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October 12, 2013 at 7:33 AM

Storm 2013 Exit Interviews: Forward Alysha Clark thrived in bigger role


Storm F Alysha Clark shoots a layup
PHOTO: Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times

Series Note: The Storm was swept in the opening-round of the WNBA playoffs by Minnesota on Sept. 22. Game 2 was played at the Tacoma Dome due to a scheduling conflict at the team’s KeyArena court by one of its sponsors, Microsoft. Minnesota went on to win the WNBA championship as Seattle players dispersed to offseason destinations the following days after holding exit interviews with coaches and the media. This series will feature conversations from the 11-player roster.

The WNBA offseason won’t feel as long given news the league should generate on the business side. The league’s collective-bargaining agreement expired Sept. 30 and a new agreement will need to be in place before free-agency can open as tentatively slated in February. The 2014 WNBA schedule likely will be moved up to accommodate for the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

Storm-wise, the team could remain the same in 2014. Here’s a conversation with F Alysha Clark, who had to play a bigger role in a season without franchise All-Stars PG Sue Bird (knee) and C Lauren Jackson (hamstring) due to offseason surgeries. Clark’s minutes in critical parts of the game increased as the season progressed. In her second WNBA season, she had career highs in points (12) and rebounds (9) in the playoffs but missed a pair of three-pointers late that could have helped Seattle avoid the sweep. She finished the season averaging 4 points on 45.3 percent shooting from the field in an averaged 15.3 minutes. Clark, 26, accepted a position to assistant coach this offseason at her alma mater, Middle Tennessee State.

Seattle Times: Your play improved this season, is there anything you plan to work on to make another return to the roster in 2014?

Clark: Just continuing to work on my guard skills. I agree, I’ve come a long way since last season and even my first season out of school (2010). So, I’m going to continue to get better at shooting and working on my mid-range game and just being confident with the ball in my hands. And I need to work on becoming a better defender, too.

Q: What did you think of Tina Thompson calling all of y’all out individually at her last regular-season game? She specifically told you to unpack your bags; I assume meaning to know, mentally, you’re part of this franchise this season.

Clark: It’s nothing that hasn’t been voiced before. But when people heard it that night, they took it as I hadn’t unpacked my bags at all this whole season. That’s not the case. During training camp, I don’t unpack my bags because I never know and I don’t want to be comfortable. I always keep my bags packed until I see the final roster and know that I made the final roster. But (her words) didn’t bother me one bit. It’s not a secret and she meant it in a good way. The things she said were very touching and it was very nice for her to kinda give me a little boost of confidence. She let me know she believes in me and believed in what I could do. It really meant a lot coming from her.

Q: Did that help your play in the postseason?

Clark: It was just coincidence. Everybody on our team has been great this whole season about telling everybody to just stay ready and that’s the kind of mindset we’ve all had — stay ready until your number is called. And when you do, you just step in and take advantage of the opportunity and make something happen. For me, it happened to be a coincidence that I was able to do that in the postseason.

Q: What is the mood like after a loss like that?

Clark: It hasn’t settled in, yet. Everybody has the same attitude that we’ve had all season. Win or lose, we’re still cordial to each other, we speak. But I don’t think this has set in just yet. Once we get together for our final good-byes, it’ll be more (sad).

Q: Will you watch the rest of the postseason? Minnesota did go on to win the WNBA championship.

Clark: Yeah, I’ll definitely watch. I have friends that are still playing so I want to watch them and watch them do well. I still show support. It’s like a team business. Just because we got put out doesn’t mean I’m gonna not watch it. I’ll watch it because it’s good entertainment. It’s good basketball that’s being played.

Q: What do you hope carries into next season?

Clark: I would say that same focus and mentality that I brought this year. To be a little more confident and bring what I brought this year — energy, and positivity, and hustle and grit. All of that kind of stuff. And continue to grow.

Q: Transitioning into coaching, how much were you able to prepare? Your first exhibition game is Oct. 29

Clark: Our coaches kept me up to date on everything that’s going on with our team. I follow all of the girls on Instagram and Twitter, (communicating) with them about how workouts and stuff have been going. If they wanted some shooting drills or something to do, I lend it to them. I’m really excited and nervous and all kinds of things right now.

Q: I was going to ask about that.

Clark: I keep telling everybody; I just don’t want to suck. But I’m looking forward to it. I have some great people ahead of me to learn from.

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