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Elena Delle Donne has found a home with Washington Mystics

Courtesy of The Washington Post:

Twice now, this 6-foot-5 basketball prodigy has taken her career, and her life, into her own hands with startling force.

The first time, Elena Delle Donne left in the middle of the night. She was 18, burned out, homesick and unwilling to cede any more of herself to the sport. She returned home to Delaware from the University of Connecticut for what she needed — a reprieve — before finding her way back to basketball on her own time and eventually becoming the No. 2 pick in the WNBA draft.

She left again nine years later, this time after spending the first four years of her professional career with the Chicago Sky. She demanded a trade to the team she believed could give her what she wanted — the chance to become a better basketball player, a team culture she could love, and the opportunity to spend more time with her family.

Now with one full regular season and one momentous playoff victory under her belt, Delle Donne judges that her second move, to the Washington Mystics in February, was just as successful as her first.

“I love it here. I really love it,” Delle Donne said emphatically, hunched over and sitting on a massage table after practice this week at Capital One Arena. “I love my teammates. I love my coaching staff. It’s just a great group of people. It’s infectious to be around. I really just enjoy coming to — I mean, I’ll call it work — every day.”

While Delle Donne found happiness in her move to Washington, the Mystics are overjoyed.

Delle Donne raised the ceiling for what Washington can achieve the moment she arrived. On Wednesday, she scored 25 points, one shy of a franchise playoff record, and added 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks to lift the Mystics past the Dallas Wings and into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They now head to New York for another single-elimination game against the Liberty on Sunday.

During the regular season, Delle Donne dealt with ankle and thumb injuries and played through pain all while leading the team and ranking fourth in the WNBA with 19.7 points per game. In the regular season, she ranked in the top 15 in the league in rebounding (6.8, 13th), blocks (1.4, eighth), field goal percentage (49.4, 15th), three-point field goal percentage (38.8, 10th) and free throw percentage (95.3, first).

“She’s the biggest presence that we have out there on the court,” point guard Ivory Latta said. “Physically, mentally, everything. She’s a top player in the WNBA, so she attracts a lot, and she opens it up for everyone else. It’s just confidence. She gives us confidence.”

Part of what Delle Donne appreciates in Washington is that, though her talent makes her the largest presence on court, she doesn’t have to be the loudest voice in the locker room.

Krystal Thomas, a sixth-year pro, is one of the team’s most vocal leaders. Latta, who has spent a decade in the WNBA, keeps the locker room energized. Delle Donne, though unmistakably the Mystics’ franchise player, isn’t the team’s sole engine.

Being able to share that responsibility is a break from the norm.

“She’s had to be the star since she was a freshman in high school, and she was a starter on her state championship team as an eighth-grader,” Coach Mike Thibault said. “That’s a lot of pressure.”

Delle Donne craved that type of all-hands-on-deck culture that Thibault has cultivated since he signed on as the team’s coach and general manager in 2012. She has been open to working with him since at least 2013, when the Mystics tried to orchestrate a draft-day trade for Delle Donne with her blessing.

Said Thibault, who has known Delle Donne since she was a junior in college: “I think part of it is she’s family-oriented, and we have tried to develop a culture on and off the court where the players — you don’t have to have best friends, but you have to have a respect for each other and a liking for going to work with each other every day.”

Delle Donne also craved good basketball advisers, and Thibault came highly recommended from friends around the league. He tutored 2012 league MVP Tina Charles and has worked with USA Basketball for decades. Injuries derailed Delle Donne’s progress somewhat this season, but she has been able to work on improving her defense and the superb passing skills that helped make her a star.

“I really feel like I’m improving on court, but also really as a leader,” Delle Donne said. “And that’s what you want to see, is just growth. In all areas.”

As far as winning championships, Delle Donne believes that the Mystics will be WNBA title contenders in due time. Thinking about the future in Washington doesn’t scare her — it’s where she wants to be. It’s the type of situation that makes Delle Donne think about playing in the WNBA longer than she ever previously imagined.

“It’s so enjoyable that I hope my body holds out for many, many years and I can continue to do this, because it’s fun,” she said. “Who wants to go work a 9-to-5? I hope I can last for a long time and be a part of this. Because it’s really special.”


