Ashley Robinson endeared herself to Seattle fans with big blocks, major improvement when opportunity knocked, and a colorful personality. Photo by Kailas Images.
The Seattle Storm moved forward in their quest to get younger with the trade of eight-year veteran Ashley Robinson to the Washington Mystics for promising second-year forward Victoria Dunlap.
Although it might be hard for Storm fans to let go of a clear 2011 Most Improved Player candidate who they were just starting to embrace, Dunlap is the type of player who could very well make the separation process a bit easier.
During the final two months of play last season (from July 17 on), Dunlap played more than 4 minutes in a game only once. And when you think about the number of blowout losses that the Mystics took late in that span with nothing to play for, that's somewhat stunning.
Early on in her rookie season, Dunlap was among the most efficient rookies in the league in inconsistent minutes and perhaps it's no coincidence that one of the biggest games of the first month of her career came against the Storm. Although she wasn't necessarily the most talented rookie in her class, games like the one against the Storm showed off what she does best: make plays on both ends of the court. Storm coach Brian Agler's defensive schemes can take some time for players to pick up, but it's clear that she could be a huge asset defensively.
Of course, the Storm lose a defensive presence in Robinson, who really seemed to turn a corner last season in star Lauren Jackson's absence. Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com summed up the feeling about her departure perfectly.
Players, coaches and those who watched practice on a regular basis knew what Robinson was capable of doing when she got enough minutes to build her confidence, and I’m thankful the whole world had a chance to see Robinson’s skills during her breakout 2011 season.
At the same time, there’s no question that Robinson was more valuable to the Storm than her stat line would ever indicate because she is such a great person to be around. Ashley has always been accessible to fans, especially after joining Twitter, and her support for her teammates grew into an important leadership role as she gained perspective as a WNBA veteran.