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Storm 3-2-1: A primer before the WNBA champs come to Hec Ed

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The Seattle Storm has already started defending their title at Angel of the Winds Arena. They are set to play their first contest at Alaska Airlines Arena this Sunday against the Indiana Fever. In anticipation of that contest, read up on the key players, numbers, and things to know ahead of their opener at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Three athletes to know

Breanna Stewart

The biggest offseason news for the defending WNBA champions was the injury to Breanna Stewart while playing overseas. Replacing the 21.8 points and 8.4 rebounds from the reigning MVP will not be an easy task for the Storm.

“We’re just going to have to stick together,” point guard Jordin Canada said. “It is a chance for everybody to step up.”

A few players to watch that will try to fill that void are the reigning most-improved player of the year Natasha Howard and second-year center 6-foot-6-inch Mercedes Russell. Howard is living up to the increased role, leading the team with 19.6 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game.

Jewell Loyd

Notre Dame alum Jewell Loyd was second on the team in both points and assists last year, and with Stewart out for the season and Sue Bird out until at least the end of July, her role will likely see a drastic increase. Coming off her first all-star appearance, Loyd will be the number one option on offense. Loyd is currently at 16.6 points per game while shooting 93.9% from the free throw line.

Jordin Canada

Canada will return to Hec Ed where she played against Washington while attending UCLA. Canada served as the backup point guard behind Bird a season ago, and is looking to take the lessons she learned from the future Hall of Famer to make a big leap in her second year. Although she is on the mend from a minor knee injury herself,  Canada is averaging just under 10 points per game and leads the team with 5.3 assists per game.

“I want to be more confident in my game,” Canada said. “Last year I was hesitant, just because I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I have that experience, I’m looking to come in and just play the game and be more aggressive.”

Two numbers to know

Six

From June 28 to July 14, the Storm will play six straight games at Hec Ed, and as the players see it, the transition to Alaska Airlines Arena will be a chance to get some new eyes on the WNBA.

“It is an opportunity to bring more fans to the gym,” Loyd said. “It is a little bit bittersweet because Key Arena has so much history, but we know it is going to be worth it in the long run.”

Seventeen

The Los Angeles Sparks won consecutive titles 17 years ago, marking the last time a team has accomplished that feat in the WNBA. Seattle is looking to be an end to that drought, but it won’t be an easy task. The Washington Mystics, the team the Storm beat in the finals last year, figure to be a contender once again with Forward Elena Delle Donne leading the way.

The recent trade by the Las Vegas Aces to acquire MVP candidate Liz Cambage instantly puts the Aces in title contention and makes their July 19 trip to Seattle a must-see. That game will mark Kelsey Plum’s return to the same arena where she set the all-time women’s NCAA points record as a Husky.

One recap of the season so far

Riding the high from receiving their championship rings, the Storm overcame the emotions of being without their top two players, Stewart and Bird, to beat the Phoenix Mercury 77-68 in the season opener. Afterward, the Storm went on the road for seven of their next eight games where they went 4-4, including back-to-back one possession wins in Washington DC and Indiana. The heavy road schedule allows the Storm to load up a bit on home games down the stretch as they fight to repeat their championship victory.

The Storm are fresh off a victory against the Los Angeles Sparks in Everett on Friday, where they won 84-62, despite the continued absence of their lead guards Sue Bird and Jordin Canada.

Reach reporter Kyle Gehler at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @KyleGehler

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