Washington’s Myisha Hines-Allen may be called upon down the stretch — and she’s ready for it
In the waning minutes of a game against the Minnesota Lynx on August 11, Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen rose up and hit a 3-pointer over a defender. It was only Hines-Allen’s third made 3-pointer this season, but the sight must have looked familiar to teammate Emma Meesseman. The two first met while playing on opposing teams overseas last winter; apparently, Hines-Allen’s idea of pleasantries was to bury several 3-pointers while Meesseman was guarding her.
Luckily for the Mystics, Meesseman doesn’t hold a grudge. Now in their first season together with the Mystics, head coach Mike Thibault called the two forwards “good buddies,” and they frequently shoot with and against one another after practice. This seems fitting because Meesseman also contributed to Hines-Allen’s success as a rookie last season, albeit indirectly. After Meesseman opted not to play in the WNBA in 2018, Hines-Allen not only made the team as a second-round draft pick, but also earned some of the minutes created by Meesseman’s absence. In the regular season, Hines-Allen averaged 3.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game; she then made 15 of 18 shots in six playoff games to help Washington advance to the WNBA Finals.
Hines-Allen spent her offseason playing all five positions for Enisey Krasnoyarski Kraj in Russia. She finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals in nearly 28 minutes per game. She also shot 50% from the field and 31% on 3-pointers. When asked what area of her game she focused on most, Hines-Allen emphasized her defense and her guard skills, but said she had worked on everything in hopes of having that improved versatility translate to the WNBA.
In some ways, that has happened: Hines-Allen has improved her rebounding, assist, steal, and block rates, and she is shooting better from behind the arc. But in other ways, it has not. Hines-Allen is playing fewer minutes now that Meesseman is back in Washington, and her scoring is down. In the game against the Lynx, she scored a season-high 13 points — two off of the career high she set as a rookie — but that was also as many points as she’d scored in her previous nine games combined. A year after drawing attention as a rookie for her contributions, Hines-Allen has been mostly an end-of-the-bench player on a loaded Mystics team.
However, the Mystics coaches clearly have faith in Hines-Allen, and her lack of minutes is more a reflection of the team’s depth than anything else. Assistant coach Marianne Stanley, who works primarily with the team’s post players, told Her Hoop Stats before the Minnesota game, “We’re happy with her development. … She knows that we’re going to rely on her. … The good part is that her approach to practicing and working to be ready has been outstanding, and it’s a matter of time before the opportunity presents itself.” Forty minutes of game time and 13 points later, Thibault answered a question about Hines-Allen with one of his own: “I mean, that’s your fifth post, who actually played in playoff games last year? That’s a great luxury to have.”
Recently, the Mystics have experimented with a lineup of two guards and three forwards. It is primarily intended to get Meesseman on the court alongside MVP candidate Elena Delle Donne and center Latoya Sanders, but the Mystics have used all sorts of combinations. Thibault even deployed Meesseman, Hines-Allen, and forward Tianna Hawkins together in a game against Seattle — a configuration Hines-Allen said they had not tested in practice — to give the team more energy and more physical play. “I know Myisha didn’t score,” Thibault said afterward, “but she was a physical presence, and we needed that kind of a jolt.” If Hines-Allen continues to impress Thibault, the three-forward lineup could also open the door for her to find more minutes.
For her part, Hines-Allen has shown patience and a positive attitude all season. “Hopefully, I’ll continue to grow,” she said after a recent practice. “… Tianna’s playing awesome right now, you have Emma back, Elena’s the best player in the league, Toya’s like the best [post] defender in the league … So it’s hard to find minutes, but it’s like, I have to stay positive, I have to continue to be a team player and not worry about myself.” When she’s not shooting with Meesseman after practice, it’s not uncommon to see Hines-Allen staying late with one or more coaches. After one July practice, four coaches were working with her on the intricacies of her shooting form.
Hines-Allen has also been learning all she can from her more experienced teammates in hopes of becoming a better player and helping the Mystics win games. Asked what she likes about her fellow post players’ games, she gave a very thoughtful, specific answer: “We all bring something different to the team. So it’s like, I can take some things from each of the post players and try to incorporate that to my game. I mean, I can go down the list.” She cited Sanders’s defense, specifically her ability to contest shots and fight for position without fouling; Hawkins’s patience and ability to drive the ball or roll to the basket; Meesseman’s quick passing; and, well, for the potential MVP, “she’s the best player ever, so … everything.”
Hines-Allen’s play of late has shown that she is far more important to the Mystics than her numbers might suggest. The Mystics will likely need her again down the stretch as they try to secure the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and, ultimately, win their first WNBA title. Reflecting on Hines-Allen’s performance and the work she has put in, Meesseman added, “I think it’s great for her — a boost for her confidence. But she doesn’t need more confidence.”
After all, Meesseman has experienced firsthand what it’s like when Hines-Allen splashes a 3-pointer in your face.