Vie. Jun 14th, 2024

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SEATTLE — Seattle Storm rookie guard Nika Muhl is set to make her WNBA debut Wednesday when the Storm host Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever after completing the process of converting her student visa to a P1A work visa.

«The process is complete, so she will be with us tonight and have an opportunity to step on to the court,» Seattle coach Noelle Quinn told ESPN after the team’s shootaround Wednesday morning.

Muhl, the No. 14 overall pick out of UConn, participated in the Storm’s training camp and in a preseason game against the Phoenix Mercury but was forced to miss Seattle’s first four games of the regular season. That left Kiana Williams as the Storm’s only point guard on the roster behind starter Skylar Diggins-Smith, with veteran wing Sami Whitcomb also sliding over to play minutes at the point. Seattle is 1-3.

Because the Storm have been busy traveling during a three-game road trip after last Tuesday’s home opener against the Minnesota Lynx, there have been few practices in that span.

«A lot of her preparation obviously through film, but also we got some extra workouts with her I think when we were in Washington and in New York as well,» Quinn said. «Not a lot of team stuff because we didn’t practice but a lot of individual work.»

Wednesday’s matchup against the Fever makes Quinn more confident putting Muhl on the court for her debut. Muhl’s last competitive game saw her defend Clark for the UConn Huskies as they faced the Iowa Hawkeyes in the national semifinals of last month’s Final Four. Clark was limited to 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting, tying her lowest output as a senior, but Iowa beat UConn 71-69 to reach the title game before losing to South Carolina.

«The biggest thing is she’s had reps with Caitlin Clark and if that’s going to be her matchup, then I feel comfortable,» Quinn said.

«There’s a clear scout that she followed — the physicality that she had, picking her up full court, playing in her space and being physical. Those are the things that stand out to me the most. Obviously here on the pro level, there’s more actions that she has to guard and defend. Knowing what her strengths are, I thought that she did a good job of staying in her space the majority of that game.»

To some degree, Muhl’s defense in the Final Four set the template for Clark’s WNBA opponents through her first four games as a professional. Veterans DiJonai Carrington of the Connecticut Sun and the New York Liberty’s Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, the latter a two-time member of the WNBA All-Defensive team, have pressured Clark while using their size to deny her the basketball.

«It’s kind of magnified now because you have players who have been at this level for multiple years and understand scout, understand physicality, understand strength of players and how you neutralize that strength with what you do defensively,» Quinn said. «More mindfulness around how you defender her and not just hoping that she misses shots is actually playing a part in the coverage.»

In addition to Muhl, Seattle hopes to get back All-Star forward Nneka Ogwumike, who missed the past two games with an ankle injury suffered last Friday against the Minnesota Lynx. Quinn indicated Ogwumike’s availability Wednesday will be a game-time decision.

«As of right now, I feel like there’s a positive that she will play,» Quinn said. «Just kind of seeing what happens in that pregame warmup. If she does, being mindful of her minutes.»

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