Tayler Hill Out to Star in the WNBA For Washington Like Her Buckeye Days at Ohio State
WASHINGTON – With a sparkling 24-karat smile, Tayler Hill delivered a simple message.
“I’m ready,” the third-year Washington Mystics guard succinctly said during Monday’s media day at the Verizon Center.
“I am anxious and excited to get back out on the court.
"Last year I sat out most of the season, came back at the end but I wasn’t 100 percent. I am excited to be back this year. I feel like I haven’t played since my rookie season where I was healthy.”
The 24-year old Hill missed most of last season after giving birth to her son Maurice on June 18. Five weeks later, Hill returned to the Mystics in solid playing shape.
However, the talented Hill never found her groove on the court while averaging 7.8 minutes in the Mystics’ final five games.
Now with an entire offseason to get ready, she is poised to enjoy a breakout year and treat fans to the types of performances that made the affable Ohio State product the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.
That was two seasons ago when the Mystics finished last with the worst record the previous summer but another disappointment beset the team when Washington in the lottery failed to land in the top three that would have meant getting Phoenix's Brittany Griner (1-Baylor), Chicago's Elena Delle Donne (2-Delaware) or Tulsa's Skylar Diggins (3-Notre Dame).
However, it turns out the Mystics did get value out Hill at number four.
A pleasant package of electricity, explosiveness and excitement, Hill will be a critical component to the Mystics’ championship hopes this season with her athleticism, tenacious defense and scoring ability.
“I love Tayler,” veteran guard and WNBA All-Star Ivory Latta said. “She’s a versatile guard.
"She can bring the ball up the court and she can spot up and make 3-pointers," Latta continued.
"Her first step is unbelievable. Everybody thinks because she had a baby, she’s going to be slower. Actually she slimmed down more than she was before she had the baby. They’ll see how versatile she is this season.”
While patiently answering questions for about 10 minutes, Hill was engaging, laughing and funny.
Even after a majority of the reporters departed, Hill showcased the boundless energy of a toddler while distracting and cracking jokes with Latta as she was being photographed.
Hill arrived in camp in phenomenal shape.
Though she acknowledged being a first-time mother and an elite athlete simultaneously were challenging, Hill handled the additional responsibility like a champion. She continued working out, studying film, providing the necessary attention to her son and enjoying life.
Hill balanced both because of her supportive family and friend, Nicole who also serves as her nanny.
She has been a rock for Hill. With the comfort of knowing her son was in safe and caring hands, Hill was able focus on building from the end of her rookie year when she averaged 6.5 points and finished strong.
“Being a mom is amazing,” she said. “There’s no feeling like being a mother. I still got my work done.
"You may have seen online that people said ‘I am not playing overseas and I was just sitting home with the baby.’
"That wasn’t the case. The coaches sent me a lot of film during the offseason. I definitely did the work that needed to be done in the offseason to get to where I needed to be. I lost the weight, ate right, got back in shape and now I am ready for this opportunity.”
Because Hill limited her offseason Twitter postings to occasional motivational messages, photos of her son and rare in-the-moment updates of her life gave her bleacher critics some fodder to try and criticize her. Hill blocked out the noise. She owed nobody an explanation and those that mattered knew what she was doing.
“I am not that type of person that talks about going to the gym every day or need to flaunt what’s going on behind the scenes,” Hill said. “I really don’t get into the media things. I don’t know what was said about me unless somebody else tells me. They don’t know me personally so I don’t take what they say personally.”
Not even discussing her haters could steal Hill’s joy Monday.
She is preparing to become a stronger leader and more consistent on the court. Hill has the ability to do some special things for the Mystics and emerge into a force around the league. She has put in the work and now she’s ready to showcase all of her skills.
“I don’t know that I have an expectation that’s specific right now,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said of Hill. “But we need all of our guards and her particularly because of her athleticism to help us in our transition game offensively, to spread the floor with three-point shooting, and because she’s so quick, she can really help us on the defensive end.
"She’s got long arms and quick feet and she has the ability to come up with steals, so I think we’re looking for a huge improvement on both ends.”
The Mystics had two players among the top 30 in the league in 3-point shooting last season in Latta (37.7 percent) and Bria Hartley (32.7).
Hill could make it a trifecta of Mystics among the league leaders in 3-point shooting. She is happy to be one of the building blocks of the Mystics rise.
They were 16-18 last season and lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Indiana Fever in a pair of tough games.
“We are working towards winning a championship and taking everything one step at a time,” Hill said. “We have to work together as a team to reach our goal. Coach’s message to us at our first team meeting was to ‘play like a champion every day.’
"I know his mindset is he wants to win a championship and that’s how he prepares us every day in practice. As a team that’s how we carry ourselves on and off the court.”
With a focused and healthy Hill making significant contributions this season, the Mystics could enjoy a memorable summer. Then she’ll have plenty more reasons to flash her beautiful smile.
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