- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For most players, being traded from the defending champion to a team that struggles in the playoffs would be a disappointment, but Washington Mystics rookie Jasmine Thomas couldn’t be happier.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Thomas said of the trade with the Seattle Storm that brought her to Washington and gave her a chance to play alongside Alana Beard.

“I grew up watching [Beard],” said Thomas. “Part of the reason I wanted to go to Duke was because of Alana Beard. I had my first practice with her and right away, from the beginning of practice, she was already teaching me stuff.”

The 5-foot-9 point guard has impressed her teammates and coaching staff, and made a tremendous first impression when she came in on the first day and already had learned the playbook.

The admiration from Beard is mutual.

“You don’t expect anything less from a Dukie,” Beard said of the way Thomas made quick work of the playbook.

Coach and general manager Trudi Lacey took note as well.

“She read the playbook in one night and knew all the plays. She’s using that Duke education,” Lacey said. “She adds a different dimension to our team. She’s so quick, very intelligent and coachable. I’m excited to have her.”

In addition to playing with Beard, Thomas is excited about returning home. A Virginia native and graduate of Oakton High School in Vienna, Thomas also worked for the Mystics last season as an intern.

Thomas played quality minutes in Saturday’s scrimmage against the Chinese national team, and Lacey likes what she sees.

“I thought Jasmine’s intensity on defense was good,” Lacey said. “As she gets more game experience, I think her decision-making will get better.”

Thomas enjoyed her first scrimmage.

“It was good playing against someone else other than beating up on each other,” she said. “It was good to play a real game, change tempo and actually get to go back and forth.”

As a point guard, Thomas believes controlling tempo is her top priority.

“Because you have the ball in your hands, you have to make good decisions,” she said. “With coach Trudi’s emphasis on defense, it always starts with the floor general.

“I feel comfortable adjusting to my personnel, knowing my players and who to go to when, and how to get them involved.”

In addition to Thomas, the Mystics have four other rookies in camp — Victoria Dunlap, Ta’Shia Phillips, Angel Robinson and Karima Christmas, who also is a Duke graduate.

“We have Jasmine and we have Karima Christmas.,” Beard said “They came in on their first day and did an unbelievable job of picking up the system, getting into the flow of everything and most importantly, knowing who they’re playing with and knowing the plays. I was very impressed with how they did.”

Thomas said she doesn’t expect to feel extra pressure by playing in front of a hometown crowd. In fact, she believes it will make her more relaxed.

“From the players I have around me and this coaching staff, I have to embrace everything I can to put myself in the best position to be able to play,” Thomas said. “I just have to grow as a player and be ready to get on that floor.”

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