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Earlier in the season, the Storm held a fan workout that Angie participated in. That event was open to men, women and children and was meant to be a fun “fellowship” event. When the Storm started advertising the Fantasy Camp and described it in more serious terms, Angie wasn’t sure she would participate since she hasn’t played basketball since college intramurals 16 years ago. I convinced her to “take one for the website” and that she should just go to have fun. The closer the event got, the more convincing I had to do.

We get to the Furtado Center early to sign in. All of the participants have to sign a waiver before they are allowed to join in. Another thing to make Angie nervous. In addition to me, there are probably 10 other people who are there just to observe or support one of the approximately 45 campers. There is a range of ages and fitness levels. From the activity in the spontaneous shoot around that begins before the event, there are several women who have some extensive basketball experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these women aren’t former college players. There is one group who is hitting shots from all distances. There is another group that is lucky to hit the backboard – Angie has found her people.

Daniel Shapiro, the team’s strength and conditioning trainer, begins the workout by leading the group through a series of warmup stretches and exercises. He lets everyone know that the goal is to have no injuries and to speak up immediately if something hurts. He also lets them know to not stretch a pulled muscle. Throughout the event, the campers (sorry, but using participants or attendees sounds weird) get little tidbits of health info in addition to the basketball clinic. Daniel was glad that everyone had been doing the shoot around earlier. He says that it is best to stretch warm muscles. As they move through the exercises, he let the campers know what muscles they are stretching and how some of the actions translate into game movements. These are the same exercises he runs the team through prior the each practice and game. At the end of the warmups, he brings everyone together, does a quick “One, two, three, go Storm!” cheer and hands off to Coach Dunn.

Coach welcomes everyone to the event and reiterates that everyone needs to leave healthy. She says that they should work as hard as they can, but under control. She introduces the team and her staff and describes how the event is going to work. There will be four skill stations: ballhandling led by Sonja Henning and Semeka Randall; rebounding and post moves led by Quacy Barnes, Kamila Vodickova and Alessandra Santos de Oliveria (Ally to her teammates); shooting led by Katy Steding and Michelle Marciniak; and finally passing led by Charmin Smith and Lauren Jackson. Simone Edwards is suffering from a bad cold and has already been commandeered by all the kids at the event. Coach Dunn says that she is going to roam around and give positive reinforcement “when you all aren’t doing so well, which means I’m going to be real busy.” She gets a laugh, but as it turns out she doesn’t need to do much.

Once the camp gets rolling, the campers work hard and do really well. I roam around myself, taking pictures and notes. These women, regardless of skill level, are going all out. While they are at times being very competitive, they also seem to be having a lot of fun. Here is a quick synopsis on each of the skills areas (not all of the groups did the exact same things in the same order):

Ballhandling
Sonja, who sounds a lot like a head coach in training, leads the campers through basic dribbling skills (low and fast, high and power, figure eights), hand speed drills (holding the ball in front of their shins, letting it go and catching it from behind) and then passing (bounce passes and chest passes at the same time, behind the back). All the while, Sonja kept admonishing them to keep their eyes up, to not look at the ball. “You can’t see your teammates if you’re looking at the ball.” She also tried to reassure them that “your fingers will tell you where the ball is.” During the behind the back passes, their fingers were telling them that the ball was bouncing across the court. Seriously, it seems that when they were able to get into a rhythm, even the more difficult skills were doable – for a little while at least.

Shooting
Katy and Michelle start out this drill by getting the campers to cover the basics of shooting the ball. They have them get into 2 lines and then launch the ball into the air. The important elements are to start with the legs (to give you more momentum into the shot), shoot up instead of forward, and to follow through the shot until the ball is in (or around the general vicinity) or the basket. The execution of this drill looks like they are trying to graze the roof with high passes – which is exactly what Katy and 3M wants. Then they move into different layup and shooting drills. For a layup, if you shoot with your right hand you want to bring up your right leg. Likewise for the left side. Again, this is to increase your momentum into the shot. The funniest “Angie moment” comes when Michelle decides that the campers in Angie’s group need to work on 360-spin-in-air layups, which she demonstrates perfectly. Angie tries, I have to give her that. She fails miserably of course. As she approaches the basket, she does this sideways pirouette move while flinging the ball towards the side of the gym that the basket may or may not be attached to. Michelle, Katy and most every one else gets a good laugh (including Angie).

