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Maryland’s Shatori Walker-Kimbrough bringing energy to Washington Mystics’ bench

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The former Terps star has had a breakout third season in the WNBA.

Las Vegas Aces v Washington Mystics Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough left her mark at Maryland as a prolific scorer, leaving College Park fourth on the Terps’ career scoring list. The only names ahead of her — Alyssa Thomas, Crystal Langhorne and Marissa Coleman — are widely recognized among the program’s all-time greats.

During Walker-Kimbrough’s first two seasons in the WNBA, though, she struggled to get playing time and produce numbers. This season, though, all of those numbers have made a big jump. She’s gone from playing 8.8 minutes per game to 18.6, and while the jump from 0.37 points per minute to 0.41 might not seem like much, it translates to 7.7 points per game, up from 3.5.

With her minutes doubling and production increasing, Walker-Kimbrough is now getting to show the rest of the WNBA just how dangerous of a weapon she is. She’s at her best in transition, but even with her small frame, she is not afraid to drive against bigger players and has great inside touch on her layups. Walker-Kimbrough is also a great three-point shooter who shot 46 percent from long range in college.

In addition to her play on the court, Walker-Kimbrough has been quite entertaining with her celebrations on the sidelines as well. Her positive vibes have the Mystics playing with a lot of energy, and her versatile scoring ability has put them over the edge in terms of bench success. Tianna Hawkins and Aerial Powers are both ahead of her in scoring off the bench, but Walker-Kimbrough has been the engine that has made that trio a force to be reckoned with. Her 46.4 percent shooting from the field is second among non-bigs on the Mystics, and she also leads the Washington bench with 1.3 assists per game.

Now that Emma Meesseman is back from Europe, the Mystics have nine players who can be the stars on any given night — led, of course, by former MVP Elena Delle Donne. Walker-Kimbrough, Hawkins and Powers are all creating for themselves and putting up starter numbers. The Mystics raced out to a 9-3 start thanks in large part to their bench, and they’ll need more great performances from Walker-Kimbrough in order to reach their goals this season.

Terps around the league

Washington Mystics (9-6)

Kristi Toliver was one shy of her season-high in scoring and nearly notched a triple-double with 18 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in a July 7 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. On July 10, she was able to put up seven points, six rebounds and six assists through three quarters, but failed to add to the stat sheet in the fourth. She bounced back with 15 points and seven assists on July 13.

Hawkins has been in the conversation for Sixth Woman of the Year and actually started for the first time this season on July 10 against the Phoenix Mercury because Elena Delle Donne was out with a nasal fracture. In that game, she played 34 minutes and scored a career-high 24 points, topping the 21-point performance she had earlier this season. She also had 10 points and eight rebounds in 28:11 minutes during the game Delle Donne was injured. Hawkins was taken out of the starting lineup on July 13 when Meesseman returned and should remain on the bench for the rest of the season once Delle Donne (who is still day-to-day) returns, but she’s shown she’s capable of stepping in.

Natasha Cloud had six points (from two threes) and an impressive six assists before the Mystics’ game at Las Vegas on July 5 was postponed at halftime due to an earthquake. If Cloud can start knocking down threes at a better percentage, it will force defenders to pay attention to her on the perimeter and allow her to do what she is truly talented at, which is driving to the basket. Cloud also contributed nine points on July 7 and had 18 on July 13.

Connecticut Sun (11-6)

Alyssa Thomas surpassed 1,000 career rebounds and filled out the stat sheet with 11 points, nine boards, four assists, three steals and two blocks on July 6. Unfortunately, that performance was part of a fourth straight loss for the Sun. Connecticut went on to lose a fifth straight game before Thomas registered a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double that led the team to a 79-64 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Friday.

Brionna Jones saw playing time on Friday for the first time since June 29, scoring two points in about a minute played at the end of the game. She also had two points Sunday in a win over the Fever.

Seattle Storm (10-8)

Langhorne led Seattle in scoring Sunday with a season-high 19 points in a win over the New York Liberty. She also notched eight points, five rebounds and two assists in Seattle’s win over the Dallas Wings on Friday. However, she scored just four points on July 5 and played a season-low 8:52 minutes on July 3, when she failed to score for the fourth time this season. Her replacement in the starting lineup, second-year player Mercedes Russell, scored a career-high 19 points on July 3 and seems to be getting better and better.

Minnesota Lynx (10-7)

Lexie Brown played meaningful minutes at the end of a 74-71 Lynx victory over the Sun on July 6. She finished that game with eight points, including a deep three-pointer that gave Minnesota a 62-60 lead early in the fourth. However, she was also shut out for the first time this season on July 10.

Season averages

Kristi Toliver — 12.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.1 blocks

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — 7.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks

Tianna Hawkins — 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.5 blocks

Natasha Cloud — 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks

Alyssa Thomas — 11.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks

Brionna Jones — 2.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.4 blocks

Crystal Langhorne — 5.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks

Lexie Brown — 7.1 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks