Looking to add depth and versatility, the Washington Mystics selected Maryland product Marissa Coleman with the second pick of Thursday's WNBA draft.
The 6-foot-1 swingman finished second on the Terrapins' all-time scoring list behind Crystal Langhorne, whom the Mystics selected in the first round last year.
“I'm very excited to play with the Mystics,” Coleman said. “I grew up watching them play; you know they're in my backyard. I don't think there's a better situation for me to end up in.”
Mystics officials feel the same way about adding Coleman to a team that last season averaged a league-low 69.7 points and finished 10-24. Coach Julie Plank, hired in November, will emphasize defense and an up-tempo transition offense.
The Detroit Shock, winners of two of the past three WNBA championships, have proved that a strong backcourt can serve as the backbone of a deep playoff run. The Mystics are comfortable with their frontcourt after bringing back veteran center Chasity Melvin this offseason, so they wanted to improve their guard play going into the draft.
“You kind of look at [Coleman] as a Scottie Pippen-type who can rebound, put the ball on the floor and get out in transition,” general manager Angela Taylor said. “To have Lindsey Harding, Alana Beard, Matee Ajavon, Monique Currie and Coleman that can all handle the ball in transition - that's exciting.”
Added Plank: “The other thing that [Coleman] can do if Beard or Harding are pushing it up the floor is she can spot up - she's a great 3-point shooter. [Beard and Harding] like to get into the paint, so I'm looking forward to that as well.”
Mystics officials weren't surprised the Atlanta Dream picked Louisville forward Angel McCoughtry with the first overall pick, and they barely needed a discussion before Taylor called in Washington's pick. Coleman was the highest-rated player on Washington's draft board.
Mystics officials were also impressed with Coleman's disposition. As Maryland's emotional leader, she buoyed the Terrapins' spirits whenever they dragged. That was evident in the postseason, when she averaged 23.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in the ACC tournament and posted a 42-point, 15-rebound effort against Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16.
Coleman will begin training camp as Currie's backup at small forward, but she can play shooting guard as well and should vie for playing time right away.
“I think the big adjustment for a lot of these college kids is the schedule - playing back-to-backs and the travel,” Taylor said. “Her ability in the ACC tournament to play in back-to-back games and get better was one thing that really stood out for us. I definitely think her pro-style body is something that will allow her to come in and play.”
Taylor fielded trade proposals for Washington's three other picks but opted to keep them. The Mystics took Southern Cal guard Camille LeNoir at No. 23, Serbian forward Jelena Milovanovic at No. 24 and Union center Josephine Owino at No. 28.
Shortly after Washington took Coleman, the Chicago Sky drafted former Maryland point guard Kristi Toliver with the third pick. Toliver's selection was somewhat of a surprise because most experts deemed Connecticut's Renee Montgomery the top point guard in the draft, but Toliver stood out because of her superior shooting ability.
“Knowing Kristi as long as I have and knowing how hard we worked and how much we wanted this moment to come, for us to go back-to-back symbolizes the season that we had,” Coleman said. “We were that 1-2 punch this season and I think one of the best duos in the country.”