WNBA: Alysha Clark Makes Transition From Prolific Scorer to Fierce Defender With Seattle
WASHINGTON – Alysha Clark is embracing her new responsibilities while simultaneously displaying the dynamic depth of her game.
The affable fourth-year Seattle Storm guard with an electric smile has quietly and efficiently transformed from a ruthless scorer into a human handcuff.
Emerging as one of the more underrated and fearless defenders in the WNBA, Clark has also developed into a leader for the youthful Storm.
Whatever the Storm has needed this season, Clark has provided.
Whether it’s an encouraging word, a key rebound, clutch basket or timely defense, Clark has consistently delivered.
Though the Storm are 5-14 overall heading into the second of a grueling cross-country six-game road trip Friday night against Connecticut, Clark has continued to shine and remain positive.
“I think I’ve started to settle in and stay true to who I am in terms of what I am good at,” Clark said earlier this week at the Verizon Center prior to the Storm’s 87-74 setback to the Washington Mystics.
“Now, I am maximizing those things that I am good at along with those intangibles. They may not show up in the boxscore, but the things I bring to the team are just as important and I take pride in that. My game is still growing and I have a lot of room for improvement.”
It took some time for Clark to make her mark in the league. The journey was arduous but Clark never doubted that the road would eventually lead back to the WNBA.
Despite being drafted in the second round by the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2010, Clark didn’t make her WNBA debut until two years later.
It turned into a blessing into disguise for Clark, who worked hard and developed into a difference maker for Hapoel Rishon LeZion in Israel during the 2010-11 season.
Clark was named Domestic Player of the Year by Eurobasket.com and selected to the All-Israeli First Team after averaging 14.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
A scoring machine out of Middle Tennessee State who led the NCAA in scoring in her senior year, Clark traumatized defenders with a variety of post moves along with a deft touch around the rim.
While she’s capable of scoring eruptions, it hasn’t been required in her role even though she had an immediate challenge of transitioning from a post player to a guard.
Clark had the luxury of learning the ropes from veteran guard Tanisha Wright, who signed with New York in the offseason. Those practice battles laid the foundation for Clark’s enhanced desire to grow into a dominant defender.
“She really challenged me,” Clark said of Wright. “She told me that you can take pride in being a strong defensive player as well. I’ve never been a bad defender, but being a defensive stopper has never been in my repertoire as a player, but getting to learn from Tanisha was amazing. It just shows that I am evolving.”
Another role the 28-year-old-Leo finds herself in is mentor to rookies Jewell Loyd, Ramu Tokashiki and Kalena Mosqueda-Lewis.
The Storm are one of the younger teams in the league even though veterans Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne are still competing at a high level.
Seattle, which has won a pair of WNBA championships, is positioning themselves for future success after a rough 2014 season.
“Alysha doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Bird said. “She knows what she’s good at and she kinds of stays in that little world.
"To be honest, the way I look at it is you don’t lead the country in scoring when you’re in college for nothing. It goes beyond an ability to score – it’s a mentality. She has that.
"Every single night, she’s guarding the other team’s best player so that just shows where she is in her mental space. She’s tough and brings a lot of that toughness to our team. It’s been really great to watch her grow from when she first got here to now. She’s really matured.”
Clark is happy to be part of that foundation. Her contributions this season have gone beyond the 4.5 points she averages per game. She has reached double figures in scoring five times this season and scored a season-best 14 points in an 86-73 win over Atlanta on July 18.
The Storm currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference standings and the playoffs are within reach although the last-place Sparks with the return of Candace Parker will be a factor in August. Seattle will be in New York Sunday afternoon for a 3:00 p.m. start.
“When I first came into the league, I was constantly learning from the veterans ahead of me and now I am in the position of teaching,” Clark said. “I’ve always been a leader in a sense and it’s just been in different ways.
"Now, I think being one of the older people on the team, I am using my experience and the leadership qualities I learned from the veterans. It’s a testament to them because learning from them and seeing how they were as professionals, teammates and women off the court has been a great learning curve for me so now I am trying to pass that down.”
Another thing that Clark shares are delicious meals. She’s the Storm’s resident top chef. Don’t be surprised to see Clark with her own cooking show in the future. She spends her free time preparing meals and lists baked chicken spaghetti as one of her signature dishes.
While Clark’s passionate cooking nourishes the stomachs of others, her warm spirit feeds and soothes the soul of her teammates.
“We play a game for living,” Clark said. “I am blessed and thankful to be able to do that. I want people to know that I am thankful to be here and that I am enjoying myself. I feel like no matter the situation, there’s always a positive and something to learn from it. That mindset has resonated through the team and that’s something that I take pride in."
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