Seattle Storm President and General Manager Alisha Valavanis has been very busy the past few days. On Friday, the Storm announced that they had come to terms on a new contract with Japanese rookie star Ramu Tokashiki to a new multi-year contract. Tokashiki was named to the WNBA All-Rookie team alongside Rookie of the Year and number one overall pick Jewell Loyd this past season. Tokashiki averaged 8.2 PPG, 3.3 rebounds, and roughly one block per game in her WNBA rookie season. She scored a career high 21 points in a game against the Tulsa Shock (now the Dallas Wings) on June 28th, 2015. At just 24 years old, Ramu Tokashiki has already become a two time MVP of the WJBL league in Japan. She led the Japanese national team in qualifying for the 2016 Olympics this past year and most recently she helped the Jx-Eneos Sunflowers to their third consecutive All-Japan championship. Taku led her team with 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in an 83-44 victory to win the Empress' Cup.
Storm Head Coach Jenny Boucek had this to say about the signing; "Taku is a key building block for our future. Her combination of passion, athleticism, fearlessness, and instinct for the game makes her a dynamic playmaker on both ends of the floor. The sky is the limit for Taku and we are extremely excited about her commitment to the Storm."
In the final Storm game of the season last year, they had Tokashiki play at the small forward position. This was the first time she had ever played as a SF, but she said she enjoyed it. With the Storm looking to draft UCONN star power forward Breanna Stewart with the number one overall pick in April's WNBA Draft, it'll be interesting to see if they play Taku more at the three during her second season with the Storm in 2016.
This wasn't the only Storm news to come out in the past few days. Today, the Storm officially announced that they have re-signed future Hall of Fame point guard, Sue Bird, to a new multi-year contract. This off-season they had removed the Core Player tag from Sue Bird and placed it on Crystal Langhorne, whom the team just re-signed to a one year deal earlier this month. Bird was actually an unrestricted free agent, but most fans weren't too worried about the face of the franchise signing with any other team. Bird has been seen multiple times this off-season at college basketball games at UCONN and UW; usually, alongside either Coach Boucek or GM Valavanis.
Sue Bird is still the leader of the Storm, she's won two WNBA championships with the Seattle Storm in 2004 and 2010. She is a nine-time WNBA All-Star (only behind Tamika Catchings for most All-Star appearances) and four-time All-WNBA First-Team. Bird has won three Olympic Gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012) and has qualified as a finalist for the 2016 USA Olympic team. She is also the only player in WNBA history to score more than 5,000 points and record over 2,000 assists; something she accomplished on August 2nd against the New York Liberty this past season.
President and General Manager Alisha Valavanis had this to say about today's signing, "Sue's commitment to this team and to the city of Seattle is unprecedented. It's special for a professional athlete to leave a legacy with one franchise. We're grateful she will continue to lead the Storm."
Head Coach Jenny Boucek added, "Sue is unequivocally the best point guard to ever play our game. Her accolades speak for themselves but her impact goes way beyond the numbers or the wins. She is one of the best leaders, teammates and competitors to play any sport on any level."
Bird also commented on the signing today, "Seattle is my home. I am thrilled to be re-signing with the Storm. This franchise and city have been incredibly supportive throughout my career and I am looking forward to getting back to work with my teammates."
It has been known for a couple years now that the Storm will eventually have to find a successor at point guard. However, with the Storm signing Bird to a multi-year deal and re-signing backup PG Angel Goodrich to a one year deal earlier this month, it is very likely that Bird's successor won't be on the team until the 2017 season.
While a surprise move could still be made, with these two latest signings it appears that the Storm's work in free agency may be done until the WNBA Draft in April. Since the start of Free Agency in February, the Storm have re-signed: Alysha Clark, Jenna O'Hea, Crystal Langhorne, Angel Goodrich, Ramu Tokashiki, and Sue Bird. Last season's rookies Jewell Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are already under contract, as are veterans Abby Bishop, Monica Wright and Markeisha Gatling.