- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crystal Langhorne spent the WNBA offseason playing in Moscow, but she knew what was happening with the Washington Mystics every step of the way. Coach and general manager Trudi Lacey kept her in the loop.

Langhorne, an All-Star forward, has been in camp less than a week and returned to find almost an entirely new team surrounding her. She was expecting it.

“I knew some changes were going to happen,” Langhorne said. “You can’t have a season like we had last year and expect the same team back, so I knew it was coming. I remember last year, we had a lot of close games that we would lose at the end, so I just think with the veterans we’re bringing in this year, we’re going to be a lot better.”

Langhorne is one of just four players — along with two-guard Matee Ajavon, forward Monique Currie and point guard Jasmine Thomas — to return from last year’s squad, which finished 6-28.

This season, Langhorne will team with centers Ashley Robinson and Michelle Snow and should form a much formidable post presence than the team had last year.

“I’m excited about it,” Langhorne said. “They’re veterans, they’re great defensive players, and they know how to play the game.”

The Mystics traded Victoria Dunlap to the Seattle Storm to acquire eight-year veteran Robinson.

“I take this as a compliment,” Robinson said. “It’s nice to be here and nice to be with a young team. You’re around players who are hungry. They want to get better, they want to know what you know. They want to learn from you, so I’m excited to be here.

“The player I was most excited to play with was Crystal. She’s a load when you have to guard her. I’m happy to be her teammate and take some of the pressure off of her and be a partner in the post game.”

Snow, a 10-year veteran, signed as a free agent in the offseason.

“Having veteran leadership is like a cheat sheet for the younger players,” Snow said. “I see the young players here are receptive, they’re listening, they all want to learn. They want to win, and when you have that, plus add that experience, you can really create something special.”

Rounding out the trio of new veteran leaders is guard Dominique Canty, a 13-year veteran who also signed as a free agent.

“I’ve been placed in that [leadership] role for a long time,” Canty said. “So far, it’s working out pretty good. I’m seeing hard work, feistiness and focus from the young players here. Everybody’s hungry.”

Lacey, who’s beginning her second year as coach and GM, is feeling “excited and optimistic” about the upcoming season.

“When you only win six games, something has to change,” Lacey said. “We lost 15 games that came down to the last two or three possessions. I felt like we needed to get some veterans in here to turn all those close losses into wins.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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