Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Brionna Jones selected in top 10 of WNBA draft

On a night when two Maryland women's basketball All-Americans joined the professional ranks, what seemed old became new again.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was taken No. 6 overall in the WNBA draft Thursday night by the Washington Mystics, a convenient first job for the 5-foot-11 guard, who could take the Metro from the Xfinity Center to her new workplace at Verizon Center.

Two picks later in New York, 6-3 center Brionna Jones (Aberdeen) went to the Connecticut Sun, which play about an hour away from Bridgeport, where the careers of Walker-Kimbrough and Jones ended unexpectedly in the Sweet 16 last month.

They will enter the league on teams with polar-opposite expectations. Walker-Kimbrough, the nation's leading 3-point shooter in 2015-16, joins a Mystics team with three of the league's most accurate long-range shooters: Emma Meesseman, Elena Delle Donne and former Terps guard Kristi Toliver.

With Washington's trade for Delle Donne, the 2015 WNBA Most Valuable Player, and its acquisition of Toliver, a prized free agent, expectations have never been higher for the Mystics, who are seeking their first league title.

"I'm just really happy to be here," Walker-Kimbrough said after she was selected, fighting back tears. "I'm just so thankful."

ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said Walker-Kimbrough can learn from Washington's established guards and continue on the path she charted in nearby College Park.

"She has improved throughout the course of her career, become a great 3-point shooter," Lobo said. "She wasn't that when she got to Maryland. You add that to what she can do when she puts the ball on the floor — an unselfish, talented, young woman."

ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson hailed Walker-Kimbrough's athleticism and two-way impact.

"She has enough size. She can rise and fire on that jump shot," Robinson said on the broadcast. "She really has a lot of confidence. She can get up and down the floor. She's wiry. The place that I'm excited to see her is on the defensive end. A lot of coaches have to find places to hide their rookies on defense. I think she's got a lot of great defensive potential."

Some mock drafts had Jones going as high as No. 2 overall, behind only the University of Washington's Kelsey Plum (San Antonio Stars). But with the Chicago Sky and Dallas Wings taking South Carolina's Alaina Coates and Kentucky's Evelyn Akhator with the second and third picks, respectively, Jones had to wait a little while longer.

In Connecticut, she lands on a team desperate for the kind of postseason success she enjoyed at Maryland. The Sun, which finished 14-20 last season, have not qualified for the playoffs since 2012.

Jones should help the team immediately, at least inside. She led the nation in field-goal percentage the past two seasons at Maryland and, like Walker-Kimbrough, was a Big Ten Conference All-Defensive Team selection.

"Just doing the little things, rebounding, finishing around the basket — I think I can bring that to the team," she said after she was picked.

It's a squad with two already proven Terps in forwards Lynetta Kizer and Alyssa Thomas. With Chiney Ogwumike recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and Jonquel Jones not a true center, Jones can "anchor it down low," Robinson said.

"And you need that inside presence," the ESPN analyst added. "She gives you extra possessions, and the way she has transformed her body [losing nearly 50 pounds at Maryland], she has the work ethic to be successful in this league."

jshaffer@baltsun.com

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