Original Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mystics/elena-delle-donne-has-found-a-home-with-washington-mystics/2017/09/09/7c363bba-958d-11e7-aace-04b862b2b3f3_story.html?utm_term=.2461f3271a46

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Delle Donne scores 37 as Mystics beat Storm 110-106 in WNBA

Courtesy of Daily Mail:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Elena Delle Donne scored a season-high 37 points and the Washington Mystics beat the Seattle Storm 110-106 in overtime on Friday night.

The victory spoiled Seattle’s Sue Bird breaking the WNBA’s all-time assist record when she recorded her 2,600th career assist in the first quarter to pass Ticha Penicheiro and move into the top spot.

Washington led by three when Emma Meesseman made 1 of 2 free throws with 16.3 seconds remaining in overtime for a four-point lead. Bird was fouled on a 3-pointer five seconds later and hit all three shots to pull Seattle to 102-101. The teams combined for 13 free throws over the remaining 11 seconds and with Seattle down two with 3.8 seconds left Sami Whitcomb intentionally missed a free throw, but Delle Donne secured the rebound and made two free throws at the other end to seal it.

Meesseman added 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Washington (18-15), which holds a one-game lead on Phoenix for the fifth spot in the playoffs. The Mercury hold the tiebreaker between the teams.

Despite the loss, Seattle (14-19) clinched a postseason berth due to losses by Chicago and Atlanta later Friday night. The Storm will be the eighth seed.

LYNX 110, SKY 87

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Sylvia Fowles had 27 points and 12 rebounds for her 20th double-double, and the Lynx topped 100 points for the third straight home game with a victory over the Chicago Sky.

The Lynx set a WNBA record with 35 assists – without injured point guard Lindsay Whalen. They topped the 34 assists that both Los Angeles and Seattle had against Chicago earlier this season.

Maya Moore hit her 461st career 3-pointer, moving past Katie Smith for the franchise record.

Minnesota (26-7) remains a game in front of Los Angeles for the best record in the league. The Sparks, who beat Atlanta on Friday, own the tiebreaker. They’d need a win in their final game and a loss by the Lynx to get the top seed.

Kahleah Copper scored 21 points for Chicago (12-21), which was eliminated from the playoff hunt with the loss.


NEW YORK (AP) – Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince scored 16 points apiece and the Liberty pulled away in the fourth quarter to win their ninth straight game, beating San Antonio.

New York (21-12) entered the night having clinched a first-round postseason bye and is a half-game behind Connecticut for the third seed. The Sun played at Phoenix later Friday night. The Liberty, who have not lost since Aug. 4, conclude their regular season against the Dallas Wings on Sunday with a shot of matching the franchise record for consecutive victories.

Kia Vaughn and Shavonte Zellous added 10 points each for New York.

Kelsey Plum scored 18 points and Kayla Alexander had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead San Antonio (7-26).


PHOENIX (AP) – Brittney Griner had 20 of her 31 points in the first half and the Mercury clinched a home playoff game with a win over the Sun.

The Sun (21-12) dropped into a third-place tie with the New York Liberty, each with one game remaining in the regular season. Connecticut visits the Los Angeles Sparks and New York travels to the Dallas Wings, both on Sunday. The Liberty hold the tiebreaker.

The Mercury (17-16) finish their season at home against Atlanta on Sunday and will stay in Phoenix. The Mercury can earn the fifth seed with a win and a loss by Washington.

Alyssa Thomas had 19 points and Brionna Jones added 13 for the Sun.


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Candace Parker scored 15 points and the Sparks built an early double-digit lead en route to an easy victory over the Dream.

Los Angeles (25-8) has won six straight and is a game back of the Minnesota Lynx (26-7) for the No. 1 seed into the playoffs. The Sparks host the Connecticut Sun while the Lynx face the Washington Mystics at home to conclude the regular season on Sunday. The Sparks beat Minnesota 78-67 on Aug. 27 and own the tiebreaker over the Lynx. Atlanta (12-21) was eliminated from the postseason.

Nneka Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims added 13 points apiece for the Sparks. Jantel Lavender chipped in 12 points.

Tiffany Hayes scored 19 points to lead Atlanta, which committed a season-high 19 turnovers.

Parker picked up her 1,000th career assist in the first quarter with a pass to Chelsea Gray, who made a 26-footer. Gray hit another 3 on the Sparks’ next possession to cap a 14-2 opening run as Los Angeles built a 43-29 halftime lead. Gray finished with eight points.


