In Need of a Spark, Mystics Add Teasley

By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 2, 2006

The Washington Mystics continued their string of personnel moves yesterday, acquiring guard Nikki Teasley and the eighth pick in next month's WNBA draft from the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for forward Murriel Page, guard Temeka Johnson and the fifth overall pick.

The Mystics already had matched the offer sheet made by the Minnesota Lynx to retain Coco Miller, signed forward Crystal Robinson of the New York Liberty as a free agent and signed two players -- forward Latasha Byears and guard Shaquala Williams -- to their training camp roster, but yesterday's move was the most significant.

The acquisition of Teasley gives the Mystics a former all-star who helped lead the Sparks to titles in 2001 and 2002 and has started every game during her four-year career. It also gives the team a player with area ties; Teasley grew up in Southeast Washington and her family moved to Frederick shortly before she enrolled at St. John's-Prospect Hall High School, where she was named Parade magazine's national player of the year as a senior in 1997.

Her arrival ends the tenure of Page, the last original Mystic. Page, who averaged 3.2 points last year, was the franchise's first selection in the 1998 draft. Johnson was selected sixth in last year's draft and was named the WNBA rookie of the year after averaging 9.3 points and 5.2 assists last season.

In her four seasons, Teasley has averaged 9 points, 5.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds.

"We wanted to bring some players from the D.C. area back and when Nikki's name came up, we were really interested," said Linda Hargrove, the team's general manager. "Getting someone of Nikki's caliber is a big plus, but the obvious downside is that Murriel has meant so much to the organization and we also had to move Temeka, who I feel will be tremendous. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives."

The 6-foot Teasley is currently living in Sopron, Hungary, and averaging 15.3 points for MKB Euroleasing Sopron, which will host the U.S. national team in an exhibition game next week.

"It is a good feeling to come home to D.C.," Teasley said through a team spokesman. "As a player, you want to play in your home town, in front of your family and friends. I am excited about it. I think the Mystics have a great team and I cannot wait to get started and bring a championship to D.C."

"Nikki's always said how much it would mean to her to come back here," said her mother, Ernestine. "She's been gone for so long."

Teasley's older brother, Mike, is the girls' varsity basketball coach at Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg.

Hargrove said she hopes to make more personnel moves, including improving the team's front court by adding a shot-blocker.

She said that moving down three spots in the draft will not hurt the team because "this draft is extremely deep from number five to number eight, so it does not make a lot of difference in the kind of player we get."

"We needed to do two things to make us better and that was to attract a good small forward, and we did that by getting Crystal Robinson, and we needed to get bigger and we haven't been able to do that yet," Hargrove said. "I think we're a playoff-caliber team right now, but I also thought we were one last year, but we underachieved at the end of the season."

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