Rebounding
Here, the campers work on offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, boxing out and getting past a box out. For the rebound drills, Quacy has the campers get into two lines. For the offensive practice, they bounce the ball off the backboard and then immediately do a layup. Quacy and the other players try to get the campers to get 3, 4 then 5 in a row. For the defensive drill, they have to again bounce the ball off the glass and then pass the ball to an outlet player (Ally or Kamila) after the rebound. For the box out drills, after giving a demonstration, the campers worked in pairs (still in two lines). This time the person in front bounced the ball off the backboard and then tried to box out the person behind her in line from getting the ball. The final exercise was a 2-on-2 where Kamila or Ally bounced the ball off the board and there were two defenders boxing out two offensive players.

Passing
Charmin runs the group through several types of passes: the chest pass, the bounce pass, the overhead pass, and two types of passes when you are being defended and have your pivot foot planted – passing around the defender or stepping through, blocking the defender out and then passing. Like just about everything, you need to step into the pass and follow through. Charmin then runs the women through the same exercise we see the team work on before each game where they run towards the basket in groups of three passing the ball to each other without dribbling, resulting in a layup. Charmin reminds each group to talk to each other and call for the ball.

After everyone has gotten through each of the stations, the groups are gathered together and given the instructions for the 3-on-3 drills. If the group on offense scores, they stay in and are supposed to kick the ball out to the drill leader at the three point line and then go right back at the basket. If the group on offense fails to score and doesn’t get the offensive rebound, they go out. If the group on defense gets scored upon, they go out. If the group on defense gets the rebound on a missed shot, then they kick it out and move to the offense. It sounds a little confusing and takes a couple of tries before all the groups get it. The action is continuous until one of the teams of 3 in each group scores 4 baskets. The women who obviously have previous basketball experience start to take control. In one group, the same 3 stay on offense almost the whole time. This drill goes on for about 10 minutes or so.

Then the full court 5-on-5 scrimmages begin. Each of the campers received a reversible jersey at the beginning of the camp so they can switch from being the White to the Black teams when directed. Everyone gets playing time. With the Storm players as coaches and refs, the women start putting their new (or refreshed) skills to the test. All in all, there is some respectable basketball being played. There are some great rebounds, fastbreaks, steals, no look passes, and great shots happening on both sides of the Furtado Center (there are two full courts inside). They play 2 games each to 5 baskets.

After the scrimmage, Daniel comes back out and runs the campers through some stretches and cooling exercises. Camp t-shirts are handed out and all the campers, the players and Storm staffers get together for a group photo. Afterwards they do a short raffle and give away some t-shirts, hats and game tickets. We find out the some of the participants came from quite a distance to be here today (Lauren yells out “Australia” but that doesn’t count). The farthest is from Atlanta, Georgia. There are also women from Canada, Kentucky and Montana. Things break up after the raffle and we all get a chance to talk to the players a little bit and get autographs.

So, after being worried about going to the event, what is Angie’s impression? It was fun, but a lot of hard work. The event gave Angie a whole new appreciation for how fit and athletic the players really are. She wants to let her 3-on-3 teammates and Coach Marciniak know that she is sorry for letting them down and not helping to win their scrimmages. The next day she is sore in places she didn’t know existed. She is happy to make it without a major injury. She also hopes that the players enjoyed themselves as well and that it wasn’t too much of a chore, and hopes that her spin move provided them with some amusement.

If any of the participants would like to add their impressions or comments about the event, please email them to scott@stormfans.org. Like with our other reports, we seek out other fans to contribute and add to the story. Speaking of which, while the event is going on, LD, another stormfans member, is also taking notes which contribute to the above report. At one point when she is observing Charmin’s passing drills, she notices that Lauren is playing with one of the little boys from Simone’s impromptu day school. So, LD goes over and starts talking to Lauren. Following is LD’s report about that conversation and some others she had with a few of the other players.