Original Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-4846070/Delle-Donne-scores-37-Mystics-beat-Storm-110-106-WNBA.html

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Mystics looking for a little rhythm — and luck — heading into the playoffs

Courtesy of The Washington Post:

With three games left in the regular season, the Washington Mystics are taking aim at two marks, one reachable through their own doing and the other requiring considerable assistance.

A win against the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena would guarantee Washington a home game in the WNBA playoffs. The Mystics secured a fourth postseason berth in five years when they beat the Indiana Fever on Aug. 20.

Two losses in a row since have left Washington as a long shot to claim a top-four seed and the accompanying first-round bye. For that scenario to unfold, the Mystics (17-14), now in the No. 5 slot, would need to win out and have either the New York Liberty or the Sun lose each of their remaining games.

The Mystics, losers of four of their past five games, trail third-seeded Connecticut (20-11) by three games and No. 4 seed New York (20-12) by 2½ .

“The biggest thing for me is to be playing better basketball with some rhythm going into the playoffs,” Coach Mike Thibault said. “We’ve had no rhythm at all. It’s just been disjointed really.”

Part of the uneven play, according to Thibault, is attributable to injuries late in the season. All-star forward Elena Delle Donne, for instance, has played two games since undergoing left thumb surgery that kept her out of the lineup for more than two weeks.

The 2015 WNBA MVP’s first practice since the procedure was last Thursday, immediately before a back-to-back, the Mystics’ only such stretch this year. Delle Donne scored 29 points, matching her season high, with 11 rebounds during Saturday’s 83-78 home loss to the Dallas Wings.

Washington had lost to the Liberty, 74-66, Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m all right,” Delle Donne said. “Obviously all of our bodies are a little tired. I think both were great tests. Unfortunately, we came away with losses in those tests, but they are good games to be in right now, especially with the playoffs right around the corner. A back-to-back is always a struggle.”

Guard Natasha Cloud, a top reserve, has missed the past three games with a partial plantar fascia tear in her right foot. She continues to rehab but may not play again until the postseason, Thibault said, leaving the club even more shorthanded during this critical juncture.

Washington already is without starting guard Tayler Hill, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in mid-July. She was the Mystics’ second-leading scorer at the time and has missed the past 13 games.

Thibault gave his players Sunday off and had them in film study Monday afternoon, allowing for additional time to rest. The Mystics’ final two regular season games are Friday at home against the Seattle Storm and Sunday on the road against the Minnesota Lynx , which has won three WNBA championships since 2011.

“We’re going to have to get back to work in the couple days before we play a game just to try to get everybody on the same page,” Thibault said of his plans later this week. “It’s going to be hard. I was looking at our games lost to injuries, and I was just shaking my head, not as much just for people being out but being out at different times so you’re always re-scrambling things.”

Turns out Washington will be playing Tuesday night because of another unforeseen circumstance. The Mystics originally had been scheduled to face Connecticut on July 28 in the rubber match of their three-game series, but a leak in the roof at Capital One Arena forced postponement until a month later.

After another leak delayed the Mystics’ game against Indiana for 45 minutes on Aug. 12 — creating the opportunity for a dance-off between the two teams during the interlude — the roof at the 20-year-old arena has undergone repairs, according to Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the facility, in an effort to guard against additional leaks.

Tuesday’s forecast calls for a chance of rain throughout the day.


Original Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mystics/mystics-looking-for-a-little-rhythm—and-luck—heading-into-the-playoffs/2017/08/28/fcc8c92c-8c10-11e7-84c0-02cc069f2c37_story.html?utm_term=.7513a6da8789

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Elena Delle Donne’s Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 PE is inspired by the Air Swoopes

Courtesy of Sneaker News:

Back in 1996 when Sheryl Swoopes became the first female basketball player to get a signature shoe, it was quite a big deal. Among those paying attention was a young Elena Delle Donne, who even at seven years old, had to have a pair of the Air Swoopes right away. Now the current WNBA star honors her childhood basketball and sneaker hero with a very special edition of the Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 in a PE inspired by Swoopes’ first shoe.

Customized with special touches calling back to the Air Swoopes, the Delle Donne’s Hyperdunk features a split color block, added heel tabs, and the same pattern on the textile inner lining. Elena adds a couple more of her own touches to the PE: an angel wing tattoo graphic as a tribute to her sister Lizzie, and “Demand Excellence” visible underneath the translucent outsoles.

