July 3, 2023 

For Seattle Storm’s Ezi Magbegor, ‘the sky’s the limit’

Magbegor and her teammates and coaches reflect on her first All-Star selection and the future of her bright career

SEATTLE –  At only 23 years old, Ezi Magbegor is emerging as one of the WNBA’s brightest stars. For her Seattle Storm team, this season has been one of rebuilding, both on the court and in the locker room, but Magbegor is still managing to make this season her best one yet. 

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On Saturday, the WNBA announced that Magbegor had been selected as a WNBA All-Star for the first time in her career, a well-deserved accolade backed by the 15.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 steals that she is averaging this season. While this selection might appear to be the obvious next step in her career, as Magbegor’s statistics have consistently improved each season, Magbegor’s success comes with a story of growth and leadership that the box score can’t tell.

New roster, new role

After winning a WNBA Championship with the Storm as a rookie in 2020, Magbegor continued to prove herself as the lockdown defender and shot-blocker with steadfast consistency that her Seattle squad could count on. Magbegor is now in her fourth season with Seattle, joining Jewell Loyd and Mercedes Russell as the only returners from the 2022 roster. With nine new people learning the ins and outs of Seattle’s notoriously complex system, being a returner automatically put Magbegor in a leadership position, a role that many players her age aren’t often asked to take on, but head coach Noelle Quinn fully trusted Magbegor to rise to the occasion.

“We had a conversation in the offseason and we talked about how from year three to four, players make these jumps in this league and I felt positive that she could be one of those players,” Quinn said.

“She’s coming in great shape and she knows that she has to score a little bit more and be a little bit more aggressive on the offensive end. Defensively, she’s continued to be our anchor, she’s disrupting at the rim, she’s blocking shots, she’s everywhere, and I think to have experienced these past few years of defense and now adding the offense, we’re seeing her growing into her own. She’s confident, she’s talking, she’s leading because she knows exactly what she is supposed to do for this team.”

Bridging the gap through newfound leadership

Magbegor’s position on this fresh Storm team is incredibly unique, as she is closest in age to the rookies on the team but closer to the experience level of the veterans. Quinn makes sure to emphasize that Magbegor’s accomplishments are even more impressive given the fact that she is old enough to be a collegiate player in the United States, but instead is a fourth year professional. Magbegor’s teammates and coaches rave about how she effortlessly brings these two groups together through her leadership.

“I think she does a really good job of almost bridging the gap between, like she’s not a 10-year veteran yet, but she’s been in this league a long time but is also still extremely young because she came in young,” Kia Nurse, one of Magbegor’s new teammates, said. “So for players like [Jordan Horston] and [Jade Melbourne], being able to use her voice when needed, because she’s a woman of few words at times, but is actually kind of talkative and loud, too, so you just have to figure it out a little bit.”

Magbegor admits that she, too, is still navigating how to most effectively approach this new role and cites her teammates as key pieces in forming her own leadership style.

“I think I’m still figuring that out,” Magbegor said of her leadership style. “Just more of a lead-by-example style and knowing that when I’m doing the right thing on the court, people will follow that. I’m obviously not the loudest on the team or most vocal; I kind of leave that to my other teammates, but still figuring out what my leadership style is. I definitely think that at the start, it was kind of weird being a fourth-year player but also, some of the players at training camp were older than I was, but everyone respects everyone on this team. So whether they’re younger than me or older than me and they say something to me, I’m going to listen to them because they see a different perspective of my game.”

Teammates reflect

One of these players with a unique perspective on Magbegor’s career is veteran guard Sami Whitcomb, who was an integral leader on the 2020 title team and took Magbegor under her wing during her rookie season before leaving the Storm to spend two seasons in New York. Whitcomb and Magbegor have also spent a considerable amount of time together over the years playing for the Australian national team. Whitcomb, a mother to 2 ½ year old son, Nash, and another child on the way, beams with pride when talking about her protégée, Magbegor, in a way that only a WNBA vet and mom could.

