By Colin Davenport
At the press conference announcing the initial 2015 roster, new Storm head coach Jenny Boucek was clear about what to expect this season: "We as an organization are on an arduous journey to get back to a championship level as soon as possible. Everyone involved from the top down has committed to this process and is excited about it."
Boucek's statement reiterated what the franchise has said since former coach and general manager Brian Agler left. The Storm are starting over, and while the process of rebuilding the legendary franchise will take time, those in charge have already set the foundation for the next era of Storm basketball.
Jenny Boucek's new system:
After the better part of a decade playing a slowed down, grind it out style, the Storm are taking on the task of reinventing themselves as a fast paced, offensive team under the direction of newly promoted head coach Jenny Boucek.
"The biggest challenge has been how much we are doing that's new. We have a short period of time to grow into our systems, our culture and develop a synergy," Boucek said. "On the flip side, I couldn't be more pleased about how fast (everyone is) learning, coming together and improving."
With their first opponent being the arch rival LA Sparks, who are now led by the aforementioned former Storm head coach and GM, fans wont have to wait long to see what the new style looks like and find out just where the team stands in the tough western conference.
Big Name Draft Picks:
The biggest story from Seattle this offseason has been the additions of Jewell Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis via the draft.
The two first crossed paths when they were roommates as teenagers playing with USA Basketball. They have since been friendly rivals, facing off in back-to-back NCAA championships. Mosqueda-Lewis' UConn winning both meetings over Loyd's Notre Dame teams.
Both players are looking forward to starting their WNBA careers.
"We are excited to finally get to play with each other instead of against each other," said Mosqueda-Lewis. "It's nice to not have to guard (Loyd) for a change."
Loyd, who possesses incredible athleticism and ability to hit contested shots, is must-see entertainment for anyone who has even the remotest interest in basketball. While only a rookie, she has an impressive resume' that goes beyond her success at Notre Dame.
As a high schooler, she was a practice player for the Chicago Sky. Last season as a junior at Notre Dame, she became friends with Kobe Bryant, who has now become a mentor to the budding superstar.
"We have a similar approach to the game," Loyd said about her connection with Bryant. "I have always watched (Kobe) and studied his game. I have respect for his game and he has respect for mine."
At the same time Mosqueda-Lewis enters the WNBA as one of the most elite three-point shooters in all of basketball. Her college total of 398 makes from behind the arc is an NCAA record.
It's only fitting that she was drafted with the third pick, and will play in the same building where NBA three point king Ray Allen, another Uconn alum scored many of his own trifectas.
The All Stars - Bird, Langhorne and Montgomery:
The Storm might have changed significantly but Sue Bird, the one constant from almost day one of the franchise, is still leading the team.
"I have been in (Seattle) a long time, so I can share my experience with (the new players)," Bird stated. "I know the faster they learn the easier their transition will be so I am going to help them learn and transition anyway I can."
Also returning from last season is two-time All-Star Crystal Langhorne, who led the Storm in scoring and rebounding in 2014, and looks to provide a similar performance this year.
"Last year (coming to a veteran heavy roster), I kind of felt like a rookie but this year I'm one of the oldest," she said. "I'm enjoying my new role."
New to the team is All-Star and Sixth Woman of the Year, Renee Montgomery, who is excited to get a fresh start. "I'm happy to be (in Seattle)," she said.
"I spent my entire college career and most of my pro career in Connecticut, so while leaving there was a bit sad because of my connections to that area, it also lets me have a new experience with a great organization where I feel I fit in very well."
Clark and O'Hea are now the veterans:
Last season Alysha Clark and Jenna O'Hea were role players who looked to veterans Camille Little and Tanisha Wright for leadership. With both Little and Wright gone, Clark and O'Hea now find themselves in leadership roles for the first time.
"I'm definitely looked at as more of a leader now," Clark said on Media Day. "To be here in my fourth year and be the vet is surreal. Jenna and I talked about it earlier and wondered ‘when did 27 become old?' It's definitely different, but it is exciting. We have a lot of energy and a lot of young players who are excited to be here."
O'Hea mirrored Clark's statements. "There are so many young girls around that Alysha and I are feeling quite old," she joked. "But it's quite exciting. The energy and enthusiasm is very different than we had last year."
Clark and O'Hea also had similar experiences in their time overseas. Both living in beautiful locations. Clark in Israel and O'Hea in the south of France. Both players were walking distance to the beach. So who had it better? "I was a two minute walk from the beach. Nothing beats that," said O'Hea. "So I think I win that one."
Clark disagreed: "It was warm the whole time I was in Israel and I think it might have gotten chilly in France. So I'm going to go with me."
One thing is for sure, both players have worked on their skills this past year. Clark has improved her perimeter shooting noticeably, while O'Hea comes into the season with a much improved handle and a quicker release on her lethal three-point shot.
The two former role players definitely look like they are ready and able to take their games and their leadership to the next level.
The Storm continued to add to their legacy of international talent with the addition of Japanese superstar Ramu Tokashiki (pronounced toe-kosh-key). Tokashiki is just the third Japanese player to play in the WNBA and she brings an exciting and athletic style of play that will make her a fan favorite.
"I'm really happy and excited to make it on the Storm. Tokashiki said through her translator, former Univeristy of Hawaii player Diane Moore. I'm really looking forward to the new challenge of the WNBA."
Tokashiki, who goes by Tok, speaks very little english but that hasn't stopped her from making an impact. "The language is definitely a barrier, but I want how I play to speak for me."
Meanwhile,Coach Boucek has nothing but confidence and praise for Tok.
"Ramu is a perfect piece. She is a high-level player and competitor who we feel we can build with. She plays very instinctually. Sometime language can mess that up. But she has learned as quick or quicker than our players who speak english."
Abby Bishop returns:
In 2010 a 21-year-old Abby Bishop was the last player on the bench for the Storm during their historic championship season. Now 26, Bishop has grown immensely both on and off the court.
She competed with Australia at both the 2010 world championships and at the 2012 London Olympics where she and her fellow Opals won bronze.
In the 2014-'15 season she was named MVP of WNBL in Australia where she led the Canberra Capitals to a successful season despite the injury to her teammate and Storm legend Lauren Jackson.
"I have matured as a player and experienced a lot more," she said about her growth while away from the Storm. "When I get the opportunity to get on the court, I will be able to use what I have learned over the past five years to contribute to the team anyway they need me to."
The biggest development for Bishop tho has been her becoming guardian to her two-year-old niece Zala.
"Zala put everything into perspective for me. It wasn't just about me anymore."
While a disagreement about Zala being allowed to travel with the Australian national team led to Bishop backing out of the 2014 World Championships, the entire Storm organization has already embraced having Zala around, and she is fast becoming a good luck charm for the team as they enter the 2015 campaign.
The Storm now enter the season with a new identity and ongoing quest to return to greatness. There are a lot of new faces and concepts within the organization, but there is a lot that is familiar as well.
One thing that is sure to be unchanged, is the atmosphere of Key Arena where the Storm Crazies will do as they have always done, and make it tough for opponents to play there.
The Storm tip-off their season tonight at 9 p.m. EST against the LA Sparks.