Stella Johnson made the most of her first career WNBA start — even if it didn’t get off to a great beginning.
The rookie’s first shot was an airball and she followed up with another miss before settling down. Johnson scored a season-high 25 points to help the Washington Mystics end a seven-game losing streak with a 98-91 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday night.
“My teammates were like, ‘You’re here to shoot, just be aggressive,’ ” said the nation’s leading scorer last season, who had 2,167 points in her college career. “If they believe in me, then I should be out on this WNBA court.”
She hit six 3-pointers, breaking the team rookie record held by Keri Chacona of five set in 1998. Johnson, who averaged 24.8 points as a senior at Rider last season, was drafted in the third round by Phoenix before she was cut in late May before the season started.
The Chicago Sky picked up Johnson as the teams entered the bubble in Florida. She played in four games for the Sky, but didn’t score before she was waived last week. Washington, which has been decimated by injuries, picked her up a day later.
“Stella was great tonight. It’s nice to see a young player come in who was not afraid,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “I’m really happy for players like that. She might have been nervous, but she wasn’t afraid.”
She’s made the most of her first week with the Mystics. The 22-year-old scored her first basket as a pro the night she was signed. She then provided a spark off the bench in a loss on Saturday with seven points and five assists in 20 minutes.
That helped earn her a start on Wednesday night.
“I told our veterans walking into the locker room, it’s nice to have a rookie player who’s not afraid of the game,” Thibault said. “This is someone we need to get a look at who knows what she can be with a little bit of time. It’s an experiment that so far has worked out well. ”
Because of the coronavirus, the WNBA teams had to cut down to a 12-player roster before entering the bubble so many draftees didn’t really get a chance to showcase their talents. Johnson didn’t get a chance to really do much for a veteran Sky team. She’s now got her opportunity with the Mystics for the final half of the season.
“You hope you’re right about someone,” Thibault said. “It’s only a couple games, the test of time we’ll see.”
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