The Washington Mystics are in a dire situation when it comes to the availability of players on their roster. Only seven players of the 12-person roster are healthy. As such the Mystics signed free agent center Megan Gustafson via a hardship waiver to add to the depth.
Gustafson is not a player that's likely to come in and take some else's job. She'll be an extra piece that will give the thinning forward group, who lost Myisha Hines-Allen and Erica McCall to the injury report this past week, welcomed relief. Tina Charles and Theresa Plaisance will no longer have to play a combined 70 of a possible 80 minutes every night.
But even though Gustafson walks onto a team loaded in the frontcourt, there is more than the joy of being on a WNBA roster. Arriving in D.C. is a "post player's dream" for Gustafson and she is hoping to learn from Washington's star-led roster.
"They've been amazing," Gustafson told the local media on Tuesday. "I think just coming here, super welcoming. It's been amazing, even I've only been here for a couple days just to learn other people like Tina Charles. It's kind of a post player's dream, to be honest, and especially when Elena Delle Donne comes back, it's gonna be really cool to learn under both of those post players and I'm just excited to be here."
Gustafson's experience in the WNBA is limited after her standout career at Iowa. She was drafted 17th overall by the Dallas Wings in 2019 and played 34 games off the bench before being waived in training camp earlier this year.
It's a good thing she's kept up her conditioning and training. She's being thrown into the fire as the lone forward on the bench. Head coach Mike Thibault expects Gustafson to play in her first game Tuesday night, a day after her official signing. One practice and a shootaround later and she'll be looking to back up the former MVP in Charles.
"I think, in this kind of situation, you just have to control the controllables; so controlling my effort, being able to control my attitude, always be a good teammate, a great teammate. I think that's something that, coaches are really looking for when they're trying to find new players," Gustafson said. "Are they going to uplift their teammates, you know, and when they come in, are they going to make (an) impact are they going to bring energy and so that's what my goal is tonight and moving forward is just to kind of fill in the spots that are needed."
Learning by backing up Charles - and playing against in practice - is something Gustafson has yet to experience in her career. A forward/center of that caliber has not been on the two previous WNBA rosters she was a part of. The 2019 Naismith Trophy Award winner is looking to expand her game behind the arc, something Charles is quite familiar with and has been a huge part of Charles' success this season.
There may not be an opportunity for Gustafson to play alongside Delle Donne, however. The two-time MVP remains out for the foreseeable future and the waiver may expire at that point for the Mystics.
But one of her former mentors, Plaisance is healthy and playing. Already Plaisance has thrived by stepping into a new role because of the absences. She told Gustafson to play within her limits and the opportunity will come.
"I think just being who you are. Theresa said that, multiple people said that," Gustafson said on advice current teammates gave her. "This system allows me to play to what I do best. And so I think I'm just going to take that advice tonight and moving forward. Just one day at a time. I think that's another thing that I've definitely taken to heart."