All-Star starters Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd have lead the Seattle Storm in the first half of the season. Furthermore, Howard is the reigning WNBA Player of the Month, a two-time WNBA Player of the Week and an early favorite for the league’s MVP. While Howard and Loyd get the spotlight, third-year* Sami Whitcomb deserves attention for her contributions to the Storm.
GETTING THE OPPORTUNITY
The University of Washington product signed with the Storm as a free agent in February of 2017. In her first season, Whitcomb played in 33 games, averaged 12.2 minutes per game and 4.5 points. All three of those numbers took a dip in 2018, with Whitcomb playing 8.6 minutes per game in 31 games and averaging just 2.9 points.
With Sue Bird out due to injury this season, Seattle needed a guard to step up. It took a little time for that to happen, but Seattle has found its woman in Whitcomb. In the past seven games, Whitcomb is averaging 11.3 points, 3.9 assists and 2 steals a game while starting each one.
Replacing a star and a leader like Bird can be difficult for a multitude of reasons. Without even mentioning how much Bird means to this team and to the city,her minutes and points have to be replaced. In 2017, Bird played 30 minutes a game while Whitcomb only played the previously mentioned 12.2. While Whitcomb averaged 4.5 points, Bird was averaging 10.6.
2018 saw a dip in minutes and points per game for Bird, with her numbers coming in at 26.6 minutes and 10.1 points. Whitcomb wasn’t looked at as the answer a year ago, as her numbers also took a hit. In 2019, Whitcomb is being given the opportunity and is taking advantage of it.
She is averaging 7.4 points per game, the highest of her WNBA career. Her three point shooting percentage is at 32.4 percent, which is the lowest of her career. That being said, she has already reached her career high for makes in a season with 35. She is yet to miss a free throw and all of her other stats are up.
MAKING A LIVING BEHIND THE ARC
It was a typical Whitcomb game against Seattle on Wednesday as she poured in all of her 15 points behind the arc and had 8 assists, a career high. Whitcomb forces teams to think about how they want to defend the pick and roll. If a team stays high to stop the three-point threat, Whitcomb can dump it down to Howard. If the team decides to goes under the screen, Whitcomb fires away. Seattle forces the team to pick the poison when defending screens.
That was evident on Wednesday as the Lynx left Whitcomb open early and she knocked down two early three’s. Whitcomb adds a deep threat for Seattle in addition to great court vision. She had a great no look pass to Howard early in the game to get her dime-dropping skills going.
Whitcomb has been making a living behind the arc in her seven starts this year. In those games, she has made 28 field goals, 20 of which were three point makes. That’s 72% of her makes coming from behind the arc. Her making all of those threes is a major reason why she’s on pace for a career year in terms of points.
Sami is already just 13 points away from tying her career high for points in a season. She set that mark with 147 points in her rookie season. She has 134 through 18 games this year. Whitcomb is a perfect example of a player taking advantage of the opportunities she if given. For Whitcomb, this is a long time coming.
NOT JUST A WNBA SCORING THREAT
After averaging 13 points per game as a senior at UDub in 2010, Whitcomb went overseas to play. She played in Germany from 2011-2013. Then, she moved to the WSBL from 2013-2016. From 2015-2018 she also played in the WNBL.
Whitcomb was highly decorated overseas. Her achievements are plentiful.
- WSBL All-Defensive First Team (2016)
- 2-time WSBL Champion (2014, 2015)
- 3-time WSBL Grand Final MVP (2013, 2014, 2015)
- 3-time WSBL scoring title champion (2013, 2014, 2015)
- 4-time WSBL All-Star Team (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Whitcomb has always been a scorer. Now that she is being given the chance to play regular, meaningful minutes, the rest of the league is seeing that ability and it makes Seattle a scary team going forward.
*undrafted in 2010, Whitcomb signed a training camp contract with the Sky but was waived after appearing in preseason games.