As an offseason brought health to some of their best players, the Washington Mystics expect big things in the summer of 2008. With the regular season tipping off in less than a week, the excitement is building for both fans and the players.
Alana Beard, Monique Currie and Nakia Sanford are all major pieces to the Mystics puzzle. Recently, I had the opportunity to exchange thoughts on the upcoming season with the three players.
Litel: How key was it for the Mystics to re-sign Nakia Sanford after the Minnesota Lynx signed her to an offer sheet this off-season?
Currie: Nakia Sanford is not only a huge part of our post presence, but she is also one of our leaders. Keeping her on the Mystics roster is essential to our growth and development.
Beard: It was very important to do whatever it took to keep Nakia. I’ve played with Nakia for four years and every year I have seen improvement. She’s a flower that continues to grow and she’s a vital part of our team both on and off the court. Her leadership and importance are sometimes overlooked by outsiders, but not from our perspective. She’s what every team needs and wants…Our Dennis Rodman without the drama!
Litel: Nakia, your thoughts? How happy are you to be wearing a Mystics uniform?
Sanford: In one word…VERY. Washington, DC has become my second home and my teammates and the staff are a second family. I would have been sad to
Litel: Can you speak on your excitement level following the recent trade that brought Taj McWilliams-Franklin to Washington?
Currie: Although we lost a great player in DeLisha bringing a veteran player like Taj to the Mystics is a huge addition. She knows the game and the league very well and will be able to help us young players develop and become better. You have to respect a player like Taj with her experience and leadership and she makes our frontcourt stronger.
Beard: Getting Taj brings to our team intangibles. Most importantly she knows how to win and will do everything possible to make sure winning happens. She’s smart, selfless, and dedicated to team. She’s a player and individual that comes in and takes the rookies and younger players under her wings and teaches them from every aspect. I’m extremely excited.
Sanford: Oh!!!! I am so excited to play with Taj. One of the things that we were missing was a solid leader. We had vets, but Taj is a different type of vet. I have heard of and seen her leadership ability. I know I will learn a lot from her, and benefit from her experiences.
Litel: Any part of your individual games you’ve focused on improving since the Mystics season ended?
Currie: I have been working on every aspect of my game. There is always room for improvement in all areas and being able to play in the off-season has given me game experience to develop. My hard work will definitely allow me to contribute more to the team this upcoming season.
Beard: My shoulder.
Sanford: I have been working on my 15ft jumper. That was something I needed to get more comfortable with.
Litel: Since I’m located in Minnesota …what will Amber Jacobs bring of value to the team’s attack? Are her strengths things that were missing from the team?
Currie: In losing Nikki Teasley we are down one point guard, but this gives our other point guards an opportunity to become a leader in that position. Amber is a solid point guard and can distribute the ball very well. Having her and Nikki Blue running things will be very exciting.
Beard: I am not very familiar with Amber, but from what I do know she’s a shooter that can handle the point guard position. I think it will be awesome to see Amber and Nikki Blue battle everyday in practice. It will only make us better.
Sanford: I had a chance to play against her in Italy last year and have heard good things about her. I have only had a chance to practice with her twice now, but she loves getting the ball inside!
Litel: The team has many new, talented faces. How do you blend all of it into a formidable attack in the limited time before the season begins with the late arrivals to camp?
Currie: Every team has the same amount of time to prepare for the season, so as best we can we will use training camp to develop as a team. A lot of us played together last season, so that helps jump start things. We really have to focus on integrating the new players and help them find their way on our squad. We have to work hard and be playing as best basketball as possible when the season begins.
Beard: Hard work and focus.
Sanford: It’s always difficult to get the team together in such a small time. Also, we don’t have all our players back from overseas. Basically, you focus on the team concept and your plays. It takes a few weeks before we have our final team, so you do what you can to have things running smoothly by the time the roster is complete.
Stephen Litel has covered the NBA and WNBA for three years. He can be reached at email@example.com.