September 13, 2021
Word association with Awak Kuier
Wings rookie, playing more, has a bright future
Competitive and versatile. Those were the words No. 2 draft pick Awak Kuier used to describe her game when she spoke to The Next. And the evidence of her self-scout has been increasingly apparent on the court as well.
Since the Olympic break, the 6’4 center has gotten the opportunity to play more minutes. She had a career night against the Connecticut Sun Sept. 7 where she put up 10 points, grabbed eight boards and blocked five shots.
Kuier has had to step up in the absence four-year veteran Isabelle Harrison, who was placed in the WNBA’s Health and Safety protocol after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 4. Kuier, 20, said that her being young can hurt her at times, but when her number is called, she stays calm, does not overthink and focuses on what she is supposed to do in the game.
“I think just get in there, play really good defense and on offense to be aggressive and not being afraid and just go in there and do my thing,” Kuier said.
Her offensive versatility and defensive focus has allowed the rookie to have an impact on the Wings. Kuier said adjusting to the WNBA has been different after arriving late to training camp due to her commitments in the Italian profession league with her Ragusa team.
“It was really hard for me to get straight into the plays when everybody else already kind of found their place, but it got better as the season went on,” she said. “And now that I’ve played a little bit more it is just getting better and better every time.”
Harrison also played for Ragusa and she has helped Kuier throughout the season as she adjusts to playing in the WNBA. Harrison said when she met Kuier she had not seen so much versatility in a player before.
“Yeah I love Kay,” Harrison said. “That’s what everybody calls her, Kay. She’s just a really good player and I didn’t know she was 19 at the time that I met her. Just seeing how versatile she is and she can play guard, she can shoot the ball, she can dribble, and obviously she’s a post player, too.”
Harrison has become one of Kuier’s best friends over the course of the season.
“She’s the biggest kid. She’s hilarious, she makes me laugh. I forget, she’s not from America, like that’s how much we connect but, you know, she taught me a little bit about her background too,” Harrison said. “In basketball, she’s still growing, and I can see the potential that she has. I’m glad I was here for her, she can see somebody her first time in America… if she needs anything I can help her.”
Athletic, smart and detailed are the words Head Coach Vickie Johnson used to describe Kuier’s game. She said her knowledge of the game is impressive and her ability to shoot the ball is amazing.
“Being so young and being able to understand the game is huge for her development. And I think the more she gets to play more she gets to go back overseas and develop and understand our league and not be in awe by some of the players that she plays against, you know, because she’s 20 years old, she’s kid,” Johnson said. “She just has to play with more confidence.”
Kuier’s said the rhythm of the game in the WNBA is different and playing overseas is not as tactical.
“Here, it’s like, you got to know personnel, you got to know all these players like very well because we have really good players in league so it’s like, more detailed than Ragusa,” Kuier said.
The center will playing for Ragusa again in the Italian processional league. The experience she gains in her rookie season may help her excel overseas. Five-year veteran Kayla Thornton is the oldest player on this young Wings team; she said her ‘little baby’ Kuier is growing and that she has a bright future in the WNBA.
“She’s gonna be nice, you know, she’s young, she is still learning this league.” Thornton said. “I tell her she gotta get in the weight room, but my baby gonna be okay.”
Kuier is listed at 6’4 and 168 pounds. It will take a little more muscle to compete in the posts with the other bigs in the league. Second-year forward Satou Sabally said Kuier is a good, young player that just needs to get her jitters out.
“She’s doing really amazing. Thing about her, she’ll just have to gain more experience, confidence in her shot but she’s doing all the right things,” Sabally said. “In practice she’s working hard and that’s really all we can expect from her. I think she’s really an essential tool for our team not only on the basketball court, but whenever she gets minutes we’re all excited for her.”
The rookie also gets the team excited by a pre-game tradition that she has started with the Wings. Before every game, shortly before, tip-off Kuier dunks. Sabally said it gives the team an energy boost.
“And that’s exactly what I mean with, it’s not whatever you do on the court, it really matters how you are as a person,” Sabally said. “And she’s just a really amazing person who can do all that we celebrate and we get together, it brings us all together.”
Kuier is the first Finnish player drafted into the WNBA. She has had to spend a lot of time away from home. Other than her family, she said the one thing she misses from home is the chocolate.
Dallas has now secured a spot in the playoffs, so her return to the Finnish delight will be delayed just a little longer.