Delle Donne wore the “Swoopes” React Hyperdunk 2017 PE on-court Saturday, August 26th. The shoe hits retail November 4th in limited supply at Nike.com.


Original Source: https://sneakernews.com/2017/08/28/elena-delle-donne-nike-react-hyperdunk-2017-pe-air-swoopes/

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Elena Delle Donne makes herself right at home with Mystics

Courtesy of ESPN:

WASHINGTON — Elena Delle Donne hasn’t attempted her first subway ride in the nation’s capital, the Beltway gives her a headache and her dogs Wrigley and Rasta are only lukewarm to their new digs in northern Virginia.

But just about every other part of the 2015 WNBA MVP’s transition to a new team and new city looks as free and easy as, well, an EDD jump shot.

And plenty of shots hit the mark during a Sunday matinee for the Washington Mystics, who never trailed in breezing past San Antonio 89-74 at the Verizon Center.

Delle Donne, who requested to be traded from the Chicago Sky during the offseason, scored a team-best 24 on 8-of-12 shooting in her debut for a Mystics team that has generated buzz as a possible contender for a first-ever league championship.

“Obviously, you come in and get 24 points in your debut, that probably sets a pretty good tone for things,” said Washington coach Mike Thibault, though conceding he expects a far different look from the Stars when the teams meet later this summer.

“This is exactly what I was hoping for and even more,” said Delle Donne, who, teamed with the league’s top 3-point shooter Emma Meesseman, gives the Mystics one of the more potent frontcourts. “I knew coming here this team had chemistry. But when you get here and you feel it and experience it, it’s even better than I imagined. It’s so fun to play with so much talent and so many options.”

San Antonio played without three starters in Kelsey Plum, the No. 1 pick in last month’s draft who’s out with a right ankle sprain, Moriah Jefferson (right knee soreness), and Kayla McBride (overseas playing in the Turkish League finals). McBride and Jefferson led the Stars in scoring in 2016 and Plum, from the University of Washington, comes in as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer.

The Stars also are coming off rare back-to-back road games, having lost 73-64 to New York on Saturday night in Madison Square Garden. That didn’t stop Monique Currie from amassing 31 points, less than 24 hours after scoring 23.

The Mystics are intact, though they haven’t been for long as Kristi Toliver and Meesseman joined the group midway through last week. While the defense had some lapses, including Delle Donne weathering five fouls, Thibault largely attributed that to the newcomers still figuring out what is familiar to veterans Tayler Hill, Natasha Cloud, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Ivory Latta.

“They’re used to talking to each other and those kinds of things, and it’s going to take a little longer to integrate the newer players.

“[Elena] will get better once she gets used to our defensive system,” he said. “She’ll be able to anticipate some things and get there a little bit quicker. I think a couple of her fouls were just from being a count late.”

That said, Thibault couldn’t have been more pleased with his franchise player, quipping this about her free-throw prowess: “We have a rule that if you violate while she’s shooting the free throw, we’re going to fine you 25 bucks apiece. So we had one almost do it early in the game. They’re all going to fine her for missing a free throw because it’s such a rare thing.”

Delle Donne, who set a Sky record for 97 made free throws her rookie season, sank her first seven from the line and finished 8 of 9.

She’s already a fan favorite, too, though the announced crowd of 6,126 was nearly half of the opening day attendance a year ago in D.C., most likely a result of a midafternoon game on Mother’s Day and the first-place Nationals playing an afternoon home game nearby.

While it’ll take a while for her jersey to rival anything worn by Alex Ovechkin and Bryce Harper, plenty of girls, boys and even grown men walked around the Verizon Center showing off her No. 11.

Dave Noren pulled up his new Delle Donne T-shirt to reveal Delle Donne Chicago Sky garb. “I’m from Chicago,” he said, admitting that he prefers she play in Washington given his suburban Virginia address. Sons Greg, 12, and Zach, 9, also had their own Delle Donne paraphernalia.

“She’s the best,” Zach said.

Greg added, “She’s really good.”

Delle Donne cited wanting to be closer to home as the primary reason she wanted to leave Chicago. Now home is a straight shot up I-95 north to Wilmington, Delaware, a far easier trek for parents Ernie and Joan Delle Donne than navigating a plane ride in and out of O’Hare International.

