By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 14, 2006
For Nikki Blue, finding motivation to play in the WNBA is easy. The Washington Mystics' backup point guard stares at her uniform, knowing she picked No. 19 for a reason.
That's where she was selected in last month's draft. She never envisioned she would fall into the second round and neither did the Mystics, who had her as a first-round pick on their draft board.
Yet when the Mystics saw the 5-foot-8 guard from UCLA was available when their turn came, the belief in the draft room was unanimous: They were getting a first-rate guard in the second round.
Blue's play since the start of training camp, including in last night's 81-63 preseason victory over the Houston Comets at Verizon Center, has made the Mystics believe she could be the steal of the draft.
"I was totally heartbroken and it was total disappointment when I didn't go in the first round," Blue said. "So I got number 19 to remind me of that every day and keep pushing me. But everything happens for a reason and right now there's nowhere I'd rather be."
Blue posted 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting to go along with a game-high four assists.
"Every year you see one player who goes higher than expected and one player who goes lower than expected and Nikki was that player who went later," Coach Richie Adubato said. "But she's come out here really determined and wanted to prove everybody wrong. And right now, Nikki's play is way ahead of schedule."
Blue's play overshadowed that of Nikki Teasley (four points, two assists), who is from Frederick and playing her first game since being acquired in a trade with Los Angeles during the offseason.
Adubato also paid close attention to the play of reserve forwards Kaayla Chones (two rebounds), Nakia Sanford (one point, two rebounds) and Aiysha Smith (five points). Their performances last night and in Tuesday's controlled scrimmage at Chicago will determine which two claim the final spots on the 12-player roster that must be submitted to the WNBA on May 19, four days before the Mystics open the season.
Washington (2-0) also got big performances from forwards DeLisha Milton-Jones (15 points) and Latasha Byears (10 rebounds) and center Chasity Melvin (11 points).
In the first half, Washington shot a blistering 21 of 28 (75 percent) and forced the Comets (1-1) to shoot just 25.9 percent (7 of 27) to take a 51-26 lead into intermission.
"After seeing the way we've played," said Milton-Jones, "I'm so anxious for the regular season."