“She absolutely deserves that [All-Star selection],” Whitcomb said. “She’s worked hard; she’s having an incredible year. But to know her as a person, you just adore her. It’s hard to imagine it happening to a better person. Her personality is contagious, her smile, her sweet and innocent, but really playful and jokey, personality that you get to see if you really know her just makes it really enjoyable to see her rewarded for her hard work.”

Whitcomb’s experience of playing alongside Magbegor during her rookie season, playing against her in her second and third seasons, and then returning to being her teammate in her fourth season has given her the opportunity to see how much Magbegor has grown in her leadership, while also discussing how this role isn’t necessarily new to her.

“I think we’ve probably seen more of this in her role with Australia than maybe you’ve seen it up until now in the WNBA, but a lot of that is an opportunity and she’s worked her way into this role here,” Whitcomb said.

“She has always kind of led more by her actions than her voice, but I do think that she’s not uncomfortable speaking up. She picks her moments and I think that she is just more reserved when it comes to that side of it. But I have seen her develop off the court in terms of speaking up there and having a leadership role there. It’s been really, really great to see the player Ezi has developed to be. Each year, the team has asked more from her, the role has grown, and every year she’s risen to the occasion, so it’s really exciting.”

All-Star selection reactions

The smiley, bubbly personality that Whitcomb knows so well is something that the rest of us spectators don’t often see. Whitcomb describes Magbegor as a “silent assassin” who “means business” when she takes the court. But when Quinn shared the news of Magbegor’s All-Star selection with the rest of the team on Saturday, Magbegor’s stone-cold game face melted away as her teammates celebrated her accomplishment.

Magbegor let her excitement shine through as she reflected on this accolade before getting back to business on the court.

“Playing with whoever I’m on a team with will be fun, and obviously going there will Jewell [Loyd],” Magbegor said. “It’s my first All-Star, so I’m just going to take everything in.”

Magbegor’s bright future

While Magbegor’s All-Star selection is evidence that her hard work and talent aren’t going unnoticed, it is important to remember that she is still only 23 years old and according to those who know her best, she has yet to unlock her fullest potential.

“I’m just wanting to grow and get better and continuously do that,” Magbegor said. “Even though I have been named an All-Star, I definitely know that there’s more levels that I can take my game to, so it’s just something that I wanted to achieve and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity.”

Sandy Brondello, head coach of the New York Liberty, has seen the evolution of Magbegor’s career throughout her time coaching her on the Australian national team.

“The sky’s the limit for Ezi,” Brondello said. “I think you’ve seen that here [in Seattle], what she’s capable of. The only thing is her confidence; she has got to keep believing in herself. She’s one of the best players on this team and that comes with responsibility, too, and she can’t be afraid of failure. I say to all of my players you just got to go out there and compete and play hard. Ezi is a sensational person, really amazing player, and just love to see how she’s grown.”

That lead-by-example style that Magbegor described is proving to be a successful approach, as her teammates rave about her impact on their team. But Quinn and Whitcomb, arguably her two biggest supporters in this new role, continue to challenge her to do what they know she is capable of.

“She’s naturally quiet, but I think that grows with confidence,” Quinn reflected. “This year, she’s way more talkative and a bit more smiley, which is good to see, but she’s still very serious about her craft and if anything, that leadership aspect, vocal aspect, is something we will continue to work with. I’m not asking her to do much of it right now, but she needs to plant those seeds for her to grow that part of her.”

“She is going to continue to improve in terms of her skills and stuff. I think where she can really take big steps is maybe outside of her comfort zone a little bit with being more vocal,” Whitcomb said. “Really setting the tone not just in how she performs, but in what she demands of her teammates vocally and I’m really excited to see how that evolves.”

Magbegor will lead her squad through a challenging four-game road trip to Connecticut, New York, Washington D.C., and Atlanta before making her first All-Star appearance alongside Loyd in Las Vegas on July 15.

Written by Rowan Schaberg

Rowan Schaberg (she/her) is a Seattle native covering the Seattle Storm for The Next. She is currently studying Sports Journalism at Colorado State University.

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