Mystics select Ohio State's Hill 4th overall

Mystics select Ohio State's Hill 4th overall
April 15, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Most of the moves made by the Mystics this offseason involved bolstering their lacking frontcourt. Not wanting its needy backcourt left behind, Washington added perimeter scoring punch by selecting Ohio State guard Tayler Hill with the fourth overall pick in the WNBA Draft on Monday night. 

The 5-foot-10 Hill led the Big Ten in scoring as a senior with 21.1 points. The two-way threat sank 2.1 three-pointers per game and received all-defensive team conference honors for a third time. 

"I felt that a scorer on the wing was something we really needed to balance this team," Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault said. "You don't have very many good ones come along that often that have a chance to be great...I think that Tayler Hill has a chance to be a star." 

The cousin of former NBA player Devean George also averaged over 20 points as a junior when she shot 41.8 percent from  3-point range. This past season Hill's accuracy dipped to 31.7 percent from beyond the arc, but she finished fifth on the Buckeyes' all-time scoring list with 2,015 points. 

Despite finishing last season in the WNBA's basement with a 5-29 record, the Mystics also bottomed out in the four-team draft lottery. Rather than having a chance to select any of the draft's heralded prospects - Baylor center Brittney Griner, Delaware wing Elena Della Donne, Notre Dame guard Sklyar Diggins - Washington essentially opened the second part of the first round. 

That doesn't mean Thibault isn't excited about the newest addition. 

"I think her upside is huge," Thibault said. "It's one of those situations where we're getting an All-Big 10 performer that averages 20-something a game, but also makes the Big Ten all-defensive team three times in a row. We're getting a great athlete, great attitude. She's smart... We did a lot of homework on her and I feel really comfortable with her." 

The feeling is mutual. 

"Coach Thibault and I have talked a lot," Hill said on a call with CSNwashington. "He just sounded really confident in me and really expressed interest in me. There was some thought I could go to Washington with the fourth pick, but I'm very happy to be playing with such a great coach." 

In the second round, the Mystics selected St. John's point guard Nadria McKenith with the 15th overall selection and Belgian center Emma Messeman at 17. 

Earlier in the day, Washington traded its third round pick - the 25th overall selection - to the New York Liberty for reserve center Quanitra Hollingsworth. 

Two locals were selected in the three-round draft. Maryland forward Tianna Hawkins went sixth overall to the Seattle Storm and Georgetown guard Sugar Rodgers was tabbed by the Minnesota Lynx with the 14th overall selection.

Adding the 6-foot-5 Hollingsworth to a roster that included forward and leading scorer Crystal Langhorne, 6-foot-5 Michelle Snow  and newly acquired center Kia Vaughn ultimately swayed Thibault to focus on guard help. 

"We need a wing scorer who can run, get out in transition," Thibault said. "That was probably the final deal for it."

In February, Thibault signed veteran point guard Ivory Latta, who averaged 14.3 points and 3.3 assists last season for the Tulsa Shock. Combo guard Matee Ajavon and small forward Monique Currie are the only other perimeter players assured of a roster spot. Langhorne, Vaughn, Snow and now Hill round out the Mystics core heading into training camp.

Thibault acknowledged  targeting two to three players with the fourth pick, including Hawkins, a  D.C. native.

"Local fans, they want to see local players sometimes," Thibault said. "My job is to kind of ignore that part of it and do what's best for our team for the long run. I just felt like this was the best overall thing."

Adding Hill is the latest part of Thibault's plan to overhaul a roster that averaged a league-low 68.5 points, ranked next-to-last in rebounding and shot 30.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. 

The second-winningest coach in WNBA history previously traded 2011 first-rounder Jasmine Thomas to the Atlanta Dream for two draft picks including a first. That led to a deal with the New York Liberty for Vaughn, named the league's Most Improved player in 2011.

In the second round, Thibault desired a backup point guard and a post presence with range. The 5-foot-7 McKenith, St. John's career assist leader, averaged 13.2 points and 5.5 assists for the Red Storm last season.

Hollingsworth will not join the Mystics until July, because she will remain with the Turkish national basketball team at the European championship. A first-round pick in 2009, Hollingsworth has averaged 3.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in three WNBA seasons with the Lynx and Liberty. 

Other notables on the Mystics roster included 2012 first-round pick guard Natalie Novosel, center Avery Warley and guard Shannon Bobbit.