- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

After Minnesota made the seventh pick of the first round of the WNBA Draft yesterday, Washington Mystics coach Richie Adubato excitedly turned to the rest of his team’s brass, raised his right hand and said, “That’s it, brother.” Then the phone rang, and everything was momentarily in flux.

The call came with an offer for a veteran WNBA All-Star the team has long coveted. Following a minute of deliberation, Washington chose to reject the offer and chose scoring-specialist Tamara James from Miami.

James, a 5-foot-10, All-ACC player, averaged 20.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last season. The left-hander is expected to provide depth at small forward, backing up free agent signee Crystal Robinson.

“The thing we loved about her is she can score anywhere on the floor,” Mystics general manager Linda Hargrove said. “She has got great 3-point range. She is very aggressive with going right and left to the basket. She is versatile. She is high percentage from everywhere on the floor. Those are the things that kind of separated her.”

The Mystics also selected UCLA point guard Nikki Blue (19th overall) in the second round and center Mariam Sy in the third round (33rd overall) out of Oklahoma City University. Sy will not play next season after blowing out an ACL in her knee, but the Mystics wanted to lock up the 6-foot-4 NAIA player of the year for the future.

There was a moment of hesitation before the Mystics selected James. They got an offer for a star player from the Western Conference but quickly decided it was not worth the potential risk of getting nothing at all.

“We evaluated the positives and negatives when making that deal, knowing that the individual involved may or may not be playing in the league this year,” Hargrove said inside the draft room at the downtown ESPN Zone. “We didn’t want to take that direction.”

The Mystics held the eighth pick overall after swapping first-round picks with the Los Angeles Sparks while acquiring All-Star point guard Nikki Teasley for last season’s WNBA rookie of the year, point guard Temeka Johnson.

Adubato said the Mystics, who went 16-18 and missed the playoffs last season, addressed their top need by adding a small forward. The move allows DeLisha Milton-Jones to move to her natural position of power forward. Last season’s starting small forward, Charlotte Smith-Taylor, signed with Indiana in the offseason.

“To be able to bring the rookie [James] along with Crystal was like the perfect situation,” said Adubato, who said point guard and center were the next on the list, respectively. “With Teasley and [Alana] Beard [at guard], it is like an insurance policy [taking another guard]. But we really liked Blue. When she dropped, that was the way to go. We weren’t overwhelmed with any of the fives in the draft.”

The 5-8 Blue, a four-time All-Pac 10 selection, averaged 12.4 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds last season. Adubato said the starting lineup going into training camp April 23 will be Teasley, Beard, Robinson, Milton-Jones and Chasity Melvin at center. The Mystics open the season at home May 23 against New York.

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