Short of relocating a WNBA franchise to the tri-state area, “This is perfect,” said Ernie Delle Donne, sitting alongside his son Gene, daughter-in-law Jennifer, granddaughter Gia and Amanda Clifton, Elena’s fiancé.

Ernie Delle Donne, who traveled to 28 of Elena’s 32 home games last season, used to leave his office no later than 11 a.m. for a night game in Chicago. If he was lucky, he’d be back to work by 1 p.m., the next afternoon.

“Now for a 7 o’clock game, I can leave at 4 and be here in time for tipoff and be back before midnight,” he said.

Elena lunched with her mother on Thursday — Joan Delle Donne stayed at home with Elena’s sister, Lizzie, on Sunday — and handed off a Mother’s Day gift to Gene. Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and autism, is expected to come for two games.

The family is expected to make good use of their recently purchased vacation home on the water in Annapolis, Maryland. Friday night, Elena met her family for a Mexican meal and had a flatbread from Dunkin’ Donuts with everyone before arriving at the Verizon Center by noon Sunday.

“The drive from our house to practice here is actually a lot better than in Chicago,” Clifton said. “Just being out here, being close to family automatically puts her in a better place. She’s much happier, not just about basketball, but about life.”

Joe Biden wasn’t in the house on Sunday, but the former vice president from Delaware told Thibault he expects to attend four or five games. The first state was well represented, however. The University of Delaware, Delle Donne’s alma mater, sent down a charter bus of 44 fans.

“This is wonderful,” said Carol Dillon, a regular at Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center during Delle Donne’s college. “We can take the train.”

Seated next to her in the second row at midcourt, her friend Helen Hannan added while mimicking a jump shot, “I could watch her shoot all day.”

“I knew the Delaware faithful would show up,” Delle Donne said. “That’s my crew; that’s my family. Delaware always makes me proud. It’s truly a home game. Delaware doesn’t care if it’s two hours. It’s home for them as well.”

While Delle Donne will be the focal point for the Mystics offense, she’s surrounded by shooters, including Toliver. The former Maryland star, who won a league championship last year as a member of the L.A. Sparks, scored eight and added four assists.

“I played four years two miles down the road,” said Toliver, whose father, former AAU teammates and high school bestie were in the stands. “It feels like home.”

Tayler Hill, one of two mothers on this team along with Tianna Hawkins, finished with 15, and Meesseman had 13 with nine boards.

“Offensively we didn’t have to force much and I think it’s going to continue to be that way,” Delle Donne said. “Any player can step up anytime and any night. It’s exciting to be on a team with this many options.”


Original Source: http://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/19367118/wnba-moms-getting-more-help-ever-face-challenges

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University of Delaware women’s basketball coach retires

Courtesy of WDEL:

The University of Delaware has another opening to fill. Long-time women’s head basketball coach Tina Martin has announced her retirement.

Martin recently finished her 21st year at the helm of the Blue Hens, piling up 408 wins, a school record for either men’s or women’s basketball. She took her teams to four NCAA tournaments and seven WNIT invites. She had 20 wins or more in 12 of the past 18 seasons.

She released the following statement.

“After a great deal of thought, I’ve decided the time is right for me to retire as head coach at the University of Delaware and move on to the next chapter of my life.  Delaware basketball has been my passion for over 20 years and I am going to miss it. I’ve been fortunate to work with very driven and loyal assistant coaches, talented student-athletes, great teams, and supportive fans. I would like to thank all of the athletic directors I have worked with at UD, including Bernard Muir and Eric Ziady and especially Edgar Johnson who hired me 21 years ago. My staff and I have established an outstanding winning tradition and I will always be proud of my legacy at the University of Delaware.”

Martin was named conference coach of the year three times and coached WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, who was the second overall pick in the WNBA draft and won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors.

Martin’s consistent success peaked with four conference championships.

In their final season in the America East Conference in 2000-01, her squad finished 17-1 in the league, on their way to a 26-5 campaign.

The move to the Colonial Athletic Association meant a huge hurdle was put in their way, national-power Old Dominion under head coach Wendy Larry.

Delaware went 111-40 overall in their first five seasons in the league, but had to settle for four WNIT appearances and a conference-regular season title in 2002-03.

