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May 18, 2012 at 8:00 AM

WNBA season opens Friday with Los Angeles at Seattle

StormCampFinale12.JPGThe WNBA tips-off its 16th season with one game on Friday, the Storm hosting longtime rival in the Los Angeles Sparks. While both teams are getting used to plenty of new faces, the Sparks’ future will be all about Candace Parker — Point. Blank. Period. Dot com, to steal a catchphrase from Tamar Braxton.
A 6-foot-4 post, Parker has missed 27 of her team’s past 68 games due to shoulder surgery in 2010 and a torn lateral meniscus in 2011. She’s shy to talk about her heath, but the 2008 MVP and Rookie of the Year knows she has to stay on the court.
“I am looking forward to the start of the WNBA season, I really am,” said Parker, 26, who’s also a member of USA Basketball’s Olympic team that will compete at the London Games this summer. “I can’t necessarily say that about years’ past with it being right after overseas (play) and being tired and everything. But this year I’m really looking forward to it because I’ve missed playing in front of my hometown.”
Parker won the Russian league championship with Sue Bird at the helm. During play over the course of the season Parker also picked up a new nickname, “Candy.” At least that’s what broadcasters constantly blared when she cut to the hoop like the Tennessee star with whom we’re familiar. (Side note: I couldn’t get Cameo’s hit “It’s Like Candy” out of my head all offseason due to those broadcasts).
“That’s not my name,” said Parker, who’s been told several times of the fun moniker. She still prefers “CP3.” “I’ve never gone by Candy. Ever.”

Well, Parker’s game is sweet, again. The Sparks, which didn’t advance to the postseason, and Storm split the series last year. With revamped rosters, they look like the best contenders to challenge defending champion Minnesota for the Western Conference title.
Seattle finalized its roster on Wednesday and has used the past three practice sessions, including Friday’s shoot-around, to begin adjusting to five new faces. Bird said LA moving its home opener to Tuesday due to NBA and NHL playoffs on Sunday is a positive because the team now gets two days off and time to play a game, work some kinks out, play another game on the road in LA and then dive into the season.
Of course the finalization of spots meant Prairie High’s Ashley Corral was cut. The guard was positive about her performance in training camp, however. She played in the Storm’s lone exhibition matchup at KeyArena on Sunday, scoring the eventual game-winning basket.
Corral, who starred at USC, hopes another team will pick her up but will definitely play overseas when it comes time to sign with teams.
Gonzaga wing Katelan Redmon was cut from New York’s roster leaving Atlanta F Cathrine Kraayeveld (Lake Washington High), Chicago PG Courtney Vandersloot (Kentwood High), Indiana PG Briann January (Lewis & Clark High), New York PG Leilani Mitchell (Kennewick High) and Liberty teammate Alex Montgomery (Lincoln High) as the state’s players in the WNBA this season.
“This has been an amazing experience,” said Corral, whose sister Heather will play for the University of Washington next season. “I grew up in this arena watching Sue Bird. My sister had on Sue Bird’s jersey (Sunday), it was mine when I was little.
“Little things like that make this an amazing experience. I’ve learned so much throughout the whole process. This has literally been life-changing.”
The WNBA season will be an interesting one given the once-injured players returning and league-wide hiatus July 14 through Aug. 15 for the Olympic break. For an in-depth breakdown from some of the league’s media voices, click here for a podcast including myself. Here is a breakdown of the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference.

*PHOTO CREDIT: The Storm completed training camp Thursday with a team huddle, by Jayda Evans.



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