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The Maryland women’s basketball early-season WNBA roundup

How nine pro Terps have started their 2019 campaigns.

WNBA: Washington Mystics at Minnesota Lynx Michael Zamora-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA season is underway and a lot of former Terps are making impacts for their teams, especially in Washington, where four Maryland players have significantly helped the Mystics become the best offensive team in the WNBA thus far (89.6 points per game).

Washington Mystics (4-1)

Kristi Toliver’s first two weeks of the season were highlighted by her team-high 19-point performance in the Mystics’ 103-85 victory over the Chicago Sky on Thursday. In that contest, she also had six assists, four rebounds and four steals. Toliver is second on the Mystics in scoring (13.4 points per game), trailing only superstar Elena Delle Donne.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough started the season with 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal against Connecticut. It was noticeable before halftime of that game that she’s ready for a bigger role, as she had seven points and three rebounds in the first half. Walker-Kimbrough followed up that performance with 10 points in Washington’s home opener, and she scored 15 Friday in a victory over the New York Liberty. After averaging four points per game during her first two seasons in the WNBA, she has come out and played aggressively on offense in 2019, averaging 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists so far. She is not afraid of drawing contact and is trying to work her long-range game into the Mystics’ offense after taking just 23 triples last year (making seven).

Tianna Hawkins was a dominant rebounder and inside scorer in college, but now she has established a three-point game as well. On Sunday, she went 3-for-5 from distance and scored a career-high 21 points in an 86-62 win over Dallas. Hawkins is averaging 10 points and 4.6 rebounds off the bench, and it looks like she will once again be a key part of Washington’s rotation.

Natasha Cloud is coming off a great 2018 campaign that saw her average 8.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. She got off to a slower start this season, but had 12 points and five assists during the Mystics’ dominant offensive performance Thursday and notched a career-high 26 points on Friday. She is averaging 12.2 points and leads the team with 5.6 assists per game.

Kiara Leslie is still out due to injury. She is projected to be back in three to four months, which leaves little time left in the season where she could contribute.

Connecticut Sun (5-1)

Alyssa Thomas scored 10 points in the first quarter of the Sun’s season and finished that game with 23 points and eight rebounds, which set the tone in a comfortable victory over the Mystics. She is averaging 11.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game thus far and has two double-doubles to her credit. In Chiney Ogwumike’s absence after an offseason trade to Los Angeles, Thomas has taken a backseat to Jonquel Jones (the first Eastern Conference Player of the Week this season) as the team’s new superstar. But she is still a very valuable piece on a Connecticut team that sits atop the WNBA standings.

Brionna Jones showed a brief flash of defensive excellence when the 6’3 forward prevented 6’7 rookie Teaira McCowan from making a shot in the paint during an 88-77 victory over the Indiana Fever on May 28. Playing better than her height has been a theme of sorts for Jones so far this season — she also secured some very difficult rebounds against taller players while playing the Sparks on May 3; she finished with five points and seven boards in that contest. Her minutes were also upped in that game because Thomas was playing hurt. Jones is averaging 2.3 points and three rebounds per game.

Seattle Storm (3-3)

Crystal Langhorne began the season in the starting lineup for the defending champion Storm and played in their first four games as a starter before Mercedes Russell got the nod at center in the team’s fifth and sixth contests. Langhorne played 29 minutes in the Storm’s season opener, after averaging 13.9 minutes last season, and notched 10 points and six rebounds. She has been a core contributor for Seattle so far this season, averaging 5.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Minnesota Lynx (4-2)

Lexie Brown played well in her first five games of the season before a phenomenal performance in her sixth, when she led the Lynx with 21 points. She made some clutch threes in that contest and they almost led Minnesota to victory. Instead, she finished 5-for-8 from distance in defeat. Brown is averaging 11.2 points per game so far this season, her second in the WNBA. She is an impressive 15-for-30 from three-point range and is looking like a great weapon for the Lynx coming off the bench.

Lynetta Kizer was waived by the Atlanta Dream before the season, and she and Marissa Coleman are still free agents. However, it’s possible one of them catches on with a team during the season.