July 6, 2023
‘She was hunting’: Inside Abby Meyers’ two weeks with the Washington Mystics
'It's just still a surreal experience having this jersey on'
WASHINGTON — Whether Abby Meyers is playing for Princeton, Maryland or the Washington Mystics, she radiates enthusiasm. She’s focused and competitive, but there’s obvious joy, too, like when she adds a little flair to a move or laughs with a teammate on the sidelines.
Meyers, a 6’ guard from Potomac, Maryland, played her first home game with her hometown WNBA team on June 28. Though she had a quiet two points in 10 minutes, the Mystics fans reflected her unbridled enthusiasm right back at her, cheering her every move. It culminated in the last 30 seconds of the 109-86 victory over the Atlanta Dream, when Meyers cut backdoor and nearly got a wide-open layup.
She couldn’t corral the pass, but as she ran back on defense, the crowd started to chant, “Ab-by! Ab-by!”
Meyers joined the Mystics on an emergency hardship contract on June 20, after Mystics guard Kristi Toliver was shut down with an injury and guard Li Meng left to play in the Asia Cup. By the time Li returned on July 4, Meyers’ contract had to end.
During Meyers’ two weeks with Washington, there was a strange and striking dissonance between the buzz around her presence and her looming exit. Somehow, her hometown was where her professional dreams both got off the ground and fell back to earth.
When Meyers signed with the Mystics, it was “a dream come true,” she told reporters on June 21. She had grown up watching the team and seeing the players as “amazing, heroic women.” Those players included point guard Natasha Cloud, who has been with the team since 2015, and Delle Donne and Toliver, who both joined the Mystics in 2017, the summer before Meyers’ freshman year at Princeton. Meyers would get to the Mystics’ former home, Capital One Arena, early to watch warm-ups, and once, she even got a photo with Delle Donne.
Meyers went on to become the Ivy League Player of the Year as a senior at Princeton, then an All-Big Ten Second Team selection as a graduate student at Maryland. The Dallas Wings drafted her 11th overall this year but cut her in the preseason, and she returned to Maryland to train for another WNBA opportunity or an eventual overseas contract.
When the Mystics found themselves down two shooters, head coach Eric Thibault told reporters that Meyers was “an obvious name” to fill in. She shot over 38% from 3-point range in each of her final two college seasons, and the Mystics staff was very familiar with her because Maryland’s XFINITY Center is only about 20 miles away.
“We knew she probably wasn’t going to get to our second-round pick in the draft … and we didn’t think she would probably get cut in a [training] camp,” Thibault said. “So it’s nice to be able to get her.”
After the Mystics called, Meyers told her dad, Steven, about the opportunity. Though Steven is normally very even-keeled, Meyers said, “He just looked at me and was laughing, like he couldn’t believe what I was telling him … So just to see him laugh and smile like that … was different, and it really showed that it was a meaningful moment for him.”
In her first days on the team, Meyers commuted from her childhood home to the Entertainment and Sports Arena, and she occasionally showed glimpses of the starstruck teenager she once was. Forward Myisha Hines-Allen, who without fail takes newcomers under her wing, told The Next that Meyers said she was nervous to meet Delle Donne, so Hines-Allen promptly tracked down Delle Donne and brokered the introduction.
“It’s not what I tell them. It’s just the feel I give for them where it’s welcoming,” Hines-Allen said about how she helps the newcomers. “You can be yourself, no matter what that looks like … So, I mean, it’s just not really preaching much to her, just instilling confidence, because that’s half the battle, too, with hardships. You don’t know if you’re gonna stay for another hardship or what it looks like or what will it be. So it’s just taking it every single day, day by day.”
Two days after Meyers was signed, she was comfortable enough around her teammates to join in the dancing in the locker room. And on the court, she wasted no time in making an impression. Starters Delle Donne, guard Brittney Sykes and center/forward Shakira Austin all separately told reporters on June 22 how quickly Meyers was picking up concepts on both ends of the court. Austin added that Meyers had already asked her how to sign up for extra shooting time at the Mystics’ facility.
“I did not realize that Abby is a rookie,” veteran center Amanda Zahui B. also said on June 22. “She is very professional and very mature. And she goes hard.” Zahui B. noted that Meyers had raised the intensity at shootaround that day and praised her communication and work rate during a scrimmage earlier in the week.
Meyers played five games with the Mystics, four of which were on the road. She totaled nine points, four rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes, making four of 10 shots. That included a road game against her former team, Dallas, on July 2 in which she had three points and a block.
