I’m really starting to love this game again.” We are extremely excited about her. I knew she was a great shooter, but we started to see glimpses of her creatively. As she continues to adjust to the pace of the league, I think she is going to be a great player.
Fan Question: When will we see away games on TV, other than national TV broadcast games?
AV: I’m with you. We need as much as exposure as possible. However, right now, the best platform for non-national TV games is LiveAccess.
Fan Question: Overseas updates on players?
JB: Everyone is really doing well. When we had our exit interviews, every single player was ready to come back. They had an enjoyable experience, even though we weren’t winning as much as we wanted to. Everyone is working on different things, focused on getting better.
Jewell, at the USA camp, has really matured. Last year she was a ball of speed. She was going to fast that it was either going to work or it wasn’t. Now, she’s learning to slow down and see the play develop.