By WNBA standards, Noelle Quinn is, well, “old. “
At least, that how she would have described it when she started her professional career in 2007.
“Coming into the league, you have veterans on your team,” she said. “When I was 20-something I’m like, ‘Dang, she’s 30? She’s old.’”
What a difference a decade makes.
Now, it’s Quinn who’s 30 — 31 to be exact — and is being counted on to be that steadying veteran presence after being acquired in a trade with Phoenix late last month.
And while it’s true that she holds seniority over about 85 percent of players in the WNBA, it’s not as if she’s showing her age.
Last season, she appeared in all 34 games for the Mercury, playing almost 20 minutes a night.
“I don’t feel old,” she said, “but that’s just how it is, with the league and how time just flies.”
With 21-year old Breanna Stewart and 22-year old Jewell Loyd expected to form the core of the Storm roster for years to come, head coach Jenny Boucek said to create the “optimal ecosystem,” it’s a matter of pairing those younger players with more experienced options. And to that end, Quinn fits the bill.
“We have to find the right veterans around them and that’s as important as anything,” she said. “Veterans that take some of the burden off of them, and free them up to just play, and Noelle is the ultimate professional … She’s a consummate pro that we want to surround our young bunch with.”
Quinn’s no stranger to Seattle, having spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons with Storm alongside Sue Bird and Alysha Clark. Jenna O’Hea and Crystal Langhorne were both with the team in her second season. It’s those connections that have made the transition back a bit smoother than it would be otherwise.
“If I were in a place that I didn’t know anybody, didn’t know the players, didn’t know the city, I think for me it would be a bigger adjustment,” Quinn said. “Now it’s just about learning the plays, learning the verbiage, learning the little details, and I think that’ll come easier.”
Of course, that stint was before Storm brought in back-to-back No. 1 picks in Loyd and Stewart. And after playing for a pair of experienced teams in her first tenure, Quinn’s role is a bit different this time around.
Instead of just being a role player on a roster full of veterans, she’s also being asked to mentor the youngsters.
“It’s really important,” Storm president and GM Alisha Valavanis said of adding someone with Quinn’s track record. “Jenny and I have been in conversations obviously leading up to this point in the season, and recognized that we thought it would be a real positive to bring in a player with some experience.”
So, how does Quinn fill that role?
“I’m a quiet person by nature,” she said. “I like to lead by example, by just the work ethic and throwing in my two cents every now and then. But for me, it’s kind of easy. I just go out there and work hard, I don’t have to do much.”
But truth be told, a return trip to Seattle wasn’t necessarily at the top of her wish list. While the Storm made overtures to bring Quinn back in free agency, her focus was on winning a title for the first time.
“For me, being at the tail-end of my career, I just want to win a championship and end on a high note,” she said. “I thought that that would be a great opportunity for me in Phoenix.”
But, as the saying goes, the best-laid plans often go awry, and after the Mercury started its season 2-6, the team made several moves to overhaul its roster. That included shipping Quinn to Seattle.
“I always liked Seattle,” she said, “just from my time here. Great fans, great owners, great leadership, everything about Seattle was awesome and I always enjoyed my experience.”
And while not quite near the top of the Western Conference, entering the month of July Seattle was just one game back of the league’s eighth and final playoff spot.
When asked whether this could be her last season, Quinn said she’s not sure what will come next for her.
“I don’t know my future … I’m just, I’m 31, you know? I need to have some kids and start my second life, so to speak. Those are the things you start thinking about as you get older: The end of your career, or what’s the next step after basketball.”
But the team around her? She thinks their step is as a title contender.
“Looking at them right now,” she said, “they’re going to get there fast.”
For more information on the Storm, or to purchase tickets, visit www.stormbasketball.com.