Adventures from the Road

Mystics General Manager Angela Taylor’s adventures as a scout and talent evaluator are eerily similar to the experiences of Steve Martin’s character in the 1987 film “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles.”

As an assistant coach at Stanford, Taylor flew east to check out a recruit in a small town in southern Colorado. After landing at a big city airport, Taylor drove a rental car three and a half hours to the high school gym. When she arrived, the game was over. Unbeknownst to Taylor, the game time was moved up earlier in the day.

Despite a few unexpected speed bumps in her career as a scout, Taylor is still scouring the country looking for the best up-and-coming talent. With the Mystics holding the number two pick in this April’s WNBA draft, Taylor and head coach Julie Plank are knee-deep in the scouting process.

“This is the best time of year for basketball junkies,” said Taylor. “It’s awesome to be able to sit in your living room and watch a plethora of games and see some great kids.”

On a recent trip to Atlanta, Taylor and Plank were expecting a reprieve from the chilly D.C. weather. Instead, they experienced a day of tornado-like conditions followed by a day that featured three inches of snow. To top it all off, their flight back home was cancelled.

“At the end of the day, Julie and I were able to get a lot of work done and it turned out much better than expected,” Taylor said with a chuckle.

While Taylor and Plank are grateful for the increase in television exposure for women’s college basketball, they both prefer checking out players in person.

“You get a real feel for players when you watch them in practice and see them interact with their teammates,” Plank said. “You get to see the fun side of them and the intangible qualities that they bring.”

With so many gifted players in the college ranks, Plank says that taking into account a player’s personality is an essential part of the evaluation process.

“It’s not just about talent,” Plank said. “It’s who is a team player. It’s about who is very giving. It’s about who has leadership qualities. We want to bring in someone who is ready to contribute right away.”

As a college coach, Taylor recalls the days when she went on scouting trips without a cell phone. Today, Taylor says the advent of texting, Facebook, satellite television, and Skype, her personal favorite; make her a more active participant in the scouting process.

“Julie and I are blessed to have a great network of college coaches that we can reach out to,” Taylor said. “It’s good to get a lot of different opinions on players from coaches who don’t see those kids every day or who aren’t competing against them every day. It’s important to get an unbiased opinion.”

When the NCAA tournament brackets come out next week, the Mystics staff will be back on the road. With four picks in the upcoming draft, you can bet that Taylor and Plank will have some new stories to tell.