Friday, April 02, 2010

Q. and A. With Mystics GM Angela Taylor

If you're a fan of Twitter, you probably know that Mystics GM Angela Taylor, a recent addition to the Twitterverse, has quickly become an addict -- happily tweeting away morning, noon, and night. Fortunately for the BCs' readers, though, Angela was kind enough to step away from her BlackBerry for a few minutes to give us her thoughts (in more than 140 characters) on a number of timely and interesting subjects -- including the WNBA's upcoming college draft, set for next Thursday at 3 PM (in which the Mystics have the #6 overall pick, as well as picks 14, 18, and 30).

BCs: As you enter your second season as a GM, what has surprised you the most about your job? And what aspects of your job do you enjoy the most…and the least?

AT: Well, I can honestly say that not much surprises me in life. My parents always taught me to expect the unexpected and to be prepared for anything.

The absolute best part of my job is the PEOPLE. I am so blessed to work for a great organization, with individuals who work extremely hard and are passionate about what they do. Our players are simply amazing young women who bring a smile to my face every day. It is so inspiring just being around them as they follow their dream of playing professional basketball. Over the years, I have learned how important it is to value the relationships that are formed, so everyday I am grateful for the opportunity to do what I do surrounded by a wonderful group of people. At the end of the day, that’s what life is about.

The aspect of my job that I enjoy the least is unequivocally the process of trimming your roster to 11 and having to waive a player who gave it her all throughout a very competitive training camp. After having to tell a young lady, who has given it her all during training camp (and played extremely well in many cases), that the road with the Mystics had come to an end was very difficult. I had never been in a position where I had to cut/waive a player before and was not quite comfortable ruining someone’s dream (or at least putting that dream on hold for a bit). They all handled it graciously and with the utmost class, but it was important for me to let them know that it was a difficult decision and that we would do anything to help them out in their future aspirations if needed. I value the whole person when I look to bring a player in to be part of our organization, so it is imperative that we focus as much on their on-court success as on their off-court success. It is tough to look them in the eyes as they wonder if there was anything they could have done differently. But the truth is that they did everything they could, that just wasn’t enough!

BCs: Turning to the upcoming draft, with the 6th overall pick, your job this year seems a bit harder than it did last year when the Mystics picked second. What steps do you take to prepare for a draft when you don’t know precisely what most of the teams drafting ahead of you might be doing?

AT: Ha Ha…thanks for reminding me that our draft selection will be much more difficult than it was last year. It is so true though. As we scout and evaluate the top seniors for the 2010 class, we have to be very mindful that a large part of our decision on April 8th will be a “reaction” to what has happened ahead of us in the draft, whether that will be the current teams selecting a player or another team trading up in the draft. Both Coach Plank and I are the proactive types, so it is somewhat frustrating to not to be in complete control of our destiny on draft day. In preparation for that, we have been talking through every scenario with Marianne and Trudi during our draft prep meetings. You have to be prepared for anything, and with only a few minutes between picks, you must know what you will do in various situations. It should be interesting. But while it was so nice to be able to select Marissa at #2 in the 2009 draft, I think I’d prefer to not be in the top picks because that means we had a successful season the previous year!

BCs: You and Coach Plank have candidly acknowledged that the Mystics need improvement in the post. With the 6th pick, will you draft the best available post, or, assuming that the best player available at that point is not a post, will you draft her instead?

AT: We definitely would like to add a post to our roster through this year’s draft and will be looking to do that with our #6 pick if possible. However, as you stated in the previous question, so much is determined by who the teams selecting before us choose from #1 – #5. We will have the draft candidates ranked by position and ranked overall, so when it is our time to select, we will discuss the merits of drafting for need or drafting the best player on the board at that time. We have to go into the draft with an open mind, so that we don’t miss out on the opportunity to select a great player simply because we have such an obvious need. Ideally, the best player still on the board at #6 will, in fact, be a post!!! That will make the decision an easy one.

BCs: Tell us a little about the top posts who realistically might still be available at number 6, and what each would bring to the Mystics.

AT: Like we always say, that’s why we play the game, so I am going to share my thoughts on the top posts in the draft without projecting who will be there for us at #6 or not. A little positive thinking…maybe Tina Charles falls to us at #6! I can dream can’t I?

Tina Charles is a 6’4” dominant low-block player who has established herself to be not only the best post player in the 2010 WNBA Draft, but also the best player in the draft. She would provide a dynamic presence at both ends of the floor with her ability to run the floor, block shots, control the boards, score on the low block, and pass out of double teams. She also has greatly improved her face up game.

Jayne Appel is another 6’4 true low-block player who offers a team a very different presence than Charles. Appel is a rare “playmaker” from the 5 position. Her ability to pass (honed through years of playing water polo) makes her quite a unique addition to any team. She has great hands, is a force on the low block, and runs the floor better than people expect. While she isn’t a “leaper” she has amassed more career rebounds than Lisa Leslie in the Pac-10, so there’s no doubt she can be relied upon to go to the boards. Similar to Courtney Paris, she will have to add to her arsenal of moves on the low block in order to attract a double-team which will allow her to utilize her passing skills.

Alysha Clark is an undersized post at just 5’10”, but has proven over the last two years that size doesn’t matter. Similar to Langhorne, she uses a low center of gravity and a strong lower body to find position on the low block. She is a prolific scorer who has a nose for the ball and knows what to do with it when she gets it. Even when playing bigger posts. Similar to Amber Holt (drafted by CT Sun), she will have to develop a face up game and look to make the transition to the small forward position at the WNBA level, but with her work ethic and athleticism, she should be able to do that.