They would win a then-program-record 26 games in 2006-07, finishing tied for second in the league, but a win over Old Dominion in the regular season helped the Blue Hens join the Lady Monarchs and James Madison as three CAA teams earned bids to the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

The floor caved in the following year, with a 7-24 record, including 1-12 outside of the league in 2007-08.

After a 15-15 campaign in 2008-09, a gift fell into her program’s lap as a Delaware product named Elena Delle Donne made a decision to resume playing basketball, and chose her home state’s top university.

The four Delle Donne years saw the Blue Hens win 104 games, and took the program to new heights.

They started with two more WNIT appearances, and a spot in the 2011 CAA championship game, but then the explosion happened.

Delaware went 63-6 over the new two seasons, being ranked as high as No. 7 in the Associated Press poll as they not only made the 2012 NCAA tournament, but won their program’s first post-season game at Arkansas-Little Rock as a No. 3 regional seed.

2013 brought Martin and the Hens news they would host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and despite Delle Donne beginning to battle what would turn out to be Lyme Disease, they again won the CAA, and took advantage of their hosting opportunity.

A 78-69 win over West Virginia was followed by a 78-69 upset of No. 3-seed North Carolina, sending the Blue Hens to the Sweet 16 in Brideport, Connecticut.

Delaware would get close late, but Kentucky’s tenacious defense eventually wore down the Hens in a 69-62 defeat, ending the career of Delle Donne and a 7-player senior class.

Despite the momentum at that point, Martin’s squad has fallen back to the pack in the four years since.

One final WNIT apperance came at the end of a 20-11 season in 2013-2014, making her 0-7 in the secondary post-season tournament.

The last three years her squads went 47-46, finishing no better than 4th in conference play, as James Madison and Drexel have stepped to the forefront in the league.

Martin was a basketball star at Lock Haven University and was an assistant at Lock Haven and Seton Hall before taking the head coaching job at Delaware in 1996.

Martin’s top assistant for her entire time with the program, Jeanine Radice, has been named the interim head coach. The school said in a statement they will begin a national search for Martin’s replacement.


Original Source: http://www.wdel.com/sports/university-of-delaware-women-s-basketball-coach-retires/article_5d5beb54-2c15-11e7-b4f6-c79d8bbc63d2.html

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Five Reasons To Watch The Mystics Work This Season

Courtesy of WNBA:

2016 Record:

Key Offseason Moves:
Acquired Elena Delle Donne in a trade with the Chicago Sky in exchange for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft

Acquired the No. 6 pick in the 2017 draft from the Seattle Storm as part of a three-team trade with the Mystics sending Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn to New York

Signed free agent Kristi Toliver

Re-signed Tayler Hill

2016 Highlights

EDD Takes DC

The Mystics pulled off one of the biggest trades in WNBA history by acquiring former MVP and scoring champ Elena Delle Donne from the Chicago Sky.

Her list of accolades is lengthy, including individual awards and her contributions to Team USA’s Gold Medal in Rio last summer. One thing is certain – she can revitalize Washington’s franchise. Her arrival has already caused a whirlwind of speculation and sky-high expectations for the team this season. She will produce, just as she always does, and the Mystics can do some incredible things this season because of her immense talents.

Adding A ‘Spark’

The Mystics didn’t just make a splash on the trade market, they also did in free agency. The club signed Kristi Toliver from the Los Angeles Sparks, fresh off her WNBA championship victory over the Minnesota Lynx.

Playing her last seven seasons in LA beside Candace Parker, Toliver is now a seasoned vet with a championship ring and solid leadership qualities. Her outside shooting ability will give Washington another option to stretch the floor on offense and take some pressure off of Delle Donne.

The Balling Belgian

Perhaps the scariest part about the Mystics is that, in addition to EDD and the other scorers on the roster, they also boast perhaps the WNBA’s most versatile center.

Indeed, 23-year-old Emma Meesseman is a stretch-5 who can pull her defender outside the 3-point line and create easy routes to the basket for her teammates. She can also knock shots down from deep, as evidenced by her near-45% mark from long distance, ranking best in the league ahead of Seattle’s Sue Bird.

Meesseman attempted and made the most 3’s of her career last season, resulting in the highest scoring output in her four years in the WNBA. It’ll be interesting to see what year five holds for the Belgian.

