- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

With the No. 2 pick in Thursday's WNBA draft, the Washington Mystics have an opportunity to expedite their rebuilding process.

The Mystics have narrowed their list to Louisville forward Angel McCoughtry, Connecticut point guard Renee Montgomery, Oklahoma center Courtney Paris and Maryland guards Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver. It is the team's best opportunity to get an impact player since it selected Alana Beard in 2004.

General manager Angela Taylor has bolstered the Mystics' roster this offseason, adding guards Matee Ajavon (via the Houston Comets dispersal draft) and potential starter Lindsey Harding (in a trade with Minnesota).

Taylor also brought back center Chasity Melvin to Washington to fortify its frontline. Based on these moves, the Mystics feel they've given themselves flexibility with the second pick.

“When I took the job, I think our two biggest needs were our point guard position and our center, and we've addressed both of those needs in the offseason,” Mystics coach Julie Plank said. “Going into the draft, we wanted to be able to put our team in the position to take the best player for our team and not a specific position, and I think we did that.”

But Melvin and Nakia Sanford both turn 33 in May, leaving the Mystics with a need for a long-term post player. Most experts expect the center-laden Atlanta Dream to use the top pick on McCoughtry, the most complete player in the draft, or Montgomery, a pure point guard. That leaves the four-time All-American Paris, who set an NCAA record with 112 consecutive double-doubles during her career, as a viable option for Washington.

“I think Courtney would fit in well with [the Mystics] because they need to improve their depth, they need to improve their defense and they need to improve their consistency,” ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman said. “With Courtney, you know you're going to be able to get a bunch of rebounds out of her, and maybe she'll grow with that system.”

What was clear during the Mystics' 10-24 campaign last year was that it was far too easy to defend them. Without a reliable scoring threat from the post, opposing defenses keyed on Beard and forward Monique Currie, leaving them little room to operate.

By taking Paris, Washington could alleviate some of that pressure on its perimeter stars.

“You need somebody who can get the ball, and [the defense] is going to double down, and the littles on the outside are going to get open looks,” Lieberman said. “If you don't have a big player, it just makes your life harder both on the defensive end and if you're trying to shoot the ball.”

Finishing second and third on Maryland's career scoring list, Coleman and Toliver have entrenched themselves at the top of the draft.

Coleman took an additional step in the eyes of pro scouts toward the end of the college season, averaging 23 points and 9.7 rebounds in the ACC tournament and leading the Terrapins with a 42-point, 15-rebound effort against Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16.

“It was fun for me to watch the tournament and see how some of the prospects have played so well,” ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said. “This is the first time in a while that we have players mucking things up at the top of the draft.”

Toliver also is coveted for her scoring ability, and with the refined point guard skills she added to her game as an upperclassman, she is poised to make an immediate impact in the league.

“Obviously I'd like to play with an up-tempo team,” said Toliver, who considers Phoenix, which has the fifth pick, as her ideal landing spot. “That's the style I played at Maryland, and I would love nothing more than to keep playing that way through my professional career.”

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