A win-win game escaped a storm on Thursday, but just a short drive from her campus, first-year striker Gabe Williams turned into a multi-dimensional effort.
Storm (18-11) fell 88-83 to the Connecticut Sun and were late to a playoff. However, there were good signs, and Williams’ confidence was one of them.
“I see plays before they happen and that comes with time,” Williams said. “My teammates have been really patient with me.”
Her teammate Sue Bird joked that she challenged Williams to make it to 10 boards and almost succeeded. Williams came close to a double with 16 points and nine rebounds, her second best mark for both this season. She also contributed four assists, three steals and one block.
In February, Seattle struck a deal with the Los Angeles Sparks for Williams in exchange for striker Katie Lou Samuelson and the No. 9 pick in the 2022 draft. Storm signed her to a one-year deal worth $144,000. She was still playing in Hungary and joined the Storm shortly before the start of the regular season.
“We’re still unlocking Gabby a little bit. Gabby is still opening herself up a little bit,” Bird said after the game. “We’re still thinking about that, and luckily we have another set of games to do that before heading into the playoffs.”
Williams was Chicago’s No. 4 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft after a successful career in Connecticut. She played three seasons with Sky, averaging 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals, before a dramatic break related to the French national team. She did not play in the 2021 WNBA season but helped France take the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The hope was that after a year away from the league and a fall season that included honoring the best player in the Euroleague Finals, some defenses would return to the Storm Defence. That happened from day one, Baird said.
“When Gabe plays at a high level, we are better,” coach Noel Quinn added. “She’s constantly putting in a defensive effort and when she adds an offensive punch, it gives us a huge boost.
“Today I thought she was playing for free. She is one of our guys who constantly goes down the hill and into the paint. Today I thought she actually attacked the ledge instead of going down and hunting.”
All starters finished with at least 14 points. There was a stark head-to-head stat – it outpaced the Seattle Connecticut seat 30-8.
Storm stayed on track to play back-to-back games against the Washington Mystics, who held the same 18-11 record and won three in a row, on Saturday and Sunday.
If Williams can build on Thursday’s game in Connecticut, that’s another good sign.
“She has a really hard-to-teach skill set and athletic ability. As she starts to keep on discovering her spots, that’s a huge plus for our team,” Bird said.
“I’m really proud of her for staying with her. I’ve seen him in places and today was a really good sign, I think, for things to come.”