Top Of The Hill

In her first year as a starter, Tayler Hill started in all 32 games she played and led the Mystics with 15.4 points per game. She averaged career-highs across the board and nearly doubled her scoring average from the year before.

Now with an established scorer like EDD around, Hill should be able to get better looks, leading to more efficient scoring. If all the pieces come together quickly, this Mystics offense should be one of the league’s most potent.

Sharp-Shooting Shatori

With the No. 6 pick in the 2017 Draft, the Mystics selected Shatori Walker-Kimbrough from Maryland, and she should be able to contribute immediately as a 3-point markswoman.

After all, shooting threes is what she does best, having set Maryland and Big 10 3-point field goal percentage marks as well as leading the NCAA in 3-point shooting as a junior, shooting 54.5% from behind the arc.

The Mystics already have the first, third and fourth best 3-point shooters from last season (Meesseman, Delle Donne and Toliver, respectively) and now added arguably the best shooter available in the draft. The pick came from the Storm in a three-team deal that saw the Liberty land Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn. This offense has the capabilities of being a modern, run-and-gun WNBA offense.


Original Source: http://www.wnba.com/news/five-reasons-watch-mystics-work-season/

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Mystics open training camp with revamped roster, elevated expectations

Courtesy of The Washington Post:

The Washington Mystics opened training camp Monday morning with an energetic practice and a retooled roster following an active offseason in which they added, among others, Elena Delle Donne, the 2015 WNBA MVP who has teammates entertaining thoughts of delivering the franchise its first championship.

Delle Donne was among 15 players who attended the first of two practices at Verizon Center after reporting to camp Sunday afternoon. The Mystics also were scheduled to practice Monday night and expected to spend the majority of that time in five-on-five scrimmages.

During the later stages of Monday’s first practice, Mystics Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault discussed pick-and-roll defense, emphasizing communication, particularly with younger players. Washington has four rookies in camp, including guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the sixth overall pick out of Maryland.

“We’re going to harp on constantly,” Thibault said. “That’s going to probably be the thing that determines how good we ultimately are. Can we be a good defensive team, not an average defensive team, and if we are a good defensive team, we’re going to score a good amount of points probably. I’m happy for the first day.”

On a broader scale, Thibault reinforced the importance of taking a winning attitude into the season, which commences May 14 at home against the San Antonio Stars.

The Mystics are coming off a 13-21 record last year, missing the playoffs for the first time since Thibault took over in December 2012.

“It was all about culture, which is why I was so drawn to this team,” Delle Donne said with regard to Thibault’s message. “It’s just about building that culture with one another, the communication, the trust and giving everything we have.

“I also like that he said, ‘Expectations mean you have a chance.’ When there are no expectations on a team, it means you have no chance. I really liked that, and I took that away.”

During her introductory news conference in February, Delle Donne mentioned bringing a WNBA title to the District as soon as possible. That sentiment continued to resonate throughout the locker room at the start of this training camp, with both veterans and newcomers indicating the parts are in place to make a championship run.

In addition to Delle Donne, the Mystics added point guard Kristi Toliver, a free agent signing who helped the Los Angeles Sparks win the WNBA Finals last season. The former Maryland standout is not in camp because of overseas obligations and, according to the team, is expected to join the Mystics early next month.

So too is power forward Emma Meesseman, a first-time all-star two years ago and the league leader in three-point field goal percentage last season. Meesseman also has basketball obligations internationally with the same Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League team as Toliver.

Meesseman’s absence along with the offseason trades of centers Stefanie Dolson and Kia Vaughn has Krystal Thomas, entering her first season with Washington, on track to get significant work during training camp. Thomas, a 6-foot-5 center, signed with the Mystics as a free agent after spending last season with the Seattle Storm.

The Mystics also are without forward-center LaToya Sanders, a top post defender who is out indefinitely because of a foot injury.

“For me, I’m just trying to do whatever the team needs,” Thomas said. “Wherever Coach T tells me to go, that’s where I’m going to go. I’m here to serve. I’m here to be part of the team and help this team do big things in the playoffs and eventually lead to a championship. I just want to work hard, be a vocal leader, bring my experience from playing in the league.”

Thomas is the only player on the active training camp roster other than Toliver and point guard Ivory Latta with at least five years in the league. Among the Mystics’ projected starters, only Toliver has more than four years of WNBA experience.

