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The Maryland women’s basketball 2019 WNBA preview

What to expect from a handful of former Terps this season.

WNBA: Finals-Seattle Storm at Washington Mystics Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA regular season begins Friday, and Maryland women’s basketball will be well-represented in the league this season.

Seven Terrapin alumni (and nine former players overall) are on rosters right now, and 2006 national champion Marissa Coleman is still a free agent. Here’s a look at those players and their outlooks heading into 2019.

Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

6’2 forward, Maryland Class of 2014

Maryland’s all-time leading scorer emerged as a WNBA All-Star during the 2017 season, her fourth in the league. That year, Thomas notched career highs in points (14.8 per game), assists (4.5) and steals (1.6). Always a triple-double threat in college, Thomas stepped up her rebounding game last year, averaging a career-best 8.1 per game, although her scoring average dropped to 10.3.

Thomas has spent her whole career with Connecticut after being traded to the Sun on draft night in 2014. She was selected as the fourth overall pick by the New York Liberty and joined Connecticut’s No. 1 overall pick, Chiney Ogwumike. Thomas came out as a starter and a key contributor in her rookie season, but Ogwumike was the clear-cut star and continued to be until being traded to Los Angeles this offseason. Thomas was arguably the second-best player on the team last year and will have a lot of pressure on her shoulders with Ogwumike gone. Connecticut was 21-13 in 2018 and lost in the second round of the playoffs, but has gone with youth over experience for 2019. Thomas is one of the players that will have to bring a veteran presence to lead the team.

At Maryland, Thomas’ accolades put her among the all-time great Terrapins, and her ability to drive to the basket and fill out the entire stat sheet even had people comparing her to LeBron James. She averaged a program-best 17.5 points over her career and finally reached the Final Four as a senior after some heartbreaking losses in the tournament earlier in her career.

Kristi Toliver, Washington Mystics

5’7 gard, Maryland Class of 2009

Toliver has had arguably the best WNBA career out of anyone who has come out of Maryland, especially if you factor in team success. Drafted No. 3 overall by the Chicago Sky in 2009, Toliver was a key contributor during her seven years with the Los Angeles Sparks and won a WNBA championship with them in 2016. She averaged 12.8 points per game during the 2016 playoff run and is still at the top of her game after averaging 13.9 points during her journey back to the Finals last season, which was her second with Washington.

In her two seasons with the Mystics, Toliver has been shooting a higher volume of threes and is still having success from downtown, making 36 percent in 2018. She is shooting 38.9 percent from distance for her career. Look for Toliver to be one of the cornerstones of the Mystics again alongside former WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, who has given the franchise a jolt of optimism since arriving in 2017.

Now a two-time WNBA All-Star (with the latter bid coming last year), Toliver will always be remembered for coming in as a freshman and hitting the game-tying three-pointer against Duke in the 2006 national title game. Maryland eventually won in overtime, claiming its first NCAA championship. She is fifth in career points at Maryland and first in career assists.

Crystal Langhorne, Seattle Storm

6’2 forward, Maryland Class of 2008

Langhorne put together a great six-year career with Washington after being drafted sixth overall in 2008. She made the All-Star team twice (in 2011 and 2013) and was the best player on a struggling team. Langhorne was traded to Seattle in the middle of her prime and led the Storm in scoring in 2014 and 2015 before UConn star Breanna Stewart came along and became one of the league’s best players. Last year, a 31-year-old Langhorne started just one game, but still got to be a part of a WNBA championship spearheaded by Stewart, who received regular season and WNBA Finals MVP honors. Unfortunately for the Storm, repeating as champions is going to be difficult without Stewart, who ruptured her Achilles playing overseas and will be out for the entire season.

Langhorne was the Terps’ all-time leading scorer until Thomas surpassed her and was the leading scorer as a sophomore during Maryland’s lone championship run in 2006. She will always hold a special place in Maryland history because of that national championship, something Thomas failed to obtain. Langhorne is also second in Maryland history in rebounds, trailing only Thomas.

Tianna Hawkins, Washington Mystics

6’3 forward, Maryland Class of 2013

Hawkins was drafted by Seattle sixth overall in 2013 and played there for one year. The rest of her career has been with the Mystics as a solid contributor off the bench. Last season, she averaged 6.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and put up similar numbers in the playoffs to help the Mystics make the WNBA Finals for the first time in team history. Washington was swept by Seattle in the Finals, but returns with a lot of firepower as it looks to make that final step.

