The Seattle Storm started training camp back on April 24th. I was able to attend training camp last Sunday to see how the team was doing and what we might be able to expect as the season starts up later this month. After practice, I was able to interview Jewell Loyd and the Storm's 3rd round draft pick, Lexi Eaton Rydalch. I'm also including my interview with Breanna Stewart which took place at her introduction to the media press conference back on April 21st.
Here are my notes from practice:
Players that stood out:
In the brief time that I got to observe Stewart on the court, she impressed. And it should be no surprise, it wasn't just one thing. She had one rebound where she stretched her long arms way out (it didn't look like she'd be able to grab the ball) and yet she snatched it out of the air. In a way, it reminded me of Odell Beckham Jr's crazy catch he made for the New York Giants.
Stewart was also impressive on the offensive end of the court. She was able to nail the 3-point shot, the pull-up shot from mid-range, and also get an easier basket down low. On the defensive end, she was able to use her long arms to alter shots and grab several rebounds.
A few things really stood out to me with Jewell Loyd. The first, was that when she was in there with Stewie and Bird, it seemed like she wasn't doing much. To be fair, they might not have been running plays for her. But I didn't even realize she was on the court at first.
However, once some substitutions were made and Jewell became the focal point, she really started to take over. There was one point, during a two minute span of a scrimmage, where I think she scored 8-10 points. It was impressive and got me excited just thinking about the improvements she's made since she started those first few games of her rookie year.
The other thing I noticed, was that they did have Jewell running the Point Guard position a fair amount of the time. I wouldn't say that was her primary position, but she was definitely bringing the ball up the court quite a bit. I know they did try her out at that position some last season, but there appears to be an even bigger emphasis of that this season.
Sue Bird looks to be in fantastic shape, maybe the best of her career. Her shot was also on target at practice. She nailed a couple three pointers and also had an effective pick and roll game with Stewie. The veteran point guard doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Hopefully she will be able to provide Seattle with another All-Star caliber season.
Lexi Eaton Rydalch:
Lexi knocked down a few three pointers and seemed to be a very confident shooter. She was also aggressive and drove to the basketball a couple times to score. However, it should be noted that she did struggle a little in both the set offense, I believe I saw twice where Alysha Clark had to call her over for the screen. And at least once, where she might have got caught up in a screen on defense and gave up an easy shot.
Now for the player interviews:
Jewell Loyd Interview:
Question: What were one or two of the biggest things you learned playing overseas in the off-season?
Loyd: "For me it was really focusing on my mentality. Attacking every game with goals. It's easy being ok with just being 'ok', so you've got to keep pushing yourself. The game over there is way more physical ... so keeping that aggressive mindset."
Question: When you go to play internationally, who decides that? Is that your agent? Or are the Storm involved at all? Do they decide what team you go to, what country you play in?
Loyd: "Yeah, the Storm aren't involved at all. It's pretty much just me and my agent. Me and my family pick what's best for me. It's basically my decision."
Question: Outside of basketball, what was your favorite thing about being overseas playing in Turkey?
Loyd: "I spent a lot of time by myself. So figuring out who I am and who I want to be as a person, off and on the court. That was big for me. Especially because this was the first time outside the country by myself. It was a good time for me to figure out what I want to do with my life."
Question: Was it lonely out there in a foreign country by yourself?
Loyd: "Yeah, but no. It's business. It's not pleasure. You're out there to work."
Question: I know you're extremely competitive, so with the Storm bringing in Stewie, she's obviously had the fabulous college career and she's a number one pick just like you were, does your competitive nature grind on you to take your game to a whole new level?
Loyd: "Yeah, every time I come out on the court. I want to compete against the best. I take no mercy on anyone. Obviously we played against each other, but I'm looking at everyone who's in the draft, even those girls that are practicing in 7th grade who are trying to take my spot. You always have to put in the work and grind because everyone's trying to take your spot."
Question: I know it's only been a couple of practices, but how's the comfort level playing off of her (Stewart), do you feel like you're building up a good rapport with her?
