Washington Mystics Select Maryland's Marissa Coleman in WNBA Draft With No. 2 Pick

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009

Marissa Coleman always hoped she might be able to continue her basketball career at home. The Cheltenham, Md., native hesitated to put too much stock in that dream though, until she heard her name called when the Washington Mystics selected the former Terrapins standout second overall in yesterday's WNBA draft.

"It was such a huge relief to go that early," Coleman said. "I'm ecstatic right now. To be able to play essentially my entire basketball career here in the metro area is really special to me and my family."

Coleman's former teammate, Kristi Toliver, was picked third overall by the Chicago Sky.

Coleman had long been atop the Mystics' wish list, with Connecticut point guard Renee Montgomery and Auburn forward DeWanna Bonner not far behind, but Atlanta's decision to select Louisville forward Angel McCoughtry first overall made their choice simple.

Washington General Manager Angela Taylor said she and the Mystics' new coaching staff "adopted" the Terrapins as their own and couldn't pass up Coleman's versatility. In the upcoming season, the Mystics plan to rely on its platoon of shooting guards and small forwards -- including Matee Ajavon, Alana Beard, Monique Currie and Coleman -- to lead a fast-paced style that emphasizes the transition game.

"She gives us some more strength at the off-guard position [and] can bring the ball down the floor," said Taylor, adding that Coleman will likely play primarily as a small forward. "I think we're looking at a kind of Scottie Pippen-type player that's able to get the rebound, put the ball on the floor, get out in transition, and we really want to get out there defensively and be able to get out and run."

Taylor believes it won't take long for the 6-foot-1 Coleman to acclimate to a faster style of play because she is already in WNBA shape. In her senior season at the University of Maryland, Coleman averaged 18.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and was named MVP of the ACC tournament.

Perhaps Coleman's most impressive performance of the season -- and one that cemented the Mystics' opinion of her -- came in a NCAA South Region semifinal when she scored 42 points to single-handedly lead the Terrapins to a 78-74 win over Vanderbilt.

By selecting Coleman, Taylor and the coaching staff showed their support for players like former No. 1 overall draft pick, point guard Lindsey Harding and veteran center Chasity Melvin, whom they acquired during the off-season to shore up weak roster spots.

"One of our assistants said it best this morning. We got our book ends," Taylor said. "We solidified the 1 and the 5 and now we got strong in the middle. You look at Alana and Monique already, then you add Matee and Marissa in there. I think it's going to be competitive in training camp and all of them will be pushed."

The Mystics now have eight swing players on the roster between the shooting guard and small forward positions. With only an 11-player roster this season -- the WNBA eliminated two inactive spots -- the team put a noticeable emphasis on flexibility and its perimeter game.

All of these traits look just fine to Coleman, who excelled in her do-everything role in Maryland's offense. The Mystics' selection also reunites one former Terrapin with another Maryland star in Crystal Langhorne, who was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Coleman said she has already been welcomed by Langhorne, Beard, Currie, Harding and Tasha Humphrey.

In addition to Coleman, the Mystics selected 5-6 guard Camille LeNoir from USC (23rd overall), 6-4 center Jelena Milovanovic (24th) from MKB Euroleasing in Hungary and 6-3 center Josephine Owino (28th), a Mombasa, Kenya, native who played at Union in Tennessee.

WNBA Notes: . Other local players taken in the draft were VCU center Quanitra Hollingsworth, who went to Minnesota with the No. 9 pick, Virginia forward Lyndra Littles, taken in the second round (17th overall) by the Connecticut Sun, and George Washington center Jessica Adair, taken in the third round (34th overall) by Phoenix.

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