Battle for Roster Spots Continues as Storm Opens Preseason Against Phoenix

The 2016 version of the Seattle Storm will be in action for the first time on Wednesday, when it hosts the Phoenix Mercury at 11:30 a.m. at KeyArena. It will be the first of two preseason games for Seattle – the team heads to Phoenix this weekend for another tune-up ahead of the regular-season opener at Los Angeles on May 15.

Wednesday’s contest means nothing in the standings, and neither team will be at full strength due to overseas commitments. But for Storm head coach Jenny Boucek, it’s an opportunity to see the style of basketball she’s applied in the first two weeks of training camp. Boucek cited communication on defense, sharing the ball and executing plays as her points of emphasis in the preseason games.

Most of all, Boucek and her staff need to see how each individual performs in a WNBA exhibition. The Storm’s roster, currently at 16, will be cut down to a maximum of 12 in the next 10 days.

“I’ve told them to compete, not compare. Period,” Boucek said of her advice for some of the players aiming to make the team. “No matter who you’re going against, no matter who’s got the other jersey on in practice or in the game, compete and don’t compare. It’ll drive you crazy. I want them to feel like they’ve given everything they have and done all they can control, and then they won’t have any regrets no matter what happens.”

The Storm has already waived three players since the start of training camp: forward Nneka Enemkpali and guards Davellyn Whyte and Laurin Mincy. Three other players – Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Quanitra Hollingsworth and Jenna O’Hea – will not be with the team for the preseason games due to overseas competition.

That leaves 13 for the initial matchup with Phoenix, including newcomer Krystal Thomas and rookie guards Lexi Eaton Rydalch and Blake Dietrick.

“It goes give your younger players, your bubble players, an opportunity to really show themselves,” Boucek said. “And they wouldn’t even get as many reps with all our players here. So they get more reps, they get more attention and they get more time. And that’s all you want when you’re trying to make a team. I’ve been in that situation. You just need time.”

Regarding the three players currently overseas, the Storm already knows what each of them brings to the table. At least one of the three will be back in town in the next week.

In France, Mosqueda-Lewis and O’Hea are playing against each other in the semifinals of the playoffs, with the three-game series scheduled to start Wednesday. Hollingsworth, meanwhile, is currently in the championship series with her longtime Turkish club, Fenerbache.

“It’s one of the great challenges of coaching in the WNBA: navigating this balance between overseas and here,” Boucek said. “Even if they’re on time, some of them are really beat up. They’re sick of the gym. They’ve been taught all kinds of crazy stuff that’s different than what we do, so their habits are different. And then we get them back at different times.

“This is just the hand we’re dealt. It’s part of coaching in the WNBA.”