Mystics Hand Keys to Point Guard Jacobs

Point guard Amber Jacobs says she's been pressing in her first stint with the Mystics.
Point guard Amber Jacobs says she's been pressing in her first stint with the Mystics. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 27, 2008; Page E02

It was not the news that Washington Mystics Coach Tree Rollins wanted to hear. Starting point guard Nikki Blue suffered a high ankle sprain when she fell late in Sunday's game against the Houston Comets and could be out for four weeks.

Rollins had two options. He could immediately plug in star Alana Beard, whose experience and savvy make her a dependable choice. Or he could give backup point guard Amber Jacobs, who has committed six turnovers in the 18 minutes she's played so far this season, another chance.

For the sake of Washington's offensive output, the first-year coach decided not to pull Beard from her natural position of shooting guard just yet, not if Jacobs can run with the opportunity to prove that she can lead the team.

Jacobs realizes she must regain her confidence and overcome her harshest critic -- herself.

"I'm just trying too hard out there and forcing the tough pass," said Jacobs, who will start in the second installment of the Mystics' three-game homestand 7 p.m. tonight at Verizon Center against the Atlanta Dream.

"I need to come up there and be the settler of the team," Jacobs said. "Not be someone who's going to make things more chaotic."

Blue beat Jacobs for the starting role because of her familiarity with the Mystics' system and her comfort level with the freedom Rollins gives his point guards to adapt to the game on their own. Jacobs, whose best WNBA season came in 2006 when she averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 assists per game as a 34-game starter for Minnesota, has never appeared completely at ease on the floor, rushing her passes rather than patiently waiting for the right opportunity.

Rollins sat down with Jacobs yesterday morning, searching for a way to help the fifth-year, 5-foot-8 point guard relax and find her rhythm with the Mystics, who need her now more than ever.

"You can see the frustration on her face," Rollins said. "She makes one turnover and then she tenses up and then she's going to make another. That's what I was talking to her about. If you make one, just forget about it. They've got a column that says 'turnover,' which means they expect you to make some."

The best-case scenario, Rollins said, will be if Jacobs can remain calm and play significant minutes so Washington can just establish a rotation with Beard and Coco Miller, who both practiced at point guard Monday as well. But ultimately the success of that plan is up to Jacobs.

"I definitely have an opportunity to help out this team," Jacobs said. "Obviously, we want AB to be a scorer . . . so to come in and be able to give good minutes and allow her to remain a scorer is what my main focus is going to be [against Atlanta]. It doesn't have to be anything great, just steady."

Mystics Note: Backup small forward Krystal Vaughn pulled a hamstring in yesterday's practice, but Rollins expects her to be fine and said she should be able to contribute against the Dream.

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