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Ex-Terps standout adjusts to WNBA

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2008

There isn't much Crystal Langhorne didn't accomplish in her four years at Maryland.

She was a two time All-American and last year's ACC player of the year. She led the Terrapins to the 2006 national championship as a sophomore and is the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. For all her achievements, Langhorne had her jersey honored on senior night, the first time Maryland had so honored an active player.

Her career in College Park was impressive enough that the Washington Mystics selected her with the sixth pick in last month's WNBA Draft. Washington needed post players and rebounding help, both of which suit Langhorne's strengths.

Coach Tree Rollins said the choice was between Langhorne and a few other players Washington had rated similarly. And after seeing Langhorne up close, Rollins is happy with the organization's decision.

"I'm pleased with the player that we got out of the draft," Rollins said. "She was flying all over the world, she was in China, and [when she returned] she came to camp that day and has been working her butt off ever since."

Just two months removed from her last game with Maryland, Langhorne is in a new role as a WNBA rookie.

She is no longer the star player. Instead she now must work to find her spot in Rollins' rotation. She has been dominant throughout her entire career but now has to earn her way onto the court as a professional.

Through the Mystics' first two games, Langhorne has been productive with her playing time, averaging 3.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in 8.5 minutes off the bench. As is the case with rookies, her biggest adjustment has been catching up to the physicality and level of play.

"It's not just the best players in the country. Now it's the best players in the world," Langhorne said.

Many of the fans Langhorne acquired with the Terrapins can follow her career with the Mystics (0-2), starting tonight in their home opener at Verizon Center against the Houston Comets (0-1).

Langhorne's family also will make the trip from New Jersey to attend tonight.

"The opportunity for the Maryland fans, to still be able to continue playing, and still be close to home, I was pretty excited about that," Langhorne said.

The Mystics will need to get off to a better start in today's game than they have in the first two losses of the season. The Mystics have been blitzed in the early portion of those games and couldn't overcome large deficits despite playing better in the second half.

"We're still gelling because we have a lot of new faces," Rollins said. "It's not unexpected. We don't want it to happen, but it is what it is."

Washington has gone back to basics in practice this week in order to tighten up its play. The Mystics are shooting 63.2 percent from the free throw line thus far and have committed 39 turnovers in two games.

"It's just basketball stuff. As professionals you wouldn't think you wouldn't have to focus on that, but that's the things that have been causing us some problems and causing us to lose two games so far," Rollins said. "We've been breaking down things — from layups to denying the ball to getting the correct angle to make the post entry to outlet passes — all the little things you did from Day 1 learning how to play basketball."

The Mystics have lacked focus at the start of games. They're aware of their shortcomings in the first half and are tweaking their pregame routines in an effort to get off to a faster start.

"We have to come out with a sense of urgency," guard Alana Beard said. "In the past two games, we've let the other team come out and take us out of the game. We have to be an aggressor from the get go."

Today's game

HOUSTON COMETS (0-1) AT WASHINGTON MYSTICS (0-2)

When: 4 p.m.

Where: Verizon Center

Outlook: The Mystics need to play better in the first half than they did in losses to Indiana and New York. Houston's only game this season was May 17, so it will be coming off an eight-day layoff. Both teams have a legitimate star (Alana Beard of Washington and Tina Thompson of Houston), and the result might come down to who has a better game.

Mike Fratto