Series Note: The Storm did not advance to the postseason for the first time since 2003. The team held its exit interviews in August. This series will feature conversations from the 12-player roster. PG Sue Bird’s conversation was a feature used in the newspaper.
In a new move, the WNBA held the draft lottery four days after Seattle lost its regular-season finale to eventual WNBA champion Phoenix. Seattle (12-22) and Tulsa (12-22) had the best chance to win the No. 1 overall pick, the Storm hitting the lucky number. The draft should be held in April 2015.
In addition to a top-tier pick, should Storm coach and GM Brian Agler choose to keep it, the team could look different. Alisha Valavanis, the organization’s new chief operating officer, is taking a holistic approach to moving the franchise into the next 15 years and that includes on the court.
Here’s a conversation with G Jenna O’Hea, who was moved to the power forward position for the first time in her career to help with Seattle’s depleted interior. It was a rocky transition, O’Hea also playing her first season with the Storm where defense was emphasized more than any other time in her four-year WNBA stint. She missed four games due to a toe injury and struggled to hit her signature three-point shot in the midst of the changes. O’Hea, who’s 6-foot-1, was moved back to the wing spot in August when she played her best game against Los Angeles, finishing with a season-high 16 points with four assists and three steals in a loss. O’Hea averaged 4.8 points and 13.4 minutes off the bench.
O’Hea is under contract for the 2015 season and will spend her winter playing in France. Due to rule changes, the Australian Olympian will not compete for her country in the FIBA World Championship tournament in September.
Seattle Times: How difficult was it to switch your playing position?
O’Hea: It was tough. That’s what Brian wanted of me, so I tried my best at it. Toward the end of the season I moved back into the three spot, which I felt a lot more comfortable in. That’s always where I got my shots from, so it felt a lot more natural for me. But I’d like to add (playing inside) to my game. The more versatility the better for me. Now I know what Brian wants of me and I can work on that in the offseason in France. We’ve had chats about that.
Q: I’ve heard there was a strong bond between the team off the court but lack of on-court chemistry was evident. Is that accurate to what you felt in your first season with Seattle?
O’Hea: Yeah, I had a lot of fun this year. The girls are a really great bunch and we all got along so, so well. It was really disappointing we couldn’t quite bring it together on the court. We were going through one practice session that there were eight or nine games that we lost when we were up in the fourth quarter. We were right there in a lot of the games, we just couldn’t finish it off. That makes us tougher and hopefully we can put it together for next year.
Q: How much did you talk about the struggles when you were together off the court?
O’Hea: I don’t talk about basketball off-court. When we’re in the locker room, we talk about things. But once I leave, I like to clear my head and do other things. But we definitely discussed it in length throughout the season, whether it be in meetings or on-court or in the locker room. Stuff like that.
Q: What was a fun game?
O’Hea: The one that sticks out, I wasn’t even playing, I was injured. But that Minnesota win on June 6. It was my birthday, that’s why I remember it. The crowd was really electric that night and just how well the girls played. My brother and sister-in-law were in the crowd, so that was one that comes to mind straight away.
Q: And the hardest?
O’Hea: Probably the overtime loss to San Antonio at home (June 19). That hurt us then and in the long run (the Stars edging the Storm in total wins to seal the final playoff berth two games before the regular-season ended).
Q: You’re friends with all of the Aussies who’ve played here. They told you about the franchise’s history, how different was this season from the stories they shared?
O’Hea: Everyone knows we didn’t have a successful year. It’s not how we wanted it to be. It’s disappointing to finish the way we did because that isn’t what Storm basketball is all about. It’s such a successful franchise and it stings to be sitting here right now out of the playoffs.
Q: Where do you stand with the Opals?
O’Hea: They put some policies in place that I couldn’t meet. But the coaches have contacted me, so I still hope to be a part of the national team. Everyone wants to represent their country. Moving forward, I hope I’m called for the Olympics again. It’s really not in my control right now. It might be where I (have to choose between the WNBA and national team) but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.