Chicago's Steve Key on Kristi Toliver
The Post's Camille Powell wrote a story about the reunion of Terrapin standouts Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman in tomorrow's matchup between the Mystics and Sky that you can check out in tomorrow's paper or online later today. In the meantime, here are some extras from her conversation with Chicago Coach Steve Key about Toliver.
Toliver has had a frustrating start to the season: heading into Friday's game at Connecticut, Toliver was averaging 3.5 points in 9.5 minutes per game. She's made just 2 of 8 three-point attempts, and has nine assists and 10 turnovers. But her playing time has steadily increased since the season opener, when she got on the court for only four minutes in a 102-85 loss at Minnesota.
Here's what Steve Key, the coach and general manager of the Sky, had to say about Toliver in a phone interview earlier this week:
On why the Sky drafted Toliver with the third overall pick:
"We think she's a tremendous talent. Her ability to score is proven; she did it her entire career, starting with hitting that big shot to win the national championship her freshman year. We think she's our point guard of the future. We think that she has the basketball IQ, the ability and the skill to shoot like a 2 and handle the ball like a 1. As she develops and learns this league, there's no doubt in my mind that she's going to be a very special player."
On Toliver's reaction to playing just four minutes in the season opener:
"I'm sure she was disappointed in it. I did send a message to her--I didn't tell her until three or four days later, but the message was: 'You went out there, and as a point guard had three turnovers right off the bat. You were doing things rushed. I took you out because I was trying to win the game.' I'm not concerned about Kristi Toliver learning at that point in time. When the 40 minutes are on and we start that clock, I don't care who you are on my team; if you're not playing well, and it's not beneficial to us winning, I'll talk to you and we'll make the adjustments after the game, because I don't have time during the game.
"Now obviously, not everybody plays well all the time, and they've earned the right to play more minutes to get better. It's just unfortunate for her that she's not at that point yet. That's why she's a rookie. Very few people have been able to come in and just from the start get 33 minutes a game, 34 minutes a game."
On what Toliver needs to do to improve and increase her playing time:
"One of the of knocks on her before we drafted her was that she's not physically as strong as a lot of other people. She's not as big as everybody else. But she also has a larger skill set than most people do. We've been working with her on that, trying to make that adjustment, until she can get a little stronger, until she can gauge how deep she can go into lane before she can still get her shot off, how much body contact can she take and not be off-balance. Until she figures that out, we're helping her get around it the best she can.
"The more minutes she plays is directly related--and I told her this--to how well she runs the team, how well she's out there and not making a bunch of mistakes, and trying too hard. I think one thing she's been guilty of is that I think she's trying really hard--not just to impress her teammates and herself--but just trying too hard as basketball player."
On whether it takes longer for a point guard to adjust to the professional game than a frontcourt player:
"Absolutely. I think the two hardest positions in this league are the center and the 1. That's why they're the hardest to find-- true 5's and 1s, not converted. They have to have the size enough to take the body contact when somebody bigger is defending them, and they have to have the ability to shoot, so people can't lay off them. ...
"Kristi, when she goes right, everybody knows she's probably either going to have to shoot or drive all the way to the basket. If she goes left, she steps back and shoots it all of the time. I told her she should do more Tony Parker-type stuff, like the floater. I get the feeling she's kind of like Tony Parker was when he first got to the NBA--tremendous speed and quickness, all the skill and everything else, yet he wasn't quite getting what Gregg Popovich wanted from him. There was this back and forth battle for two years.
All of a sudden win two championships next thing you know, if he continues like this, he's going to be a Hall of Famer. I don't want to wait two years with Kristi. But this is how I see her: I think all the skills are there, and it's matter of time before she puts everything together."
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