Former two-time All-Met Player of the Year Tierra Ruffin-Pratt grew up in Alexandria down the street from Cora Kelly Recreation Center, a place that frequently had tickets to Washington Mystics games to disburse to area residents.
The T.C. Williams graduate attended many of those games, and now the combination guard out of North Carolina is trying to crack the roster of the hometown WNBA team by participating in the Mystics’ training camp at Verizon Center.
“Being close to home is always a good feeling since I’ve been in North Carolina for four years,” Ruffin-Pratt said Friday, the fifth day of camp. “I’m playing well. I’m working hard, so we’ll just see how things go.”
If there is a WNBA team with opportunities for would-be pros, it’s Washington. The Mystics have gone 11-57 the past two seasons and brought in a new coaching staff. There were holes in the back court last season, which is why the team selected Ohio State shooting guard Tayler Hill with the fourth pick in the 2013 draft and is looking for other ways to upgrade the part of the roster.
The 5-foot-10 Ruffin-Pratt, one of seven rookies in camp, is in an unusual position after starring at T.C. Williams for four years and then being an all-ACC first-team pick and Associated Press All-America honorable mention this past season. She’s as relatively unknown as she’s been maybe ever.
“It’s motivation,” she said. “Everybody out here are great players. It’s motivation to keep getting better. The main thing is being a big guard because they have a lot of small guards on this team. Just being a big guard, being able to handle the ball, get to the basket, make plays.”
This past season Ruffin-Pratt led UNC in scoring, assists and steals and more than doubled her career scoring average with 15.5 points per game. She poured in a career-high 30 points against Albany in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Perhaps based in part on that performance, Ruffin-Pratt said she had training camp invitations from a couple of other WNBA teams that she declined to name. She said the Mystics were the first team to contact her.
In camp, she has played some point guard, her primary position this past season for the Tar Heels (29-7), but mostly has been playing on the wing. During the offseason the Mystics signed another former North Carolina point guard, six-year veteran Ivory Latta.
“Everybody’s out there trying to learn the system,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “It’s not like they have the same coaching staff and they’re working out players who were already here. It’s just a great situation to be in.”