“The best thing about her is she’s not afraid,” Thibault said after Meyers’ third game with the team on June 28. “She’s not afraid defensively. She’s gonna get better as she gets a little bit more comfortable in our schemes. And the biggest thing is when she’s open, she’s willing to shoot it. And that’s the main reason we went and got her when we were in this situation. So it’s great to see that.”
Meyers made her WNBA debut in the first quarter on June 22 against the Chicago Sky. Hearing her name called so early in the game “kind of took me by surprise,” she later told reporters, and she felt “nervous tired” as she made her first trips up and down the court. “I remember kind of just trying to catch my breath and calm my breath,” she said.
But Thibault had told her before the game to be aggressive, and she did that, taking four shots in six minutes.
“She took my little chat … to heart. She was hunting,” Thibault said with a smile postgame.
The first basket of her professional career came on her third shot, early in the second quarter. She caught a pass from Sykes on the wing and took one dribble before hitting a 16-foot pull-up jumper. “When it went in, it was kind of just a big relief,” Meyers said. “Like, okay, it’s happened, and let’s just play ball now.”
“Man, I love her,” Cloud said postgame. “She’s just a hard-ass working kid. The ability to come in and just play and not know any of our plays and be sound defensively, offensively … She’s great.”
Though Meyers was aggressive offensively, she passed up two 3-pointers to drive instead, to Sykes’ chagrin. Sykes told Meyers that the team needs her to shoot when opponents sag off her — not only because Meyers can hit those shots, but also because, if she doesn’t take the expected shot, it throws off the Mystics’ offense.
In the next game against the New York Liberty on June 25, Meyers took just one shot in five minutes, but it was an open 3-pointer. Even though she missed it, Sykes was pleased with Meyers’ adjustment.
“I looked [at her] and I was like, ‘Hey, I can live with it,’” Sykes said. “… She’s just as much [of] a scoring threat as anybody else in this team.”
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Meyers enjoyed a mini homecoming in New York, as several former teammates and staff members from Princeton came to support her. Other friends kept texting her as her home debut approached on June 28 to say they’d be there. Those familiar faces are “comforting,” not nerve-wracking, Meyers said, because those are the people who have supported her all her life.
Her parents, though, couldn’t make the short drive to see their daughter play because they were on a vacation they’d booked three years ago. “They did not anticipate this,” Meyers said with a laugh.
When Meyers checked in for the first time at home with 1:38 left in the first quarter, she heard the love from friends and strangers alike. The Mystics had already made five separate substitutions by then, including bringing Delle Donne and Sykes back in after their customary early breathers. But Meyers got the biggest cheer of the night to that point.
“In that moment, [I was] feeling the butterflies, feeling the nerves, and just going out there and trusting all the work I’ve put in,” Meyers said postgame. “Just getting ready for that moment was really surreal and special.”
Meyers missed her first shot, a 3-pointer from the corner, but in the second quarter, she rebounded Walker-Kimbrough’s miss and scored on a putback. That capped a 12-4 Mystics run, forcing an Atlanta timeout and delighting the crowd. One fan in the third row near the Mystics’ bench held up a sign showing how much people from the greater Washington area — known as the DMV — support their hometown star.
“The DMV ❤️ Abby,” it read in red, black and blue lettering.
After the victory ended with fans chanting Meyers’ name, prompting her to sheepishly make a shushing motion with one hand, the Mystics ran gleefully to the locker room. Several players, including Meyers, made Ws with their hands in celebration. Cloud, meanwhile, had somehow acquired the sign honoring Meyers, and she proudly showed it off, saying, “We love Abby!”
Meyers’ brief tenure in Washington officially ended on July 4, hours before Li’s flight touched down. It’s a familiar trajectory for many players around the league every season: a short-term contract, followed by uncertainty about what’s next.
But Meyers could drive home with at least one memento: a pair of Converse basketball shoes that Cloud, a Converse ambassador, let her pick out early in her tenure with the team. After much deliberation, she chose a white and green pair with nature scenes on them.
Meyers was also considering buying a pair of Delle Donne’s signature shoes and asking Delle Donne to sign them. It would be a tangible reminder of Meyers’ fairy-tale stint with the Mystics — and a full-circle moment for the girl who once waited near the railing at Capital One Arena for a photo.
“It’s just still a surreal experience having this jersey on,” Meyers said in her first media availability as a Mystic. “And it almost doesn’t feel like what it looked like when I was [growing up] because it’s like, I’m here now and I’m the same person.
“But it is definitely something that I’m going to cherish.”
*Fans have chanted, “M-V-P!” at Delle Donne, but admittedly “E-len-a” doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly as “Ab-by” does.
Written by Jenn Hatfield
Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.