Home Seattle Storm Q&A with Seattle Storm CEO Alisha Valavanis

Q&A with Seattle Storm CEO Alisha Valavanis

After Wednesday’s WNBA Draft I was graciously given some time to speak with the Seattle Storm’s CEO & General Manager Alisha Valavanis about the new draft picks, off-season moves, league policies and more.

During the draft, Seattle selected 19 year old Ezi Magbegor out of Australia with the 12th overall pick, Anriel Howard out of Mississippi State with the 24th overall pick, and Macy Miller from South Dakota State with the 36th and final pick in the draft. You can read all about that here: Storm reload in the draft with Magbegor and Howard.

Jeff Brown: “What is the difficulty when scouting International Players and what is that process like?”

Alisha Valavanis: “Great question, the International Landscape the way streaming is working now, we have the chance to see a number of games here in the States. And we have a chance to watch our players compete in the off-season. And we have a chance to watch a lot of the players that aren’t in the WNBA as they compete in the Euroleague and other leagues around the world. The world has gotten a lot smaller with the enhancement of media and streaming. We also go to the International tournaments. Last year our head coach (Dan Hughes) was with the USA Team traveling for the World Cup and I went there as well to watch the players compete. I had a chance to watch Ezi. So that’s the process, which involves travel and scouting from here through film.”

JB: “What stood out most to you about Ezi Magbegor and Anriel Howard that you had to take those players over some other options you had?”

AV: “When we talk about Ezi, her upside, her athleticism, her youth, we just think she’s going to be a special player in the WNBA. She’s incredibly talented, but very young and has a ton of room to develop her game which we think is going to translate really well to the WNBA. When it comes to Anriel, she’s an athlete, an incredible competitor and rebounder. She made a mark in the collegiate landscape because of her ability to rebound the basketball and that’s saying a lot with a 6’7″ player (teammate) to her side. One common factor between both of these players was incredible athleticism and their ability to rebound the basketball.”

JB: “With Ezi staying in Australia in 2019, was that more a mutual decision or a team decision due to roster limitations?”

AV: “We had conversations and knew in advance ahead of the draft that Ezi was interested in staying in Australia in 2019 and that aligned with what our interests were as a team. Where we are at, we were looking to invest and think about Ezi in 2020 and beyond on our roster and that was in alignment with what her plans were.”

JB: “Once she does join the team (in 2020) how do you see her fitting in and complementing Breanna Stewart and Natasha Howard?”

AV: “We think she’s going to be a great addition. When looking at Stewie’s and Natasha’s strengths, Ezi will be complementary as an athlete and being active around the rim. We think she will be a complement and add depth to what is already a strong front court.”

JB: “What is the latest with Ramu Tokashiki?”

AV: “We (still) have the rights to Tok. She was suspended last year. It’s still to be determined on whether or not she will participate in 2019.”

JB: “If you guys declined to bring her back this season, could she go sign with another WNBA team?”

AV: “We would need to sign and trade her.”

JB: “With all the talent influx coming into the WNBA, has there been any talk about expanding the roster size beyond 12? The NBA currently allows 15 players per roster.”

AV: “There’s always ongoing conversations around roster size, expansion, additional teams. But I’d encourage you to call the league and hear from them directly. As far as additional teams or roster spots, that conversation should be driven by the league.”

JB: “Today you guys announced the signing of Shavonte Zellous. Can you give me some quick thoughts on the role you expect her to play on the team?”

AV: “Shavonte is an exciting addition to this roster. We were very intentional to not disrupt what we had going on from last year, but wanted to add some depth and add a defender. Someone with championship experience, this will be her 11th year in the league. Adding Shavonte was about shoring up the roster with another experienced veteran.”

JB: “You’re coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history, winning the championship, but there’s always room to grow. What were the biggest needs you felt should be addressed going into the off-season?”

AV: “From a roster standpoint we did want to add depth. We wanted to add another player who could defend. We wanted a wing that could defend 3’s (Small Forwards) in this league. Generally speaking, I think this team is acutely aware of how competitive this league is. That next year (2019) will be that much more difficult and we’re going to have a target on our backs. We’re going to have to continue to perform at a high level and get better to compete for another championship. The players are hungry, the coaching staff and organization are hungry to build on and improve upon what we accomplished last year.”

JB: “Last question on my end, with signing Shavonte Zellous does that make things more difficult for Anriel Howard to make the team?”

AV: “Yes, I think camp is going to be very competitive. There’s limited space on this roster. But we are very excited to see what everybody brings to camp!”

Once again we want to thank the Seattle Storm and CEO & GM Alisha Valavanis for taking their time to speak with Cascadia Sports Network.

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