SEATTLE — The story line sounded familiar: A native New Yorker headed to Seattle on the heels of an undefeated college season at Connecticut that was capped with an NCAA championship.
But before the idea of UConn point guard Bria Hartley following fellow alum Sue Bird’s footsteps in leading the Storm franchise into the future, Seattle traded the seventh overall selection to Washington for All-Star forward Crystal Langhorne.
Seattle lacks depth inside due to veteran All-Star Tina Thompson retiring and Australian center Lauren Jackson planning to miss a second consecutive season due to injury. Storm coach Brian Agler, who’s also the team’s general manager, said he felt it more important to fulfill his roster’s needs in the post rather than draft for the future.
“This kind of fell in our lap,” said Agler, who seriously considered drafting injured Natalie Achonwa of Notre Dame if the trade wasn’t offered. Washington wanted Hartley.
“We had to address that area (post),” Agler continued. “Crystal is an excellent offensive rebounder and an excellent finisher around the basket, extending her range to 15 feet. She’s in her prime at 27 and whenever you get a chance to get a player like that, you’ve got to strongly consider it.”
Langhorne, a 6-foot-2 forward, averaged 12 points and 7.2 rebounds as a full-time starter for the Mystics last season. The numbers were a dip from seasons ago when she averaged 18.2 points with 7.6 rebounds and was named to the All-Star team as a reserve.
But as a six-year pro, Langhorne is a career 55.8 percent shooter from the field who’s averaged 29 minutes since being drafted by Washington in 2008.
She can blend in Agler’s defensive system and hang with the Storm’s transition game.
Agler drafted Canadian Olympian Michelle Plouffe (6-4) from the University of Utah in the second round and Stanford star Mikaela Ruef (6-3) in the third round to add to the training-camp competition to find depth inside.
Mainstay Camille Little (6-2) re-signed in March and Agler picked up posts Angel Robinson (6-5) and Joslyn Tinkle (6-3) via free agency.
Team chemistry will be the first question because Langhorne doesn’t know any of her new teammates well, outside of being on the roster when Robinson was cut in Mystics training camp in 2011 and playing one season in Washington with Seattle forward Noelle Quinn.
What Langhorne does know of Seattle, she’s confident the Storm can be successful in its pursuit of a third WNBA championship. Seattle was 10th in the league in scoring last season (70.8) and last in rebounding (30.2).
“It’s going to be more about hustle,” Langhorne said. “Minnesota isn’t that big either. Of course they have Olympian guards, but they’re not a huge team. It’s possible. You just have to make things work, have a good mix and anyone can win.”
Langhorne played in Turkey this past offseason where she averaged 11.8 points and seven rebounds in EuroLeague competition. Her team didn’t advance to the semifinal round in the Turkish league playoffs and Langhorne expected to settle into home before training camp opened.
“Now I have to pack,” said Langhorne who was notified while watching the draft on television she was traded. “It got me out of nowhere. It’s a change. (Coach Mike) Thibault wants to go in a certain direction and Seattle wants me here so it’s a great opportunity for me as a player to come in and try to help a team win.”
Unlike last season, Seattle will have several late arrivals due to competition overseas. Bird, Temeka Johnson, Tanisha Wright, Little and Robinson are the expected late arrivals.
Agler said everyone should be in Seattle before the Storm opens the season May 16 at KeyArena.
He’ll sign a few point guards to run training camp until his veteran backcourt arrives.
“Last year’s team heard everybody saying they didn’t have a chance to win or be in the playoffs. That bothered them as a team,” said Agler of what motivated the Storm to a WNBA-record 10th consecutive postseason appearance.
“This year our success will be determined on how hungry we are and what kind of competitive training camp we have,” Agler continued. “Because people will still have us out of the playoffs.”