For four years, Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper were inseparable on the Maryland women's basketball team's front line, not to mention their time together on a Philadelphia-area Amateur Athletic Union team before that. The pair, integral pieces of the Terps' 2006 national championship effort, were sent to opposite coasts yesterday in the WNBA draft.
Langhorne, Maryland's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, was taken sixth overall by the Washington Mystics. Harper, the Terps' career leader in blocked shots, went four picks later to the Sacramento Monarchs.
Besides adding a player with a considerable local following, the Mystics, the WNBA's worst shooting team last season, get in Langhorne the NCAA's leading field-goal percentage shooter the past three seasons, as well as the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year.
"I'm going to try to help this team win a championship," said Langhorne, who averaged 17.3 points and 9.4 rebounds this season for Maryland. "Hopefully, with the players who are coming in, we'll just help this team continue to grow and get better."
At 6 feet 2, Langhorne, a native of Willingboro, N.J., is considered by many women's basketball observers to be undersized for the low post, a criticism that Mystics general manager Linda Hargrove has heard.
"She is a little undersized for a four [power forward] or five [center] in the WNBA," Hargrove said. "But as we look at her, everybody pretty much knows what she's going to do and nobody can really stop her. She's playing in the ACC and she's playing against players who are much bigger than she is.
"We think her quickness, her toughness, her efficiency down low, all those things are going to work in our favor. She's going to have to expand her game. She needs to get more of a consistent outside shot. Just in talking with her, it's something she's aware of and will be working on to improve."
Meanwhile, Harper, who missed most of her freshman year with a torn Achilles' tendon but was named Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four two years ago, averaged a career-high 14.1 points and 8.5 rebounds this season, which ended last week in a regional final loss to Stanford.
She should replace former WNBA Most Valuable Player Yolanda Griffith in the middle.
As expected, 6-4 forward Candace Parker, who led Tennessee to two straight national titles, was selected first by the Los Angeles Sparks, while the Chicago Sky took LSU center Sylvia Fowles second. Stanford guard Candice Wiggins, the all-time leading scorer in the Pacific-10, was taken third by the Minnesota Lynx.
The Mystics also selected 6-1 forward Krystal Vaughn (Lake Clifton) from Virginia Commonwealth in the third round. Coppin State guards Shalamar Oakley and Rashida Suber were not taken in the draft but could be invited to a training camp.
1. Los Angeles, Candace Parker, F, Tennessee
2. Chicago, Sylvia Fowles, C, LSU
3. Minnesota, Candice Wiggins, G, Stanford
4. Detroit (from Atlanta via Seattle), Alexis Hornbuckle, G, Tennessee
5. Houston, Matee Ajavon, G, Rutgers
6. Washington, Crystal Langhorne, F-C, Maryland
7. New York, Essence Carson, G-F, Rutgers
8. Atlanta (from Seattle), Tamera Young, G, James Madison
9. Connecticut, Amber Holt, F, Middle Tennessee State
10. Sacramento, Laura Harper, F-C, Maryland
11. Detroit (from San Antonio), Tasha Humphrey, F, Georgia
12. Connecticut (from Indiana), Ketia Swanier, G, Connecticut
13. Phoenix, LaToya Pringle, F-C, North Carolina
14. New York (from Detroit via San Antonio), Erlana Larkins, F, North Carolina