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Mystics select Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough in WNBA Draft, Brionna Jones also taken in the 1st Round

Mystics select Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough in WNBA Draft, Brionna Jones also taken in the 1st Round

BY TYLER BYRUM (@theTylerByrum)

For the sixth straight year, a Maryland Terrapin has been taken in the WNBA Draft. This draft though marks the third time ever that two Terps, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones, were selected in the First Round.

With the sixth overall pick (traded from the Seattle Storm), the Washington Mystics decided to select a local talent, Walker-Kimbrough. The three time All-Big Ten First Team selection will go down as one of the best  guards to ever dawn a Maryland jersey even with the team's illustrious history. At 5'11", she holds the Terps all-time three point shooting percentage mark and is the program's second all-time leading scorer. This past season, which ended in a Sweet 16 run for the team, the AP Third Team All-American was named one of the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award as the national player of the year.

To get the Maryland standout, the Mystics acquired Seattle’s first round pick back in January that was part of a three-team trade. By Washington sending Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn to the Liberty, the Storm acquired Carolyn Swords and thus sending their pick to the Mystics. 

Walker-Kimbrough is just another weapon added to the Mystics roster this off-season. Alongside the versatile Elena Delle-Donne, the Maryland grad will be yet another player opponents will have to matchup against, especially when second units are put on the court. Her offense will be huge for a team that had the third worst offensive numbers in the league, but her defense will add to the physicality the Mystics display on the court. 

Another former Terp (who guided Maryland to an NCAA title) and WNBA champion, Kristi Toliver also was picked up this past off-season by the Mystics after she won a title with the Sparks in 2016. Tianna Hawkins, a 2013 Maryland grad, is also listed on the team's roster.

Other selections for the Mystics in the 2017 draft include Jennie Simms from Old Dominion (18th overall) and Mehryn Kraker from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (27th overall).

Not too long after Walker-Kimbrough was taken, Jones was selected by the Connecticut Sun as the eighth overall pick of the draft. As a 6'3" center she lead the NCAA in field goal percentage the past two seasons. In the Big Ten, she currently holds the conference best career field goal percentage. She was also a finalist for the Wooden Award this past year, while being named an AP First Team All-American.

For the Sun, Jones will be a huge addition to their interior defense who allowed opponents to score 84.3 ppg, the third highest in the WNBA. She will also look to boost their offensive rebounding numbers as it is anticipated she will have to come off the bench. 

This draft is the first since 2009 that Maryland had two First Round picks, the team also saw two first rounders the year prior in 2008.

The overall number one pick of the draft was Washington's Kelsey Plum, who set the NCAA scoring record for points all-time and in a single season. She is heading to the worst offense in the WNBA, the San Antonio Stars. 

MORE MYSTICS: Delle-Donne joins John Wall and Bradley Beal for photoshoot

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Maryland lands commitment from 4-star LB Demeioun Robinson

Maryland lands commitment from 4-star LB Demeioun Robinson

Four-star linebacker Demeioun Robinson announced his commitment to Maryland on Friday, giving Terps head coach Mike Locksley his highest-rated commitment from the class of 2021.

Robinson, who attends Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., is the No. 16 player in his class on the ESPN Jr. 300 rankings and No. 20 on 247Sports.

Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia and Texas A&M were also vying for Robinson's commitment. But in the end, the top-ranked recruit from the state of Maryland decided to stay home.

RELATED: Demeioun Robinson's outlook on life changed after brother's death

The Terps began their recruitment of Robinson last summer, according to 247Sports's Maryland blog, giving Maryland an important leg up -- particularly in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Julie Donaldson this week, Locksley talked about how his staff communicates with recruits during a time of social distancing.

"We do a lot of recruiting in the afternoon," Locksley said. "Whether it's FaceTime phone calls to recruits, direct messaging, and then we kind of get back together later in the afternoon as a staff just to see if there's any new updates on anything."

Robinson joins St. John's College High School's Taizse Johnson as Maryland's 4-star commitments from the class of 2021.

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Maryland AD Damon Evans searches for answers for his Terrapins athletes in an uncertain time

Maryland AD Damon Evans searches for answers for his Terrapins athletes in an uncertain time

Celebrations, nets being cut down, and high hopes for a long March. That is where the world stopped for Maryland basketball.  Both the men's and women’s teams won the Big Ten regular-season title only to have their seasons come to an abrupt end.  

So what now in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic? 

That is the challenge facing collegiate athletes across the country and there are no easy solutions for any program. University of Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans said that while he is glad his basketball players' last memory is a significant one, delivering the message that their season was over took a certain amount of care. 

“You have to be understanding of all the emotions they are going through,” Evans told NBC Sports Washington.  

Evans said the only past experience that offers any wisdom is how the sports world helped us all find a sense of normalcy in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. But at that time, sports actually brought this country together. The baseball and football seasons resumed. The NHL and NBA seasons began less than a month later, on time. The World Series was played. College football occupied the weekends.  

Today, we have no idea when we can unite in fandom again. That makes the current situation especially challenging. Few things bring entire communities together the way sports can.  

“We’ve never seen anything like it," Evans said. "We have to make sure we look out for the best interest of our students, learn as we go along, but be as proactive as possible.” 

For fans, they wait for the games to begin again. For many college athletes, it’s the end of a dream, or an opportunity denied.  Seniors' careers were cut short, spring sports a no go. And while football season and other fall sports are months away, we have no real idea yet how they will be impacted - or if fans will be hesitant to once again congregate in large crowds after being quarantined for weeks or even months.   

There are other challenges for colleges. While saying goodbye to seniors and the relatively few players who turn professional is paramount, the schools also have to worry about future student-athletes. Evans says recruiting is a challenge for coaches in all sports now. The process has come to a halt without being able to bring kids on campus or send anyone out to make their pitch for Maryland.   

“The NCAA put a dead period through April 15th and it may be extended,” Evans said.  

So the window to evaluate players will be tightened and programs that think they have positive momentum will have to be creative in how they go about building on that.  

The NCAA and Big Ten hold meetings consistently even as the sports themselves are on hiatus. Evans said the Big Ten athletic directors still hold a weekly conference call to bring up issues they are facing and brainstorm ideas for how to make life easier for their coaches and players. He is often on the phone from morning until late in the evening. 

But finding solutions is sadly not so simple in many cases. Finding ways to grant relief for spring sports seasons or deal with the financial implications of lost seasons are tremendous. What can you say to student-athletes in such an uncertain time? 

“First and foremost, stay safe and healthy, and know that we are thinking about them," Evans said. "We appreciate all they do and what they mean to this program as a whole. We will get through this.” 

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