- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

After going through six coaches in five seasons, the Washington Mystics may finally have found a combination that can deliver a winning season, and dare we say playoffs?
Coach Marianne Stanley brings Hall of Fame credentials and a breath of fresh air to what has been a stagnant situation. And Stanley displayed an unusual optimism when the Mystics opened their fifth training camp yesterday at MCI Center.
"Our goal is to not finish third in the East or anything else short of finishing first in the East," Stanley said. "That is the goal. That is where our mind needs to be."
Stanley, who was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., over the weekend, won three NCAA championships as a coach and is the type who will settle for nothing less in the WNBA.
"By far she's the best," said Mystics star forward Chamique Holdsclaw. "I have confidence in her. I'm able to communicate with her and she's a straight shooter. She's not going to beat around the bush and we haven't had that."
The previous five Mystics coaches combined for a 39-87 record.
It will help Stanley that she has plenty of talent with which to work. Rookie phenoms Stacey Dales-Schuman and Asjha Jones inject automatic credibility into the Mystics' starting five. Both players enjoyed success at the highest collegiate level, but most importantly they bring a winning attitude.
"I really think the chemistry on this team is going to go somewhere," said Dales-Schuman, a 6-foot guard who averaged 17 points, five rebounds and 1.8 steals this season for NCAA runner-up Oklahoma. "We're going to have a very tight-knit team. When you have that, you're going to have exciting basketball. There's that eagerness on this team to step away from the past and evolve into the future. We're going to do that."
For now, the plan is to have the sweet-shooting Dales-Schuman start at point guard. However, the multi-skilled scorer can play all the perimeter positions and will be asked to relieve Holdsclaw of some of the scoring load.
Jones, who won two national titles in her four years at Connecticut, is a 6-2 post player who can step out and hit the medium-range jumper. However, it is her ability to play down low that will be appreciated by Holdsclaw, who led the team in rebounding, averaging 8.8.
"When you are a superstar, you always will have the burden on your shoulders, but if you can let other people have control and build up their confidence, the easier it gets to find the places you want to be," said Holdsclaw, whose 16.8 points a game were fifth in the league. "Just as much as they need me, I need them."
Holdsclaw so wanted a fresh start this season that she changed her number from 23, which she has worn the last three years, to No. 1. And she may be the No. 1 player and leader of the Mystics, but Holdsclaw has a lot more help than in years past.
"I have never believed in one player being so valuable that you can't survive without them," Stanley said. "As a matter of fact, that is a recipe for failure in my book, because what happens when they are hurt, or what happens when they can't play?"
The offseason trade of popular shooting guard Nikki McCray to the Indiana Fever may be a blessing in disguise. McCray averaged 25.9 minutes, but shot just 23 percent from behind the 3-point arc last season and at times looked lost at the offensive end.
With McCray gone, playing minutes and the off-guard job opens. Tonya Washington, Coco Miller, and Brazilian Helen Luz are more solid 3-point shooters than McCray each shot better than 33.3 percent last season. With Dales-Schuman, the Mystics should improve on last season's WNBA-worst 28 percent 3-point shooting.
The Mystics also made a concerted effort to add skilled players inside, drafting centers 6-2 LaNisha Cartwell and 6-3 Teresa Geter and inviting 6-6 center and former Stanford player Carolyn Moos to training camp as a free agent.

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