- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

On the Washington Mystics’ recent road trip, coach Julie Plank felt it was time to take a proactive approach with Marissa Coleman.

She had sensed for a while that something was wrong with the talented rookie. Plank knew it would take time for Coleman to get back to full speed after returning from a four-week layoff earlier this season caused by a sprained ankle. But after nearly two months of ineffectiveness, Plank decided it was time to talk it over.

So Plank sat Coleman down and simply reminded her why the Mystics used the No. 2 selection in April on the former Maryland star: her competitiveness, her fight and, most importantly, her offensive skills.

“I just think it’s important she knows we have confidence in her and we brought her in here for a reason,” Plank said. “I think it’s discouraging when you get injured. It changes your personality.”

The heart-to-heart was apparently just what Coleman needed. After averaging just 3.9 points in her first 18 games back from the ankle injury, Coleman seemingly has rediscovered her touch, posting 13 and 11 points in Washington’s past two games.

“She seems more comfortable and confident and like her old self,” Plank said.

That would be the self-assured shooter who was Washington’s second-leading scorer after the first three games of the season. But the ankle injury that occurred during a June 14 scrimmage - while the Mystics were waiting out a nine-day break in their schedule - derailed that.

Even after Washington’s training staff got her back on the court just shy of the initial four to six-week diagnosis, the effects of the injury lingered. It took a couple of weeks for Coleman to trust that she could put weight on the ankle; and all the while, her entire mindset took a hit.

It was the first major injury at any point in her basketball career, and when she returned to the court, her rhythm was off. A potent outside threat, Coleman was missing open shots even in practice, something that just had never happened before.

“That’s probably the main reason why I struggled the way I did,” Coleman said. “But you know, I learned a lot from it. At times it was just more mental than anything.”

After watching Coleman’s struggles carry on for nearly two months, Plank sought to reinstill some confidence.

“Definitely it was [reassuring] to know that I haven’t been playing up to my standards but that the staff and everybody still had the confidence in me,” Coleman said.

All-Star guard Alana Beard went through a similar slump in her rookie campaign. So Beard, whom the Mystics also took second overall in 2004, reminded Coleman that there is enough time left to make an impact this season.

“Alana said her rookie year, the West Coast trip was kind of where she got her confidence back and so forth, so I just kind of took that to heart, and everything is coming together finally,” Coleman said.

Coleman’s rejuvenation couldn’t come at a better time for the Mystics. With five games left and three playoff spots up for grabs, they are one of five Eastern Conference teams separated by 2 1/2 games.

And with Beard, their leading scorer, currently slowed by a pair of ankle injuries, the Mystics are going to need all the offensive help they can get.

“It wouldn’t be surprising if [Coleman] went off,” Plank said. “She looks good. Her timing is good. She seems happy. She looks in great shape. She’s stroking the ball and playing really well. We’re very pleased.”

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