Former College Teammates Help Each Other in Transition to the Pros
A rookie season can be difficult for any athlete in any sport at any level. When starting a new career, there are new systems to learn, new players to meet, new living environments to adjust to, amongst the many other changes one undergoes. However, having someone by your side going through the exact same process from the exact same place can make things a little easier.
Jasmine Thomas and Karima Christmas are both in the midst of that process. The two have made the same journey from Duke University to the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. Although their paths were slightly different in getting to Washington, Karima was drafted by the Mystics and Jasmine was acquired via trade, the duo has endured the same voyage since training camp started in May.
Thomas and Christmas both had to miss the start of training camp so they could participate in their graduation ceremony from college. They arrived in Washington right after graduating and immediately went to work.
“It’s been a learning experience, coming in late and trying to catch onto things quickly and pick everything up,” said Thomas after the first week of camp.
Luckily, they are quick learners and dove right into the playbook so they would be up to speed with their teammates.
“It’s been great having Jasmine with me. We’re also roommates so we spend most of our time together. She helps me with the plays because she’s the point guard so she knows where everyone is supposed to be on the floor,” said Christmas during Mystics training camp.
When camp broke, Thomas and Christmas received the good news that they were two of four Mystic rookies to make the final roster.
“It was exciting to finally figure out Jas and I made it and exciting to play in our first WNBA games,” said Christmas.
The two rookies from Duke have now played in a handful of games and are gaining valuable experience at the highest level.
“I definitely feel more comfortable with watching film and being able to go into practice and correct mistakes,” said Thomas. “Getting that game experience and putting it all together makes you feel a lot more comfortable.”
Like with most rookies, there has been an adjustment in roles from their senior season at Duke to their rookie season with the Mystics. They were the two leading scorers at Duke during the 2010-11 season and both averaged over 26 minutes a game. They now are learning how to play a different role as Head Coach Trudi Lacey has her two Blue Devil rookies coming off the bench.
“From the time you come into training camp you find out what your role will be and it’s just about trying to do that role the best you can,” said Thomas when asked about her role with the Mystics.
Christmas sees the new role as an opportunity to make an even greater impact on the game.
“We get to sit on the bench and get a feel for the game while the starters are out there. We can see what they’re doing and what we need to do better, so that when we get in the game it’s an easier process.”
They have been through a lot together both on and off the court. When on the court, having years of playing experience with someone can pay large dividends. Thomas, the team’s backup PG, knows how important continuity is on the floor.
“We know each other strengths and weaknesses, we know each other’s game and it’s just easier to have that chemistry when we’re out there together.”
Christmas echoed similar sentiments when asked about playing with Thomas for so long.
“We know where to give each other the ball and how we can make each other better, so it’s obviously a great feeling to have her out on the court with me.”
The Mystics are hopeful that their chemistry will continue to blossom over the course of the year and will expect contributions from both of these talented players.
While they each have their own skill set, one thing they both bring to the table is their defensive tenacity.
“Every time I come in I try and bring energy and that is usually on the defensive end first,” said Thomas.
“I was always a defensive player and that is one thing I pride myself on,” said Christmas.
After getting adjusted to the WNBA game on the court, the duo is about to deal with their first extensive taste of life on the road. With a two week road trip during the month of July, the rookies will once again get to experience something new in their careers. In college, it is rare to be on the road for more than a few days let alone a two week span. But, now that they are professionals, spending time away from home is something they will get used to doing. When asked about their thoughts of being on the road for so long, they each said they weren’t sure how to prepare for such a long trip, but they would do their best to be ready.
After four years at Duke and now playing side by side here in Washington, Jasmine Thomas and Karima Christmas are helping each other on and off the court to live their dream.