Hey, Remember Me??

By Wendy Carpenter
Updated: April 30, 2008

SEATTLE — The Seattle Storm’s practice facility was empty after the second day of training camp last week — save for newly acquired forward Sheryl Swoopes, still taking shot after shot.

Nowhere to be found were her teammates, including former University of Washington standout Kristen O’Neill, who had a pair of Swoopes’ signature shoes growing up, and second-round draft pick Allie Quigley, who had Swoopes’ jersey.

The three-time WNBA MVP had missed several shots during the first workout open to the media. She became hesitant, prompting first-year coach Brian Agler to halt practice and remind her to keep shooting.

“Great shooters shoot,” he told her. “As a veteran player with a lot of pride, I know I’m not going to go out there and let a rookie outwork me,” the 37-year-old Swoopes said. “No, because I have a lot of pride in myself.”

That explains why she has worked so hard to return to the court this summer after missing last season with a back injury and then undergoing surgery.

Now, after four WNBA championships and three MVP awards, Swoopes is attempting a renaissance, playing for a new team for the first time in 10 years. She left Houston last month to sign as a free agent with the Storm, making her one of five superstars on the Seattle roster.

“Change is good,” Swoopes said. “I do feel like being in a new environment, a new atmosphere, new coaches, new system, new players, new city, just everything new is good for me.

“After not playing last season, it was like everyone had forgotten about Sheryl. For me to be able to come here and have a fresh start, I think it’s a good situation.”

Swoopes played in only three games last season because of a bulging disk in her lower back. She went through a three-month rehabilitation after her surgery in October.

Finally, she feels healthy. “I think I’m at a point in my career right now where I don’t really feel like I have to prove anything to other people,” Swoopes said. “Do I think it’s possible for me to come back and be at the top again? Absolutely.”

“If I felt like I was going to be just another player out there, then I probably would have retired and said, ‘No, I’m done.’ But the athlete in me, the competitor in me, is not going to be satisfied with just being out there.”

Her decision to move to Seattle was not made lightly. She had other people to consider, such as her 10-year-old son, Jordan, and her partner, Alisa Scott, who was an assistant with the Comets for seven years.

Both spent last weekend in Seattle before returning to Houston, where they will remain — except for a few weekend trips back — until Jordan finishes school next month. They will spend the summer in Seattle.

“It wasn’t just me saying, ‘Look, you guys, I’m going to Seattle,’ ” said Swoopes, a Texas native who attended Texas Tech. “Obviously, Scotty and I talked about it. Jordan … said he thought it was great. But it is hard — sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and this is one.”

Swoopes said she is at a good place in life, though it took a while to get there. She was one of the first high-profile athletes to publicly acknowledge she is gay, coming out three years ago.

“It was scary,” Swoopes said. “Even if I didn’t have a child, it would have been scary. But having a child, it’s even scarier because you never really know how people are going to react.

“Even today, there are times when I do worry about it. But it’s such a relief that we can be honest, I can just be myself, live my life and not have to worry about who knows, who doesn’t know. I would like to see us — meaning this world — get to a point someday where (being gay is) not an issue, it’s not a topic, we’re not discussing this. There were so many more positive things that came out of (coming out) than negative, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t think twice.”

Swoopes also has no regrets about opting out of training sessions this month with the U.S. national team as it prepares for the Olympics this summer in Beijing.

“This was the ideal situation for me — come to training camp, be in camp every single day, learn Brian’s system, learn my teammates, get myself right physically, mentally, and when we start the season (May 17), I want to be 100 percent,” said Swoopes, who has been on three Olympic teams.

“And if USA Basketball is still there and they still want me, of course I want to be a part of it. I don’t think they’ve counted me out yet. Even if it’s me not playing 30 minutes a game, that leadership that I can bring, that’s what’s missing right now. I think that’s something that we need on this team to be successful.”

She likely will get her wish. Caroline Williams, director of communications for USA Basketball, said Tuesday that Swoopes is “still among the 29 players under consideration for the team. Somebody of her caliber — it would have been great to have had her (in the training session at Beijing last week).”

The final, 12-player roster for the U.S. team is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

“If I play, this will definitely be my last one,” Swoopes said. “This would be a great way for me to go out and kind of hand over the reins to some of the younger players.”