The Mystics’ training camp begins on Sunday. They already have made big free agency moves and added some draft picks. Still, there are opportunities to add more talent with training camp contracts.
Why should we talk about players on training camp contracts? Won’t they just be cut by early May?
First of all, it’s hard to get a training camp contract for any pro team. And second, even if these players are cut, maybe it’s a stepping stone for a career on an overseas team — if they intend on playing professional basketball.
Also, we shouldn’t assume anything with WNBA draft picks. First, WNBA first round draft picks aren’t guaranteed a roster spot or a contract unlike their NBA counterparts. Case in point? The Mystics drafted LaSondra Barrett with the 10th overall pick in 2012, but released her before the regular season.
To be fair, that happened before Mike Thibault became the GM and head coach.
Second, some undrafted free agents have made WNBA rosters and made good careers. The most notable example is Becky Hammon, an undrafted point guard from Colorado State in 1999. She went on to play well over a decade for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars where she racked up All-Star appearances and an Olympic Medal. Today, Hammon’s an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. That said, the 1999 Draft included players from the former ABL, and most of the draft picks weren’t directly out of college. If those ABL players weren’t in the 1999 Draft, Hammon would have easily been a first round pick.
A more realistic example of an undrafted free agent making a team is Mystics swingman Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. She was an undrafted rookie in 2013 who made the team. Over the last four years she emerged from a rotation reserve to a starting wing player last season.
Of course, none of this is meant to imply that Shatori Walker-Kimbrough will be cut during training camp so one of the undrafted free agents will make the team. The Mystics — or any team — doesn’t draft players in the first round expecting to cut them a few weeks later. But what I’m saying is that an undrafted player who comes in with the right mindset could surprise folks during camp and be the next TRP.
So without further ado, let’s go through the undrafted players the Mystics signed on Wednesday:
Ashley Morrissette, 5’9 G, Purdue
Morrissette was named to the All-Big Ten first team and defensive teams in 2016-17, after being shifted to the point guard position from the shooting guard position where she played most of her games. She averaged 16.8 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game last season.
Courtney Range, 6’3 G/F, California
Range was a two-time All Pac-12 honorable mention selection during her time at Berkeley. She averaged 8.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists during the 2016-17 season. Forgive my use of puns, but Range’s asset is her range of skills, where she can contribute as a scorer, rebounder, and passer. The Mystics have picked up a number of players who are able to do multiple things over the years, and Range will be no different in that regard.
In a press release, Bears head coach Lindsay Gottlieb had this to say:
"There is absolutely no better feeling as a coach than witnessing your student-athletes get the opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream," said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "The fact that Courtney has received an invite to the Washington Mystics training camp speaks to her talent and perseverance and we know she'll make us proud as she competes for a roster spot. I have so much respect for Coach [Mike] Thibault and his staff; I'm excited for Courtney to learn from them, to compete with and against the unbelievably talented women on their roster, and to represent our Cal Women's program as another Bear in the WNBA."
Caira Washington, 6’2 F, George Washington
Washington started 124 of her 126 career games for GW where she’s averaged 12.1 points and 8.4 rebounds in her college career. She was an All Atlantic-10 first team member in the 2015-16 season and made the All A-10 second team this year. The Colonials made the 2015 and 2016 NCAA tournaments, and the 2017 WNIT during Washington’s career.