WNBA rookies forced to learn on the fly, Angel Reese and Aliyah Edwards are excelling


WASHINGTON — The WNBA presents a unique challenge for its rookies.

A little more than a month is all that separated players who competed in the Women’s Final Four, such as the Sky’s Angel Reese, the Fever’s Caitlin Clark and the Mystics’ Aliyah Edwards, from their pro debuts. (The Sky’s Kamilla Cardoso’s debut was delayed six games by a shoulder injury.)

What, then, is the key to these rookies’ immediate impact?

‘‘It’s kind of hard because it’s on the fly,’’ Reese said. ‘‘I didn’t have much time to do a lot [between college and the WNBA], but I did train a lot with the little time I did have. I watched film with my trainer.

‘‘I think I’ve done a great job taking more jump shots, the shots that I probably wouldn’t have taken before. So it’s just about becoming more comfortable game by game.’’

Since entering the league, Reese has emphasized improving her efficiency. The Sky’s previous two games were Reese’s most efficient shooting performances to date. She went 5-for-10 against the Dream last Saturday and 8-for-10 against the Sun on Wednesday.

Most notable about those outings were the players who were defending her. The Dream’s frontcourt duo of Tina Charles and Cheyenne Parker-Tyus has a combined 23 years of experience. The Sun’s frontcourt trio of DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones has a combined 11 All-Star nods.

Reese’s performance Wednesday was a direct response to the advice she got from Charles after the Sky’s loss to the Dream. Charles, a 13-year veteran, told Reese she needed to take her time around the rim. Sky coach Teresa Weatherspoon echoed those sentiments, saying her message to Reese has been to be more physical than finesse.

‘‘Sometimes when I was around the basket, I tried to get up quicker than the defenders, so they don’t try to block it,’’ Reese said. ‘‘Last game specifically, I watched some of my clips already. [I was] able to see I got my rebound, was balanced, took my time and went straight back up and made those shots.’’

Edwards is in a similar position as Reese this season in the sense that both are shouldering a heavy load and carrying lofty expectations on inexperienced teams. The Sky returned only two contributors from the 2023 season. The Mystics returned four players from their 2023 roster, but Brittney Sykes (foot) and Shakira Austin (hip) are out with injuries.

Against the Sky last week, Edwards finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds, shooting 10-for-12 from the field.

‘‘You get an MVP one night and an All-Star the next night,’’ Mystics coach Eric Thibault said. ‘‘Especially at the position that Angel and Aliyah are playing, you don’t get many breaks. So that’s a different mental and emotional challenge.

‘‘You might get up for a big game in college and then have a couple of games where you don’t have to be great. You have to be great every night in our league.’’

This and that

Clark, Reese and the Sparks’ Cameron Brink are the only rookies among the WNBA’s leaders in the five major statistical categories. Clark is fourth in assists per game (six), Reese is fifth in rebounds per game (9.6) and steals per game (1.9) and Brink is tied for first in blocks per game (2.9).

• Sky center Elizabeth Williams hasn’t had surgery yet on the torn meniscus in her right knee. She traveled with the Sky for their two-game road trip to Washington and Indianapolis.

• After the Sky-Mystics game June 6 at Capital One Arena drew 10,000 fans, the game between the teams Friday was played at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, which has a capacity of 4,200.





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