Storm’s Nika Muhl set to make WNBA debut vs. Fever after visa issues

SEATTLE — Seattle Storm rookie guard Nika Moll is set to make her WNBA debut on 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 will have an opportunity to get on the field,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn told ESPN after the team’s game on Wednesday morning.

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

Since the Storm were busy traveling during a three-game road trip following last Tuesday’s home opener against the Minnesota Lynx, there were few practices in that period.

“Obviously a lot of her preparation is through film, but we also got some extra training with her I think when we were in Washington and New York as well,” Quinn said. “There’s not a lot of team stuff because we haven’t trained but there’s a lot of individual work.”

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Wednesday’s game against the Fever makes Quinn more confident in putting Muhl on the field in 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 at the Final Four last month. 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 most important thing is that she gets reps with Kaitlyn Clark, and if this is going to be her showdown, I feel comfortable,” Quinn said.

“There’s an obvious scout that I followed – the physicality that she had, picking her up all over the court, playing in her space and being physical. Those are the things that caught my attention the most. Obviously here at the professional level, there’s more to her to protect and defend.” And, knowing her strengths, I thought she did a good job of staying in her space for most of that game.

In a sense, Muhl’s Final Four defense set a template for Clark’s WNBA opponents during her first four games as a pro. Veterans Dijonae Carrington of the Connecticut Sun and Betnija Lani Hamilton of the New York Liberty, the latter a two-time member of the WNBA All-Defensive team, pressured Clark while using her size to deny her the basketball.

“It’s magnified now because you have players who have been at this level for many years and understand scouting, understand physicality, understand the strength of players and how you neutralize that strength with what you do defensively,” Quinn said. “More attention to how she defends and not just hoping she misses shots actually plays a role in coverage.”

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

“So far, I feel like there’s a positive feeling that she’s going to play,” Quinn said. “Just seeing what happens in the pre-game warmup. If that happens, she’s got to be mindful of her minutes.”

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