Washington Mystics guard Ivory Latta kept in touch with teammate Tayler Hill during the offseason, getting reports from Hill about her workouts and the progress she was making in losing the weight from her pregnancy last year.
And though Hill assured her she was back in shape, Latta was still taken aback when she saw her recently.
“She always would update me on how things were going,” Latta said. “But then when I saw her the other day, I’m like, ‘Well, lady, you didn’t tell me you lost all that weight. Good gracious.’ ”
Said Hill with a triumphant smile: “I lost the weight, and I got back in shape where I needed to be.”
The fourth overall pick out of Ohio State in 2013, Hill missed most of last season after giving birth to her first child in June. She played in five games in the regular season, averaging 7.8 minutes per game and making one basket in 13 attempts. In her rookie season, she averaged 17.4 minutes and 6.5 points per game.
While Hill said she’s “back 100 percent,” Mystics General Manager and Coach Mike Thibault is unsure what’s fair to expect, as Hill looks to compete for the starting shooting guard position and give Washington a needed boost in three-point shooting.
The Mystics tip off the preseason in Louisville, with the Atlanta Dream, Connecticut Sun and Indiana Fever in the Dream’s Classic at KFC Yum! Center on May 23. The Mystics open the regular season at Connecticut on June 5 at 7 p.m.
“I don’t know that I have an expectation that’s specific right now,” Thibault said of Hill. “But we need all of our guards — and her particularly because of her athleticism — to help us in our transition game offensively, to spread the floor with three-point shooting, and because she’s so quick, she can really help us on the defensive end. She’s got long arms and quick feet and she has the ability to come up with steals, so I think we’re looking for a huge improvement on both ends.”
Said Latta: “I’m definitely expecting a breakout season for her. She’s very versatile. She can push the ball up the court if you need her to. She’s a great spot-up three-point shooter, and her first step is even quicker than her first year here.
“We played pickup a couple times, and I’m like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. You’re going to do the old lady like that?’ I’m seeing a lot of great things out of her so far.”
Though Hill didn’t play much last season, she and Thibault said the limited time on the court was valuable for this upcoming season. She gained confidence and perspective on her physical shape just five weeks after giving birth, which allowed her and the trainers to create a plan for getting back to her desired form. The roster lists her at 5 feet 9 and 145 pounds.
Thibault said the next step for Hill is learning “what she can do to get an advantage” from studying the game and understanding how to exploit certain defensive schemes. Thibault also would like to see her get into a more comfortable shooting rhythm and be decisive.
The five games also allowed Hill to get a taste of how to balance her lifestyle with frequent travel and a baby. She said she expects it to be easier this season now that her son is older, approaching his first birthday.
“You play basketball your whole life, and that’s what you’re used to,” Hill said. “Not being able to play basketball, or after I had the baby, not being able to come back and just recover the way I wanted to and just get back on the court how things used to be, it was definitely a challenge.
“But I think it was a good challenge, knowing that I was so young and I was able to come back and bounce back the way I needed to.”