By Scott Mammoser
A season after winning the WNBA title with the Washington Mystics, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough will be bringing her championship experience to the Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury sent its first-round draft choice, Jocelyn Willoughby of Virginia, to the New York Liberty for Walker-Kimbrough, who the Liberty obtained earlier in the week from the Mystics for Tina Charles.
“I am just grateful to play alongside so many great players” Walker-Kimbrough said, “and Phoenix has the ability to compete for a championship.”
With the exception of Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, all of the players from the 2014 title-winning Mercury team have departed, and the 5-foot-11 Walker-Kimbrough will likely fill the swing role where DeWanna Bonner was a mainstay. With the Mystics, she averaged 6.7 points per game on a deep team that had six players score between six and 11 per night.
“They want me to space the floor,” Walker-Kimbrough said, “add athleticism to the floor, see my range and versatility. I can impact either side of the ball and cause disruption on the defensive end and in transition. Also, trapping up the paint.”
Playing with the legendary Taurasi, as well as with superstars like Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith – who will be in her first season with Phoenix, as well – will be an opportunity the 24-year-old Walker-Kimbrough will cherish.
“I can’t put it into words,” she said. “Just growing up, Diana Taurasi was my Greatest of All-Time. She was a guard, and I was impressed with her mentality, and being able to be a sponge to her is so surreal. Seeing Brittney, how dominant she has been, both in college and as a professional, and Skylar is the same. It’s a thrill to call these players as my teammates.”
During this social distancing time as everyone waits for the season to tip off, Walker-Kimbrough has lived with her mother in the Pittsburgh suburb of Aliquippa. She said she has been trying to be creative in working out, taking bicycle rides, doing puzzles and reading – mostly autobiographies, and currently one by the rapper 50 Cent.
“For cardio, I have an exercise bike,” she added. “The weather in Pittsburgh is so bi-polar. I go outside as much as I can, and I also have a ladder for quick body work.”
Walker-Kimbrough played in two Final Fours, as a freshman and sophomore at Maryland. This year’s Maryland team went 28-4 and 16-2 in the Big Ten, ultimately winning the conference tournament in the days leading up to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, denying seniors such as Kaila Charles and Blair Watson the opportunity to experience a Final Four. Walker-Kimbrough was a senior with the Terrapins, when this outgoing class was freshmen. The Connecticut Sun chose Charles with its second round pick in the draft.
“They were my freshmen,” Walker-Kimbrough said of the class that just graduated. “The Iast class I know personally. I am always rooting for my college. I was impressed with how the team played during
the last month and a half of the year. My roommates were Kaila and Blair. It was a great experience to see where (Charles) was her freshman year, and it was great to see it all come into fruition.”
In addition, Walker-Kimbrough played on the silver medal-winning U.S. team at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto.
“It was a great experience all in all,” she said of the Pan-Am Games, “a great team representing the country. Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, they were on their UConn run, so being able to play with them and see their preparation, I understood why they won at the rate they won.”
Highly-decorated at all levels – internationally, collegiately and professionally – Walker-Kimbrough will surely fit in well with Phoenix.