The hometown crowd will be at Target Center in force Thursday night. Tayler Hill is playing at home, as a pro, for the first time. So friends will be there, family. Easily more than 20, hopefully parked behind the Washington bench for its game against the Lynx.
“You’ll see ’em,” Hill said, smiling.
And this is what they will see: A talented player learning to be a pro one game at a time, sometimes struggling.
Hill, a former high school star at Minneapolis South who played at Ohio State, was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft. She was selected by a Mystics team that, coming off a league-worst 5-29 season in 2012, wasn’t able to surround Hill with veteran, star players.
And so, both for Hill and the team, progress has sometimes been slow. The Mystics are 9-13. But Washington has lost four in a row, falling to fifth, in the Eastern Conference.
“It hasn’t been frustrating,” she said. “I think anything you do in life is a transition when you move to the next step up. You’re playing against the best players in the world, night-in and night out.’’
The 5-10 guard came to the WNBA after averaging better than 20 points per game in her final two seasons with the Buckeyes. She was a career 42.9 percent shooter in college, 34.3 from three-point range.
Through 22 games with the Mystics, Hill is sixth among rookie scorers at 5.0 points per game. She is shooting 30.7 percent overall. She started the first seven games before coach Mike Thibault began having her come off the bench.
“She’s playing against a great player every night,” Thibault said. “Against players who have gotten stronger since they’ve been in the league, who know the tricks of the trade. There is an education that goes along with that. In college, if she drove the lane, she might see a good shock blocker once every three or four games. In our league? Sylvia Fowles one night, Tina Charles the next.’’
Still, as a top pick on a rebuilding team, Hill might have tried to do too much early on. Thibault saw her pressing.
“I think it bothered her shooting-wise,” he said. “Once we took her out of the starting lineup, it got her to relax a little bit.”
There has been progress. She is 6-for-14 on three-pointers the past six games. She has played good defense and passed well from the start. She is learning about the league’s players. She has finally gotten used to the rigors of travel.
“You’re not going to adjust to it in 20 games,” Hill said. “Some adjust more quickly than others, but every rookie in our class has had a challenge this year.”
Both Hill and Thibault see bigger things ahead for her and the Mystics.
“We’re learning to play together as a team,” Hill said. “When we do that, we have success.’’