- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

Marissa Coleman didn’t expect her transition from college to the WNBA to go perfectly, but it sure was looking good four weeks ago. The Mystics had a perfect record, and as Washington’s second-leading scorer, Coleman looked to be the star of the rookie class.

So when she suffered a high ankle sprain in practice just three games into the season, it was the most unexpected of setbacks. Coleman was prepared to deal with the myriad adjustments to the pros - the speed and physicality of the game, playing on back-to-back nights, travel - but not an extended period on the sideline.

“You never think about injuries,” Coleman said. “It never crosses your mind. You just go out there and play. So I definitely did not envision this at all.”

Coleman spent nearly eight hours a day rehabbing with trainer Navin Hettiarachchi. And as the days wore on, frustration set in.

It was the first major injury of her career at any level, and Coleman grew anxious to get back on the court.

“I’m stuck in the training room while they are out there,” she said. “I couldn’t even watch practice. After never really having to miss games before, to have to sit and watch - especially with this being my rookie year - it was definitely tough.”

The mental adjustments have continued since Coleman returned to practice last week. She played only eight minutes in her first game back Tuesday night against Minnesota and missed all three of her shots.

But there was nothing wrong with her shot and little rust in her mechanics. Instead, Coleman said she wasn’t completely comfortable on the court and that she has to get used to having a healthy ankle again and “trust that it’s OK and I can just go out there and play.”

Coleman has been taking extra shots after practice this week to work her way back to the level she was playing at in June. And there is little doubt in her mind that she will return to form quickly.

“I feel like I’ll be able to get back,” she said. “Just with the more reps in practice and doing extra shooting it’ll all come, just like it did in the beginning [of the season].”

Coach Julie Plank said she wanted to ease Coleman into game action on her first night back and that the rookie has looked better with each practice this week. Barring any setbacks Friday, Coleman will have no limitations Saturday.

“I’ll play her as long as I can,” Plank said. “I was a little hesitant in the first game back. She was supposed to be out four to six weeks, and it was about 3 1/2. I probably was a little cautious, but I’d rather be that way than not.”

The Mystics went 2-4 in Coleman’s six-game absence and lost again Tuesday. They certainly missed her scoring and the depth she provides, but the recent stumble also can be attributed to the fact that five of Washington’s past seven games have been on the road.

Only two WNBA teams have winning road records this season, and Washington’s three road victories are tied with Seattle and Minnesota for the most in the league. Washington has played the fewest home games of any team but still sits in second in the Eastern Conference.

And now the Mystics have six straight contests at Verizon Center in the next two weeks.

“I’m really excited to get home,” Plank said. “We got Marissa back… and I feel like we have things going at the right time.”

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