Tayler Hill, the Mystics’ second leading scorer entering the break, is in the midst of a career year. Averaging 14.7 points per game and starting in in each of the 22 games she has made an appearance, Hill’s performance has dramatically improved over the past three years. Although she is one of ten players on a young Washington team still on a rookie contract, she views herself as a leader.
“I’m one of the more vocal members of the team and have one of the stronger personalities. I think when I come out with that strong, aggressive personality and emotion on the defensive end it carries over to the offensive end. For both me and the team, it starts on defense to come out and have a great game,” Hill stated of her role.
Hill previously played at Ohio State, where she was selected First Team All-Big Ten during her junior and senior years and All-Defensive Team for her sophomore, junior, and senior years. She was the highest scoring player in Big Ten play and was 11th in the NCAA scoring through all games. With 2,015 career points, Hill became fourth in all-time points scored for Ohio State.
The 5’10” guard joined the Mystics organization in 2013 as the fourth overall pick in that year’s WNBA Draft. Hailed as the ‘3 to See’ draft, in 2016 Hill has a higher scoring average than both 2013 #1 pick Brittney Griner and #3 pick Skylar Diggins.
During her rookie season, Hill saw seven starts and played 17.4 minutes per game, putting her in the top ten amongst rookies. She also ranked in the top ten amongst rookies for points per game, assists per game, and three-point percentage.
In June 2014, Hill gave birth to her son Maurice, which caused her to only see time in five games during her sophomore season. She came back to the Mystics in 2015 in much better shape and saw action in 32 games. Last year, Hill averaged 17.0 minutes and 7.5 points per game, but played inconsistently in her first full season back following the birth of her son.
This season, she has set career-highs in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and minutes played. A breakout performance in her career, Hill has returned to play with more athleticism and reliability than the team has seen of her previously. Notably, her points per game have almost doubled, making her Washington’s second-leading scorer. She also ranks third in the league in free throws made, with an impressive 111.
She has attributed her success this year to the work she put in with assistant coach Eric Thibault in the off-season. She worked diligently throughout the break to improve all aspects of her game, and her hard work and dedication have certainly become evident during the 2016 season.
“I think that the work the coaches, especially Coach Eric, put in with me over the off-season mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared me and gave me the confidence I needed to go into the season,” Hill said.
Over the season, he has continued to help Hill develop. “Every day he’s giving me tips, taking time out to come in early and shoot if I need to, sending me video on what I need to work on or what I’m doing well. Throughout the season he’s always in my ear and that really helps me.”
Hill started the year strong by putting 20 points on the board in 33 minutes on the court during Washington’s season opener against the New York Liberty. Throughout May, she averaged 16.8 points per game and scored in double figures in five out of six games, including 24 points against Connecticut in the team’s first win of the season.
During the month of June, in which the Mystics played their best basketball as a team, Hill continued to be a leader. On June 14, in the triple overtime victory against the Connecticut Sun, Hill played a career high 41 minutes, scoring 21 of the team’s 109 points. In the June 26 blowout of the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, she scored 17 points, behind only teammate Emma Meesseman, shooting 60% from the field and from behind the arc.
Hill started the month of July with a career-high 25 points against the Chicago Sky in an 86-84 overtime loss. She sat out the team’s last two games before the Olympic break with a sprained left foot, which she injured during the July 15 loss to Seattle, but is prepared to return to play when the Mystics begin the second half of the season August 27 against the Indiana Fever.
“I’m focused. We had a drought in July as a team. We learned a lot, and the coaches came back with a completely different mentality. Whatever we do, we’re going to do it aggressively. I think this fast paced game is going to work for us,” Hill said of coming back to win in the final ten regular season games.
Throughout 2016, Hill has shown that she can be a versatile player, helping the team both offensively and defensively. At only 25 years old, the Minneapolis native will surely continue to grow as a leader and elite basketball player in seasons to come.
“I’m focused on what we need to do to win and get into the playoffs. In the off-season, I’ll work on adding skills and strengthening weaknesses in my game,” said Hill.