- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In a move signaling their commitment to younger players, the Washington Mystics traded veteran forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin to the Detroit Shock on Tuesday for forwards Tasha Humphrey and Eshaya Murphy and a 2009 second-round pick.

McWilliams-Franklin, whom the Mystics traded for in April, averaged 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in her 26 starts with Washington. In a year laden with inconsistencies, the six-time All-Star was the Mystics’ most reliable contributor.

But when presented with an opportunity to acquire two talented young players, the Mystics decided trading McWilliams-Franklin was best for the franchise.

“The bottom line is we’re 10-16. We’re looking at what we can do in this franchise to move forward,” general manager Linda Hargrove said. “An opportunity arose that can help us both now and in the future.”

In 22 games with Detroit, Humphrey averaged 7.3 points and 2.9 rebounds. The 6-foot-3 forward has a versatile offensive repertoire that includes 3-point range. She excelled in her four years at the University of Georgia, and Detroit selected her with the 11th pick in this year’s draft.

Minnesota selected Murphy, a premier defender, in the second round of the 2007 draft.

“We’re excited about this opportunity,” Hargrove said. “It gives us a chance to bring in two players that have really big upside, and we’ll have a chance to really grow with them.”

In trading McWilliams-Franklin, Washington loses its best post player and a team leader. She was often the most vocal Mystics player on the court and in the locker room. Her veteran presence was apparent during Washington’s numerous turbulent moments this year.

She made an impact on the coaching staff and players. Interim coach Jessie Kenlaw described her as “a coach on the floor,” and she mentored Washington’s younger players as well.

“As a player you understand that this is a business and sometimes management has to make tough decisions,” said guard Alana Beard, whose friendship with McWilliams-Franklin dates to before the two played together. “It’s always a sad moment, especially with someone like Taj who was the mother of our team, who kept everyone in order and demanded so much from each and every person.”

Hargrove considered trading McWilliams-Franklin a difficult decision because of her many contributions to the franchise. And despite her short stay, McWilliams-Franklin has made a lasting impact.

“She has left a legacy here,” Hargrove said. “She has helped some of our young players having a difficult time bring a different attitude about what it takes to be a professional, what it takes to excel. So I think the things that she imparted are still intact, even though she’s not here.”

Former first-round pick Bernice Mosby, rookie Crystal Langhorne and Humphrey are all in contention to fill McWilliams-Franklin’s starting spot. Kenlaw will use the rest of the Olympic break to evaluate the players.

“We have people on our team who are capable of stepping up and filling in,” Kenlaw said. “All of the intangible things that [McWilliams-Franklin] brought to the table, you could just depend on her. I’m gonna miss that, but I’m confident that people are gonna step up.”

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