Hawkins’ strength at Maryland was always rebounding, which is something that head coach Brenda Frese stresses with all of her teams. Tianna holds the program record for rebounds in a game (24) and is fifth all-time in total career rebounds for the Terps. She also upped her scoring average from 12 to 18 points per game from junior to senior year, and all eight of her career three-pointers came as a senior. In the WNBA, her long distance shot has remained a weapon and last year she was 25 for 70 from beyond the arc.

Lynetta Kizer, Atlanta Dream

6’4 forward, Maryland Class of 2012

Kizer joins her sixth WNBA team in the Atlanta Dream this season. She has reached the middle of her career at age 29, and it’s now been three years since her best season. In 2016 with the Indiana Fever, Kizer averaged 9.6 points per game and started in 12 of her 33 games played. Kizer got her start in Tulsa before being traded to the Phoenix Mercury halfway through her rookie season. After playing for Indiana from 2014-16, she spent 2017 with the Connecticut Sun and 2018 with the Minnesota Lynx.

Last year with the Lynx, Kizer only played in 14 games with no starts and averaged just 1.6 points per game. That was with a talented Minnesota roster that was reaching the end of its dynasty, so look for Kizer to bounce back and possibly contribute more with the Dream even though they also have a lot of talent. Her main competition for playing time will be former Duke star Elizabeth Williams, who is 6-3 and three years younger than her. Williams started 32 of 33 games last season and averaged 9.1 points per game for a Dream squad that went 23-11, earned the No. 1 seed in the East and was one game away from reaching the WNBA Finals, ultimately losing to the Washington Mystics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

At Maryland, Kizer was the ACC Sixth Player of the Year as a senior and was a starter during her first three seasons, averaging 12 points and 7.1 rebounds per game over the course of her college career. She went to the Elite Eight with the Terps in 2009 and 2012.

Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

6’3 forward, Maryland Class of 2017

Jones enters her third year in the WNBA with a lot of promise after playing well overseas during the offseason. She has yet to start a game in this league and is averaging just 3.0 points in 7.8 minutes per game through two seasons. She was a first-round pick (eighth overall in 2017) and is still developing as a young player, but, the Sun also picked up four good players in the draft this year, including Cal forward Kristine Anigwe (No. 9 overall), who rarely goes through a game without notching a double-double. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Jones will get with other young talent on a team that is looking to rebuild.

At Maryland, Jones went to two Final Fours and followed in the footsteps of 2013 graduate Tianna Hawkins by leading the country in field-goal percentage as a junior and senior, something Hawkins did in 2012. Jones averaged double-figure scoring three out of her four years in college, highlighted by 19.9 points per game as a senior (she also averaged 10.9 rebounds that final year). Brionna is the older sister of current Maryland forward Stephanie Jones.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Washington Mystics

5’11 guard, Maryland Class of 2017

The Mystics added their third Maryland player when they drafted Walker-Kimbrough sixth overall two years ago. The 5’11 guard brings a lot of speed to the table and is a versatile scorer, but has yet to make a big impact for Washington. With her talent, though, look for her to improve in her third season in the pros.

At Maryland, Walker-Kimbrough ranks fourth in career points and third in made three-pointers. And her all-around scoring ability--from three-pointers to transition buckets and everything in between--made her one of the most lethal weapons Brenda Frese has had at Maryland. Now she’s hoping to showcase those talents at the next level in 2019.

Other former Terps (both on the Mystics)

Natasha Cloud spent her freshman year at Maryland and saw limited playing time but performed well for the 2011 team that featured Thomas as the star and fell to Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Cloud scored 1,022 points in three years at St. Joe’s and holds the Hawks’ single-season record for assists (243 in 2014). She has found more success in the WNBA, averaging 8.6 points and 4.6 assists last season. She put similar numbers up in the playoffs for the Mystics.

Kiara Leslie spent her freshman and sophomore years at Maryland before sitting out the 2017 season due to injury. She was drafted 10th overall by the Mystics back in April and has the chance to become an impact WNBA player once she returns from a knee injury that will keep her out for three to four months. This past season with NC State, Leslie led the Wolfpack in scoring and guided them to the Sweet 16.