Loyd: "Yeah, I mean, she's very versatile. Me and her in the pick and roll, I think could be really deadly; because she can pick and pop and pick and roll. And it just puts a lot of pressure on the defense when you have two dominate players that can do a little bit of everything. Same with her and Sue. Her and Sue in the pick and roll is really deadly as well. I'm really excited to see what's to be."
Question: Has Jenny been having you play more Point Guard in practice for this training camp? Or is it about the same as you were last year?
Loyd: "It's probably more. So I can get comfortable with that. So I can be more versatile, with the 1 or 2 or vice versa. It's a good position to be in. It makes the defense have to think a little bit more and not get complacent."
Lexi Eaton Rydalch Interview:
Question: So it's really difficult for a 3rd round pick to make a team in the WNBA, what do you think you can bring to the table to make you stand out and get a roster spot?
Lexi: "I think my scoring ability and my athleticism transfer. But you can't worry about making the team. You just have to come to practice every single day and compete no matter what. No matter who you're going against. It's just a matter of competing and being tough. Finding grit to make things happen. That's all you can control."
Question: Right now what would you say is the best part of your game. And where do you think you need to improve the most?
Lexi: "I'd say the best part of my game is my scoring ability. I did that through college and pretty much my whole basketball career. And what I need to work on, I would say the little toughness plays. I feel college is a level you have to play at, but once you get to this level you have to find more things you have to be tougher in. I'm finding those by watching film, I'm picking up on, ok I can be tougher here, I can be tougher on this box-out, this closeout, setting the screen. It's mentally or physically, so it's the little things."
Question: "I know you're primarily a scorer, but have they had you running any point or talked to you about any back-up point guard?"
Lexi: "Not point guard. Just two and three."
Question: I know your faith is really important to you, how has the helped through your journey in basketball and to get to where you are right now?
Lexi: "It's been my core of everything throughout my entire life. In basketball and in life there are trials. And you have to get better every single day and get through those trials. So falling back on my faith and my religion gets me through that. When I have that solid core that I can go back to and refer to and rely on Jesus Christ."
Breanna Stewart Interview:
Question: Have you had a chance to talk to Kaleena since you've been drafted? And what has she told you about the team and the city of Seattle in general?
Stewart: "I talked to Kaleena a little bit. Obviously she said congratulations. She's excited. We played on the same team for three years at UConn. But the fact that she's still overseas has kinda been a little difficult. I know Seattle's a great place just from the fans, and other players telling me. I'm looking forward to it. And when she gets here, I'm sure she'll show me more."
Question: Was there a moment in high school or early college where you really struggled? What was that and how did you have to make that adjustment?
Stewart: "Yeah, did you see my freshmen year in college? That was quite the struggle. Making the adjustment from the high school to the college level; especially when you're playing under Coach Auriemma. Realizing what he's trying to do. And I'm sure there's an adjustment when you come to the professional level, but I think that having those struggles early on, they were definitely huge parts of making my career what it's been so far."
Question: If you hadn't been a WNBA Player, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Stewart: "What I wanted to be when I grew up .... (thinking) ... I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. But I hated science and I didn't realize you had to be good at science to do that; so that kind of got cut out quickly."
Question: You have pretty much the full skillset, but do you envision yourself more as a three or a four on the offensive side of the ball?
Stewart: "I think when you look at, position-wise, like you said, having the ability to play in both the three and the four; it depends on what Jenny wants. I'm comfortable with both."
Question: When you got to UConn, you said you wanted to win 4 National Championships. How many titles do you want to win with the Storm in Seattle?
Stewart: "Oh my goodness. I'd like to win a lot! I'd like to win a lot of titles. I'm not sure I'm prepared to make a statement like that just yet. I have a little bit more time before games get started."
Question: Do you have any personal goals for your Rookie season?
Stewart: "Personal Goals ... you know I want to be able to have an impact. Obviously, the Storm drafted me here for a reason. And now it's my turn to live up to that and play well."
Make sure to check back here at SonicsRising for more articles on the Storm's Media Day later this week.