Mystics’ Guard Helps Lead Team to 2019 WNBA Crown: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough says Quips’, Terps’ attitude assists in Pro Game

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By Timothy Cox
Special Correspondent

A year ago, the Washington Mystics were swept in a three-game series to the 2018 WNBA  champion Seattle Storm. This year, the team is celebrating as the 2019 WNBA Champion.

In October, the Mystics finished the job and grabbed this year’s title. Ironically with Mystics’ MVP Elena Delle Donne suffered a serious back injury, but the team was able to jointly re-group and capture the crown over a young, tenacious Connecticut Suns squad.

Though she’s not yet the face of the franchise, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough remains a fan-favorite, primarily because of her sterling career in nearby College Park, Maryland, where she led the Terrapins to perennial Big Ten and NCAA dominance for most of her University of Maryland tenure. The Terps enjoyed two Final Four appearances, a combined 127-17 record and six Big Ten regular-season and conference tournament championships in Walker-Kimbrough’s four seasons. 

Her college dominance led to her becoming a sixth overall, first-round WNBA draft pick of the Washington Mystics in 2017.

DC HOOP CHAMPION: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is part of a valuable machinery which has led the Washington Mystics to their first WNBA 2019 crown. (Photo courtesy of Washington Mystics)
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When asked how a six-foot slightly-built young lady, learned high-level basketball skills in her hometown of Aliquippa, Pa. where football rules – Walker-Kimbrough vividly recalls her mother reciting a story about her toddler girl wearing a dress, dribbling a basketball outside of Triedstone Baptist Church on Sunday mornings. “I’ve always enjoyed the game, since age 3, and mostly played with the best boys in my neighborhood to hone my skills,” she said.

The hoop court dubbed “the dump,” on Griffith Street behind her Mount Vernon public housing community, is where she earned her stripes and a toughness that has propelled her onto world renowned in women’s basketball. She also plays in Budapest, Hungary during the off-season.

Aliquippa is home to NFL hall of famers Mike Ditka, Anthony “Hawk” Dorsett, Tyjuan Law and prospective HOF’er Darrelle Revis. The Pittsburgh suburb is a perennial high school football powerhouse, yet Walker-Kimbrough bucked the trend and is the only star female athlete from the small, steel-city town known as ‘Quiptown.’ She starred at track, volleyball and hoops at neighboring Hopewell High School. Hopewell and Aliquippa share neighboring school district lines within the Mount Vernon apartments.

She credits good genes, family and civic pride as characteristics that have ignited her success. “My mother (Andrea Kimbrough) is my biggest hero. She sacrificed to make sure I was always at practice, and so much more.” Her father, Vance Walker, is a former star Aliquippa athlete and starred on the Waynesburg University (Pa.) basketball team. Her uncle, Craedel Kimbrough, owns a workout facility in Aliquippa and her mother’s uncle, the late Mike Kimbrough, was the heralded blocking full-back for Dorsett at her alma mater, Hopewell High School. In her Mystics locker room, she reflects on her good fortunes. “I don’t take anything for granted. I look to my right and I see the best player in the WNBA (Delle Donne), and I play for the best team in the league. It’s very surreal.”

The slightly built, 5-11, 140-pounder admits larger-sized opponents often try to intimidate her, “but I use my speed, quickness and intellect to counteract,” she notes.

WNBA VETERAN – After 15 seasons, Tanisha Wright of the New York Liberty is strongly considering retirement, according to published reports. She earned her stripes in housing projects called Monview Heights in East Pittsburgh, Pa.
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Mystics head coach Mike Thibault looks to Walker-Kimbrough as a reliable go-to court leader off-the-bench, especially in the wake of an early-season injury to starting guard Kristi Toliver.

Walker-Kimbrough, 24, also credits fellow Pittsburgher Trina Wright, for likewise attaining WNBA success. “We’re from different eras, but we’re aware of one another.” Wright, a 13-year veteran for the New York Liberty, attended West Mifflin High and was likewise a Big Ten star at Penn State.

In advising young women athletes from the DMV, Pa. and other regions, Walker-Kimbrough quickly states, “Dream big, keep working hard – and consistently keep grinding.”

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault looks to Walker-Kimbrough as a reliable go-to court leader off-the-bench, especially in the wake of an early-season injury to starting guard Kristi Toliver.

Walker-Kimbrough, 24, also credits fellow Pittsburgher Trina Wright, for likewise attaining WNBA success. “We’re from different eras, but we’re aware of one another.” Wright, a 13-year veteran for the New York Liberty, attended West Mifflin High and was likewise a Big Ten star at Penn State.

Like Walker-Kimbrough, Wright also grew up playing against older fellas, in her stomping grounds in the Monview Heights housing projects in Whitaker, Pa. “I really didn’t forsee a basketball career, it just sort of happened,” said the 15-year veteran who earned a WNBA title in 2010 with the Seattle Storm. Wright will retire after this season, according to published reports.

The veteran WNBA star remains close to her hometown church, Morningstar Baptist Church, where she annually provides book bags and other gifts to needy youths.

WNBA STAR – After successful careers at Hopewell High School, University of Maryland and the Washington Mystics, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough has become arguably the most celebrated female athlete in Beaver County, Pa. history. (Photo by Domenic Allerga)

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