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Get to know Ashley Houts

Less than 48 hours before the WNBA's roster deadline last week, rookie point guard Ashley Houts was shocked by the news that the New York Liberty, who drafted her 16th overall, traded her to Washington. Earlier that day in practice, she finally felt comfortable with the Liberty's offense -- a learning process that took every bit of the two weeks she spent in training camp -- and all of a sudden that information was useless as she traveled to Washington.

"It was very jarring," Houts said. "I think the thing that hit me the hardest was I spent two weeks in training camp in New York, working hard and trying to earn a spot on the team and with the rosters so low at 11 it's hard anywhere. The fact that they traded me with two days to go was intense. To be honest with you, I didn't know what I was getting into, if I'd make a team or what, but I'm happy how it's worked out."

The Mystics kept an eye on Houts during her time at Georgia, where as a senior she averaged more than 35 minutes per game, 12.4 points and had an 81.6 percent free-throw success rate running the Bulldogs' offense. With a need for post players though, they opted to pass on the chance to draft Houts initially and took Jenna Smith (Illinois), who injured her ankle and was cut during training camp.

"We didn't think Jenna would be there so we went in that direction," General Manager Angela Taylor said. "But we always liked what Ashley brought, her quickness and her ability to really set the tempo that we like and she's going to compete every single play. There was a moment in our preseason game against New York when she was knocked down by Katie Smith and then Nakia (Sanford) one after the other and she got right back up and kept going. We want a hard-nosed player who we know will do everything she can to win."

Another reason Taylor swapped point guard Nikki Blue for Houts was the style she could help the Mystics maintain. With Alana Beard out of the mix, Washington needs to utilize veteran guard Katie Smith at her natural shooting guard position when she's on the floor rather than as the go-to option to spell Harding at point. By bringing in Houts, Smith can take on more scoring responsibilities, and the team now has a specific back-up point guard, who already had some of the same traits as Harding.

There's a good chance Houts will see her playing time increase as the season goes along, because from Taylor down through the Mystics' coaching staff there's a definite concern to take some pressure off Harding, who averaged 35 minutes a game last year, so that she's fresh late in the season.

"We rely on Lindsey so much to set the tempo," Taylor said. "So to be able to bring in Ashley, who has many similar qualities and help her learn and grow in the league was the right fit for us at the time."

Said Coach Julie Plank: "[Houts] is hard nosed, she can run a team, she can defend, she picks up the ball and pushes the ball, so I'm real confident in what she does on the floor. She came in the first day and learned every offense in 15 minutes. She's a very smart player so I'm excited about developing her in our franchise."

Despite Plank's praise, Houts isn't without her concerns about learning the offense but is glad to have veterans like Harding to learn from. She is also glad to be playing in the Mystics' up-tempo style that she says is similar to the one she was used to in her four years at Georgia.

"It's been hard learning the new systems, but everyone's been great. They've been helpful, patient and really have tried to help work me through it," Houts said. "I was aware of Lindsey growing up, she's not that much older than me and she's a great point guard. She pushes it and has some great quickness and she's just been here so she knows how to do everything. To be able to experience my first WNBA season under a great point guard and learn from her is invaluable to me."

By Katie Carrera  |  May 19, 2010; 2:54 PM ET
 | Tags: Ashley Houts  
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