Jacinta Monroe is a 6’5” versatile post player who can play on the low block or face up and stretch the defense. She is very long and lanky and as a result provides a great presence on the defensive side of the floor. She is an active shot blocker, runs the floor well, rebounds, and can hit the high post jumper on occasion. As with DeWanna Bonner last year, she will have to put on some weight and get in the weight room to compete with the physical bigs in the WNBA.

Kelsey Griffin is another versatile post at 6’2". At 6’2”, she is a very skilled player who happens to be able to play the post. She changes the game at both ends of the floor and competes every second of the game. Very reminiscent of Janel McCarville, Griffin can bring the ball up to initiate the offense after grabbing a defensive rebound or create an open look for a teammate off the dribble. Scouts love the fact that she is willing to do whatever it takes to help her team win, whether that is taking a charge, getting a key rebound, hitting a high post jumper, setting a screen to get a teammate open, or defending the opponent’s best player. She is probably one of the most versatile all-around players in this year’s draft.

Chanel Mokango is another 6’5” post player who continues to improve her game after playing in a competitive conference like the SEC. She is a very long and lanky finesse post player who is very comfortable facing up and hitting threes. She runs the floor extremely well, is not afraid to back down and be physical with bigs, changes shots with her length, rebounds, and is a decent post defender. She will also have to continue to work on developing her physique.

Amanda Thompson is a 6’2” player who can play the small forward or power forward. She has a nose for the ball & continues to come up big in BIG games for the Oklahoma Sooners. Because of her experience on the perimeter in the past, she is very comfortable with the ball in her hands and can stretch the defense by shooting the three ball. Seems like she always comes up with that important rebound when her team needs it. She can post up smaller guards/posts or bring posts outside and force them to guard her off the dribble. She also provides vocal leadership and competitiveness to a roster.

BCs: Reportedly, Cappie Pondexter and Candice Dupree were both adamant that they be traded (Cappie to NY and Candice out of Chicago). As we all know, this resulted in a 3-way trade that brought Cappie to the Liberty and sent Candice to Phoenix. And it’s also been reported that Deanna Nolan has told the Tulsa Shock that she will sit out the season unless she’s traded. What are your thoughts about this “trade me or else” trend? Particularly, how do you think it impacts the WNBA, in the short term and long term?

AT: I’m not sure about the “reports,” but I do know that we rarely know all of the details in specific situations. Everyone’s situation is usually very different, so it is difficult to make a general statement regarding players asking to be traded. What I can say is that I don’t think it is a “trend.” For the most part, the players in this league are content in the situations they happen to be in and are willing to play out their careers according to the teams’ plans. I am also sympathetic to the players who for a variety of reasons may want to live and play in another market. These players spend the majority of their young lives living away from friends and family, so I can’t blame them for wanting to have some say in where they play (if it is for the right reasons). At the same time, it is difficult for a team to lose a core piece of their nucleus because there aren’t that many trades of equal value that can be made for those particular players.

In the short-term, this definitely impacts the league. I think fans in New York, Chicago, and Phoenix will be excited about the new additions to their teams and teams around the league will try to figure out how to counter those impressive moves that have been made.

Over the long-term, I don’t have a definitive answer for the impact because there are so many variables involved. Like I said, I think each instance was unique, so there is no evidence that this will encourage other players to do the same thing. The WNBA has a free-agency process which does try to foster player movement, so hopefully the system will continue to work as designed.

BCs: On a scale of 1 (highly unlikely) to 10 (practically certain), how would you rate the chances that the Mystics might be involved in a trade prior to the opening of the season?

How’s this for an answer…..5!!! Things change on a daily basis and we are constantly thinking of ways to improve our team, so we will continue to attempt to cover all of our bases through player development, free agency, the draft, and trades. It’s a game of chess, so we must always be ready to make our next move and countermove!!!

BCs: Finally, turning to the college game for a moment: the BasketCases have been told that scientists from the Hansen Experimental Physics Lab of Stanford University (known to be experimenting with gravitational quantum states of neutrons and search for short range forces) were spotted in the stands at the Xavier/Stanford regional final aiming a strange piece of equipment at Dee Dee Jernigan just as she was attempting her final two lay-ups. Would you care to comment? And, do you know if those HEPL scientists plan to attend the Final Four?

AT: That is hilarious! No comment. If that is the case, I hope that those same scientists find their way down to the Alamo City to work their magic for a 2nd (and possibly 3rd) time. I’m sure that several Cardinal Alum would be happy to pay their way to San Antonio in hopes that Tara can inspire her team on to the school’s third NCAA Championship in women’s hoops. We can use all of the help we could get. Perhaps the Stanford Tree (if not banned from the arena) will be able to work some magic as well. Go Stanford!!!!

* * * * *

We know that Angela's very busy getting ready for the draft (and tweeting), so we want to say how much we appreciate that she's taken the time to stop by our blog. Thank you, Angela!

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases


At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you guys know if Vicki Bullet is still with the team?

At 4:17 PM, Blogger BasketCases said...

Vicky is still listed as the Director of Player Development on the Mystics' web site. League rules limit the number of Ass't Coaches.

-- BC

At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excited about this season! Could be a really good one!

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please DO NOT DRAFT Appel!

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please DO NOT DRAFT Appel!

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was hurt but I don't think she is a game changer either...even when healthy. She isn't Tina Charles, that's for sure. I am thinking Kelsey Griffin maybe. I guess we will find out tomorrow.

At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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