A draft pick will debut later than anticipated.
On Monday, the Washington Mystics posted a video on Twitter in which rookie Kiara Leslie introduced herself to fans and voiced excitement for the start of training camp. But Leslie did not practice on Monday, and the team announced only that she was dealing with an undisclosed injury.
On Friday, shortly before the Mystics’ first preseason scrimmage, head coach Mike Thibault shared more details about Leslie’s injury. Unfortunately, the news was not good regarding the team’s first-round draft pick: Leslie had arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in her right knee.
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It is not entirely clear when or how Leslie suffered the injury, but the Washington Post’s Ava Wallace reports that Leslie experienced hamstring soreness last week and had an MRI exam on Monday morning.
The estimated timetable for Leslie’s return is three to four months. On the optimistic side, a three-month recovery would put her return in mid-August, allowing her to acclimate to the WNBA before the start of the playoffs. She could also miss the entire season, which would be a blow to a Washington team that expected her to make an impact on the wing this season.
Even without Leslie, the Mystics will start the season with an experienced and deep roster, led by former MVP Elena Delle Donne at power forward. All five starters return, and former All-Star Emma Meesseman returns after spending all of last season with the Belgian national team.
With Leslie out, Ariel Atkins, the team’s 2018 first-round draft pick and the expected starter on the wing, could play additional minutes. Off the bench, guard Aerial Powers will also likely play a larger role in her first full season with the Mystics after joining the team via trade last July. The career 33% 3-point shooter will aim to prove that her 44% 3-point shooting in nine games for the Mystics last season was more than just a hot streak. Thibault can also roll out a bigger lineup featuring Delle Donne on the wing and some combination of Meesseman, Myisha Hines-Allen, Tianna Hawkins, and LaToya Sanders inside.
Leslie was drafted No. 10 overall by the Mystics out of North Carolina State University, where she averaged 15.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists last season. Leslie played two seasons at NC State after transferring from Maryland, where she played alongside current Mystics teammate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.
The Mystics will open the regular season on the road against the Connecticut Sun on May 25, followed by the home opener on June 1 at the team’s new Entertainment and Sports Arena.
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