Even with Toliver overseas, the Mystics still have plenty of depth at point guard. Natasha Cloud was the starter for most of the last two seasons, and Latta started 67 of 68 games during 2013 and ’14, her first two years with Washington.

Tayler Hill also has served spot duty at point guard. The No. 4 pick in the 2013 draft is the projected starter at shooting guard after re-signing with Washington this past offseason.

“You’ve just got to live up to the expectations,” said Latta, a two-time all-star participating in the 10th training camp of her professional career. “We’ve got great players. We’ve got great additions to the team. The sky’s the limit. I just can’t wait until we all come together. Emma’s not here, Toliver’s not here. Whenever we all come together, it could be something very special.”


Original Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2017/04/19/washington-mystics-elena-delle-donne-takes-part-in-pre-training-camp-workout/?utm_term=.14fced280339

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Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne takes part in pre-training camp workout

Courtesy of The Washington Post:

In the first round of pickup games Wednesday with her new Washington Mystics teammates, Elena Delle Donne received a pass along the baseline, pump faked to draw a defender in the air and scored on a up-and-under shot off the glass.

The sequence led Tianna Hawkins, who had given up the basket, to mutter an expletive. Watching from a nearby seat at the Verizon Center practice court, Mystics Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault empathized.

“Welcome to the club,” he said, smiling. “That’s what I was saying the entire game when whenever we played her.”

During one stretch, Delle Donne made four shots in a row, including two difficult floaters after spinning by her defender. She also made her share of three-pointers from NBA range, each time eliciting a smile from Thibault, who orchestrated the trade for Delle Donne in the most significant move in franchise history.

Delle Donne was named WNBA MVP in 2015 and last season finished tied for first in the league in scoring, averaging 21.5 points per game for the Chicago Sky. The Mystics acquired Delle Donne from the Sky, which drafted her No. 2 overall in 2013, in exchange for the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, center Stefanie Dolson and guard Kahleah Copper.

“I feel good,” Delle Donne said. “We all were a little winded. Obviously that’s how it is the first time getting up and down with one another, but some really good things I’ve seen. Obviously some things to work on, and I think coach is itching to get out there and coach us.”

While Delle Donne was the centerpiece of the Mystics’ offseason transactions, Thibault also added other players expected to contribute significantly, including point guard Kristi Toliver. The former Maryland star, however, was not at Wednesday’s workout because of overseas commitments.

Toliver plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the same Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League team as Emma Meesseman, a first-team all-star two years ago with the Mystics. UMMC Ekaterinburg is in the RWBPL finals beginning Saturday, and both players are expected to miss a majority of training camp.

Other Mystics players, including two-time all-star guard Ivory Latta and free agent signing Krystal Thomas, are scheduled to arrive later this week, with the majority of the team assembling for the first practice of training camp Monday.

“I already like what I see in just pickup,” said point guard Natasha Cloud, entering her third year with the Mystics. “This is our first time playing since coming back from overseas and kind of having down time, getting back in shape. We’re already clicking.”

Guards Tayler Hill and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the No. 6 overall pick in last week’s draft who didn’t have far to travel to join her new team, also stood out Wednesday. Walker-Kimbrough played at Maryland, where she was a three-time first-team all-Big Ten selection.

Hill made six shots in a row at one point, all from long range, illustrating the potential matchup issues opponents figure to face when guarding the Mystics, who have three of the WNBA’s top four three-point shooters from last season.

Walker-Kimbrough also has shown an ability to make three-pointers consistently, shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc as junior to lead all Division I players.

“It was definitely a challenge, but the most exciting part is I feel myself getting better,” said Walker-Kimbrough, the fourth all-time leading scorer for the Terrapins. “The girls are great. They’re encouraging me, just going at me, making me better, so it was a great day.”


Original Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2017/04/19/washington-mystics-elena-delle-donne-takes-part-in-pre-training-camp-workout/?utm_term=.14fced280339

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New commercial perfectly answers all questions about why you should watch women play hoops

Courtesy of USA Today:

So last year’s WNBA finals, as we’ve written on this site, was overall a pretty phenomenal and exciting series of hoops. With the WNBA draft on Thursday night and the season only a month away, the league released a new video reminding us all about some of the craziest two minutes in basketball along with some clips that should easily answer the question about if women are tough enough to play basketball.


Original Source: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/04/wnba-watch-me-work-draft-elena-delle-donne-maya-moore

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