Mystics Open Camp

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After a long winter, training camp finally arrived and WNBA basketball returned to the Verizon Center practice court.

Training Camp is always an exciting time. Seeing old faces return, learning the new faces, and this year there were more than just new players to meet, but new coaches as well.

Mike Thibault was hired by the Mystics back in December, but this was his first hands-on week and his first look at the team as a whole.

“You have all these ideas in your head about what you can and can’t do with a new team. I was anxious to see the rookies and how they fit in, it really was exciting to get out here,“ said the new Mystics coach.

Thibault knows he has a lot of teaching to do, but doesn’t want to rush into the playbook just yet.

“At least on the offensive end, I’m doing as much evaluating of them as I am doing anything else. We haven’t put in any half court sets yet, I’m trying to teach them how to play basketball. I want them to play with some freedom, play at a faster pace, and give them some basic things to do without memorizing the playbook. By doing that, I can find out what they do best. Then, I can put more structure based on what their best skills are. But, defensively, I’ve been more then proactive and they’ve caught on right away.”

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The Mystics brought 16 players into training camp this season, (15 have reported, Matee Ajavon will return from overseas in the near future) including plenty of young legs to compete for the final roster spots.

The team brought in seven rookies with no WNBA experience (Hill, McKenith, Meesseman, Mingo, Ruffin-Pratt, Peddy, Corral), though Peddy and Corral spent 2012 in training camp with the Sky and Storm respectively.

They also have second-year players Natalie Novosel and Avery Warley to round off the youth movement here in camp. That gives nine of the 16 players in camp one year or less of WNBA experience.

This means that veterans to the team, like Crystal Langhorne, will need to step up and take on a leadership role with so many young faces around.

“I expect to be the leader of this team. My coaches think the same thing. I come in everyday, trying to direct our team in the right direction, trying to help the young players, because we have a lot of young players, and just try and help us get better,” said Langhorne.

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Though they have a lot of youth, the team also brought in some savvy veterans to complete the roster. Ivory Latta will likely be the team’s starting point guard when the season begins and her energy has already been felt.

Through the first week of camp, both her and returning point guard Shannon Bobbitt may be the two most vocal players on the court, which is a good as the offense usually begins with them.

Kia Vaughn was also a big off-season addition and after practicing for the first time on Wednesday, her size has already been noticeable on the post.

Coach Thibault has said that he thinks this team can turn the post play into a real strength this season with a number of threats.

He raved about the play of Michelle Snow through the first week and said that she will likely play a big role for the Mystics in 2012-13.

He also has spoken highly of newcomer Emma Meesseman, who the team drafted with the 19th overall pick in this past draft. She has already shown off some of her moves and her nice shooting touch, which has impressed her American teammates.

Langhorne on the post players: “We are big and strong. We have Kia who will pound it, Avery Warley on the glass, Drey Mingo, we have Snow back, so many people who are aggressive. Then Emma who brings that finesse game and has great moves.”

It’s only been a week and the attitude is usually positive at this time of year, so it’s not time to make plans for the WNBA finals just yet. But when asked what the goals for this team were, it was nearly a unanimous: “Be a playoff team.”

So far, so good.