I (LD) went over with the intention of just telling Lauren that I had met her parents and that they were very nice people. She thanked me for that and I made a comment about how tough she was to take that Jenny Mowe hit and stay standing. She said it really wasn’t that bad. The next thing I knew we were involved in a conversation.

The highlights:
I told her about the stormfans website and she said she would check it out. When I told her about the Aussie members she said to make sure and tell them she said hi.

She likes Seattle, loves the weather and she’s had fun this year. She’s not exactly happy with the way she’s played because she knows she can play better.

She’s looking forward to seeing Alessandra more involved with the offense because she thinks Day Oh is a very good post-up player and is the type that can clear space in the lane.

She’s convinced that she won’t get Rookie of the Year.

The last L.A. game was rough and they were getting cussed out the whole game by the Sparks. I told her about the viewing party and that they could go down there knowing we would all back her screaming for them. She thought that was cool but said she really wishes we could all go down there for the game. I said that that could be a bad idea if it was as rough as the last one and if the refs were as bad as last night because we might all storm the court, end up getting arrested and then the players have to come bail us all out of jail. She said that wouldn’t be a problem and that they’d come get us:)

She was very homesick when she came here. She’s looking forward to getting home and she’s going to get a couple of dogs.

She’s very proud of her brother. He’s younger and has been into trains since he was two. He just recently started working with the railroad there and just loves it. He never really had an interest in playing ball.

She likes it when the Storm plays teams with other Aussies on them since they know her and it’s really familiar. I got the impression that she was saying that even though they play hard against each other it’s not a matter of the other Aussies trying to gun down the rookie. Again, just my impression. Kristin Veal from Phoenix is her best friend and they have matching tattoos.

On the topic of nicknames: she’s Lozza and Loz back home (not sure if I could pronounce it correctly or not) but she doesn’t really mind LJ. She said an interesting thing about that though – said that it would be considered cocky in Australia to call her LJ and that she’ll never be that there. She was unaware of Lo Jack and seemed pretty horrified at the prospect. I teased her about us calling her that if we thought she needed to be fired up and pissed off in a game. She begged me not to.

We talked about pronunciations and how words mean different things here and there. She likes “Ripper mate” and I think we should add that to things we yell at the games. No bonzer though. She put me to the test and asked me to tell her what a caravan is. Of course I said a long line of vehicles headed somewhere. Wrong. It’s an RV.

She said the players really appreciate the fans but that sometimes the media gets them down. I said I had hoped they hadn’t seen the Steve Kelley column from last Monday but they had. I told her that I had sent an e-mail to him and that I knew some others from the message board had as well. She agreed that he needs to get the facts right (35-second shot clock) before he wrote something like that.

All in all she’s a very nice young woman with a great sense of humor.

I talked to Quacy for a bit about Indiana University, Bloomington, etc. She’s got her degree in education and may teach after her playing days are over. She’s played in Spain and Turkey but isn’t sure if she’ll play in the off-season this year or not. She’d kind of like to take some time and just be a mom. She hasn’t been able to take her son with her overseas before but most likely will if she goes this year. We talked about how the WNBA players need to make more money and how it’s teachers that are the ones that should be making the huge money. While she was talking about her teaching experience so far you could see in her eyes that she really loves it.

I also spoke to Michelle about how her wanting to take that last shot Friday night against the Mercury reminded me of Larry Bird. She was very pleased with the comparison and I think it made her feel better about the whole thing. She has checked out the website, her mom told her about it, and she was impressed with it.

Semeka and I chatted about needed to get some more SEC players out here.

I actually saw Alessandra smile when I told her she was making me feel short. I don’t think I’d ever seen her smile before.

I let Katy know that I tried my best to get Coach Dunn to put her in the game last night and that I couldn’t get any louder. Apparently it was loud enough ’cause she said they heard it and she appreciated it.

I think that’s about it. You guys will have to talk about the actual camp experience. I have to say though that I wouldn’t have missed the side I got to see for anything.

Scott here once again – well, that’s the end of the longest stormfans report to date. Again, feel free to send us your comments.

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