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September 29, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Camille Little helped shoulder the team

Seattle Storm v San Antonio Stars

Storm F Camille Little looks to pass PHOTO: WNBA

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.

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 F Camille Little, who continued her upward trajectory in another challenging season with a limited frontcourt rotation. Little shot a career-high 33.8 percent from three-point range and had marketed improvement in her career averages in 12.9 points and 30.8 minutes. Her season-high 31 points against Minnesota in June propelled a 81-71 win at KeyArena. Little, who’s 6-foot-2, scored in double figures in 19 of the team’s final 26 games.

But once the season’s fate was decided by San Antonio clinching the last postseason berth 20 minutes before Seattle’s final road game at Los Angeles, Little found it most difficult to play. She was 1-for-11 from the field in 29 minutes in the lopsided regular-season finale against Phoenix.

Little did display strong veteran leadership in the first year of her new contract with the Storm. She is expected to return to a similar role in 2015. Little hasn’t signed to play overseas, yet.

Seattle Times: During former Storm executive Karen Bryant’s retirement celebration prior to the July 31 game, she mentioned visiting you for dinner in your native North Carolina. Will that actually happen?

Little: For sure! If she doesn’t come, I’m going to be mad. I was serious and it would be whatever she wants. When my Mom and Dad come to Seattle and cook, she hasn’t been able to visit because it’s usually just a team thing. I’m sure the menu when she visits us will be close to that — a little bit of everything.

Q: Your parents visiting and making a big dinner always seems to be a highlight for the seasons since you were acquired via trade in 2008.

Little: Yeah, the good part of every season is the players are always good people and we have a good time off the court. We can enjoy each other. I would hate to be on a team where I didn’t like my teammates. That would suck. I’ve been on teams where you don’t necessarily hang out with them. When it’s over, you leave like, “I’m going home. I’ll see y’all tomorrow.” Here, it’s like, “What are we doing? Are we going to go eat? You wanna go, let’s go” on a regular basis. They (management) do a good job of bringing in good people.

Q: That last LA trip looked bad. You played four minutes in a 77-65 loss as Brian went to playing reserves since y’all were out of the playoffs?

Little: That was the worst, for me. I went to go shoot for warm-up and we knew San Antonio was playing but I didn’t know the score (of the game where San Antonio had to beat Minnesota to clinch the fourth and final playoff berth). When I walked in and saw the score…man. In that moment, our season was over and there was nothing you could do about it. There was not a lot of talk in the locker room (by teammates). A couple of four-letter words, but there was nothing we could do.

Q: Were you surprised? It was Becky Hammon’s last game at home as she heads into being an assistant coach for the Spurs, but they beat Minnesota (92-76) which, I believe, was still fighting for a top seed in the playoffs.

Little: Yeah, but, I’m surprised because it’s the Seattle Storm and we weren’t in the playoffs — regardless of what everybody else is doing. Of course we needed them to lose. But at that point it was like, damn, we’re done. I’ve never felt a season where you’re just playing two games just because. I’ve never been in that situation before and it did not feel good.

Q: With your play, you appeared to be fully comfortable with having to be that dominant, veteran post player with Lauren Jackson and Tina Thompson gone. Were you?

Little: Every season is different. I don’t come in like, “I’m the leader! This is my team! I’m going to speak!” No. Every year is what’s needed. If T (Tanisha Wright) leaves, I’ll be more vocal, you know? Whatever is needed, I’m down for the cause. I just want to win and for the organization to get back to where it was at. As far as shooting, I always knew I could shoot. I’ve been doing it since college. The roles were just different. I didn’t feel in the past that was needed of me. We had Tina. We had Lauren. Why would I be standing beside Lauren shooting threes? But I’ve always been in the gym with (associated head coach) Jenny (Boucek) shooting. This year, for sure, I’ve been more confident in it. It’s just part of the game. The other part is being a vet. These are the years where people peak, age 29 to 31 years. I see why.

Q: Do you talk to Lauren?

Little: Sometimes all of us (teammates and Lauren) talk together. It’s not anything specific, just “Hey, miss you.” I don’t hold my breath. If she wants to come back, she’ll be back. When she’s here, we’ll know. We have to focus on what we have here and if she comes back, that would be really wonderful. We don’t control that. As an organization, we should live that way if it’s anybody. Just like we shouldn’t hold our breath for T (to retire or not). They should have a conversation and should always have a backup plan. Only T knows what she’s going to do. If she doesn’t tell you herself she’s coming, don’t assume she’s coming. It’s hard, but you don’t know what’s in people’s minds. I’m for sure looking forward to coming back.

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