When asked about what has made the Seattle Storm so good this year, almost every player comments on the presence of so many veterans with championship experience who are hungry for a ring.
However, what might go overlooked is that at the other end of the spectrum the Storm have three rookies on their 11 player roster, tied with the Connecticut Sun for most in the league. While it can be something of a whirlwind for the rookies on the team, it also sets the bar high for what it means to be successful in the league.
"It's kinda amazing," said rookie guard Alison Lacey. "I was told how hard the league is and it's a grind everyday and they were like, ‘We don't normally win by this much - this isn't normal.' So I'm just happy to be a part of it and the chemistry with the girls on the team. Just to be a part of something like this -- I'm just happy to be here and learn as much as I can."
Of course, the flip side of all that chemistry induced happiness is that rookies don't get to play much and it's hard to get fully acclimated with a successful team without being able to actually perform with them.
"I appreciated the starting five that they played so good and we had a chance to play on the court in the last quarter," said rookie forward Jana Vesela who had 8 points on 4-4 shooting and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes against the Mercury, her first extended playing time of her career. "I think last game I had quite a lot of minutes so I feel more comfortable for sure. When you play more and more it's like you can do more and more."
However, for Lacey, that extended time in a WNBA game has not yet come.
While both Vesela and forward Abby Bishop received extended minutes in the Phoenix Mercury blowout, Lacey was suited out up but sat out due to a lingering illness that crept up again during warm-ups against the Mercury, according to Agler. However, rather than a set back, Lacey used it as an opportunity to refocus.
"Sitting out and not being able to travel to LA - I kinda sat back and watched the team and that was something I missed and I wanted to be there and I wanted to play," said Lacey. "Then that kinda sunk in - like obviously this is important to me and it does mean a lot for me to play and to practice. So it was good to kinda sit back and re-evaluate how important this is to me."
So while the veterans got a few days off after back-to-back wins against the Los Angeles Sparks and then Phoenix Mercury, Lacey was back in the gym for individual workouts along with Bishop and Ashley Robinson.
"They don't get a lot of opportunity," said Agler. "But they're both working really hard here in practice and doing a lot of good things."
Although Lacey wasn't able to capitalize on the opportunity to play against Phoenix as Bishop did, she's still taken the experience as an opportunity to learn. As a point guard, playing for the Storm offers the particularly unique opportunity to learn from Sue Bird.
"How do you not?" replied Lacey when asked about what she's learned from Sue Bird. "Just little things. Just watching her how she sees things and more importantly how she gets the ball there because sometimes I can see it but I can't get the ball there. Just little things from the bench. Yeah, she's definitely been one of the best to help me and be a leader."
While neither Lacey nor Agler see her illness as a major setback in her learning process, Lacey is also aware that she has a long way ahead of her to become a rotation player on one of the league's best teams.
"Um, eh, fine I guess," said Lacey when asked about her progress during the season. "It's still a learning curve everyday. New stuff being brought up too so just taking it all in. So it's just taking it all in. I feel fine where I'm at - obviously there's always improvement. So it is what it is, I'm happy so far, but I know I got a long way to go."